And now, the news

18 000 terrorists 'ready to strike'

According to official intelligence sources, eighteen thousand al-Qaida terrorists are on the verge of taking action. "We will bring the entire system down if necessary," said Abdullah al-Qandahari, spokesman for the National Union of Terrorists, Torturers and Arsonists (NUTTA), on Tuesday. "We're going on strike over our pay and conditions. Osama promised us all heavenly virgins, but so far, despite all his assurances, none of our members has reported receiving any. We've decided on industrial action to ensure we get pay in advance, in the form of earthly virgins." The pay issue is not the only cause for concern among the union's members, however. "We're also protesting about cheap imported labour," Al-Qandahari went on, "It takes a lot of time and money to train a really effective terrorist, and now we hear from our comrades in Iraq that the Americans are using crude bulk production methods and unskilled migrant labour to undercut professionals like NUTTA members." Talks with management were said to have broken down last night, and senior al-Qaida officials were unavailable for comment.

Terrorist threat to democracy - Ashcroft

US Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke yesterday of the threat posed to American democracy during the continuing war on terror. There was a real danger, he said, that a terrorist attack on United States soil could affect the outcome of this November's presidential election. "We have seen clearly, in Spain, the effect that such events can have on the democratic process. When Madrid was attacked, the people voted our ally, Mr Aznar, out of office. It is clear that the possibility of a similar event here in America raises questions about the November election. We are determined that this should not happen. In the event of an attack prior to this autumn's poll, we will take appropriate measures to ensure that the government of this nation proceeds uninterrupted." British prime minister Tony Blair added his voice to the Attorney General's warning. "The danger is clear. Every true democrat will understand the threat which Mr Ashcroft has described. We would advise everyone to stay away from areas of risk, such as prisons, detention centres, army camps, and opposition party rallies."

Bush hits out at Amnesty report

President Bush has condemned a report by Amnesty International which claims the world has been made a more dangerous place by the actions of the US and their allies since September 11, 2001. The report cites an increased danger from terorrism and a rise in human rights abuses on both sides in the conflict. Speaking from an underground nuclear bunker at an undisclosed location, the leader of the free world said, "Although we have all seen the appalling pictures from Abu Ghrim, we must not allow the actions of a few rogue elements to affect our strategification. If these images of terror cause us to flinch from the holy struggle we have undertaken, then the terrorists have already won. We must go about our business as usual, in our burger bars, on our golf courses, and in our high-security prisons. I commend the loyalty and fearless obedience of our troops. It would be wrong to take wide-ranging action based only on the slender allegations in this report. No solid evidence has been produced to back them up, and such unfounded claims are unacceptable as the basis for action. Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, speaking in another hidden bunker, said "Argh, no, stop, please don't do that..."

Doonesbury criticised for 'inappropriate' image

Political commentators have criticised Garry Trudeau's popular 'Doonesbury' cartoon strip for depicting an image of dismemberment at an inappropriate time. Football-helmeted character B.D. lost a leg while serving in Iraq in a recent instalment of the syndicated story. As conservative radio presenter Hawk 'Hawk' Mysuvitz said: "It's entirely unacceptable. We had just seen these shocking images from Iraq, and this appalling video, and then Trudeau expects the American people to be entertained by this grotesque parody. How dare he make light of a character disabled by the loss of a limb when our own government has been left without a leg to stand on? This insensitivity is typical of the bleeding-heart liberal faction." Garry Trudeau, when told of Mr Mysuvitz's comments and others, responded that he had drawn the strip before the now-infamous pictures appeared, and that it had no bearing on domestic issues. Mysuvitz went on to broaden his attack on the series. "And this guy Trudeau, who is he anyway? He sounds like a cheese-eating surrender monkey to me. We should be supporting good American cartoons like The Simpsons. In a time of war, it's vital that we support our national products."

Rumsfeld moves to curb abuse pictures

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld today announced immediate measures to prevent further images of abuse coming out of Iraq. "As of now, any soldier found to be in possession of a digital camera, camera phone, or any other photographic device will have it confiscated, and will be court-martialled in secret for treason. This move has been necessary to prevent the American people being further offended by the gratuitous nudity and images of sexual perversion which has so upset them in the past few weeks. Images from Iraq will be delivered by approved channels such as CNN, Fox, and Universal." When quizzed about an apparent rift with the British administration over future withdrawal of troops, Rumsfeld added, "And Mel Gibson will be on hand for script and direction assistance."

Rappist rejects link to terror

A leading rap artist lashed out at implications his artform was linked to international terrorism today. Dr Brutaal, author of such hits as Shut yo Face, Bitch and Armed 2 da Teeth, was speaking after seeing images from the Iraqi prison scandal. "One of the guards there had written 'rappist' on one of the prisoners' legs." Brutaal told our reporter. "I think it's a fuckin' scandal, man. They're doin' all this faggoty shit with these guys, draggin' them around naked and shit. And then they go an' write 'rappist' on one of the fuckers. It's a disgrace to rap. An offence. Rap don't got nothing to do with that prison. Rappists, like turntablists and all that, are musicians. Not fuckin' terrorist fags. I think they must have meant somethin' else, man." Fr Antonio Silencio of the Trappist Brothers of the Quiet Life was contacted, but declined to comment.

Brown bullish about £1trillion debt

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has expressed his continued confidence in the British economy. The declaration came as it was announced that the total personal debt of the UK population had exceeded a trillion pounds sterling. Mr Brown said that the rise in borrowing was predictable and manageable, and that by prudent and careful repayment, borrowers would gain the full benefit of their decision. "All this borrowing puts more money into immediate circulation," said the Chancellor, "which stimulates economic growth. Inflation and unemployment are both low, which is a combination for which this government can claim responsibility. Continued borrowing will enable us to drive the country forward without a return to boom and bust." Mr Brown was speaking in the lobby of a private bank, during a week-long visit to the island of Bermuda.

McDonald's to support help for disabled children

Multi-national burger chain McDonald's today announced the creation of a large new charitable foundation to support disabled children. The fund, entitled the Ronald McDonald Mobility Assistance Trust, would be aimed primarily at developing and supplying motorised wheelchairs for children with mobility handicaps. A spokesman for the firm said that all kinds of mobility impairment would be considered. "We're looking at the whole range of movement disability. We would naturally want to help children with damaged or malformed limbs. But we'd also be more than willing to assist those who have become immobile due to obesity. Lots of recent research has shown that this condition is a growing difficulty for our children, and we think that the establishment of this new trust will go some way to addressing that issue." When asked if this was simply a ploy to keep children eating fatty food and leading sedentary, indoor lives, the spokesman denied it. "On the contrary. We're committed to outdoor lifestyles. In fact, once our scheme has started work in earnest, all our drive-thru restaurants will have a special wheelchair-height window."

UK 'not 51st State' - Powell

Following Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent application for a Scottish coat of arms, emphasising his British ancestry, there has been growing speculation that London's ties to Washington are to be strengthened. However, the Secretary of State was anxious today to quell speculation that a dramatic step was imminent. "I would just like to reassure those of you who have been concerned about this," he said. "There are no plans to make the United Kingdom into one or more new states. Quite aside from the problems of abolishing a monarchy which has kindly honored many of my colleagues - Tommy Franks most recently - and the obvious difficulties posed by the European Union, there are also domestic considerations. In order to add states to the Union, we would require two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress, and three-quarters of the current states. I just don't think that would happen. For the time being, the United Kingdom will remain under direct federal administration."

Baby fed on lard explodes

There was revulsion in England today as a government report into growing childhood obesity (see McDonald's, above) made a shocking revelation. A baby aged just eleven months apparently exploded after achieving a weight of over half a ton. The mother, who has not been named, had apparently fed the baby nothing but lard due to a morbid horror of breastfeeding. Although the details are not altogether clear from the report, it seems that the mother, aged 17 and herself grossly overweight, had learned the idea of feeding a child lard from her own mother, who used the heavy fat as a butter substitute. A doctor who attended the scene of the ensuing disaster said that although the mother had been hit hard by debris, she had not changed her views on parenting, and intended to feed her next child lard too. "It was amazing. The little sod had gone off with such a bang, there was a crater in the floor. The mother was lying on a sofa, unable to stand, murmuring 'Would you like some dripping?' to herself." The government minister for food, Lord Asco of the Asco supermarket chain, was attending a meeting of the International Intensive Beef Production Forum, and could not be reached for comment as we went to press.

Arts section special: Britney's new, more mature style

By our Arts Correspondent:

Princess of pop Britney Spears granted me an exclusive interview this week to discuss the new style direction she has taken, marked by her forthcoming album release. Reclining in black satin underwear on a leather couch, she beckoned me sensuously into the room. As I sat down opposite her, she licked the tip of her forefinger.

"So, I hear you're moving towards a new, more mature style?" I asked as an opener.

"Yes, that's right," she said, running her wet finger down her cleavage. "I'm taking music seriously these days. You've seen the last of the schoolgirl Britney." As I prepared my next question, she unhooked her bra.

"So what have been the main influences on the new work?" I asked, a little nervously.

Before answering, she released her breasts from their confinement, discarding the bra over the arm of the couch. "I'd definitely have to say Beethoven," she began, tweaking her left nipple. "I was particularly affected by Für Elise. But you'll also notice some jazz material in there, and Baby Fuck Me One More Time has definite echoes of Mahler." With this revelation, she lay back, sliding her hands down across her bare torso.

"And what about the stage show? I've heard a rumour concerning baby oil." I felt nervous asking this, as she already seemed to be on her way to fulfilling the rumour before my eyes.

Sliding her hand into the front of her panties, she said "Well, I've been somewhat influenced by Salvador Dali in the creation of the new album's look and feel. The rear-view nude picture of me on the cover is based on one of his later landscapes. As for the stage show itself, it's something quite new, that hasn't been seen before. I don't want to give too many surprises away, but you'll see that I've recruited my male dancers for very specific reasons." Giggling, she peeled down her panties, revealing the smooth flesh beneath.

Blushing furiously, I continued. "Now it's, er, clear from this that the 'virign' Britney of a few years past has gone." I pressed on manfully with the script. "Do you still feel religion has a place in your life?"

Producing a large, black rubber dildo from the side of the chair, she rubbed it against her thighs as she considered the question. "I think you could say I've become more Catholic in my tastes. I found Christina Aguilera's recent performance as a nun very moving, for example. And as you may be aware, I've developed a great veneration of the Madonna."

As she arched her back and slid the plastic member into herself, I fled from the room, unable to take any more.

Britney Spears' new album, Uh, yes, harder, mmm is available from Monday at all branches of Ann Summers.

Apologies to the creators of Private Eye, Bremner, Bird and Fortune, and This is Spinal Tap for being so blatantly inspired by their work.