April Fools Day: 10 stories that look like pranks but aren't

Flea circus, monkey, Ant and Dec, asteroid

April Fools' Day is a trial for readers of newspapers and other media as they attempt to spot the anagrams and other clues that tip the wink that a particular story is a work of fiction.

But here is a round-up of some of this year's bizarre stories that are true, or seriously intended at least.

1. Universities are offering courses in Harry Potter and "ethical hacking". Durham University's education department offers a module entitled Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion which includes a section "Welcome to Hogwarts: the commodification of education". Abertay Dundee offered a course on ethical hacking, consumer website Which? noted.

More details (Daily Telegraph)

2. Lego is reportedly to stop selling a Jabba the Hutt set which Turkish activists argued was anti-Muslim. Austria's Turkish Cultural Association (TCA) said the Jabba's Palace set depicted a character who was a "terrorist who likes to smoke hookah and have his victims killed". Critics said the domed palace closely resembled Istanbul's Haghia Sophia, a cathedral-turned-mosque-turned-museum that provided a blueprint for many of the city's mosques. Now the TCA says Lego has agreed to stop making the sets in 2014.

... and five that are pranks

In Russia, the State Duma (lower house of parliament) features a spoof draft law submitted by deputy Sergei Ivanov, in which he proposes banning the consumption of garlic - popular among Russians - in public places. The bill, written in convincingly impenetrable Russian legalese, says its aim is "the impact ambient garlic aroma has on human health".

In Ukraine, the news website Ukrayinska Pravda reports that flooding in Kiev had forced President Viktor Yanukovych - widely known for his aloofness and for shunning contact with ordinary Ukrainians if possible - to travel to work by trolleybus.

The growing closeness between China and South Africa was the target of Johannesburg's Mail and Guardian, which reported that new ties had become so "cosy" that Chinese President Xi Jinping will be moving in with South Africa's Jacob Zuma. Its spoof report said Zuma's countryside homestead at Nkandla would be "aggressively enlarged" to accommodate a new 200m rand residence for Xi that will include a helipad, bunker and a tea house.

Uganda's Daily Monitor told its readers that the prestigious Makerere University - the country's oldest - will be sold to developers planning to build a satellite city on the site, forcing its 30,000 students to find places at other universities.

In Sweden, English language news website The Local strikes a suitably Nordic note, reporting that workmen digging a rail tunnel under Stockholm have found Mjoelnir, the hammer used in Norse mythology by the thunder god Thor. It reports that the object, covered in runic writing and about 60cm long, was found embedded in granite and initially taken for "piping sticking out of the ground".

More details (Independent)

3. A flea circus in Germany was struck by tragedy when 300 of its tiny performers were killed by cold weather. The frantic owner was able to source 60 replacement fleas.

More details

4. Nasa is to use a giant bag to capture an asteroid and tow it to the Moon. The $100m project will be included in its 2014 budget request. If successful, the asteroid will be used to help long-distance space missions.

More details (Times)

5. TV hosts Ant and Dec have their first British number one single after a re-release of their 1994 hit Let's Get Ready to Rhumble. The song was heavily downloaded after the presenters performed it on their ITV1 show Saturday Night Takeaway last weekend.

More details (Daily Mirror)

6. A police officer is suing a petrol station owner after tripping on a kerb while investigating a suspected break-in and injuring her wrist and leg. The claim alleges the petrol station was at fault for failing to ensure the officer was "reasonably safe", making no attempt to light the area or warn her about the step.

More details (Daily Mail)

7. A woman in Bradford claims she was raised by a group of capuchin monkeys in Colombia. Marina Chapman says she spent five years of her childhood with the primates after being kidnapped and abandoned in the jungle. Over time she developed leathery skin and powerful, sinewy arms.

More details (Daily Mail)

8. British Prime Minister David Cameron waded waist-deep into mud to save a sheep near his home. Cameron had been helping a neighbour with lambing. The saved ewe was subsequently renamed Swampy, the prime minister suggested.

True stories from past April Fools

More details (Daily Telegraph)

9. Winston Churchill's marriage to his beloved "Clemmie" was nearly cancelled after he went to visit another woman in Scotland shortly before the ceremony. A new biography suggests that Churchill's visit to see Violet Asquith angered future wife Clementine Hozier. Asquith had been considered as a potential match. Churchill made the trip to explain his decision.

More details (Times)

10. Ralph the Rabbit has regained his title as the world's largest. Weighing in at 3st 8lb, or nearly 23kg, Ralph costs £50 a week to feed.

More details (Daily Express)

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