Miles Kington: Inebriated nurses and other odd tales, but which is true?

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Just when you thought it was safe to relax, I am afraid it is time to put on your thinking cap again. Yes, it's time for your very own news quiz, when I get the chance to test you on your knowledge of everyday news and current affairs.

If you've done this before, you'll know it's very simple. I bring you a handful of recent news stories, all from the past week or so, of which only one is genuine.

The other stories are fake, in that they were invented by a team of media studies graduates, who had been told repeatedly that doing a media studies course would lead directly to employment at the highest level – and here they are already, fabricating news stories for a major national newspaper! Thanks, boys and girls. Meanwhile, here are today's stories.

1. The first evidence is coming through of a new addiction found only in NHS hospitals – an addiction to alcohol hand rub. "As part of the drive to eliminate infections in our hospitals," says a health chief, "we have installed tens of thousands of dispensers of hand rub, which allows people to disinfect their hands.

"The basis of these hand rubs is mostly alcoholic. Not very strong, but strong enough. And we are beginning to find that people who often use the hand rub are operating at a low level of intoxication throughout the day, as the alcohol seeps in through the pores. It is not dangerous – yet – and even quite pleasant, but we must keep an eye on it.

"Especially at risk are the receptionists of different wards who have the dispensers on the counter right under their noses and are constantly inhaling the mild fumes. "That, quite frankly, is why receptionists seem so much more friendly and co-operative these days. But when you find the odd example with slurred speech and impaired gait – well, you begin to worry."

2. The Home Office is considering a new proposal whereby, when one of a married couple dies, the surviving spouse will be able to pass the penalty points from his or her driving licence to the licence of his or her dead partner. "That way, the surviving spouse will be able to start again with a clean sheet," says the Home Office. "We have gone into this very seriously. We don't think this will have much impact on road safety. But we do think it might be a cheap way of attracting voters at the next election."

3. A racehorse who won a race last week is at the centre of a controversy which depends on the spelling of the horse's name. Lynne's Apostrophe is the name of the horse, and it was duly backed by Mr Edward Gibbon, 37, of Halifax. When he went to collect his winnings (he had put £30 on to win at 10-1), the bookies refused to pay out on the grounds that he had spelled the name wrong on the betting slip, having omitted the apostrophe from "Lynne's".

"With almost any other name, it wouldn't matter," said a spokesman for Oddsmith bookmakers. "But this horse was named after Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, the book about punctuation, and we don't think he should have written 'Lynnes' when it was so clearly meant to be 'Lynne's'. People have said we just want to keep our £300. Not at all! We just want to keep up standards of orthography."

4. Shirley Katz, a high school teacher from Portland, Oregon, in the US, went to court to get permission to be allowed to take a gun into classes, but was turned down. A school officer said he was pleased with the decision. "This case was a distraction from our real mission, which is educating children."

The gun rights lobby, which supported her right to carry a weapon, said classes were dangerous places, and a teacher had a right to defend herself. Ms Katz said it wasn't to protect herself against her children that she wanted to be armed, but against her ex-husband, who was dangerous and might be looking for revenge, even in class.


Well? Did you spot that it was the American story that was the wacky-but-true one? It always is, isn't it? Next time I think I had better limit the choice to European stories. See you then!