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September 29, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Escape From the Planet of the Apes?: We don't want to get your hopes up, but there may be a light at the end of the animal-rebellion tunnel. For months, Off-Kilter has tracked the omens of a possible critter uprising, from gunslinging dogs in Eastern Europe to butt-biting monkeys in Japan.

Now, the animal Armageddon has stalled amid signs of an internal power struggle. As you know, the success of this revolt hinges on an improbable alliance between species that normally are bitter enemies--dogs and cats living together, lambs lying down with lions, etc.

That fragile coalition seems to be crumbling. Last week, for example, a swarm of killer bees in Nevada murdered one dog and critically wounded another, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

And North Korea has witnessed a series of mysterious cow deaths. Although communist officials blame the "cow sabotage" on spies from the south, our colleague Mark Z. Barabak offers a different theory: "I think cows are killing other cows as part of the battle over who will rule, once the animals take over."

Maybe so, but we can't let our guard down. For starters, some doofus in Beverly Hills just left the bulk of his $6-million estate to a cocker spaniel, which could finance years of animal terrorism. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that Britain has decided to issue passports to dogs, cats and other "small household pets." Crazy limeys. Don't they realize that giving animals unfettered access to international travel plays right into their little paws?

Man-Eating Barcalounger Department: Even if the animals don't kill us, our furniture might. According to an Arizona Republic article submitted by reader Virginia Hoyt, a 46-year-old woman in Scottsdale was nearly devoured by a sleeper sofa. Apparently, she was moving into a new apartment and trying to set up the couch when she stumbled, fell onto the bed and it closed up over her.

She was trapped for nearly three hours before a neighbor heard her screams and summoned police. When officer Kevin Watts arrived, he peered through the window and saw the woman's arm dangling out of the couch. He kicked in the front door and pulled her out before the sofa could fully digest her.

Silver Lining Bureau: We are sick of seeing hurricanes and tornadoes maligned by the media. Why does everyone always focus on the death and destruction that these storms wreak, instead of on their positive contributions, such as dropping houses on top of wicked witches?

The latest victim is Hurricane Georges, which has been unfairly stigmatized as "a swirling cauldron of thunderstorms and vicious winds . . . [responsible] for more than 200 deaths." That's only half the story. On the plus side, Georges also forced the Home Shopping Network to cancel an on-air appearance by musician John Tesh. Nobody can put a price on that kind of public service.

Therefore, we think the World Meteorological Society should revamp its system of christening hurricanes. Instead of giving them harsh names like 1998's Ivan and Otto, it should adopt the neighborly names used for Western Pacific typhoons, which include Typhoon Bing, Typhoon Hank, Typhoon Mort and next season's Typhoon Elvis and Typhoon Chip.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Space Aliens Steal Salesman's Cheap Toupee!" (Weekly World News)

Baldness must be an intergalactic problem.

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is

Unpaid Informants: Martin Miller, Mike Kaeser, Chicago Sun-Times, PR Newswire

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