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Section Gee! | Off-Kilter

U.S. Researches a Sting Operation

May 05, 1999|ROY RIVENBURG

To Bee or Not to Bee: America's war machine has gotten pretty ingenious in modern times, especially with the advent of smart bombs, which find their targets by using sophisticated computer technology or--if that fails--by going door to door pretending to be from Publisher's Clearinghouse.

Now there's a new breakthrough: insect bomb squads.

The U.S. government is conducting research to see if honeybees can be trained to sniff out land mines on enemy battlefields. Apparently, the chemicals in mines often leach into surrounding plants or flowers and can be detected in the pollen picked up by bees.

However, the idea of using bees for bomb reconnaissance has been protested by animal-rights activists. A spokesman for the Animal Protection Institute in Sacramento said insects "shouldn't be forced into military service" because they "aren't U.S. citizens."

Alarming Trends Bureau: The Fox TV network is siphoning water from the swimming pool in "Melrose Place" to fill hundreds of tiny plastic vials that can be distributed to fans as souvenirs.

Dog Dentistry Department: Isn't it sad when animals have to wear dentures in their old age because they didn't brush regularly? Fortunately, scientists are finally beginning to address this tragedy.

For example, a California company has just introduced peanut butter-flavored toothpaste for dogs. The theory is that pooches are more likely to let their owners brush their choppers if the toothpaste has an enticing flavor.

If that's true, why not use mailman-flavored toothpaste?

Give This Man an NEA Grant: Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the "questionable taste" sign. A Dallas sculptor is creating works of art from crashed airplanes. The 28-year-old artist says he retrieves the twisted wreckage for use in such metal masterpieces as a giant remote control, a huge cellular phone and a big tick-tack-toe board.

Weird Polls Department: A survey of bathroom habits by the American Standards fixtures company reveals that Americans spend an average of 35 minutes a day in the bathroom. While there, 42% read newspapers, books or catalogs; 22% hold conversations with another person in the bathroom or just outside the door; 16% talk on the phone; and 17% sing in the shower.

In related news, a survey conducted by Off-Kilter found that dogs also spend a considerable amount of time in bathrooms. According to our survey, 72% drink from the toilet bowl, 15% howl in the shower and 13% try to figure out how to unscrew the cap from their owners' toothpaste so they can brush their teeth.

101 Uses for Mummies: During the 19th century, a paper manufacturer ground up ancient Egyptian mummies and turned them into high-quality butcher paper, according to Cairo-based mummy expert Saleema Ikram.

Mark Your Calendars: The Assn. for Dressings and Sauces wants you to know that May is National Salad Month.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "NASA Photo Shows Giant Hands Around Earth! Theologians Believe Incredible Image Is a Message From God" (Weekly World News)

Either that or an ad for Allstate Insurance.

Unpaid Informants: Wireless Flash News Service, TV Guide. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com. Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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