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WASHINGTON INSIGHT

THE TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU

PENTAGON RIVALRIES: The Defense Department is preparing for another bitter War Between the Services in the face of the Clinton Administration’s efforts to eliminate overlap and duplication among the military branches. A commission is to begin considering the issue next month, but the battle already has begun: The Marines are wrestling with the Army over whether the Corps should be allowed to acquire more tanks and transform itself into a second full-fledged land force. And the Air Force is in a shootout with the Navy over which should serve as America’s primary air-bombardment force--Air Force heavy bombers or Navy carrier-based jets. The infighting will be intensified as the services compete for fewer available budget dollars. Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is pressing for greater cooperation but is meeting resistance. “This could be the biggest knock-down, drag-out turf-fight of its kind in years,” one Pentagon veteran said.

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SMOKIN’ JOE: Oil problems kept a race car sponsored by tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds Co. from finishing the nationally televised Brickyard 400 stock car race in Indianapolis earlier this month. But its presence hardly went unnoticed. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), a leading congressional critic of smoking, says that the car, adorned with the image of a camel and a “Smokin’ Joe’s Racing” label, breaks laws against advertising tobacco products on television. Waxman asked the Justice Department to investigate, saying in a letter to Atty. Gen. Janet Reno that “public health and the protection of our children deserve nothing less.” R.J. Reynolds spokesman David Fishel laughed when told about the letter. “I watched the Brickyard 400 and I couldn’t even find the damn car,” Fishel said. “It wouldn’t be real effective advertising, if that was what we were trying to do.” The company later issued a statement saying it decided to sponsor the car because “a significant portion” of race fans are smokers. The car will continue competing in the 31-race NASCAR Winston Cup series, which is sponsored by none other than R.J. Reynolds.

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PARENT POWER: “The right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children shall not be infringed.” That’s the language being proposed for a Parental Rights Amendment to state constitutions. Of the People, a grass-roots lobby trying to mobilize support for the amendment, says its plank and similar proposals have been introduced in seven states and it has commitments in eight others. The amendment aims to give parents more muscle in challenging school boards over curriculum and opposing the distribution of condoms and the availability of abortions to minors.

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GREAT THOUGHT: Secretary of State Warren Christopher was chatting with reporters who cover the State Department about one of his favorite subjects, baseball, during a refueling stop on his way back from a recent trip to the Middle East. The subject turned to Cal Ripken Jr., shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. One reporter noted that a highly respected Washington Post sportswriter regards Ripken as the best shortstop in history. But another reporter countered that the Post sportswriter “is always writing that whoever he covers is the greatest.” The comment prompted the droll secretary of state, who hasn’t been drawing rave press reviews, to quip: “What a good idea.”


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