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National Perspective

Washington Insight

April 22, 1998|From The Times Washington Bureau

HEARTBURN ALERT: For one night every year, Washington's wonkiest wonks and most highbrowed media types make like Los Angeles and go ga-ga over celebrities. On that night, the hottest post-event ticket in town--the Vanity Fair party--happens in Washington, not L.A. The official occasion for all the ogling is the preceding White House Correspondents' Assn. dinner, where many news organizations try to outdo each other by snagging the biggest or hottest guests to grace their tables. Last year's dinner was the public coming-out of comedian Ellen DeGeneres and actress Anne Heche as a couple. On Saturday, a gaggle of cameras and 2,500 pairs of eyes will be focused on presidential accuser and allegedly publicity-shy Paula Corbin Jones, guest of the folks at conservative Insight magazine. It's unlikely Jones will cross paths with President Clinton, who sits at the head table and is charged with making humorous remarks at these galas. Another Clinton nemesis, former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky, reportedly has been invited by numerous organizations. But her attorney, the ever-available William H. Ginsburg, says she won't be there. He, of course, wouldn't miss it.

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JOKES IN SPACE: Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), who at the age of 76 is preparing to return to spaceflight, is enduring plenty of good-natured joshing these days from friends and colleagues. Two such jokes overheard this week, as told to Glenn by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.):

* Glenn will be the first astronaut ever to be allowed to pre-board a spaceflight.

* Glenn will be the first astronaut ever to mix Tang with Metamucil.

Glenn laughed heartily and said he may try out those jokes himself.

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DON'T ASK, DON'T MAKE WAVES? Clinton's rewriting of policy on gays in the military was one of the most rancorous of his first term and caused an uproar in Congress as well. But when the Pentagon earlier this month changed those rules to try to counter an upsurge in discharges of gay troops, the reaction on Capitol Hill was a deafening silence: Not a single member so much as issued a press release. Some gay activists maintain that concerned lawmakers are just considering their options. But a Democratic consultant had a different explanation: With elections approaching, she suggested, Democrats don't want to remind centrist voters of a social issue that gave them so much heartburn before.

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FOR YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE: Eagle-eyed C-SPAN II viewers may have noticed a change in Senate decor. During the just-ended Easter recess, workers removed a dozen rather drab, yellow felt panels from the chamber's walls, replacing them with new deep-blue panels that are much more telegenic. In yet another sign that the Senate is leaping into the 20th century--and just in time--the CQ Daily Monitor reports that the new panels are attached to the walls with Velcro, which seemed to work better than nails.

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TRUTH IN ADVERTISING: Government symposiums can be torturous affairs, featuring bland bureaucrats droning on endlessly in a language all their own. But one upcoming meeting sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences caught our eye. Its topic? Torture. No arm twisting here. Just an assessment of how to treat torture victims and prevent torture, which is still practiced by some governments around the world.

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