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On bearing arms and umbrellas

THE United States Army, which for 210 years has been all wet as a matter of official policy, says it plans to stay that way. Since the Army was established in 1775, male soldiers haven't been able to wear a uniform and carry an umbrella at the same time. Not that it's too demanding a task: the Army won't let them. And that's the way it's going to stay, say the secretary of the Army and its chief of staff. We understand the raised-rib problems as well as anyone.

No foreign dignitary would want to review ranks of hoisted umbrellas. A tank could fill to shin-depth if somebody couldn't furl his umbrella. And it would be cruel and unusual punishment to be ordered to fight a war with a rifle in one hand and an umbrella in the other. (Maybe that's a good reason to issue umbrellas, and to both sides.)

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Some people are officially permitted to hoist umbrellas. All women in the military, for example. Men in the Air Force. And the rare civilian who hasn't left his in the closet when it rains.

But next time it pours all the males in the entire Army, plus the Navy and Marine Corps, once again are going to get soaked.

Except, of course, for those astute enough to come in out of the rain. ----30{et

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