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On Veterans Day, November 11, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt will appear on the Mall at a spot between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to break ground for the long-delayed World War II Memorial. The grandiose, triumphal design of the memorial has been criticized widely on aesthetic grounds--it reminds many of the work of Albert Speer, Hitler's favorite architect. But there's a bigger problem: The memorial will break up the country's most important site for protest demonstrations.

This is where 250,000 people gathered to hear Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. This is where half a million people gathered for the Vietnam Moratorium demonstration in 1969 to sing "Give Peace a Chance." This is where the AIDS quilt--the 40,000-plus panels covering the equivalent of sixteen football fields that commemorates people who have died from AIDS--has been displayed regularly since 1987. This is where the Million Man March met in 1995, the Promise Keepers gathered in 1997 and the Million Mom March against gun violence rallied this past May.

The memorial will occupy 7.4 acres. In that space a private organization headed by Bob Dole plans to build a granite plaza that will include two triumphal arches, each as high as a four-story building, and fifty-six marble columns, each seventeen feet tall and decorated with bronze funeral wreaths and huge eagle sculptures.

Stopping the plan now won't be easy. Originally, the American Battle Monuments Commission selected a site near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. But J. Carter Brown, the chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, objected that it was "unacceptable" to "tuck [the memorial] away in the woods." The commission approved the Mall plan in late September, in a 7-to-5 vote.

Defenders of the plan argue that the site and design selection process have taken longer than World War II itself and that the memorial should be built now, before all the veterans are dead. But memorials like this are not built for the participants in the events that are commemorated. Memorials are supposed to help posterity remember and honor its forebears. The Lincoln Memorial wasn't even begun until 1914, half a century after Lincoln's death.

Babbitt has the power to overrule the commission, but that's unlikely, given the Clinton Administration's eagerness to please veterans. An organization called the National Coalition to Save Our Mall (www.savethemall.org) mounted a legal challenge in early October based on a historic-preservation argument. The suit refers to a 1986 law establishing criteria for decisions made by the Secretary of the Interior and other agencies, among them the requirement that plans for new historical monuments must "protect, to the maximum extent practicable, open space and existing public use." Open space for public use--where Americans can gather by the hundreds of thousands to address their government--is precisely what this monstrosity will destroy.

Running from bank- and hotel-lined Wilshire Boulevard, up the glittering gulch of Rodeo Drive, past the slinky curves of Sunset and snaking up leafy Coldwater and Benedict canyons to the legend

When members of the LA janitors' union decided to go on strike this past
April, their success was far from guaranteed.

The New York of 1945 was the victorious city of the New Deal and World War II, one that can barely be glimpsed today beneath postmodern towers and billboards for dot-com enterprises.

This is the story of Gato and Alex, two Salvadorans who as children became refugees from America's war in their homeland only to become rivals in America's gang war on the streets of Los Angeles.

I was wandering around Harlem recently, late on a warm Sunday afternoon: I saw Dominican families chatting on stoops. I saw African-American families walking home from church.

When Chief Bernard Parks of the Los Angeles Police Department heard the news in mid-May, he reportedly went into rigid shock.

Fernando Contreras points to the area behind a green mesh fence where his family home used to be. He is about to be a grandfather for the first time.

Can you top this? seems to be the theme of the escalating police scandal in Los Angeles.

I come here and discover that you are merely another fraud in the city university system. Of the 150 receiving degrees today, you hold only 191 jobs. That is less than two jobs per student.

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