Nation: Trigger of Hate

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Far out at sea, mariners puzzled over a molten glow in the eastern sky. Over the roar of the freeway, motorists heard the unmistakable crack of rifle fire, the chilling stutter of machine guns. Above city hall, billowing smoke from 1,000 fires hung like a cerement. From the air, whole sections of the sprawling city looked as if they had been blitzed.

The atmosphere reminded soldiers of embattled Saigon. Yet this, last week, was Los Angeles — the City of Angels, the "safe city," as its boosters like to call it, the...

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