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This past spring, when Cleveland Park resident Jean Bout went to his neighborhood library looking for a New Republic cover story about George W. Bush, he found that the article had been torn out. Then Bout began to notice that pieces about prominent Republican leaders were regularly disappearing from political magazines in the periodicals sectionleading one of his friends to speculate about freelance censorship. Last week, in response to the trend, branch librarian Brian Brown decided to place the National Review, another of the vandalized titles, behind the circulation desk, where readers must sign it out. The National Review joins an elite group of protected periodicals, including The Economist, Jet, and Ebony. Brown says he doubts the mutilations have been politically motivated. “The idea that there is some sort of conspiracy is a bit of a stretch,” he says. “My guess is someone is just too cheap to make copies.” Brian Montopoli