Editor's Note — April 12, 2013, 11:24 am

Introducing the May Issue of Harper’s Magazine

The twenty-first-century Jungle, a U.S. official’s dubious lobbying in Afghanistan, and more

Harper's Magazine, May 2013

In The Jungle (1906), Upton Sinclair described the appalling working conditions then prevalent in the nation’s slaughterhouses — and as soon as President Theodore Roosevelt read the novel, he proposed legislation to make the meatpacking industry safer for both workers and consumers. More than a century later, journalist Ted Conover went to work at the Cargill meatpacking plant in Schuyler, Nebraska, as a USDA meat inspector. In this issue of Harper’s Magazine, he describes the process of industrialized slaughter in this modern facility. Meatpacking is a cleaner, more automated, and more humane business than it was in Sinclair’s day. And in this account, the meat inspectors are almost heroic in their diligence. Yet the machinery of slaughter remains unsettlingly gruesome, as Conover witnessed. The level of detail he’s able to provide on the printed page will make you question how often you eat meat, and at what price.

Although corruption in Afghanistan is nothing new, the involvement of a top U.S. official is. This month’s Annotation, by Antonia Juhasz, demonstrates how Zalmay Khalilzad, a U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan during the George W. Bush administration, attempted to steer a lucrative oil contract away from a Chinese company that had successfully bid on it. In a letter of protest to the Afghan government, Khalilzad argued that the contract should have been awarded to his client, the Western-based Tethys Petroleum company—even though the Chinese bid was lower and promised the Afghan government a higher royalty rate. Khalilzad, who was born in Mazar-i-Sharif, is now rumored to be considering a run for the Afghan presidency.

Also in this issue:

Sallie Tisdale’s haunting memoir of her struggle to find the cause of her persistent headache. In “An Uncommon Pain,” Tisdale describes how the ordinary headache may have many different causes. Her account will resonate with many readers who live with chronic pain. 

In “Jingo Unchained,” Michael Brick gives readers a portrait of the American wrestler who since taking on the persona of RJ Brewer, “son” of Arizona governor Jan Brewer, has become the performer Mexicans most love to hate. 

Also included are photographic portraits by Katy Grannan; a story by Charles Baxter; a review of Willa Cather’s letters; and, in Readings, a memoir by Chinese dissident Liao Yiwu, Elizabeth Warren vs. HSBC, fiction by Joshua Cohen and Mary Ruefle.

You can subscribe to Harper’s Magazine by clicking here. You’ll receive immediate online access to the May issue and our 163-year archive, as well as subsequent issues of the print edition.

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Helen Ouyang on the cost of crowd-sourcing drugs, Paul Wood on Trump's supporters, Walter Kirn on political predictions, Sonia Faleiro on a man's search for his kidnapped children, and Rivka Galchen on The People v. O. J. Simpson.

The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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"All our friends are saying, load up with plenty of ammunition, because after the stores don’t have no food they’re gonna be hitting houses. They’re going to take over America, put their flag on the Capitol.” “Who?” I asked. “ISIS. Oh yeah.”
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He made them groom and feed the half-dozen horses used to transport the raw bricks to the furnace. Like the horses, the children were beaten with whips.
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The Old Man·

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The new docudrama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (FX) isn’t really about Orenthal James Simpson. It’s about the trials that ran alongside his — those informal, unboundaried, court-of-public-opinion trials in which evidence was heard for and against the murder victims, the defense and the prosecution, the judge, the jury, and the Los Angeles Police Department, to say nothing of white and black America. History has freed us from suspense about Simpson’s verdict, so that the man himself (played here by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is less the tragic hero he seemed in the mid-Nineties than a curiously minor character. He comes to the center of our attention only once, in Episode 2, at the end of the lengthy Ford Bronco chase scene — which in real life was followed by a surreal cavalcade of police cars and media helicopters, as well as an estimated 95 million live viewers — when Simpson repeatedly, and with apparent sincerity, apologizes for taking up so much of so many people’s time. It is an uncannily ordinary moment of social decorum, a sort of could-you-please-pass-the-salt gesture on a sinking Titanic, in which Simpson briefly becomes more than just an archetype.

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With its lens shifting from the courtroom to the newsroom to people’s back yards, the series evokes the way in which, for a brief, delusory moment, the O. J. verdict seemed to deliver justice for all black men.
Still from The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story © FX Networks

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