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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Kevin Baker on the lost glory of America’s railroads, Mark Hertsgaard on Obama’s environmental failures, Sarah Menkedick on why Mexican immigrants are moving back home, and more

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Israel and Palestine

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On Free Will

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Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Tale of the Tape·

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“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

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"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

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“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

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In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

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