[Editor's Note] | Introducing the December Issue, by Ellen Rosenbush | Harper's Magazine

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Alexandra Kleeman subjects herself to a week of bed rest, Nat Segnit celebrates Waterloo’s bicentennial, Charlotte Dumas documents Japan’s endangered horses, and more

HarpersWeb-Cover-2015-12-302x408This issue marks the 317th I’ve worked on as either editor or managing editor of Harper’s Magazine—and also marks the last editor’s note I will write. That task, as well as the editorship of the magazine, I leave in the very capable hands of Christopher Cox, who has been an editor at Harper’s for the past five years.

Herewith are the highlights of the December 2015 issue.

As many as 700,000 pregnant women in the United States are prescribed bed rest each year. The treatment is supposed to benefit both mother and child, most notably by delaying premature births. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly clear that bed rest has no positive effect on fetal health and a negative effect on maternal health. So why are doctors still prescribing it? For our cover story, Alexandra Kleeman submitted herself to five days of bed rest—with one thirty-minute break each day—to see what would happen to her body. Her essay is a broadside against a practice that has its roots in nineteenth-century quack medicine and survives today thanks to a combination of ignorance and paternalism.

In June, Europe celebrated the Battle of Waterloo’s bicentennial, commemorating Napoleon’s final defeat by the Duke of Wellington. Nat Segnit was there to witness the four-day pageant, which took place on the site of the battle, in present-day Belgium, and featured a reenactment in which 5,000 soldiers and 1,000 camp followers participated. In his Letter from Belgium, Segnit drinks watery beer, meets a Napoleon impersonator, and contemplates, amid the sound of musket fire and French battle cries, the future of the European project that the revelry is meant to celebrate.

In 2008, three political novices living in Sarajevo—Pedja Kojovic, a former journalist and poet, Danis Tanovic, an Academy Award–winning filmmaker, and Dino Mustafic, a theater director—helped found a new political party in Bosnia called Naša Stranka. The party was born of frustration with the ethnically segregated political system that was codified by the Dayton Accords, which ended the country’s civil war in 1995. Though Naša Stranka enjoyed early success, winning 15 percent of the vote in its first local elections, the party’s progress since has been plagued by a series of setbacks. In her Letter from the Balkans, Elisabeth Zerofsky asks whether it is possible to bring substantive political change to a country riven by ethnic divisions so rigid that they are actually enshrined in law.

Also in our December issue: a Photo Essay by Charlotte Dumas documenting Japan’s endangered horses; J. C. Hallman on gambling and suicide in Atlantic City; new fiction by Michelle Huneven; Rick Moody on Extreme Weight Loss; Rivka Galchen on Antigone; and our own James Marcus on Primo Levi.

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