The feature stories, dispatches, columns, and essays in The Atlantic's January/February 2013 issue include:
What's Inside America's Banks?
More than four years after the 2008 financial crisis, public confidence in banks is as low as ever. Even sophisticated investors describe big banks as "black boxes" that may still be concealing enormous risks--the sort that could take down the economy. Again. A close investigation of the financial statements of Wells Fargo, one of the country's most conservative and trusted banks, uncovers the reasons for these fears. In the bank's 236-page annual report, Frank Partnoy and Jesse Eisinger encountered cryptic, opaque language that raises serious questions about many of the company's trading practices, including $2.8 trillion in derivatives and $1.46 trillion in variable-interest entities, accounting tricks that resemble the infamous ones Enron used to hide its debts. Every major bank's financial statements have some of these same elements, and many are much, much worse: impossible to decipher, or to trust.
Digital exclusive: Eisinger and Derek Thompson, The Atlantic's business editor, discuss banks' hidden risks.
Awake Under the Knife
Since its introduction in 1846, anesthesia has allowed for medical miracles. Limbs can be removed, tumors examined, organs replaced--and a patient will feel and remember nothing. Or so we choose to believe. In reality, tens of thousands of people wake up on the table each year. Since their bodies are usually paralyzed and their eyes are taped shut, they can't alert anyone to their condition. In efforts to eradicate this phenomenon, Joshua Lang finds, the medical community has been forced to confront how little it really knows about anesthesia's effects on the brain. The doctor who may be closest to understanding may also answer a question that has confounded scientists and philosophers for centuries: What does it mean to be conscious?