The feature articles, columns, essays, and original fiction in The Atlantic's September issue include:
The Killing Machines
Today we find ourselves in legal and moral knots over the drone, a weapon that can find and strike a single target, often a single individual, via remote control. In theory, when used with principled restraint, it is the perfect counterterrorism weapon, contends Mark Bowden, in one of the most comprehensive reports on the drone to date. The weapon targets indiscriminate killers with exquisite discrimination. But because its aim can never be perfect, can only be as good as the intelligence that guides it, sometimes it kills the wrong people. And even when it doesn't, its cold efficiency is literally inhuman. So how should we feel about drones?
Did an 8-Year-Old Spy for America?
When U.S. allies in Yemen needed help targeting an alleged al-Qaeda operative for an American drone strike, the evidence suggests they turned to one of the people closest to him: an 8-year-old boy he'd taken in off the streets. As Gregory D. Johnsen reports, the child, Barq al-Kulaybi, was approached by members of Yemen's elite Republican Guard in fall 2012 and tasked with planting a tracking device on the man he had come to think of as a father figure. On November 7, 2012, a drone strike killed the alleged terrorist. Barq, along with his biological father, was captured by local al-Qaeda members two months later, and was next seen confessing in an al-Qaeda video. Bart's status is unknown, but one thing is certain: someone exploited an 8-year-old boy. Either U.S. allies in Yemen used him to abet a killing, or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula used him as a pawn in its propaganda strategy--or both.
Advertisement for Murder
"Wanted: Caretaker For Farm. Simply watch over a 688 acre patch of hilly farmland and feed a few cows ... someone older and single preferred but will consider all ..." So began what looked to be a promising job ad on Craigslist. But as Hanna Rosin reports, there was no job, farm, or 688 acres. Instead, a serial killer had discovered a newly vulnerable class of victims: white, working-class men desperate for a good job.
- The Way We Lie Now: Technology makes it easier than ever to play fast and loose with the truth--and easier than ever to get caught. Megan Garber examines the consequences of digital deception. (Read more)
- The Most Valuable Network: ESPN, the self-proclaimed "Worldwide Leader in Sports" is astonishingly dominant. Which makes Derek Thompson wonder: Why hasn't anyone figured out how to beat it? (Read more) Plus, Thompson discusses the five things that could hurt the sports network's dominance. (Watch video)
- The U.S. Soldier Who Defected to North Korea: Charles Robert Jenkins's behavior on January 4, 1965, could be entered into the "stupid drunk decisions" hall of fame: after pounding 10 beers with his infantry company at the edge of the Korean Demilitarized Zone, he walked alone across a minefield and defected to North Korea. He regretted the decision in the morning but, as Graeme Wood reports, would go on to spend almost 40 years in the Hermit Kingdom. (Read more)
- When Good Words Go Bad: In this month's Wordplay, Jen Doll asks: How do dictionary editors decide what to keep and what to cut? (Read more)
- The Real Cost of Segregation: In this issue's Chartist, Emily Badger investigates the cost of segregation. (Read more)
- Why Is Software So Slow?: In our Tech Column, James Fallows talks with Charles Simonyi, one of the key architects of Microsoft Word, about why computer applications lag behind hardware, and how new apps could end drudgery. (Read more)
- The Work Addiction: In our Study of Studies, Jordan Weissmann examines workaholism--its effect on one's health, family, income level, and other factors. (Read more)
The Culture File:
- Clash Warfare: James Parker looks at how an upper-crust British schoolboy named Johnny Mellor reinvented himself as Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash and rock's angry spokesperson for a generation. (Read more)
- The Rise of Self-Taught Artists: Sarah Boxer explores why outsider art--dirty, brutish, and raw--is all the rage. (Read more)
- The Counterrevolutionary: The survival of the school-reform movement, as it's known to champions and detractors alike, is no longer assured. According to Sara Mosle, if one person can be credited--or blamed--for its sudden vulnerability, it is Diane Ravitch. (Read more)
- Paul Theroux may be the most accomplished travel writer alive, taking readers on train trips across Asia, on a kayak around the South Pacific, down the length of Africa, and to many other places around the globe. In this conversation with Andrew McCarthy, a travel writer (as well as a director and an actor who has appeared in dozens of films), Theroux reveals why he hates vacations. (Read more)
It is the summer of 1958 in this short story by Ron Carlson; 11-year-old Glen's whole town is listening to KLOF, the radio station that is giving away soda pop and a free house in Holiday Hills.
Finally, the Big Question on our back page: Who was the greatest athlete of all time? Tennis star Martina Navratilova, Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger, dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, NBC's Bob Costas, and many more weigh in.
These articles and more are featured in the September issue of The Atlantic, available today, August 15, 2013, on TheAtlantic.com and mobile devices and on newsstands next week.