July/August 2011 Issue

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  • Cut and Kill
  • For years, the makers of Spam squeezed salaries and ratcheted up production. But when workers came down with a mysterious nerve disease, they got canned.

The Overseer
America's most famous warden has drawn praise for offering Christian redemption to men who will never again be free. But he can also make inmates' lives a living hell.
Escape From Missouri
Girls locked up and beaten inside religious compounds. Afghanistan? Try the American heartland.

WHY WE LUCY

Good luck googling "speedup." Pretty much every one of the first 15,682 results or so will be about making your computer faster...or, if you try for "labor speedup," shooing a recalcitrant baby toward the birth canal. But in 1952, when Lucille Ball filmed Episode 39 of I Love Lucy, the concept was familiar enough to work as comedy material. For decades, workers had battled assembly-line speedups, going back to a landmark strike at the Firestone plant in Akron, Ohio, in 1936. So naturally, when Lucy and Ethel end up in a chocolate factory, they struggle to keep up with the line. Having persevered (and stuffed their faces and shirts with stray candy), they beam at the supervisor—who promptly yells "Speed it up!" to an unseen operator. We can all relate to their horror, which is likely why the clip is hot on YouTube.

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Departments

Outfront

How to be a CEO'S body man; what's your life worth to the government?; Johnny comes marching home again; Big Pharma's hot air on inhalers; the most powerful pro-lifer you've never heard of; freezing out the CIA's climate office; the booming veteran-pension scam; Karl Marx, meet George Jetson

Mixed Media

Rosario Dawson: from squatter to Hollywood starlet with smarts; Alex Kotlowitz kicks it with Chicago's bravest peacekeepers; keeping tabs on tablet mags; singer Gillian Welch brings it all back home; plus book, film, and music reviews

Econundrums


Cover illustration by Tim O'Brien; photograph by Alec Soth