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The Rug Missionary

Download the PDF A dealer sets out to give his business a better name.
by Michael Specter

When I first visited the city of Antalya, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, four years ago, the streets near the Old Town's twelfth-century minaret were filled with carpet salesmen. They advertised themselves by shouting in German, English, Russian, and Turkish–any language that they thought might work. Read more »

Naples Postcard: The Best of the Worsted

Download the PDF Why the old art of the tailor is still found in modern Naples
by Michael Specter

Naples is nothing like other Italian cities. It lacks both the mannered elegance of Florence and the fervor of Milan. It is sumptuous, sweltering, and licentious–much as it was two hundred years ago, when the city was routinely the place where any gentleman could be found as he finished his Grand Tour. Read more »

Your Mail Has Vanished

Download the PDF What happens to the messages you never got?
by Michael Specter

Not long ago, I sent an E-mail to a friend of mine who works at The New Yorker. There was nothing unusual about that; I send a lot of E-mail. Read more »

Comment: Shots in the Dark

Millennial Americans have to be the world's most aggressively adventurous human beings. We eagerly rappel down rockfaces, canyoneer across rivers, and paraglide over mountaintops. But those are risks we choose to take. We adopt a very different attitude toward the risks of daily life, no matter how small, which we can't avoid. Although most tap water is safe to drink, we spend millions on bottled brands. Read more »

The Dangerous Philosopher

Download the PDF Peter Singer's belief that animals should be treated like people gave birth to the animal-rights movement. Does he also think that people should be treated like animals?
by Michael Specter

It has been ten years since the breezy April afternoon when ninety-six British football fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough Stadium, in Sheffield, England. There was an important playoff match scheduled that day, between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, but as more and more people crammed themselves onto one of the runways leading to the stands the crowd panicked. Read more »

Comment: Yeltsin Strikes Again

There was a run of bad news out of Russia last week: cholera appeared in Siberia, and officials there could only close the borders and pray; energy workers in the far east, desperate for wages that nobody intends to pay them, have entered the second week of a hunger strike; a plague of locusts laid eggs over millions of acres of central Russia's finest farmlands; and, in an eerie echo of the country's most recent sustained catastrophe, a thousand of the most successful Islamic guerrillas in the world stormed across the Chechen border into Dagestan, declared a holy war, and are battling the Russian Army for control of the province. Read more »

Letter from Italy: A Sinking Feeling

Download the PDF Doesn't Venice want to be saved?
by Michael Specter

This has been a thoroughly humiliating year for the people of Venice. The city's population of doddering countesses and hapless roués has declined to its lowest level since long before the fall of the Serenissima, two hundred years ago. Read more »

Designer on the Verge

Download the PDF Lawrence Steele has a remarkable talent. Is that enough?
by Michael Specter

It is exactly 2 p.m. on a grim Tuesday at the end of January, and Lawrence Steele is standing in the middle of a busy street in central London, staring furtively at the stoop of a three-story brick town house. Read more »

Book Review: “Archangel” by Robert Harris

Reviewed by Michael Specter

The cold war wasn't good for much, but it certainly was a terrific time for thrillers: the East and West were so neatly divided, the atmosphere so ominously noir, and everything fit so well into a world in which the angels of democracy were destined always to live in conflict with the alluring tug of the devil. Read more »

Decoding Iceland

The next big medical breakthroughs may result from one scientist's battle to map the Viking gene pool.
by Michael Specter

If not for a single genetic peculiarity, passed invisibly through the generations, it is unlikely that we would know a thing about a sixteenth-century Icelandic cleric named Einar. Read more »