In this issue: COMMENT "Veep Stakes", by Steve Coll: The other Paul Ryan Story. ANNALS OF SCIENCE "Germs Are Us", by Michael Specter: Bacteria reconsidered. LETTER FROM CHINA "Boss Rail", by Evan Osnos: A train crash exposes the system. REFLECTIONS "Understanding Owls", by David Sedaris: What would make a perfect gift? THE CURRENT CINEMA "Playing Dead", by David Denby: Reviews of Seven Psychopaths and Holy Motors.