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What Germany Owes The East Pick of the day

German reunification was generally expected to mean the takeover and obliteration of East Germany by West Germany. “West Germany will simply expand, and that will be that.” In practice, however, East Germany has exerted a strong influence on the new country, mainly through Angela Merkel, who has moved the political centre to the left, and whose political style favours “the East German element of silence” over public debate (2,725 words)

Louisiana Is Disappearing Into The Sea

Masterpiece of reporting. Plaquemines Parish “hugs the Mississipi river, south of New Orleans”, on wetlands threatened by flooding, erosion, hurricanes. The parish is full of coal and gas plants, welcomed by local leaders as a form of blackmail. The federal government will not build flood defences for poor people, but will do so for industry. “Five million barrels of oil have been placed in the direct path of future hurricanes on purpose” (6,280 words)

Parenting Is Killing The American Marriage

American parents venerate their children: “It has become totally unacceptable in our culture to say anything bad about our children, let alone admit that we don’t like them all of the time.” But in doing so, parents neglect one another: “Once our gods have left us, we try to pick up the pieces of our long neglected marriages and find new purpose. Is it surprising that divorce rates are rising fastest for new empty nesters?” (1,000 words)

In Farageland

Fine essay explaining the rise of Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, by reference to the problems of Thanet, the south-coast town where Farage will stand for parliament. Local workers blame their problems on immigration; Farage blames immigration on the European Union. There’s enough plausibility in both propositions to make the urbane Farage a wild card in British politics (7,500 words)

The Blackberry Bush Reborn

Mark Cocker’s “glorious” and “gripping” collection of essays about the English countryside, Claxton, confirms his place among our noblest natural-history writers, the equal of Gilbert White. “There is an inbuilt melancholy to Claxton as it moves inexorably towards the year’s end. The cyclicality of the natural world challenges our mortality, and our hubris. We anthropomorphise it because of what it stirs in us” (830 words)

Anatomy Of Attention

Brain scans tell us what the brain does — or, or least, where it reacts — when subjected to particular stimuli. The next big question: “How do neurons signal to one another and to a cognitive command center that they have something important to say?” When we understand the nature of attention, we will be closer to answering the question of what it means to be conscious; or, perhaps, making the question redundant (1,400 words)

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