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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)

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 is standing for parliament. Local workers blame immigration for their problems; Farage blames immigration on the European Union. There’s enough plausibility in both propositions to make Farage a threat to the mainstream parties, and to Britain’s EU membership (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)

Executive Pay: Mind The Gap

Recommended primarily for the eye-opening chart entitled “Actual, estimated and ideal pay ratios of CEOs to unskilled workers, according to respondents in 16 different countries”; which says, roughly speaking, that most people have no idea how much top executives are getting paid. Americans think that the average CE0 earns 30 times as much as the average worker. The true figure is 350 times as much (950 words)

The Soldiers’ Philosopher

Interview with Nancy Sherman, first professor of ethics at the US Naval Academy, who teaches philosophy to naval officers, and reports that her students almost invariably gravitate towards Stoicism. “It fits an idealized model of invincibility, of external goods not mattering. I can expand the perimeter of my agency so that the only thing that matters is what I can control – namely my virtue” (2,000 words)

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