Perspectives: The Islamabad Two-Step

A budding deal between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and arch foe Benazir Bhutto could bring a new stability to Pakistan, say people close to the talks. In recent months the president has phoned Bhutto at least three times, and an aide has met secretly with her in Dubai, say the sources, who request anonymity due to the sensitivity of the talks. With Musharraf under siege by protesters, the deal would wipe away the corruption charges that drove Bhutto into exile, and allow her to return to run for Parliament in a general election next January. In return, her party would minimize its role in the protests and back Musharraf's bid for re-election as president in an October legislative ballot—and Musharraf would have to win. The clincher: Musharraf would give up his efforts to remain head of the Army, returning Pakistan to civilian rule.

It's not certain that a president shorn of military muscle makes for more rather than less stability in a critical, but chaotic, Western ally in the war on terror. But it could. Musharraf's effort to keep his military title and the removal of an uncooperative Supreme Court chief justice set off the protests. Islamist parties are trying to capitalize on the demonstrations, but the Bhutto deal would create a strong secular alliance, ensuring that the protests do not threaten the regime's stability.

America and Britain make it clear they back the talks, which are distancing Musharraf from the mullahs. After Musharraf's first call in November, Bhutto agreed to a compromise bill that will help end the jailing of rape victims for adultery, over Islamic opposition. And Bhutto's backing will lessen the regime's temptation to rig the polls, allowing Washington to keep aid flowing to its ally. Restoring civilian rule would allow Bhutto to claim she helped open a path to democracy. For the West, a Musharraf victory would mean five more years of a tough if imperfect ally against Al Qaeda.

By the Numbers
Gamblers are getting in on the global warming action. offers odds on dozens of climate change scenarios, which range from the realistic to the, well, unlikely.

The odds that scientists will prove, beyond scientific doubt, that global warming exists before 2008.

The odds that polar bears will be extinct by 2010.

The odds that the world's oceans will rise by an average of six inches by the end of this year.

The odds that global warming will be tackled so efficiently that by 2020, we'll have global freezing

Under Pressure
Another week, another embattled Bush administration official. The pressure is intensifying for U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign over his handling of a department shake-up last year. Although a Bush spokesperson said Gonzalez did a "fantastic job" before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that sentiment is clearly not widespread. After the session, Republican senators and their aides talked among themselves about how best to nudge Gonzales out—without publicly humiliating him. Rep. Adam Putnam, the third ranking GOP member, called on Gonzales to step down—echoing a position that a group of top House Republicans privately delivered to Bush earlier in the month. Gonzales has shown no inclination to leave just yet. But with the Democrats showing no sign of backing down, and more documents being requested by a special federal personnel agency, the road ahead for Gonzales—and his No. 1 backer, Bush—looks to be a rocky one.

Oh Bother! It's Darby.
The hundred Acre Wood had welcomed only one human: Christopher Robin. But fans who tune in to Disney's latest Pooh series, "My Friends Tigger & Pooh," will find the boy has been largely replaced—by a 6-year-old girl named Darby. In the new show, Tigger and Pooh don superhero duds and solve mysteries (who's stealing Rabbit's rutabagas?). Executive producer Brian Hohlfeld thought Christopher Robin was too old for such sleuthing, so he designed Darby. She was a huge hit in postproduction testing. But Pooh purists won't be pleased: Christopher Robin appears in only two of the 26 episodes. British journalist Hugh Fraser, who launched a "Save Christopher Robin" campaign on his blog, says Darby subverts A. A. Milne's vision. "For a girl to intrude breaks the spell of the story," he says. "They aren't her toys."

The Debunker
The CW has it that a big housing purchase by a top CEO should spur a rise in his company's stock price. After all, any chief exec who buys a 12,000-square-foot mansion is going to work extra hard to meet that gargantuan mortgage.

A new study, however, shows that the opposite may be true. David Yermack of New York University and Arizona State's Crocker Liu examined the housing habits of 488 top CEOs. They found that in 2005, the stocks of companies whose bosses lived in larger-than-average mansions returned roughly 3.35 percent less than companies whose CEOs lived in below-average megahomes. The stock of those CEOs who bought the biggest homes—at least 10,000 square feet) underperformed their peers by 6.9 percent. Yermack and Liu also found a 1.25 percent drop in the stocks of 164 companies after their incoming CEOs acquired very large new homes. Not even Bill Gates is immune to the phenomenon: since moving into his gargantuan mansion in the late ' 90s, Microsoft stock has essentially moved sideways, significantly underperforming the market.

'Winkie' Winner
If your teddy bear were brought to trial on terrorism charges, what would the verdict be? That's the whimsical premise behind "Winkie," the debut novel from NEWSWEEK's Clifford Chase (who wrote the memoir "The Hurry-Up Song"). The early buzz on "Winkie"—named after Chase's own teddy bear—has been as sweet as honey. According to Publishers Weekly, "Chase puts himself in the same league as David Sedaris." Entertainment Weekly called it "extremely ridiculous." But in this context—the book is about a teddy bear, after all—"ridiculous" is a serious compliment.

Reality Check
Neuroscientists may soon read our minds, thanks to advances in functional magnetic resonance imaging. John-Dylan Haynes of Germany's Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience used computer software to emulate complex brain-cell changes while his subjects made basic choices. By examining a sample of the brain scans, the computer constructed patterns and predicted the subjects' remaining choices, with an accuracy rate of 71 percent.

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