the gratitude visit

Martin Seligman in delancyplace:

BookA generation ago, the study of psychology was dominated by a focus on the abnormal and the negative. But more recently, there have been academic movements that have undertaken a data and research-based study of the positive dimensions of psychology, with a view toward prescribing activities that can be imbedded into a person's life and increase that person's structural level of happiness. One such effort comes from Martin Seligman and the University of Pennsylvania. The following is a sample of the type of activity this academic school of thoughts recommends based on its own systematic studies to deal with the increasing prevalence of depression in our society:

“Here's a brief exercise that will raise your well-being and lower your depression: The gratitude visit. Close your eyes. Call up the face of someone still alive who years ago did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Someone who you never properly thanked; someone you could meet face-to-face next week. Got a face? Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them. But sometimes our thank you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless. … Your task is to write a letter of gratitude to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words: be specific about what she did for you and how it affected your life. Let her know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember what she did. Make it sing! Once you have written the testimonial, call the person and tell her you'd like to visit [him or] her, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting; this exercise is much more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet her, take your time reading your letter.

“You will be happier and less depressed one month from now. …

More here.

Breakthrough allows scientists to watch how molecules morph into memories

From MedicalXpress:

BrainIn the research described in the two Science papers, the Einstein researchers stimulated neurons from the mouse's hippocampus, where memories are made and stored, and then watched fluorescently glowing beta-actin mRNA molecules form in the nuclei of neurons and travel within dendrites, the neuron's branched projections. They discovered that mRNA in neurons is regulated through a novel process described as “masking” and “unmasking,” which allows beta-actin protein to be synthesized at specific times and places and in specific amounts. Neurons come together at synapses, where slender dendritic “spines” of neurons grasp each other, much as the fingers of one hand bind those of the other. Evidence indicates that repeated neural stimulation increases the strength of synaptic connections by changing the shape of these interlocking dendrite “fingers.” Beta-actin protein appears to strengthen these synaptic connections by altering the shape of dendritic spines. Memories are thought to be encoded when stable, long-lasting synaptic connections form between neurons in contact with each other.

More here.

The Iran Nuclear Accord Is Good for Human Rights

Akbar Ganji is an Iranian journalist often referred to as Iran's “pre-eminent political dissident” after spending 6 years in jail for his human rights activities.

Akbar Ganji in The Huffington Post:

The nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 has provoked considerable debate. The proponents of diplomatic resolution of the standoff with Iran have praised the accord. Its opponents, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, have harshly criticized it. As a former Iranian political prisoner who spent six years in the Islamic Republic's jails and whose writings have been banned in Iran, I support the Geneva agreement. The question is, what is the goal of continuing the standoff with Iran, if not reaching an agreement with it?

If the goal is regime change in Iran, we must recall that 13 years of backbreaking sanctions did not topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq; the military invasion of 2003 did. The sanctions did kill at least half a million Iraqi children, and prompted the infamous statement by Madeleine Albright, President Bill Clinton's secretary of state, that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was worth the huge cost in terms of human suffering in Iraq.

If the Iranian regime's respect for human rights is made the necessary condition for a nuclear accord, there will be no agreement at all, because it will prove the claim by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the real goal of the United State is regime change, and that the nuclear program and claims about Iran wanting to “wipe Israel off the map” are only excuses. So long as there is an external threat that endangers its survival, no regime will agree to reform itself and become democratic.

National security and economic prosperity are prerequisites for the emergence of a democratic regime. Destroying the infrastructure of a nation through harsh economic sanctions and war will not bring about a transition to democracy. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria are prime examples of the failure of such thinking. In the first 11 months of 2013 alone, more than 8,000 people were killed in Iraq as a result of terrorism. Libya has been transformed into a lawless country controlled by various militia, with some having separatist tendencies. Syria has been completely destroyed, with an estimated 120,000 people killed. It has also become an operation center for some of the most extreme terrorist groups. In fact, as a result of the regime-change crusade of the past 12 years, jihadi groups of the Middle East have become stronger, not weaker.

More here.

Let Us Take A Walk In the Brain: Carl Zimmer’s Cover Story For National Geographic

Carl Zimmer in his excellent blog, The Loom:

Zimmer-550Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time around brains. I’ve held slices of human brains preserved on glass slides. I’ve gazed through transparent mouse brains that look like marbles. I’ve spent a very uncomfortable hour having my own brain scanned (see the picture above). I’ve interviewed a woman about what it was like for her to be able to control a robot arm with an electrode implanted in her brain. I’ve talked to neuroscientists about the ideas they’ve used their own brains to generate to explain how the brain works.

This has all been part of my research for the cover story in the current issue of National Geographic. You can find it on the newsstands, and you can also read it online.

On Monday, I was interviewed on KQED about the story, and you can find the recording here.

National Geographic has been doing a lot of interesting work to adapt their magazine stories for the web and tablets. For my story, the great photographs from Robert Clark are accompanied by some fine video.

More here.

The Truths Behind “Dr. Strangelove”

Eric Schlosser in the New Yorker:

NuclearHalf a century after Kubrick’s mad general, Jack D. Ripper, launched a nuclear strike on the Soviets to defend the purity of “our precious bodily fluids” from Communist subversion, we now know that American officers did indeed have the ability to start a Third World War on their own. And despite the introduction of rigorous safeguards in the years since then, the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear detonation hasn’t been completely eliminated.

The command and control of nuclear weapons has long been plagued by an “always/never” dilemma. The administrative and technological systems that are necessary to insure that nuclear weapons are always available for use in wartime may be quite different from those necessary to guarantee that such weapons can never be used, without proper authorization, in peacetime. During the nineteen-fifties and sixties, the “always” in American war planning was given far greater precedence than the “never”…

In December, 1960, fifteen members of Congress serving on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy had toured NATO bases to investigate how American nuclear weapons were being deployed. They found that the weapons—some of them about a hundred times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima—were routinely guarded, transported, and handled by foreign military personnel. American control of the weapons was practically nonexistent. Harold Agnew, a Los Alamos physicist who accompanied the group, was especially concerned to see German pilots sitting in German planes that were decorated with Iron Crosses—and carrying American atomic bombs. Agnew, in his own words, “nearly wet his pants” when he realized that a lone American sentry with a rifle was all that prevented someone from taking off in one of those planes and bombing the Soviet Union.

Read the rest here.

A New Physics Theory of Life


Natalie Wolchover in Quanta Magazine:

From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, which provides a powerful description of life at the level of genes and populations. “I am certainly not saying that Darwinian ideas are wrong,” he explained. “On the contrary, I am just saying that from the perspective of the physics, you might call Darwinian evolution a special case of a more general phenomenon.”

More here.

We Need Smarter Prostitution Laws


Jill Filipovic in Al Jazeera:

Current sex workers — at least those who are active on the Internet, arguably an English-speaking, financially stable and educated sliver representing sex workers who are significantly more privileged than the average global sex worker — seem to populate the pro-decriminalization group more heavily. This is not surprising, considering the perils sex workers face when their trade is outlawed, with rapes and assaults that cannot be reported to police, abuse at the hands of police, control by pimps or organized criminal cartels, arrests and criminal records that make other work impossible, murders no one cares about. (Street sex workers, for instance, are underrepresented in mainstream media stories but account for about 20 percent of sex workers in the U.S. and face much higher levels (PDF) of extreme poverty, homelessness, desperation and substance abuse than the general population — and even the overall sex-work population — does.)

It is clear that outlawing prostitution has not worked. Legalization, it would seem, would be a solution. Regulate sex work like any other job and treat sex workers with the dignity afforded to any other worker, and you undercut the assumption on the part of some johns that they can rape, abuse and rob, and you empower sex workers to go to the police without fear of arrest. In theory, legalization would even cut down on human trafficking and coercive practices. Regulation would make it easier to identify those who are in the trade voluntarily versus those who are not. Taking sex work out of the shadows would cast more light on those people who are being abused.

More here. Also see Aziza Ahmed in Foreign Policy:

Abolitionists typically insist that criminalization is imperative. Some have pushed for making the sale of sex illegal. Others, however, including feminists who oppose prostitution, support a different model: outlawing only the purchase of sex. They argue that criminalizing clients will force the sex industry out of business, liberating sex workers but not treating them as criminals.

Already, this model has achieved legislative success. Sweden outlawed buying sex in 1999; Norway and Iceland later followed suit. France is on the verge of joining the club, and a debate on the issue is even gaining steam in Germany. Feminist Kathleen Barry, author of Female Sexual Slavery and co-founder of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, has even called for an international treaty that would mandate “arresting, jailing and fining johns.” (She first introduced the idea in the early 1990s, but has recently revived it.)

In reality, there is no convincing evidence that punishing “johns” decreases the incidence of commercial sex. Troublingly, Sweden's sex workers report that criminalization has simply driven the sex industry underground, with dangerous consequences: Clients have more power to say when and where they want to have sex, inhibiting workers' ability to protect themselves if need be.

More here.

the love of pigeons

84b31690-8386-11e3-_400700hJennie Erin Smith at the Times Literary Supplement:

On a chilly autumn morning in Ozone Park, Queens, Carmine Gangone, an Italian-American veteran of the Second World War, sends his rooftop flock of pigeons into the sky, screaming “Climb, you bastards!” as he waves a bamboo pole after them. Across town in Brooklyn, a man who calls himself Tony the Terminator releases his own birds in the hope that they will “tangle” with flocks like Gangone’s and return with a pigeon or two more. Elsewhere in New York, hundreds of people casually toss chunks of bagel or pizza crust at feral pigeons; others carry whole bags of bread to feed them with, despite long-standing efforts by city officials to discourage the practice.

In The Global Pigeon, his ethnography of human–pigeon encounters, Colin Jerolmack makes an imaginative and convincing case against interpreting any of these activities as “driven by a singular deep-seated need to connect to nature”, as environmental scholars persuaded by the biophilia hypothesis might. Jerolmack, too, first thought of the rooftop pigeon coops as a way for their owners to “escape the concrete jungle and find solace in intimate relations with the ‘natural world’”. But people like Gangone quickly disabused him of the idea. Instead, Jerolmack found, after spending thousands of hours with pigeon flyers, feeders, and racers – mostly in New York but also in Berlin, London, Venice and South Africa – that people who interacted with pigeons did so mainly to reinforce their connections to other people.

more here.

On Afrikaner Dance Music

ImageTrevor Sacks at n+1:

Boeremusiek usually has no vocals, and its central instrument is the crunchy, droning concertina, an originally European free-reed instrument replete with bellows—much like an accordion, but smaller and perhaps cuter. As with some forms of American folk music, guitar, banjo, occasionally violin, and bass or cello accompany it. It could be considered the bluegrass of South Africa, although perhaps it’s closer in sound to Cajun music, or polka mixed with Parisian cafe kitsch.

A typical boeremusiek song, like the traditional “Sonop” (“Sunrise”) as played by Die Oudag Boere-Orkes (The Old-Time Boere Orchestra), begins with a short figure played on a lone concertina, increasing in tempo like a wind-up record, before the rest of the band joins in. An acoustic guitar provides rhythm along with a bouncing, plucked cello to mark the bassline; while a second concertina provides harmonic lines and chord stabs. As in bluegrass, a banjo adds extra jauntiness, tripping atop the guitar rhythm. In the traditional bands, no drums feature, though they do in bands like The Klipwerf Orkes, perhaps the most successful current boeremusiek act. Their drummer adds plenty of splashy accents to the relentless, chugging rhythm in their version of “Sonop,” and they’ll often include clean electric guitars, synthesizers and pianos.

more here.

the greatness of herzog

BellowKevin Stevens at The Dublin Review of Books:

“If I’m out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.”

So begins Saul Bellow’s Herzog, a half-century in print and still funny, intense, personal, and contradictory from its opening sentence. Still contemporary. Imbued with two thousand years of learning yet crackling with wiseass Chicago wit. Cerebral and earthy, dense and free-flowing, brilliant, imaginative, hilarious. Thoroughly Jewish yet thoroughly American. And, though many might argue otherwise, the great postwar American novel.

Great works of literature are both representative and unique. Representative because, at least in the Western mimetic tradition, they depict, via genre, rhetoric, and habit of thought, the cultural and political realities of their time. And while full of the detail of the historical moment, the best works also transcend the moment, giving narrative or lyric the scope and depth of the timeless, so that meaning and relevance persist as history fades.

Uniqueness is mediated by language – not simply as style, though that is important, but as the medium through which idea, image, and narrative are captured and conveyed. Language, as Richard Ford puts it, is what happens in literature.

more here.

Thursday Poem


Once I was a Paleolithic painter, a sensual hunter
plundering the earth, living from hand to mouth,
drawing at one end of the cave, all my worries ordinary.
I was faithful to nature, transmitting pure and honest beauty,
my drawings of movement were snapshots.
I saw the finest nuances of color
and didn’t know what shadows were.
I didn’t believe in gods or the world to come,
I lived in an age of deeds
and afterwards I split in two and divided the world
into reality and the beyond,
the seen world and the hidden one
the mortal body and the soul.

by Yediot Aharonot
from Ra'ad ha-ear
Publisher: Yediot Aharonot, Tel Aviv, 2013
translation, Lisa Katz

The Happiness Index: Putting people before profit in Bhutan

Gretchen Legler in Orion Magazine:

Happiness_magnet011DRUK YUL, the DRAGON KINGDOM, has been incognito for a long, long time. A country roughly the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined, but with less than half the population, it sits sandwiched between its giant neighbors, China and India. It has never been colonized by a foreign power and was only once unsuccessfully intruded upon by the British. It has remained a place apart—a secret, secluded jewel of a Buddhist kingdom in the lap of the Himalayas, ruled by a family of kings and queens whose pictures adorn nearly every household. Suddenly, however, it has burst upon the global scene, not only as an elite tourist destination, but as a champion in the quest for human happiness and sustainable economics, its leaders making international headlines as they invite other nations to wake up and get on board with the pursuit of Gross National Happiness. GNH, as the Bhutanese call it, was conceived of by the country’s fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who, in the mid-1970s, realized Bhutan could no longer remain hidden from the rest of the world like a real-life Shangri-La, but would need to modernize or risk being erased entirely. How could this be done without wrecking Bhutan’s diverse and precious natural resources, subjecting its people to unfettered capitalism, or prostituting its complex and rich Tibetan Buddhist culture to tourism? His answer was Gross National Happiness, and he is famously quoted as saying, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.”

…In Bhutan, happiness is not a perfect life softly cocooned in pillows of cleanliness, security, and abundance. “I like to start by translating what happiness means in our language,” he says. “Ghakey—the first syllable, gha, is a word that you can use when you say you like something, when you say you love someone; it can also be used to describe a state of elation. The second syllable, key, means peace. When we refer to happiness, we are talking about harmony, striking a balance, so you’re not just focusing on individual emotion but the enabling conditions that will facilitate an individual pursuit of happiness.” Can a country that claims in its brand-new constitution that happiness is more important than money survive, let alone thrive, in a global economy that measures everything by the dollar? How do you measure happiness? Can governments actually help people be happy? Can this tiny hermit kingdom really serve as a model for change for the rest of the world? You could argue that these are some of the most vital questions of our time.

More here.

The Heartbreaking History of Divorce

Amanda Foreman in Smithsonian:

AnnThe fact is, in the United States the probability of a first marriage lasting for 20 years has decreased to about 50-50. (Before anyone blames Western decadence for the breakdown of the family, it should be pointed out that the Maldives occupies the number one spot in the divorce league tables, followed by Belarus. The United States is third.) Furthermore, these grim statistics don’t even touch on the reality that for an increasing percentage of the population, life is a series of short cohabitations punctuated by the arrival of children. For a country that makes such a fuss about love on the 14th of February, America has a funny way of showing it on the other 364 days of the year. This may be my XX chromosomes doing the talking, but it seems to me that divorce is, and always has been, a women’s issue par excellence. Multiple studies have shown that women bear the brunt of the social and economic burdens that come with divorce. The quickest route to poverty is to become a single mother. This is awful enough, but what I find so galling is that the right to divorce was meant to be a cornerstone of liberty for women. For centuries, divorce in the West was a male tool of control—a legislative chastity belt designed to ensure that a wife had one master, while a husband could enjoy many mistresses. It is as though, having denied women their cake for so long, the makers have no wish to see them enjoy it.

…The most celebrated divorce case in history remains that of Henry VIII versus Pope Clement VII. The battle began in 1527, when Henry tried to force the pope into annulling his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, who had failed to provide him with a male heir. Determined to make the younger and prettier Anne Boleyn his wife, Henry finally broke with Rome in 1533 and declared himself the head of a new church, the Church of England. The collateral damage from Henry’s unilateral decision was a way of life that stretched back for more than a thousand years. Gone forever was not just a system of patronage or the ancient rites, but the vast network of religious schools, hospitals, convents and monasteries that maintained the social fabric of the country.

More here.

On and off the road with Barack Obama

David Remnick in The New Yorker:

ScreenHunter_467 Jan. 22 18.25On the Sunday afternoon before Thanksgiving, Barack Obama sat in the office cabin of Air Force One wearing a look of heavy-lidded annoyance. The Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement and, for all its limitations, the most ambitious social legislation since the Great Society, half a century ago, was in jeopardy. His approval rating was down to forty per cent—lower than George W. Bush’s in December of 2005, when Bush admitted that the decision to invade Iraq had been based on intelligence that “turned out to be wrong.” Also, Obama said thickly, “I’ve got a fat lip.”

That morning, while playing basketball at F.B.I. headquarters, Obama went up for a rebound and came down empty-handed; he got, instead, the sort of humbling reserved for middle-aged men who stubbornly refuse the transition to the elliptical machine and Gentle Healing Yoga. This had happened before. In 2010, after taking a self-described “shellacking” in the midterm elections, Obama caught an elbow in the mouth while playing ball at Fort McNair. He wound up with a dozen stitches. The culprit then was one Reynaldo Decerega, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Decerega wasn’t invited to play again, though Obama sent him a photograph inscribed “For Rey, the only guy that ever hit the President and didn’t get arrested. Barack.”

More here.

Away from her

Amitava Kumar in The Indian Express:

Wbf-ak092908I am writing these words during a 14-hour flight from New York to Delhi. After landing in Delhi, I will catch another flight, this one to Patna. I am going to Patna to cremate my mother. Ten years ago, almost to the day, I was on a highway outside Washington DC and I thought that my mother had died. She was visiting us from India because my first child had been born. That morning I was driving with Ma to my sister’s home. I was to take a plane later that day to Atlanta, where I was going to interview the actor Manoj Bajpai. Only a few miles from my sister’s house, as I was driving, I looked at Ma, who was on the seat beside me. Her eyes were open but her gaze was unfocused. She certainly didn’t appear to hear me. Her body had gone rigid. Ma, I said softly, and then Ma again, louder and louder. We must have been driving at 120 kmph and I began to change lanes, getting to the slower lanes, and then exiting till I came to a stop on a suburban street. Did I sprinkle water on her? I cannot say. But my mother seemed to awaken from a sleep. She remembered nothing. And soon she was fine. Before I said goodbye to her at my sister’s house, Ma asked me if she should prepare some suji ka halwa for Manoj Bajpai. This is how one can think of many women in our society: they are survivors. They have endured so much, they have carried such burdens, weathered so many storms. And we, who are their children, are the beneficiaries because, at the end, we are asked if we want some mango, or milk, or suji ka halwa.

More here.

Happiness and Its Discontents

Photo_45547_portrait_largeMari Ruti at The Chronicle Review:

If all of that isn't enough to make you suspicious of the cultural injunction to be happy, consider this basic psychoanalytic insight: Human beings may not be designed for happy, balanced lives. The irony of happiness is that it's precisely when we manage to feel happy that we are also most keenly aware that the feeling might not last. Insofar as each passing moment of happiness brings us closer to its imminent collapse, happiness is merely a way of anticipating unhappiness; it's a deviously roundabout means of producing anxiety.

Take the notion that happiness entails a healthy lifestyle. Our society is hugely enthusiastic about the idea that we can keep illness at bay through a meticulous management of our bodies. The avoidance of risk factors such as smoking, drinking, and sexual promiscuity, along with a balanced diet and regular exercise, is supposed to guarantee our longevity. To a degree, that is obviously true. But the insistence on healthy habits is also a way to moralize illness, to cast judgment on those who fail to adhere to the right regimen. Ultimately, as the queer theorist Tim Dean has illustrated, we are dealing with a regulation of pleasure—a process of medicalization that tells us which kinds of pleasures are acceptable and which are not.

more here.

Karachi’s Dark Knight

Highres_copyright-john-stanmeyerviiHM Naqvi at Caravan:

JAMEEL YUSUF IS SMALL AND STURDY and wears his trousers slightly above his waist. Quick on his feet, he has a firm handshake and the general disposition of an economics professor—he wears a trim salt-and-pepper beard and rectangular-rimmed spectacles and peers at you with inquisitive eyes. His gaze, manner and mien do not betray that Yusuf was once one of the toughest characters in a city with a tough reputation. He was Karachi’s Dark Knight.

Yusuf, however, will say, “I’m just a Khoja businessman.” The Khojas are a tight-knit, mostly mercantile community who populate cities from South Asia to East Africa and Canada. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the urbane founder of Pakistan, was one. Yusuf’s trajectory was rather more traditional: he got into the textile business after graduating from university, manufacturing cones used in spinning units, before venturing into construction. He built one of the first malls in Karachi in the mid 1980s. By the late 1980s, he had become a successful self-made businessman—“Whenever I take up something, I like to do a thorough job,” he said—and middle-aged.

And in the late 1980s, Karachi had become unsettled.

more here.

Getting Away With Murder

Jason Burke in The Guardian:

Benazir-Bhutto-books-011Decade after decade, Pakistan waxes and wanes as a news story. The early and late 70s, the end of the 80s, the beginning and end of the last decade have all seen spikes of interest in this complicated, troubled nation. In 2007 and 2008, two events in particular focused attention on the country: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in the northern city of Rawalpindi and the terrorist operation launched by Pakistan-based Islamic militants on the Indian commercial capital of Mumbai, which left 166 dead. Together with new violence along the Afghan-Pakistani frontier as Pakistani troops tried to roll back resurgent extremists and bombings across Pakistan itself, these two attacks signalled the return of the “strategic centre of gravity” of the post-9/11 battle against extremist violence to south-west Asia after the shift to the Middle East following the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Heraldo Muñoz is a UN assistant secretary general who led the investigation into the assassination of Bhutto. He tells his story in Getting Away With Murder: Benazir Bhutto's Assassination and the Politics of Pakistan, a short book which, though oversold by publishers' claims of a “gripping” narrative that goes “further than anyone else to unravel the mystery” of the two-time prime minister's death, nonetheless makes some interesting points.

Central to the narrative is Bhutto herself. I spent much time with this impressive but deeply flawed woman in Pakistan in the late 90s, spoke to her regularly throughout her exile and accompanied her on several days' campaigning close to the Afghan border only a week or so before she died. She was charming, intelligent, moderate and extraordinarily brave. On one occasion, I joined her after she impulsively halted her motorcade and headed off into a market in a violence-prone conservative town to mix with stallholders and shoppers. But Bhutto was also intolerant of dissent, wilfully blind to the faults of key associates and, by the time she returned to Pakistan, in 2007, out of touch with her homeland.

More here.