Thursday, March 27, 2014

Your Local Dinky Mom and Pop Liquor Shop Is in Major Trouble

Your Local Dinky Mom and Pop Liquor Shop Is in Major Trouble

Your Local Dinky Mom and Pop Liquor Shop Is in Major Trouble

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 11:05 AM PDT

Total Wine & More, a rapidly expanding megastore chain with cheap prices, huge selection, and a reputation as “Toys R Us for adults,” understandably has mom-and-pop liquor shop owners feeling like they could use a drink.

Total Wine & More is on quite a run. The concept was born in 1991, when brothers David and Robert Trone opened two stores in Delaware. A year ago, when David Trone was proudly discussing the way customers sometimes refer to Total Wine as “Toys R Us for adults,” there were around 85 stores, most in the neighborhood of 20,000 to 25,000 square feet, each featuring some 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits, and 2,500 choices of beer. The latest total is 102 superstore locations in 16 states. And counting: There were two grand openings this month in Washington, bringing the state total to nine, closer and closer to the company’s previously stated ambitions to have as many as 13 Total Wine superstores in Washington. Among other new locations, a second Total Wine store is expected to open in Tempe, Ariz., later this year, at the outdoor mall known as Tempe Marketplace.

The Phoenix Business Journal noted that the arrival of Total Wine at the mall could spell trouble for BevMo!, another alcoholic beverage retail chain with roughly 150 locations in the western U.S., including one at the Tempe Marketplace.

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Mom-and-pop liquor stores in places such as Norwalk, Conn., and coastal South Carolina have even more to fear from the arrival of Total Wine, which is renowned for huge selection and cheap prices—a killer combination that small businesses find difficult, if not impossible, to compete with. The Trones are known for being content with tiny, profit margins on sales; if a case of Budweiser cost $9.75 at wholesale, they might charge customers $9.99, compared to $13 at a typical store.

In at least one case, in Minnesota, the mom-and-pop faction is fighting back, and thus far has stopped a planned Total Wine store from opening. After a lobbying effort by the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represents liquor license holders in the state, the Bloomington City Council decided that more studies were needed before a Total Wine, once scheduled to open last November, could operate in the city.

"This is the biggest hurdle we've had in all 15 states," Robert Trone said of the confrontation in Minnesota, which became the company’s 16th state recently when a Total Wine opened in Roseville, according to "We've certainly come across groups before that tried to stop competition, but never as organized and fierce as this group. Their sole stated objective is to stop competition."

The Trones told the Minneapolis StarTribune that liquor store margins in Minnesota tend to be far higher than in other states—upwards of 50%, compared to a 25% to 35% markup elsewhere. Total Wine’s margins, meanwhile, range from 6% to 25%, the Trones say.

(MORE: After PBR: Will the Next Great Hipster Beer Please Stand Up?)

In a recent interview with the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, David Trone spoke with near disgust regarding the “monopolistic” liquor store competition in the state, and also dissed the filthy physical condition of their stores. “They’re buddies and they all charge the same high prices, they meet at the same clubs and they all make lots of money,” Trone said. “They’ve chosen to compete by trying to stop our entry into the market by using government as a foil to stop competition, which enables them to keep their high prices and maintain, in many cases, their dirty stores.”

Rape Culture Is Real

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 11:01 AM PDT

“You were drinking, what did you expect?”

Those were the first words that I heard when I went to someone I trusted for support after my roommate's boyfriend raped me eight years ago. When I came forward to report what happened, instead of support, many well-meaning people close to me asked me questions about what I was wearing, if I had done something to cause the assault, or if I had been drinking. These questions about my choices the night of my assault — as opposed to the choices made by my rapist — were in some ways as painful as the violent act itself. I had stumbled upon rape culture: a culture in which sexual violence is the norm and victims are blamed for their own assaults.

Last week, in an essay here at Time, Caroline Kitchens wrote that rape culture as a theory over-hyped by "hysterical" feminists. Emboldened by a disappointing and out of touch statement by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), Kitchens writes, "Recently, rape-culture theory has migrated from the lonely corners of the feminist blogosphere into the mainstream. In January, the White House asserted that we need to combat campus rape by '[changing] a culture of passivity and tolerance in this country, which too often allows this type of violence to persist…' Tolerance for rape? Rape is a horrific crime, and rapists are despised."

Kitchens goes on to downplay the problem of sexual violence saying, "Though rape is certainly a serious problem, there's no evidence that it's considered a cultural norm."

Is 1 in 5 American women surviving rape or attempted rape considered a cultural norm? Is 1 in 6 men being abused before the age of 18 a cultural norm? These statistics are not just shocking, they represent real people. Yet, these millions of survivors and allies don't raise their collective voices to educate America about our culture of rape because of fear. Rape culture is a real and serious, and we need to talk about it. Simply put, feminists want equality for everyone and that begins with physical safety.

"If so many millions of women were getting carjacked or kidnapped, we’d call it a public crisis. That we accept it as normal, even inevitable, is all the evidence I need," Jaclyn Friedman, author Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape told me, in response to Kitchens' piece. "If we already despise rapists, why are they so rarely held accountable in any way?,” Friedman asks. An analysis by RAINN found that 97% of rapists never spend a single day in jail for their crimes. “What we really despise is the idea of rapists: a terrifying monster lurking in the bushes, waiting to pounce on an innocent girl as she walks by,” Friedman says. “But actual rapists, men who are usually known to (and often loved by) their victims? Men who are sometimes our sports heroes, political leaders, buddies, boyfriends and fathers? Evidence suggests we don’t despise them nearly as much as we should."

In response to Kitchens' piece, I started the hashtag #RapeCultureIsWhen on Twitter hoping that it would spark a public dialogue about rape culture and shift the conversation away from the myths that shame so many survivors into silence. This conversation is meant to be a tool to educate people about what rape culture is, how to spot it, and how to combat it. The hashtag immediately took off and trended nationally for hours on the strength of personal stories and advocates sharing information about victim blaming, bystander intervention, and healthy masculinity. The level of engagement is an illustration of how many people wanted to speak out about this issue many are too afraid to touch. The following statements are made up of contributions the #RapeCultureIsWhen hashtag as well as the myriad personal stories of survivors with the courage to speak out:

  • Rape culture is when women who come forward are questioned about what they were wearing.
  • Rape culture is when survivors who come forward are asked, "Were you drinking?"
  • Rape culture is when people say, "she was asking for it."
  • Rape culture is when we teach women how to not get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape.
  • Rape culture is when the lyrics of Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' mirror the words of actual rapists and is still the number one song in the country.
  • Rape culture is when the mainstream media mourns the end of the convicted Steubenville rapists' football careers and does not mention the young girl who was victimized.
  • Rape culture is when cyberbullies take pictures of sexual assaults and harass their victims online after the fact, which in the cases of Audrie Pott and Rehtaeh Parsons tragically ended in their suicides.
  • Rape culture is when, in 31 states, rapists can legally sue for child custody if the rape results in pregnancy.
  • Rape culture is when college campus advisers tasked with supporting the student body, shame survivors who report their rapes. (Annie Clark, a campus activist, says an administrator at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill told her when she reported her rape, “Well… Rape is like football, if you look back on the game, and you’re the quarterback, Annie… is there anything you would have done differently?”)
  • Rape culture is when colleges are more concerned with getting sued by assailants than in supporting survivors. (Or at Occidental College, where students and administrators who advocated for survivors were terrorized for speaking out against the school's insufficient reporting procedures.)

It's no surprise that we would refuse to acknowledge that rape and sexual violence is the norm, not the exception. It's no surprise because most of us would rather believe that the terrible realities we hear about aren't real or that, at least, we can't do anything about it. The truth is ugly. But by denying the obvious we continue to allow rapists to go unpunished and leave survivors silenced.

Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst, speaker, and contributing writer for,,,, and She writes about national politics, candidates, and specific policy and culture issues including domestic violence, sexual assault, victim blaming and gender inequality.

Quiznos Mashes Up Game of Thrones and House of Cards, and Somehow It Works

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:54 AM PDT

Sandwich shop Quiznos has decided to combine two of 2014's most talked-about shows, House of Cards and Game of Thrones into one oddly entertaining parody video. In the three-minute short, a man playing the conniving and eloquent Frank Underwood offers wry witticisms directly to the camera as he travels around the continent of Westeros, poisoning kings and throwing warriors into endless abysses. He even stops his evil plotting for a moment to make the requisite short joke about Tyrion Lannister.

At the end of the spoof Underwood holds up a bag of Quiznos to remind the audience exactly why this video was made. It's featured on Quiznos-backed comedy website called Toasty.TV that the company uses to offer up branded entertainment, an increasingly popular form of advertising that is aimed at bringing viewers enjoyment rather than making a hard sell. Chipotle has also been experimenting with this type of content. The burrito chain has a comedy series on Hulu that is about the dangers of industrial farming rather than Chipotle itself.

Twitter May Be Getting Rid of the Word ‘Retweet’

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:52 AM PDT

The "retweet" may be going the way of the "fail whale." Select users of Twitter's mobile app are now seeing the phrase "share with others" instead of "retweet" when they post another person's tweet in their own timelines.

The change is one of Twitter's many ongoing experiments to try to make its social network more engaging. User growth on Twitter has slowed continuously over time, and new data shows that most people who sign up don't keep tweeting over the long-term. Other tests, such as an overhaul of user profile pages to make them more visual, indicate that Twitter may be trying to imitate the interface of Facebook, a more popular website with higher levels of user engagement.

The retweet was first invented by Twitter's users rather than the company. In the early days users had to manually type "RT" to indicate that they were posting someone else's message. Though Twitter formally adopted the retweet feature in 2009, the word itself is one of the many bits of insider jargon that new users have to learn to use the service effectively. Other quirks of Twitter, like the use of the @ symbol to directly tweet to other users, are also being phased out in certain tests. CEO Dick Costolo has said these long-used terms are "confusing and opaque" to new members.

Coroner: Russian Tycoon Berezovsky Death Remains Unexplained

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:50 AM PDT

(LONDON) — A British coroner has recorded an “open verdict” on the death of Boris Berezovsky, saying it was not possible to conclude whether the self-exiled Russian tycoon was killed or committed suicide.

At the end of a two-day inquest, coroner Peter Bedford said he could not be sure beyond reasonable doubt of the circumstances of Berezovsky’s death.

The 67-year-old Berezovsky — a Kremlin insider-turned-critic of President Vladimir Putin — was found on a bathroom floor of his ex-wife’s home in southern England in March 2013. A ligature was around his neck.

Georgia Soldier Convicted in Death of Pregnant Wife

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:48 AM PDT

(FORT STEWART, Ga.) — An Army soldier accused of strangling his pregnant wife so he could pocket $500,000 in benefit money was convicted Thursday by a military judge in a case that hinged on dueling medical experts who couldn’t agree on how the woman died.

Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, 22, of Cashmere, Wash., was on trial for four days during a Fort Stewart court-martial. He was convicted of murder and causing the death of an unborn child after his wife, 24-year-old Sgt. Deirdre Aguigui, was found dead at their apartment July 17, 2011, when she was about seven months pregnant. The charges carry an automatic life sentence.

The verdict should have little impact on Isaac Aguigui’s overall fate. He’s already serving life without parole at a Georgia prison after pleading guilty last summer to murder charges in a double slaying that occurred nearly five months after his wife died.

Prosecutors had no problem presenting a possible motive for why Aguigui would want his wife dead. The Army paid him $100,000 to cover funeral costs and other expenses after his wife died, and a month later her life insurance policy paid out $400,000. Evidence showed that hours before his wife died, Aguigui sent a text message to a former girlfriend that read: “We’ll have plenty of money. All need is your body whenever I want it.”

But evidence of what specifically killed Deirdre Aguigui proved scant. The military’s autopsy found more than 20 bruises and scrapes on the body including on her head and back, but nothing fatal. Wounds on both wrists appeared to match a pair of handcuffs found on the couple’s bed. But the official cause of death was not determined. The military couldn’t decide whether she had been slain or died from natural causes.

Last year, a Georgia state medical examiner offered a second opinion. By ruling out illnesses, drugs or poisons, allergic reactions and other potential causes — and by noting the wrist wounds and other injuries — Dr. James Downs concluded Deirdre Aguigui was strangled while struggling violently against handcuffs behind her back. He said a certain chokehold taught to Army soldiers could kill while leaving virtually no telltale marks.

“That’s why this is such a great way to kill someone if you want to get away with it,” Army prosecutor Janae Lepir said in her closing argument. “You put this hold on someone and it could leave almost no finding.”

Aguigui didn’t testify during the trial. The defense’s only witness was its medical expert.

Defense lawyers noted in closing arguments that the military medical examiner and three additional specialists who took part in the autopsy were unable to find a decisive cause of death as Downs had. Another medical expert called by the defense said it was more likely Deirdre Aguigui suffered a sudden heart attack, though prosecutors insisted his diagnosis was based on a faulty reading of her medical history.

“All the government has presented here today is one man’s theory that is no more possible than any other possibility that no other doctor could rule out,” said Capt. Scott Noto, one of Aguigui’s Army defense lawyers.

A former Army buddy, Michael Schaefer, testified that a month after his wife’s death, Aguigui gloated that he had handcuffed her during sex and strangled her with a plastic bag over her head. Defense attorneys noted that Schaefer, who had spoken to Army investigators and testified previously at a pre-trial hearing, had never before mentioned a confession.

Aguigui told investigators his wife liked to have her hands bound during sex and that she wore the handcuffs consensually.

The trial judge, Col. Andrew Glass, decided the verdict. Aguigui chose not to have a jury of fellow soldiers hear his case, which is optional in military courts.

Last July, Aguigui pleaded guilty in the December 2011 slayings of former soldier Michael Roark and his girlfriend, Tiffany York, who were shot in the head in rural Long County near Fort Stewart. Civilian prosecutors say Aguigui used the money from his wife’s insurance policy to fund an anti-government militia group of disgruntled soldiers and ordered the couple killed to protect the group. Records show he bought at least $30,000 worth of guns and ammunition.

Army prosecutors never mentioned the militia allegations and said Aguigui wanted the insurance money and the weapons to start a private security business.

Texas Must Tell Attorneys Execution Drug Supplier

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:27 AM PDT

(AUSTIN, Texas) — A state judge ordered the Texas prison agency Thursday to disclose its supplier of a new batch of execution drugs to attorneys for two inmates set to be put to death.

The ruling Thursday in Austin came one day after attorneys for two death row inmates filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice seeking the information. It was not immediately clear if the agency would comply or appeal the ruling.

The prison agency lost its previous supplier last year after the compound pharmacy’s name was made public and it received threats. Prison officials contend the identity of the new drug source should be withheld to protect the new supplier.

The lawsuit against the state agency contends the prisoners cannot evaluate the risk that could result in them being subjected to unconstitutionally cruel pain.

Attorneys for convicted killers Tommy Lynn Sells and Ramiro Hernandez-Llanas filed a lawsuit demanding the Texas Department of Criminal Justice name the provider of the pentobarbital, the sedative the state uses for lethal injections.

Sells and Hernandez-Llanas are scheduled to die April 3 and 9 respectively. Sells was condemned for slashing two girls’ throats in 1999 at a home near Del Rio; one girl died. Hernandez-Llanas was condemned for the 1997 beating death of a man who owned a ranch where Hernandez worked near Kerrville.

“Time is truly of the essence,” the inmates’ lawyers said in their lawsuit. “Without information about where the drugs come from, and the purity, potency and integrity of those drugs, neither Mr. Hernandez-Llanas nor Mr. Sells can evaluate the risk that their executions will subject them to cruel and unusual pain in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

The current supply of pentobarbital used for lethal injections in Texas expires April 1. Prison officials said last week they have a new supply but cited security reasons for declining to disclose the supplier’s name.

The state attorney general’s office previously has said the information should be public and is waiting for arguments from the agency on why the policy should be changed.

Todd Barry Talks Working With Louis CK On His New Crowd Work Tour Comedy Special

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:19 AM PDT

When you go to — the website where comedian Louis CK sells his online comedy specials directly to consumers — you are greeted with a pitch to buy something else entirely: A special by comedian Todd Barry.

Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour was recorded during a seven-city run of shows in which Mr. Barry's entire set came from humorous conversations with the audience. No prepared jokes — just banter with the audience. It’s a unique twist on the comedy special, which may explain why CK made it his first venture into bankrolling, producing and distributing another comedian's work.

We talked to Barry about the special, the art of crowd work and working with his friend Louis CK:

TIME: For the comedy newbie, what is crowd work?

Todd Barry: It's when a comedian interacts with the crowd instead of doing prepared jokes. It's just talking to the crowd, bantering with them, trying to get some comedy out of that.

So it's not just a comedian killing time?

Oh it can be that, too. There definitely might be an element of that as well. Who knows what the motivation is, but ideally, it’s just to get some laughs in a spontaneous way.

What’s the skill set that makes someone good at crowd work?

Well, it’s about being quick to react and coming up with a smart reaction on your feet… I’m not very good at it right now. [laughs] It’s not just taking cheap shots at people, but coming up with smart, surprising responses. People like Don Rickles and Jimmy Pardo are really good at it. Mike Sweeney, who is the headwriter on Conan right now, back when he used to do stand-up, he was great at it.

Crowd work can be seen as a crutch for comedians who don't have enough material. How do you overcome that stereotype when you're doing an entire special of just crowd work?

Well, I'm stating right out that it's what I'm doing. It's an all-crutch comedy special. It is a crutch, but I wouldn't call it a crutch if someone is doing it well.

How did you decide to do a crowd work special? I don't think it's been done before.

I can't say it's never been done before, but maybe it hasn't. But I had just finished a special and then I was going on tour again and I didn't want to just do the jokes that I just did on the Comedy Central special. It popped into my head that I wanted to do an all-crowd work tour. I did that in January 2013 and then in September I did another one and filmed it and that was the one that Louis [CK] paid for.

How do you prepare for an all-crowd work show?

You don't really, which is both the nice and the scary thing about it. You come to the city and you don't have to write anything down, you don't have to prepare anything, but still you're thinking: I have to fill an hour. I have to do something. There's not a lot of preparation, if there's something I think about when I'm walking around or on my way to stage I might work it in, but there's no preparation. You just hope it goes well.

Which tour stop or city surprised you the most?

Portland surprised me, in that I thought they would be slightly more polite than they were. Overall they were nice and a lot of people said nice things afterwards and a lot of people came up and were sort of embarrassed after the show. There were just a few drunk people.

And my hometown just can't help but express their love of free-range chickens.

Yeah, the chicken thing. I just learned about that. I don't know how I missed that chicken egg thing. That show just sort of evolved into a kind of a chaotic show. 95% of the people were perfectly nice, but there were definitely some drunk people there.

Did you pick and choose the cities you went to in the hopes of stacking the deck in favor of getting good crowds?

Portland and Seattle are pretty reliable and Los Angeles and San Diego I've performed in before. Alaska was the one we sort of stuck on to make it a little different, to break up the monotony of performing in metropolitan spots in the states. I mean, I know it's a state, but the environment just felt a little different there. I end the movie in Alaska and, yeah, it's a different vibe up there. They are a little rowdy, but in a friendly harmless way. They drink quite a bit up there.

Did the audience know what they were in for?

I try to make sure they do. I put in the title and I put it in the posters and in any email blasts and the clubs should let people know that. I think for the most part they know. I've had very little resistance from people saying, 'Oh hey, what are you doing up there? You're wasting my time.' I usually have the emcee or opening act explain it a little bit too. If they didn't get it by then, well… sorry.

Do you think doing all this crowd work has honed your joke-writing skills at all?

No, it's probably just honed my crowd-work skills. I wish it had. I was hoping that when I went out there I would get some material out of it, but I really didn't get any new jokes out of it. So, no, I don't think I got anything out of it joke wise.

Now that the special is done, do you feel like there will be added pressure to incorporate crowd work into future shows, like you've thrown the crowd-work gauntlet down?

I've always done a little crowd work on my other specials, but I would never do another one of these. As much as I wanted to do this one, I don't want to be the guy who is known only for his crowd work. I want to go back to writing jokes now.

You have three Comedy Central specials under your belt — how did making this one differ? Was the pressure the same?

This one was different in that the Comedy Central specials you're done in one night. This one was much more of a tour documentary feel, and ended with me sitting in the editing room for hours.

What was the process for making the film? How did you end up making the movie for Louis CK's site?

I was talking to him about wanting to do a Crowd Work Tour special and that I was going to write to Netflix, and he asked me if he could pay for it and put it on the site and I said, ‘Well, yeah. Let's do that.’ Then he asked if I knew any directors and I said I knew Lance Bangs, who was a friend of mine, and I was expecting him to be busy, because he's a busy guy, but he just happened to have that block of time free. So he followed me to all seven cities on the tour and directed the special and then we edited it. Well, I'm not an editor, but I sat in the room with the editor, and we just kept making different versions of the film until it was done.

You must have been flattered, because he had never really done that on his site before.

I was flattered! He put out Tig [Notaro]‘s set at Largo, but hers was recorded already and he offered to put it out. This is the first one he bankrolled. So I owe him money. But I think this is going to be taken care of. It seems to be selling pretty well.

Do you think this special is introducing you to a whole new audience?

Yes, it’s already done that. It’s not lost on me that if I had put this out myself, I would be in an entirely different set of circumstances right now. I would have sold a few of them but it wouldn’t be like what is going right now. I’ve already gotten a lot of tweets from people saying, ‘Hey, I’m a new fan! I had never heard of you before.’ People love telling you that they’ve never heard of you before. It’s my favorite thing for people to say.

What are you going to do with all your new-found fame?

Oh, probably go sit in a coffee shop like I always do.

MORE: Broad City and Review, Putting the Comedy in Comedy Central

MORE: Louis CK on New York, Money, and the Long-Awaited Season 4 of Louie

Microsoft Office for the iPad Is (Finally) Here

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:15 AM PDT

It’s been the subject of speculation and rumor for years. And now, at long last, Microsoft Office for the iPad is a product. Its arrival was among the news items at a press conference in San Francisco this morning about Microsoft’s cloud and mobile strategy, presided over by new CEO Satya Nadella, in his first public appearance since his appointment to replace Steve Ballmer.

The new Office apps for the iPad, which are available starting at 2PM ET today, include the suite’s core triumvirate: Word, Excel and PowerPoint. (Another Office mainstay, the OneNote note-taker, is already available in a free iPad edition.) As you’d guess, they’re not feature-complete replicas of the versions from Office’s flagship Windows version. But they do look like they’re considerably richer than the minimum viable versions would be. Word, for instance, lets you edit charts in place and do collaborative editing, complete with redlined changes and threaded comments. The interface is reminiscent of other versions of Office, with the Ribbon formatting bar up top, but Microsoft says it’s been rethought to be touch-friendly. And as with other versions of Office, everything is saved by default to OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive), Microsoft’s online storage service.

Like the existing versions of Office for the iPhone and Android, the iPad one isn’t available for stand-alone purchase. Instead, it’s free if all you want to do is view files and display PowerPoint presentations. If you want to create and edit documents, you’ll need to subscribe to Microsoft’s Office 365 service, which bundles Office’s Windows version with other variants for a yearly cost that starts at $70. That positions Office for the iPad as a complement to the Windows version rather than a potential replacement, and removes it from direct competition with existing iPad suites, such Apple’s iWork apps: Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

For a long time, the conventional wisdom about Office for the iPad — held by me, among others — was that Microsoft was unlikely to release it before it offered a version of Office designed for Windows 8′s newfangled, touch-centric “Metro” interface. That turned out not to be the case. Microsoft has already acknowledged that it’s working on a new-interface version of Office for Windows — and provided a glimpse at an early version — but it went unmentioned at today’s event.

Is there anything game-changing about Office finally arriving on the iPad? Doesn’t look like it. Folks who want to do word processing, spreadsheets and presentations on an iPad already have several good options. But judging from the demo, Microsoft’s apps do look ambitious and capable. And the single biggest benefit of a real version of Office being available might be file compatibility: Documents which were created in Office on a PC sometimes get their formatting mangled when they make the trip to and from an alternative iPad app.

More thoughts once I get a chance to try the new apps for myself. In the meantime, here are the links to each app in the App Store:

Black Women Don’t Get Happier When Pregnant

Posted: 27 Mar 2014 10:08 AM PDT

For the most part, expecting a child is cause for celebration, and certainly congratulations. We usually react to news of an impending birth is with 'Congratulations!,' not, “how are you feeling about it?”

But at the same time, studies show that parents often report higher stress, more anxiety and depression than childless adults, and that taking care of their children – feeding them, picking up after them and disciplining them – are among their least favorite activities. And this effect is not the same across all racial and socioeconomic groups – those in lower income groups with less education tended to report more of this dissatisfaction, and sociologists suggested that it wasn't the children themselves causing the distress, but the financial and social strains that families generate that was responsible for the trend.

To better understand the discrepancy, Stephen Wu and Paul Hagstrom, both professors of economics at Hamilton College, decided to focus on pregnant women, and investigate how pregnancy affected women's well being and sense of satisfaction with their lives. To account for the potential effects of education and income, as well as age, on the relationship, Wu and Hagstrom relied on data from the Centers of Disease Control's annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, which included more than 300,000 women between 2005 and 2009. The survey asked women to record their race or ethnicity, whether they were pregnant or not during the survey, and to report on how satisfied they were with their lives on a scale from very satisfied to very dissatisfied.

MORE: Having It All Without Having Children

Because of the size of the sample, the scientists were able to compare white pregnant women to white non-pregnant women, Hispanic pregnant women to Hispanic non-pregnant women, and black pregnant women to black women who weren't pregnant. Both white and Hispanic women reported boosts in happiness during pregnancy, while the black women did not.

Even when the team looked at different income levels of the black women, they found no increase in happiness among those who were expecting over those who were not. In other words, whether they were low, middle or high income, black women showed no happiness bump from being pregnant.

Similarly, black women showed no more satisfaction when Wu and Hagstrom compared them by education – since women with lower education tend to report less satisfaction with their lives in general than more educated women – or by age, since younger women may feel getting pregnant is more of a burden as they are trying to finish school or start a career.

MORE: Stop Telling Me I'll "Change My Mind" About Wanting Kids

"A lot of people say that when you find any correlation with race, that maybe race is a proxy for income or education levels," says Wu. "In this case it doesn't seem to be."

In fact, says Alondra Nelson, director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality at Columbia University who wasn't involved in the study, "Something about being a child of color, or having to raise a child of color, increases the risk" of not being as happy.

Wu says one explanation for the disparity may have to do with the social and emotional support that women receive when pregnant. Both white and Hispanic women reported enjoying more attention and help from their family and community while expecting, while black women actually reported receiving less support from others compared to black women who weren't pregnant.

The only group of black women who reported a small peak in happiness while pregnant were those who said they currently lived with a partner. (Married black women didn't report the same satisfaction, since their partners were not necessarily living with them and helping them with the pregnancy and parenting duties.)

MORE: Parents — Especially Dads — Are Happier than their Childless Pals. (Happy Father's Day.)

In some ways, the pattern wasn't that surprising, says Nelson, who conducts research on race and ethnicity as well as family and gender studies. For one, it may simply reflect the more realistic perspective that black women have about what having a child means – socially, emotionally and financially. "It could be a practical and pragmatic response," she says. "And maybe it should be hailed as opposed to being critiqued and looked at as a curiosity." Given the data that shows married couples with children are less satisfied with their lives in general, the fact that black women don't necessarily feel more happiness at becoming pregnant may be a realistic acknowledgment of the immense responsibility of being a parent.

And black women may feel that responsibility more acutely. Nelson notes that recent sociological data suggests that black children, especially black males, are at higher risk than those of other races – of being victims of crime, of being incarcerated, of being discriminated, and of living potentially unhappy lives. Studies have even linked the number of black children in second and third grades to the number of jail beds anticipated when those children reach adolescence. "That may be a reason to have a more tempered response to raising a black child in this environment," she says, noting well-publicized cases such as that of Trayvon Martin, and the Chicago school shootings.

Such a dampened view of pregnancy doesn't mean, however, that black women are not happy about having children. There is a long tradition in which children serve as the nexus of social networks and the source of community strength in black, and even Latino societies. It's more common among black than in white populations, for example, for distantly related or unrelated people will come together to support a child, both emotionally and financially if possible.

Understanding how that tradition is affected by modern societal pressures, Wu acknowledges, will take more research. But these the findings are a first step toward a closer look at how race impacts perspectives on pregnancy. Other factors — such as the role of contraceptives, and whether the pregnancy was planned – will also be worth exploring. "In a way, the study answers some questions but actually poses some more," he says.


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