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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Every Reason You Should Be Worried About a Destructive Tech Bubble

Every Reason You Should Be Worried About a Destructive Tech Bubble


Every Reason You Should Be Worried About a Destructive Tech Bubble

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 11:07 AM PDT

The envelope, postmarked Franklin, Tenn., contained excellent news: an "emerging opportunity" in a cheap Internet stock. "With a $10 million warchest," read the glossy flyer inside, "LiveDeal is crushing Groupon in pilot markets!" Further down, in fine print, was more salient information: "The use of research… is done at your own risk."

Nevermind that LiveDeal is an Internet stock so revolutionary its virtues deserve to be heralded by snail mail. Or that Las Vegas-based LiveDeal has not $10 million but $500,000 in cash, posted a loss twice as large as its revenue last year, and yet trades at 37 times its sales. What matters about this flyer is that I’ve received junk mail just like it before – but not for about 15 years.

Fifteen years ago, we were in a massive tech-stock bubble. Some people are pointing to evidence we’re already in another tech bubble now. Others are certain we’re nowhere near the insane investing we saw in 1999. It’s possible they can both be right.

But I also think neither side of the debate is addressing the real concern, which is that we have been engaging in the very financial behavior that creates and nurtures bubbles. Behavior like complacency toward irrational valuations and explaining away the threat of a bubble. And that makes the bubble deniers more dangerous right now. Because they are making sensible arguments that overlook the risk of irrational investing becoming the norm.

Those who pooh-pooh a bubble often rely on the same arguments. But each one involves a fallacy. Here are some of the more common.

It’s not at all like the dot-com bubble. This is true as far as it goes. Last month, the Nasdaq Composite hit its highest level in 14 years but is still 26% below its high. The IPO market hasn’t been this busy since 2000, yet still shy of record levels. And companies going public have stronger financials, if many are still losing money.

But bubbles don’t repeat in a similar pattern, so we won’t see the same signs of craziness. Nobody’s dumb enough to use a sock puppet as a mascot, or throw a lavish rooftop party. But that doesn’t mean we’re not seeing signs of excess, like parties that aren’t called parties. Other behaviors are consistent, however, like dusting off dot-com metrics like revenue-per-user.

VCs are showing discipline this time. Again, true enough. Historical data shows venture investments are, at most, creeping higher. But they also creeped higher through 1998 before exploding in 1999 and 2000. The explosion came as institutional investors were desperate to invest in VC funds, and if first-tier firms wouldn’t create them, then second- and third-tier firms did.

Venture firms that survived the dot-com bust did so by investing relatively prudently. But once the more promising dot-com IPOs began hitting the market with huge first-day pops in price, less prudent VCs began recklessly funding questionable startups. That’s when things really got cooking.

Tech companies going public are a different breed. So far, yes. And some of them will see the kind of success that Amazon has enjoyed. But not all of them. Once an IPO market heats up, investment banks line up the strongest candidates first, ensuring early pops to prime the market for more. That stokes demand for more IPOs but after a few quarters the candidates aren’t so hot. Box, Airbnb, Alibaba look great. But not every tech IPO can look that good.

The Internet is kicking into high gear, creating opportunities for business models that never existed before. But it’s much easier to spot big trends than to pick individual winners. And besides, there is something dangerous about pushing this idea too far. It’s just a little shy of saying, it’s different this time. That, of course, is the motto of nearly every financial bubble.

Growth today is more important than profits today. This is a slippery argument, and over time a risky one. Again, Amazon thrived despite early losses, and a few like Box are likely to do so as well. But two things: First, it’s is very difficult to pull this trick off for long – Amazon is the exception proving the rule.

Second, there is ample evidence that money-losing startups that went public in recent years have fared poorly. Skype had trouble going public with its losses in 2011, and others like Jive Software, Brightcove, Groupon all went public with losses and are trading below their offering prices. That’s the rule of money-losing IPOs – and the reason why, in sensible times, investors avoid them.

Only a few stocks are overvalued. Many others aren’t. That’s because many of the big-tech giants like IBM, HP and even Microsoft are struggling with incumbent businesses being displaced by younger technologies. What we’ve called the tech industry has been divided into the thriving and the slowly dying, and investors can easily tell them apart. Besides, a bubble doesn’t have to be broad-based to burn investors when it crashes.

But the market has been going down! Even the most sturdy rallies never go up in a straight line. In fact, they are marked by volatile pullbacks. Remember the mini-crash of October 1997? Far from derailing a nascent bubble in technology stocks, it acted as a coiled spring to send it higher. Also, note that even as the broader market has been slumping, recent IPOs like Grubhub and Oopower have been rising.

In short, the market for tech stocks is not in a bubble like the dot-com or real estate bubbles of the past two decades. But it may well be in the early stages of a bubble marked by irrational investments, a bubble that could easily expand out of control if smart people keep rationalizing away the early warning signs.

And there are warning signs, whether it’s a growing tolerance of insanely priced IPOs and M&A deals, or the return of spurious metrics like revenue per user, or even a piece of junk mail touting an unwise stock investment. Such early signs are kindling that, if left to gather, can make for a bonfire later on. No, it’s not 1999 at all. But it may well be 1998 – or something a lot like it.

“I Came Here for One Reason — To Attack and Keep Coming”: The Ultimate Warrior’s Best Rants

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 10:38 AM PDT

World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Famer The Ultimate Warrior died Tuesday night after collapsing at a hotel in Arizona. He was 54 years old.

Back when the WWE was still the WWF, The Ultimate Warrior was part of a cadre of entertainers who entered the ring in face paint and lycra with sworn enemies and strict allegiances. The wrestler, who was born Jim Hellwig before he officially changed it to Warrior in 1993 (presumably to ensure that he never broke character), was a fan favorite, known for his intense entrances to the ring and awe-inspiring rants. His promotional videos were brilliantly terrifying, with the camera focused tightly on the Ultimate Warrior’s face as he let loose a guttural howl of words that almost made sense, but were somehow more nerve-wracking in that they didn’t. Luckily for the rest of us, much of his vitriol was reserved for his wrestling arch-nemesis, Hulk Hogan. Warrior’s legendary tears were equal parts throwing down the gauntlet and mind-blowing performance art.

As the world remembers the wrestling icon, TIME looks back at some of his best rants, including a video that lives up to its YouTube title of “Best Ultimate Warrior Promo Ever,” which includes quotes like this:

“I came here for one reason — to attack and keep coming. Not to ask but just to give, not to want but just to sing, sing the power of the Warrior, because this freak of nature right here is just beginning to swell, and when I get big enough, brother, there ain't gonna be room for anybody else but me and all the Warriors floating through the veins.”

Here are a few of the Ultimate Warrior’s best promotional rants — with highlighted quotes:

"How should I prepare? Should I jump off the tallest building in the world? Should I lie on the lawn and let them run over me with lawnmowers? Or, should I go to Africa and let them trample me with raging elephants?"

“What happened tonight was already written, Hulk Hogan! What we must do is beyond us, Hulk Hogan! When I looked into your eyes I saw walls filled with fear!”

“Hulk Hogan, you are about to enter a world close to Parts Unknown. Ah, smell it, warriors! Do you, Hulk Hogan, look for a place to hide? Or do you, Hulk Hogan, face the challenge that may be more powerful than even you are, Hulk Hogan?!”

“You interfered with my pathways of communication to my warriors, Hulk Hogan! You, Hulk Hogan, control a force field around you that I am only beginning to understand!”

MORE: Holds Barred: Why the WWE Isn't Going to Cable

MORE: WWE Online Network Is Already Body-Slamming Tons of Subscribers

Why La Quinta Is Not Just Another Cheap Motel Brand

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 10:32 AM PDT

La Quinta, the hotel company undergoing an IPO of its stock this week, is a limited-service brand favored by travelers on tight budgets. At some properties, rooms start under $50 a night. But La Quinta is not just a run-of-the-mill cheap place to stay.

The IPO of La Quinta Holdings, backed by the Blackstone Group, didn’t get off to a particularly good start. On Wednesday, the IPO price was set at $17 per share, down from the original projected price range of $18 to $21. Despite the lower price, at least initially La Quinta shares barely moved, hovering around the $17 mark through midday Wednesday.

While investors seem uncertain about La Quinta, in many ways middle-income, price-conscious travelers—who truly represent the vast majority of travelers—have already offered their verdict about the brand: They’re fans. Here are a few of the reasons that La Quinta stands out in a good way in the crowded mid-scale lodging category.

Low room rates. It’s rare for a La Quinta Inns & Suites to run over $100 a night. La Quinta is usually lumped into the mid-tier limited-service (no restaurant) hotel category with brands such as Hilton’s Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, and Marriott’s Fairfield Inn, and LQ rates generally match or undercut the competition. Because all of these brands tend to fill up with business travelers Monday-Friday, weekends are slow periods, and La Quinta entices last-minute bookings with weekend deals from $49 per night.

(MORE: Airline Travelers, Your Future Will Look a Lot Like … Cleveland)

Travelers tend to think of La Quinta first and foremost as a good value, and that’s reflected in survey ratings: A few years back, the brand was named the second-best midprice hotel (after Hampton Inn) by Business Travel News, and in a more recent traveler survey, conducted by Temkin Group, La Quinta and Best Western received the highest scores of all the industry for best customer experience.

No-hassle reservations. To reserve a room, you must give a credit card number, right? Not at La Quinta. Starting in 2012, the company began offering an Instant Hold option, allowing one-the-go users to reserve a room via a mobile phone with just a phone number. The idea came about because somebody realized that travelers liked to look up hotels and last-minute available with their phones, but it was a pain to enter a credit card number on the device. So La Quinta now lets guests place instant holds on a phone for up to four hours (you’re expected to show up in person by then), and also allows you to browse TripAdvisor reviews of the property and see Yelp ratings of restaurants in the area without having to hop over to another app.

Another unique reservation policy from La Quinta involves advanced bookings. The majority of hotel brands give discounts for reserving two or more weeks ahead of arrival, but there’s usually a big caveat: At Hampton Inn, for example, the tradeoff to a 15% room rate discount for an advanced booking is that payment must be made in full when making the reservation, and no changes or cancellations are allowed. La Quinta offers discounts of 10% to 20% for rooms reserved at least 14 days in advance, but there’s no prepayment required, and cancellations can be made with no penalty up to 24 hours before expected arrival.

Good amenities, minimal nickel and diming. Free Wi-Fi is standard, and rooms are outfitted with flat-screen HDTVs. Several years ago, the company implicitly acknowledged that guests would want to enjoy their own entertainment via laptops and other devices, so it basically gave up on upselling them with pay-per view TV movies and shows. "We have retired that model and replaced it with a solution that instead of preventing guests from plugging their own devices to the TVs in hotels encourages them to do so," a La Quinta executive explained in 2011.

(MORE: Southwest Airlines: We’re Not Really About Cheap Flights Anymore)

Also, breakfast is always free for guests, and almost all properties allow pets to stay at no additional charge. Most properties have pools too.

More and more locations. The overall mid-tier hotel category has pretty obvious mainstream appeal for travelers. "Limited-scale, mid-price properties are probably in the sweet spot in attracting middle-income America from the leisure standpoint" and business travel, Jan Freitag, senior vice president at the lodging research firm STR Inc., told Bloomberg News in a story about the company’s IPO.

Even in a category that’s been marked by robust growth over the last decade or so, La Quinta’s expansion has been especially impressive. The company now boasts more than 800 locations in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, up from around 500 in the mid-’00s. Last spring, after a particularly big quarter for new openings, a company press release cited data from Smith Travel Research, which showed “La Quinta grew faster than any other select service lodging brand in its main competitive set in the years 2002-2012, growing by more than 141% in that period.”

A report by Skift on the IPO notes that La Quinta currently has 187 new properties in the pipeline. That includes 17 new locations in Mexico, a market that much of the hotel industry has overlooked in recent years, and where, despite the company’s Latino name, there are only five operational La Quintas right now.

WATCH: 2 Year Old Has a Lot of Feelings During Her First Car Wash Experience

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:45 AM PDT

During her first ride through the car wash, this two-year-old starts out by sobbing and whimpering and pulling a blanket over her head, then winds up feeling positively euphoric when it’s all over. See, that wasn’t so bad!

Blasts In Central Syria City Of Homs Kill 25

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:31 AM PDT

(DAMASCUS, Syria) — Syria’s state-run news agency says two car bombs have killed 25 people in the central city of Homs.

SANA says the blasts that struck a busy street also wounded 107 people.

It said the dead and wounded in Wednesday’s explosions included women and children.

SANA said one car was parked near a sweets shop, and that half an hour later another car blew up.

SANA said the wounded included its photographer in Homs, Syria’s third-largest city. It said the blasts went off in the Karm el-Loz neighborhood.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the neighborhood is mostly inhabited by members of President Bashar Assad’s minority Alawite sect.

REVIEW: Only Lovers Left Alive: A Vampire Duo to Die For

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:20 AM PDT

Now that Alain Resnais has died, Jim Jarmusch should inherit the title of Major Auteur With the Coolest Hair. A snow-white mop with a wild streak, and neat sideburns ending at the earlobes, his coiffure could be the snug hat for a Russian princess. Jarmusch, 61, is pretty hip, too. A writer-director of truly, incorrigibly independent films — not “indie,” which, he’s said, “has been usurped as a marketing device” — he is also one of three members of the music project SQÜRL, which he describes as “An enthusiastically marginal rock band from New York City who like big drums & broken guitars, cassette recorders, loops, feedback, sad country songs, molten stoner core, chopped & screwed hip-hop, and imaginary movie scores.”

So there might be a dab of self-portraiture in the character of Adam (Tom Hiddleston) — a retired rock star with fabulous hair and a love for all things classic — in Jarmusch’s divinely decadent Only Lovers Left Alive. Adam dwells in seclusion in his louche Detroit mansion, buys vintage electric guitars from his friend Ian (Anton Yelchin) and gets his drug of choice from the local hospital’s helpful “Dr. Watson” (Jeffrey Wright). His glamorous wife Eve (Tilda Swinton) often visits him from her home in far-off Tangier to rekindle their longtime love. Looking great for their advanced age, Adam and Eve are handsome, swank and in love. They’re also vampires.

(READ: Inside the unique world of Jim Jarmusch)

For a director who has delved into the preternatural and postmortem in Mystery Train, Dead Man and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, it might be a mission of mercy to rescue the creatures of the night from the teen vamps of The Twilight Saga and Warm Bodies. But Only Lovers Left Live is also, and mainly a romance about, sexy old people. At least 2,000 years old: Adam and Eve are bimillennarians, and then some. Could they be the original Adam and Eve? If so, in this retelling of Genesis, the first family is undead and the blood line has been sadly diluted. Vampires are the elite, a chic minority in a world overrun by zombie rabble; Ian is one of those, nicer than most but considerably subordinate in power and majesty to Adam.

Only Lovers Left Alive also has reverberations of Michael Haneke’s Cannes winner and Oscar nominee Amour, about a married, music-loving couple of octogenarians and the younger family member who pesters them. Instead of the middle-aged daughter in Amour, it’s Eve's kid sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), sporting all the recklessness of youth — after all, she’s only, like, 300 years old. She guzzles Adam's precious supply of O-negative blood, totals his heirlooms and gets a little too frisky with Ian. As Eve noncommittally remarks after the zombie’s body melts in acid, “That was visual.” Adam, a J.D. Salinger among rock artists, is furious when Ava plays one of his recent compositions at a night club, but he tolerates his kid sister-in-law with the observation, “Families are always a bit weird.”

(READ: Mia Wasikowska, the heir to Jane Eyre)

In images captured by cinematographer Yorick Le Sax (who also photographed Swinton in Julia and I Am Love), the streets of Tangier swirl with moody mystery, and the low lights in Adam’s Motor City pad pick up glimmers of shiny guitars among the murk and detritus. “I do find romantic appeal in desolation and post-industrial landscapes,” Jarmusch has said. “Detroit is a depopulated ghost town, and Tangier is a crumbling place that's full of life.” In Mediterranean Morocco, Eve pals around with the vampire Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), who is still annoyed that the credit for his plays went to Shakespeare — "That illiterate zombie!" — and who wishes that, 400 or so years ago, he had known Adam, who would have made a perfect model for Marlowe's Hamlet.

The wry comedy is filigree work around this romantic tale of two souls who share the purest, deepest, sexiest, most affectionate love of any twosome in modern movies. They swan through the film like ancient rock royalty, gracing discos and jetting to exotic locations. Adam is an immortal flirting with suicide (he needs a wooden bullet), while Eve is attuned to the changing of the seasons (so many in her time on Earth). But this aging couple is in total emotional and devotional synch. They evoke such classic tandems as Nick and Nora, Noël and Gertie and Gomez and Morticia, with a little Sid and Nancy for spice.

(READ: Why Tilda Swinton is the Queen of the Indies)

In the 21st century, most vampires don't sup on human victims — consider the contagions they might pick up — but acquire their blood supply through friends and unscrupulous medicos. All that shopping must weary Adam, frustrated that he is deprived of death. But Eve is the ideal antidote to depression, telling her spouse that things like "appreciating nature" and "kindness and dancing" make life worth living for the undead. And so they dance at home to Denise LaSalle's "Trapped by a Thing Called Love." As Adam hardly needs reminding, he’s been “lucky in love.”

Hiddleston, known to Marvel fans as the brooding, maleficent Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies, stepped into the Adam role when Michael Fassbender stepped out. Nothing against Fassbender, but Hiddleston is a wonderful partner for Swinton, in her first Jarmusch lead role after guest appearances in Coffee and Cigarettes and The Limits of Control. Tall, slim aristocrats with matching cello voices and feral manes (makeup designer Gerd Zeiss gave them yak and goat hair), they embody an older, graver, more graceful species, dancing to a score — including music by SQÜRL — that turns dirges into the sublimest ballads.

(READ: Corliss on Tom Hiddleston in Thor: The Dark World)

Swinton has been the towering, liberating muse of many a director, including Jarmusch. “One of the great moments in my life,” he told David Ehrlich of The Guardian, “was when we were shooting The Limits of Control, and we finished a take and I said: ‘Oh Tilda, that was so beautiful, will you marry me?’ And she replied: ‘Oh darling, we already are.’ I could have died.”

That anecdote expanded, with Jarmusch as Adam, could be this swooning movie. But “died”? Never. Less a drama than a miniature double portrait, Only Lovers Left Alive creates two people whose joy, not pain, is to be together forever. C'est l'amour.

George W. Bush’s Paintings of World Leaders Appear to Be Based On Good Ol’ Google Searches

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:16 AM PDT

Last week, former President George W. Bush unveiled a new collection of paintings, featuring a series of portraits of world leaders, from Vladimir Putin to the Dalai Lama. The inspiration for many of these paintings appears to come from some very casual Google searches.

Art critic Greg Allen pointed out this trend in a blog post, emphasizing the fact that Bush didn’t take advantage of the many resources available to him:

He apparently did not tap the enormous archive of photos, taken by the professionals who followed him every day for eight years, which are contained in his giant library. Instead, it seems, he Googled the world leaders he made such impactful relationships with himself, and took the first straight-on headshot he saw.

The portrait of Vladimir Putin seen above, for example, seems to be based on the very first image that pops up when you Google the Russian leader’s name. Similarly, Bush’s portrait of Israeli politician Ehud Olmert appears to be based on one of the top Google search results for his name:

A portrait of Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel, painted by former president George W. Bush
A portrait of Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister of Israel, painted by former president George W. Bush. Stewart F. House—Getty Images

The takeaway here? Even George W. Bush relies on Google and Wikipedia to get his work done. Former presidents: they’re just like us!

(h/t The Guardian)

Why Is Bill O’Reilly Trying to Get Stephen Colbert David Letterman’s Job?

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:13 AM PDT

One of the side questions to come out of the speculation that Stephen Colbert may be CBS’s top choice to replace David Letterman is: But who will parody Bill O’Reilly then? We have our answer: Bill O’Reilly will.

Papa Bear, whose show is a not-so-secret inspiration for The Colbert Report, outdid himself last night with a segment that blamed Colbert for, more or less, the downfall of civilized society. He began just where you’d expect, with the NCAA basketball championships. Specifically, with the destruction that broke out amid celebrations at the University of Connecticut after its men’s team won March Madness. The hooliganism (mirrored at the losing University of Kentucky) was, O’Reilly said, the result of a culture of “entitlement” and “grievance” amid a media culture that paints the United States as an unfair oppressor of the poor, women, and minorities.

You got it: students in Connecticut were wrecking the town out of the grievance and resentment that arises from winning a basketball championship.

Anyhoo, from there, O’Reilly goes on a bit of ideological island-hopping: the rioting comes from resentment, the resentment comes from a perception that the system is rigged, the perception that the system is rigged comes from “myths” in the progressive media, and “one of the biggest mouthpieces for the progressive movement is Stephen Colbert.” (Why stop there? Stephen Colbert is from South Carolina. Why do you want to make Connecticut college students riot, South Carolina?)

The rest of O’Reilly’s segment counterpunches Colbert for a bit Colbert recently did sending up O’Reilly for saying that the concept of equality is “an opium-laced dream.” You can debate the merits of both arguments, or of O’Reilly’s self-defense that he believes deeply in “fighting for equality” but not the government “imposition” of equality.

But the question I was left with here is: if O’Reilly believes Colbert is so dangerous, why is he trying to get Colbert hired as the host of CBS’s Late Show?

Because make no mistake, however much Colbert wants Letterman’s job and however much CBS wants him, making Colbert the subject of another public flame war only raises his profile higher than it already is. Is O’Reilly maybe trying to undermine Colbert, sending the signal that CBS will alienate conservative viewers if it hires Colbert? If so, I doubt that would work. Many conservatives have had it in for Letterman for years, and CBS gladly renewed him as long as he wanted to keep the job.

What’s more, this comes right after the “#CancelColbert” furor in which Twitter activists charged that a Colbert Report tweet–and/or the segment it was taken out of context from–was racist against Asian Americans. If O’Reilly wants to damage Colbert’s prospects, all he’s really doing is cementing a public perception of Colbert as a target of both the humorless right and the humorless left. (That perception may not be accurate, and I don’t doubt Colbert’s politics are to the left, but perception matters to a big broadcast network.)

In the end, it all just bolsters Colbert’s relevance and thus his market value. It also underscores why, as I wrote last week, I’ll be sad if he ends up making the leap and leaving the Colbert Report and his character. Colbert is staggeringly talented, and I have no doubt that if he wants to become an 11:35 talk show host, he can do a great job of it. But what he’s done over nine years at Comedy Central is to create something that’s more powerful than anything anyone is doing on broadcast late night–and probably more powerful than anything he can get away with at CBS. He’s created not just a show but performance art, a grand-scale work that goes far beyond a half-hour on cable every weeknight.

On The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert is a cultural force, someone the O’Reillys of the world can see as a genuine power, and threat. On CBS, I fear he’d only be–

Oh, I see now! Nicely played, Papa Bear.

Drunk Voles Have A Lot To Teach Us About Relationships

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 09:09 AM PDT

Science can be fun. Case in point: for a recent study, researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University and a number of other institutions gathered a group of prairie voles—small rodents found in central North America—and then, as if the scientists were frat brothers and the voles were humble pledges, proceeded to get them drunk.

No, this study was not published in The Onion. (You may be thinking of the influential “New Study Finds College Binge Drinking to be a Blast.”) It was actually published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the work actually offers valuable data about how alcohol use can impact how couples bond.

Here’s how: the researchers took a group of prairie voles and paired them off, male and female. Unlike many animals, prairie voles tend to mate for life, which makes them a useful model for studying social interactions. The male and female pairs were then given either water or a 10% alcohol solution, which is a little less than you might get in a normal glass of wine. (Another human-like trait of voles: they love to drink when they have the opportunity, preferring the alcohol to water, and in laboratory conditions they’ve even been shown to subtly encourage their partners to drink more.) The researchers then tested whether the voles would show a preference to spend time with their partners, or with a stranger vole.

The results will not be surprising to anyone who has been in a bar on a Saturday night. The male voles who had been given water always preferred their partner, but the ones who been given alcohol often wanted to spend time with strangers. For female voles, it was the opposite—consuming alcohol strengthened their desire to spend time with their partners, compared to when they were given only water. There were also contrasting changes in the neural systems that regulate social behavior. “It’s the first time we’ve shown that alcohol drinking can directly affect social bonding and that these effects are paralleled by changes in neuropeptides,” Andrey Ryabinin, a behavioral neuroscientist at Oregon Health and Science University and the lead researcher on the paper, told National Geographic.

What’s particularly interesting is that the alcohol had no effect on the amount of mating that went on between the voles—both the drunk ones and the sober ones—which means sex wasn’t playing a role in the differences in bonding behavior. Instead the difference between the genders seemed to come down to the effect that alcohol had on anxiety. In males, alcohol use seemed to decrease anxiety, whereas in females, alcohol seemed to increase anxiety. The relaxed males were less inclined to commit, while the stressed out females were more likely to seek out their bonded partners.

Voles aren’t people—we’re taller, for one thing—but the PNAS study bears out some of the effects that alcohol can have in human relationships, as seen experimentally and in, you know, experience. As the authors write:

The enhancement of attachment in female prairie voles parallels the prosocial effects of alcohol in humans. The inhibition of bond formation in males is reminiscent of the negative effects of alcohol on long-term attachments and marital happiness, which occur for both men and women.

That last bit is important—male or female, alcohol does not tend to be the strongest building block for couple partnering over the long term. (Citation: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) But you probably don’t need a peer-reviewed study to tell you that.

GOP Derails Gender Pay Gap Bill in Senate

Posted: 09 Apr 2014 08:50 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — Senate Republicans have derailed an election-year Democratic bill curbing paycheck discrimination against women.

The bill’s rejection was widely expected, yet Democrats hope the effort will pay political dividends in this November’s congressional elections. They are trying to drive up turnout this fall by women, who historically lean more Democratic than men.

It was the third consecutive election year in which Senate Democrats have pushed the bill and Republicans have shot it down.

Wednesday’s vote was 53-44 for ending GOP blocking tactics against the bill — six short of the 60 votes needed.

The bill would make it harder for employers to pay women less than men in comparable jobs, and easier for aggrieved workers to sue.

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