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From the Dept. of Things You Already Knew But Couldn't Prove comes a new study that says, sort-of kind-of almost definitively, that living conditions in Tennessee are roughly equivalent to that of countries in the former Soviet Bloc.
At the heart of the study is the Human Development Index, which "combines measures of various social indicators, including life expectancy, literacy, education, and per capita GDP, to measure overall human development." According to the HDI, the U.S. is doing pretty well, placing 15th out of 190 recognized countries. A ranking that would be a lot higher if the Union could convince Phil Bredesen to secede.
The Volunteer State is part of the Underdeveloped Core, that shaded region you see in the map below. Plenty of previous studies, both scientific and not, have grouped us with Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, the short-bus riders of the Confederacy. What this newest study brings to the table, however, is a worldwide measure of our collective incompetence.
Broken down by state, Tennessee ranks
68th in the world. Just behind Belarus, Libya and Malaysia. Meaning the Volunteer State is officially worse off than the place that then-Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice labeled one of six "outposts of tyranny" and a country that still considers caning an effective deterrent for crime.
On the bright side, Pith is pretty sure those other countries don't believe in playgrounds. Let alone have laws that allow you to pack heat while scrambling across a jungle gym. Score one for us.