TIME United Kingdom

No, Britain Is Not Poorer Than Alabama

Is the United Kingdom really "poorer than much-maligned Kansas and Alabama"? Er, not quite

Britain just loves confirming the worst about itself. Our tabloids thrive on stories that portray the country as a teeming mass of greedy migrants and workshy idlers, run by a parliament of elites in alliance with a small uber-class of the 1%. The truth is rather more complex than that, of course, but no newspaper will go broke telling Brits that their country’s gone to the dogs.

Take Fraser Nelson’s bleak diagnosis in The Spectator of how Britain compares to the poorest states in the U.S., which has been picked up widely by media on both sides of the pond. If Britain were somehow to become the 51st state of America, Fraser suggests, it would rank near the bottom:

“If you take our economic output, adjust for living costs and slot it into the US league table then the United Kingdom emerges as the second-poorest state in the union. We’re poorer than much-maligned Kansas and Alabama and well below Missouri, the scene of all the unrest in recent weeks. Only Mississippi has lower economic output per head than the UK; strip out the South East and Britain would rank bottom.”

This may shock Americans who stick to an outmoded idea of the United Kingdom as a sceptred isle of pageantry and gentility (though any Yank who has ever visited an urban center outside of London on a Friday night will know that it isn’t all tea and hunting parties). But are our poorest areas really comparable to the worst of Mississippi or Alabama?

The statistics tell only part of the story, and it seems Nelson has rather skewed them to favor his conclusion. In pure GDP per capita, the UK ranks 21st in the world. That’s behind the U.S., at 6th, but ahead of countries such as Italy, Israel and Japan. When compared to U.S. states, it puts Britain in the lower half of the table, nestled between Tennessee and Missouri.

It’s only when you adjust the UK GDP per capita for living costs—that is, when you factor in that a dollar goes further in the U.S. than its equivalent in sterling does in the UK—that the Brits sink to the bottom of the state-by-state listings.

But here’s the thing: Nelson doesn’t appear to have attempted to factor in living costs within the U.S. The idea that a dollar spent in New York goes equally as far as a dollar spent in Alabama is laughable, but the comparison he uses proceeds from that assumption.

In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds sizable regional differences in the Consumer Price Index, with the South some 21 points below the Northeast. There’s no easy way to work that differential into Nelson’s back-of-an-envelope study, especially as the BLS doesn’t break down CPI by state. But isn’t it a little inaccurate to factor in the living costs of the UK and not the states used as a comparison?

It is also a little simplistic to equate poverty with GDP, which measures business and government spending as well as individual consumer behavior. Poverty is better reflected by rates of joblessness, education level and life expectancy. The UK’s unemployment rate is 6.6%, roughly comparable to New York (36th among the states). The UK has a 91% high school equivalent graduation rate, which would put it in the top 5 among states. And the UK’s life expectancy at birth is over 80; that would rank it among the top 10 states.

None of this is to say that Britain—an island of roughly the same square mileage as Michigan, but with a population almost twice the size of California—doesn’t have huge structural economic problems, or its own areas of persistent blight. But it shouldn’t take an oversimplified comparison to Mississippi to make residents see them.

Nelson does, however, get one thing absolutely right. If there’s one thing the Brits enjoy more than despairing at their own squalid state of affairs, it’s smugly noting that at least the Americans have it worse.

TIME Religion

What the Bible Really Says About the Rapture

Christopher Eccleston as Reverend Matt Jamison and Carrie Coon as Nora Durst in the episode "Two Boats and a Helicopter" in the HBO show The Leftovers.
Christopher Eccleston as Reverend Matt Jamison and Carrie Coon as Nora Durst in the episode "Two Boats and a Helicopter" in the HBO show The Leftovers. Paul Schiraldi—HBO

What would the end times really be like? A new HBO series airing Sunday night, The Leftovers, attempts to answer that question, sort of. In the show, based on a Tom Perrotta novel, 2% of the global population vanishes suddenly, and without explanation. The disappearance is mostly attributed to some kind of religious event, and the show deals with how life might be afterward for those left behind — with all the grief, guilt and confusion that something like that would entail.

Despite the setup, neither the show nor the book are overtly religious. The word rapture is never used — at least not in the book — and the ranks of the disappeared seem to have been chosen at random. With many sinners among the vanished, the “true believers” still on earth are left to wonder how they missed the cut.

The word rapture isn’t used in the Holy Bible, but the idea of Judgment Day appears in all the canonical gospels. It’s probably most frequently associated with the apocalyptic imagery of the Book of Revelation to John, but it’s most clearly laid out in the Book of Matthew, in which it is prophesied that the Son of Man will send out his angels with a trumpet call to “gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other,” before separating the righteous sheep from the accursed goats (Matthew 24:31, and 25:31–46).

Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians contains passages along the same lines:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16–17)

Then in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he describes how suddenly the “mystery” will occur:

We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed — in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51–52)

Matthew’s eerie description of the event sounds much like the event portrayed in the HBO show: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (Matt. 24:40–41)

So when did the Day of Judgment become associated with a physical rapture? It’s important to note that Christianity’s many denominations disagree on exactly how Christ will return to earth, or how literally to interpret the Bible’s account of how the day of reckoning will go down. (See Robert Jewett’s Jesus Against the Rapture for an example of how many theologians are skeptical of doomsday prognosticators.)

The idea that the godly would be “raptured,” or literally sucked into the air to meet Christ, was reportedly popularized by a dispensationalist British minister, John Nelson Darby, in the 1830s after a Scottish teenager had visions of Christ’s return.

Evangelical U.S. Christians learned about it from an early 20th century Bible, and the idea gained popularity among Christian fundamentalists here until it became a cultural touchstone.

One branch of Christian theology, dispensational premillennialism, holds that Christ will physically return to earth to sort the wicked from the godly before a tribulation, when anyone left behind will suffer various torments and plagues.

Prominent in this school of thought is Texan evangelical Hal Lindsey, whose literalist screed The Late, Great Planet Earth became a best seller in 1970, later spawning follow-ups Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth and The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon (the latter of which sounds like a sketch featuring Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” on Saturday Night Live). During the 2008 election, Lindsey wrote that Barack Obama was paving the way for the Antichrist.

(The literal-minded belief in how Judgment Day will go down got a darkly funny spin during one of the opening sequences of another HBO offering, Six Feet Under, in which a woman witnesses a bunch of inflatable sex dolls escaping into the sky from the back of a delivery truck, mistakes them for angels floating up to heaven, and gets so excited about the Second Coming that she runs fatally into the middle of oncoming traffic.)

Today, about 1 in 4 believe Christ will return to earth, though it’s far from clear how many of those believe that the rapture will occur. But the idea has clearly captured many people’s imaginations, be they self-styled soothsayers of the apocalypse or simply novelists hoping for a best seller. And judging by the rapturous reviews of HBO’s new series, the idea still has plenty of mileage left in it.

TIME World Cup

So, What Just Happened to the U.S. in the World Cup?

A dummy's guide to how the U.S. managed to get through to the knockout round despite losing to Germany

Updated at 6:00 p.m. EST

The reaction to the U.S. defeat might have been confusing to some. While the players wearily trudged off the pitch in Recife, Brazil with the air of a team that had just suffered a 1-0 defeat to Germany, fans quietly celebrated at home and in the stands. The team later posted celebratory locker room pictures on Instagram. For even though the Americans lost their game on Thursday, they still proceed to the next round of the World Cup. Confused? This Q&A should explain all:

How did the U.S. get ahead without winning?
The U.S. was already at second place in its group before today’s game, after beating Ghana and drawing against Portugal. Two teams from each four-team group proceed to the knockout round of the tournament, so if the U.S. had beaten or tied with Germany, it would have been guaranteed a place in the knockout round. But because the Americans lost, the result of the Ghana-Portugal match—played at the same time—determined who went through. Had Ghana won, the U.S. defeat would have likely knocked them out of the tournament. But Portugal sealed a 2-1 victory over Ghana, guaranteeing Germany and the U.S. first and second places in its group.

Why is there a group stage at all?
In order to stretch a 32-team tournament into a month’s worth of games. The qualifying World Cup teams enter into a draw, and are split into eight groups of four teams. Each team plays three others, and the strongest two in each group enter the knockout round, or final 16. The thinking is that you sort out the strongest teams by letting them play three games, so one upset doesn’t necessarily stop a top team from advancing. Then you get to the final 16 and it’s a knockout. Group play has a long history in international and Olympic Sports. Basketball and hockey do it this way, too, not to mention team handball.

Why were the two games played at the same time today?
The final games in each group stage are played concurrently, so as to ensure both are played competitively. This has been the case in every World Cup since 1982, when West Germany and Austria settled for a listless result in its final group game, in order to kick Algeria out of the tournament and ensure both went through. As well as avoiding gamesmanship, playing the final two games of each group at the same time is a more exciting experience for fans. Had Portugal defeated Ghana before the U.S. played Germany on Thursday, the Americans and Germans might have been tempted to kick the ball about for 90 minutes and score no goals.

Who is the U.S. playing next?
As the runners-up in Group G, the U.S. will play the winner of Group H: Belgium. They’re set to play at 4 p.m. EST on Tuesday.

With reporting by Bill Saporito

TIME National Security

Islamist Cleric Abu Hamza Guilty on Terrorism Charges

MUSLIM CLERIC SHEIKH ABU HAMZA AL-MASRI ADDRESSES SIXTH ANNUAL RALLYFOR ISLAM IN LONDON.
Radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri addresses an annual rally for Islam in Trafalgar Square, London, on Aug. 25, 2002 Ian Waldie—Reuters

The hook-handed hate preacher now faces life behind bars for role in an al-Qaeda kidnapping of American citizens in 1998

Radical Islamist cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was found guilty on 11 terrorism charges in a New York court on Monday.

A jury found the fundamentalist imam, who was tried as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, guilty of conspiring to aid al-Qaeda in a Yemen kidnapping of American citizens in 1998 and of sending men to terrorist training camps. He now faces life in prison, the Associated Press reports.

The Egypt-born cleric was formerly based in London, where he became notorious for giving outdoor sermons condemning the West, and praising Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers. The mosque where he preached was also frequented by shoe bomber Richard Reid, though Abu Hamza claims he never met him.

Abu Hamza was extradited to the U.S. in 2012 after spending seven years in a British jail for inciting murder and racial hatred. He was nicknamed Hook by the British tabloids on account of his scarred appearance, having lost both hands and an eye while working on a civil-engineering project in Pakistan in 1993.

[AP]

TIME fashion

If We Have Reached ‘Peak Beard’ It’s Bad News for Men Everywhere

Razor on bearded face
Jillian Lochner

Every male on earth should bristle at the news that beards are going out of fashion

It may not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent a lot of time in hipster coffee shops or gentrifying urban neighborhoods, but scientists say we are reaching “peak beard.” That’s the point when, according to researchers at the University of South Wales, facial hair becomes so prevalent that clean-shaven men are a comparative rarity and therefore more attractive to the opposite sex. More and more men will be inspired to grab their razors and start shaving, and the current era of the facially hirsute man will fade into history, at least until cyclical trends return the beard to favor.

The eggheads call it “negative frequency-dependent sexual selection.” I call it the worst thing to happen to men in years.

Just think what men would be losing if the beard was to slip out of fashion. A proud symbol of masculinity, that you can wear on your face, for the whole world to see. A whole new area of self-expression, where you can display your individuality through architectural grooming. A mask to cover unsightly blemishes, or an unusually large medial cleft. A facial trompe l’oeil to give the appearance of a chin.

Before beards became broadly fashionable in recent years, the metrosexual look prevailed — a disaster for those, like me, who awake every morning with a fresh dusting of stubble on their chin. Simpering, bare-faced men were our fashion icons in the 1990s/2000s — from the beta males of Friends to pre-teen lookalikes like Justin Timberlake — a depilatory trend that slowly crept from men’s faces to below their chins and inside their shirts. It was an era where the term “manscaping” entered the lexicon, the utterance of which geologists have discovered literally causes our cavemen ancestors to spin in their graves.

Is this really the world we want to return to? A world where those with above average testosterone must face the daily ritual of scraping a razor blade across their face, leaving their skin raw, shiny and unprotected? A time when bold, bristly men must go bare-faced into the world? Are guys really going to take that on the chin?

Those who would prefer their men to look more like a Canadian Sphynx than a Bearded Collie should remember what came before the naked-faced look. Something far worse, a trend that every man alive at the time looks back on with a shudder. Yes, the era of the mustache — from the 1970s version that drooped over the top lip like a fur scarf, to the 1980s Magnum P.I. edition. And that gave way to the 90s’ goatee, last seen nestling beneath Tom Green’s nose like a malevolent sea anemone.

So it’s in everyone’s interest to prevent this cycle from renewing again. Let the beard reach its peak and keep on growing.

TIME Crime

Army Official: Fort Hood Shooter’s Mental Health May Not Be to Blame for Massacre

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley said investigators were now looking into an altercation with another soldier that occurred before the Fort Hood shooting

A senior Army official said Friday that the mental condition of the Fort Hood soldier who killed three soldiers earlier this week may not have been the “precipitating event” in the shootings, suggesting that an “escalating argument” prior to the shootings may have been what sparked the deadly massacre off.

The remarks by Lt. Gen. Mark Milley at a press conference were a reversal from his comments Thursday, when he highlighted the “unstable psychiatric or psychological condition” of suspected shooter Army Specialist Ivan Lopez as a “fundamental underlying factor” in the shootings.

Lopez, 34, allegedly shot and killed three fellow soldiers—named by media sources as Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ferguson, Staff Sgt. Carlos Rodriguez and Sgt. Timothy Owens—and injured 16 more before shooting himself dead. Army Secretary John McHugh, the army’s top civilian, told Congress on Thursday the suspect had been treated for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.

But Milley said Friday that investigators were now looking into an altercation with another soldier that occurred shortly before the shooting as the primary cause. Theodis Westbrook, the father of one of the injured soldiers, told a CNN affiliate that his son had seen Lopez being denied a leave form on Wednesday afternoon. Shortly after, claimed Westbrook, the soldier returned with a gun and started shooting.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Ted Cruz (R—Tex.) visited Fort Hood on Friday to meet with wounded soldiers. “We’ll learn lessons about what occurred here and minimize the chances of this happening ever again,” Perry said.

TIME Health Care

Administration Extends Another Obamacare Deadline

obamacare
Jessica Rinaldi—Reuters

Consumers can keep substandard health insurance plans for an extra two years

The Obama administration announced Wednesday it would allow consumers to keep health insurance plans that don’t meet the standards of the new health care reform law for an extra two years, the latest of many delays and extensions that have hobbled the rollout of the politically divisive law.

Administration officials said they would delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines that effectively outlaw cheap, “bare bones” insurance plans which offer minimal services, often with high deductibles, NBC News reports. Following a previous extension of the deadline for such insurance plans to end, the decision could delay the impact of one of the law’s least popular provisions until after President Barack Obama leaves office. But it remains unclear how many plans the administration’s decision will impact since state regulators have already moved to nix certain plans.

Obama was heavily criticized last year when insurance companies began canceling tens of thousands of such plans bought on the individual market for not meeting the standards of Obamacare. The president had previously promised that people who liked their plans could keep them. The administration announced in November a “fix” to allow consumers to keep existing plans that are not compliant with the new law until the end of 2014, so long as insurers and state regulators approved. This latest delay pushes that date back yet further, until the end of 2016.

The latest extension came on the same day the Republican-controlled House voted for the 50th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, votes Senate Democrats steadfastly refuse to take up. Republicans condemned the administration’s move as an attempt to push Obamacare deadlines past the 2016 presidential election.

“This reeks of politics,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. “Instead of working with Congress to prevent Americans from losing the plans they like and can afford, the president is unilaterally re-writing laws around the election calendar. You have to wonder if he’s more interested in keeping his promise or keeping seats in the Senate.”

The Obama administration has delayed or extended many of the law’s deadlines and requirements since the botched Oct. 1 lauch of online marketplaces to buy health insurances. Americans now have until March 31 to sign up for health insurance or face a fine.

[NBC News]

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