Daily Digest: College protests, college football scandal, chocolate scarcity and Veteran’s Day

Mike Mullen

— In America, when we’re told of a tuition hike, we students grumble a bit and, at most, reach for a fifth or sixth beer. In England yesterday, they went nuts. Some 52,000 people gathered in London to protest near Parliament, over new austerity measures which would, as the New York Times reports (handily giving it to us in pounds-to-dollars) “allow universities to charge £6,000, or $9,600, to £9,000, or $14,400, in tuition a year, up from a cap of £3,290, or $5,264.” Other, more, uh, goal-oriented youths engaged in violent quarrels with police as protesters attempted to storm the Conservative Party headquarters. See, in America, I think a lot of people have been Hugh Grant-ified into thinking that the English are all smartly-dressed, hyper-polite chaps and ladies. Bollocks. This is the country that brought us the Clash and the Sex Pistols. These days England’s icons are crude comics like Ricky Gervais, Russell Brand, and footballer Wayne Rooney. (Hmmm… I’m not a lip-reader. What do you think Wayne is trying to say in that clip? Perhaps Abdoulaye Faye asked him, “Which Shakespearean character was it that said discretion is the better part of valor?” And Wayne, being a patron of the theater, responded, “Falstaff! Falstaff!” Yes, I believe that’s it.)


— In college sports news, The Atlantic’s Jake Simpson writes about the possibility of government oversight into big-time athletics. The launching point of the article is the ongoing Cam Newton saga. Newton, easily the most talented college football player, bounced from Florida (where he was apparently dogged by bag grades, alleged cheating, and legal trouble) to community college, and now to Auburn, where he’s become the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy. In a drip-by-drip investigation, sources have now told ESPN that Newton spurned Mississippi State because “the money was too good” at Auburn. Newton’s scandal is one of many similar lurid tales of agents, friends of family, and players themselves negotiating money out of schools, and one exasperated response from observers, including Simpson, is that maybe schools should just start paying players. I’ll just say that from what I know of college sports, and alumni enthusiasm, there is no amount of money that boosters and fans wouldn’t pay to land a top recruit in football or basketball. When and if players are paid, a large percentage of American males will bankrupt themselves and their families, and a small number of 19-year-old males will have hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. Is that okay with you?


— In post-apocalyptic news, those in the industry are forecasting a chocolate shortage in the near future. In the Independent’s version, chocolate could become like caviar: a delicacy enjoyed by only the rich. One expert projects that prices could climb to seven times what they are today. The problem, in essence, is that farmers and workers in countries where cocoa is actually grown (namely Ivory Coast and Ghana) are grossly underpaid. As one former Cadbury trader says, “These smallholders earn just 80 cents a day,” he says. “So there is no incentive to replant trees when they die off, and to wait up to five years for a new crop, and no younger generation around to do the replanting. The children of these African cocoa farmers, whose life expectancy is only 56, are heading for the cities rather than undertake backbreaking work for such a small reward.” (Doesn’t that make your mocha go down with a gulp?)


— Finally, on Veteran’s Day, it’s a good time to honor American soldiers. In recent years, it may have been a Canadian who did it best: Esquire’s Chris Jones wrote an award-winning story about a soldier a couple years ago. If you’re reading this, you should stop reading this, and go read that.