Online Opinion Outpost: July 1

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The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Student Debt

Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times

Have a bunch of student loans? Well, don’t worry, say a couple of Brookings Institution researchers. You aren’t any worse off than a generation ago.

But that may depend on how you count — and whether you graduated.

According to a report by researchers Beth Akers and Matthew M. Chingos, total student debt has passed the $1-trillion mark, as has been widely noted; it now exceeds the nation’s credit card debt. But by studying two decades of data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Consumer Finances, they said they found no evidence of broad excessive debt.

So a large portion of the debt growth comes from more people getting graduate degrees, which is a good thing, but that doesn’t make that debt disappear. And loans are paid back over a longer period of time, which reduces the monthly outlay, which affects personal spending budgets.

Baseball tobacco ban

Chicago Sun-Times

The tobacco tin may be carefully stowed away, but when Major League Baseball players head out to the field there’s no mistaking a cheek bulging with chaw.

In honor of Tony Gwynn, it’s time to end the charade.

MLB players can honor Gwynn — a Hall-of-Fame baseball player and long-time snuff user who died Monday at age 54 after battling salivary gland cancer — by agreeing to ban all smokeless tobacco products on the field.

MLB currently requires players only to keep the tins out of sight during play and prohibits dipping or chewing during interviews.

As an institution, baseball has taken steps to shed chewing tobacco from its deeply entrenched place in its culture. Smokeless tobacco is prohibited in high school and college baseball and also in the minor leagues, though of course it’s still used.

Iran’s social media

Setareh Derakhshesh, New York Times

In Iran, the government officially blocks access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and almost all other social media platforms. Any attempt to bypass this block by using a virtual private network (VPN) connection or other software solutions is illegal. Numerous reports indicate that Iranian authorities restrict access to thousands of American and European websites, particularly those of international news sources, and even throttle down Internet connections to limit the ability of Iranians to surf the rest of the Web.

This suppressive approach, zealously pursued by hard-liners and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was ridiculed two weeks ago by none other than the minister of culture, Ali Jannati.

Meanwhile, several top Iranian officials enjoy what they deny to their citizens: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and the foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, apparently have accounts on Facebook or Twitter, with Mr. Zarif attracting nearly 900,000 Facebook followers to his page in Farsi.

Geoff Foster, Wall Street Journal

All too often during matches, seemingly fit men fall to the ground in agony.

But after a few moments, just as the priests arrive to administer last rites, they sit up on the gurney, shake it off, rise to their feet and run back on the field to play some more.

Fans of the world’s most popular game know that this is just one of soccer’s oldest and most universally despised tactics. Turning a small foul into a death performance worthy of La Scala can draw cards for opposing players, kill time from the clock or just give one’s winded teammates a breather.

Players on teams that were losing their games accounted for 40 “injuries” and nearly 12.5 minutes of writhing time. But players on teams that were winning—the ones who have the most incentive to run out the clock—accounted for 103 “injuries” and almost four times as much writhing.

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