US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. So Much for the Nativists (New York Times)

The flurry of visa-related bills making the rounds on Capitol Hill offers further proof that the country cannot live without immigrant labor, says this editorial.

2. Occupy Oakland exits the high ground (San Francisco Chronicle)

Tear gas and masks are the new images of the Occupy movement, not anti-Wall Street placards or speeches, reports this editorial. The street battles in Oakland - and possible police sweeps elsewhere, including San Francisco - have overtaken the cause.

3. The shortcomings of Rick Perry's tax plan (Washington Post)

"More complex, less fair and a larger deficit", according to the Post.

4. How Obama can win reelection (Boston Globe) ($)

Obama won't convince anyone that he has turned the country around, says Joshua Green; but he could justifiably claim that he has fixed many of the problems bequeathed to him by his predecessor.

5. Up from underwater (Los Angeles Times)

According to this editorial, Obama's housing rescue plan is an overdue step that could bring relief to millions of homeowners.

6. With finger in the air, Romney isn't showing he's No. 1 (Chicago Tribune)

GOP presidential candidate waffles on Ohio issue and exposes his indecision, John Kass.

7. The Vatican meets the Wall Street occupiers (Wasington Post)

E J Dionner Jr asks: If our religious leaders won't challenge us to love mercy and do justice, who will?

8. Cop cams could build credibility (Denver Post)

This editorial welcomes Denver's upcoming experiment with police wearing digital cameras, but not only for the usually cited reason that it could improve police accountability.

9. Yes, the GOP field is incredibly weak (Washington Examiner)

Each Republican contender brings some attributes to the table, writes Philip Klein -- but not one of them seems up to the task at hand.

10. Learning while going green on campuses (USA Today)

Ben Glassner says too many campuses fail to teach students about sustainability.

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Stephen Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising space makes him almost as bad as Trump

The physicist's inistence on mankind's expansion risks making him a handmaiden of inequality.

“Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves,” Stephen Hawking has warned. And he’s not just talking about surviving the UK's recent run of record breaking heat. If humanity doesn’t start sending people to Mars soon, then in a few hundred years he says we can all expect to be kaput; there just isn’t enough space for us all.

The theoretical physicist gave his address to the glittering Starmus Festival of science and arts in Norway. According to the BBC, he argued that climate change and the depletion of natural resources help make space travel essential. With this in mind, he would like to see a mission to Mars by 2025 and a new lunar base within 30 years.

He even took a swipe at Donald Trump: “I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen.”

Yet there are striking similarities between Hawking's statement and the President's bombast. For one thing there was the context in which it was made - an address to a festival dripping with conspicuous consumption, where 18 carat gold OMEGA watches were dished out as prizes.

More importantly there's the inescapable reality that space colonisation is an inherently elitist affair: under Trump you may be able to pay your way out of earthly catastrophe, while for Elon Musk, brawn could be a deciding advantage, given he wants his early settlers on Mars to be able to dredge up buried ice.

Whichever way you divide it up, it is unlikely that everyone will be able to RightMove their way to a less crowded galaxy. Hell, most people can’t even make it to Starmus itself (€800  for a full price ticket), where the line-up of speakers is overwhelmingly white and male.

So while this obsession with space travel has a certain nobility, it also risks elevating earthly inequalities to an interplanetary scale.

And although Hawking is right to call out Trump on climate change, the concern that space travel diverts money from saving earth's ecosystems still stands. 

In a context where the American government is upping NASA’s budget for manned space flights at the same time as it cuts funds for critical work observing the changes on earth, it is imperative that the wider science community stands up against this worrying trend.

Hawking's enthusiasm for colonising the solar system risks playing into the hands of the those who share the President destructive views on the climate, at the expense of the planet underneath us.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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