US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Free to Die (New York Times)

Compassion is out of fashion among the G.O.P.'s base, says Paul Krugman.

2. Where are the compassionate conservatives? (Washington Post)

Eugene Roberts argues that Republican candidates have forgotten the moral dimension to economic and policy choices.

3. GOP's mixed message on life and death (USA Today)

Chuck Raasch notes that the presidential debates were startling for the self-described pro-life party.

4. Connecting the dots on the deficit (Boston Globe)

The driver of the long-term deficit is the aging of the population and rising health care costs, says Scot Lehigh -- not programs enacted by Obama.

5. Michele Bachmann - a woman's view (Star Tribune)

Bachmann is a challenge for feminist-friendly voters, says Gail Collins.

6. Obama's jobs strategy should be a North American one (Los Angeles Times)

Robert A. Pastor says that few Americans realize is how dependent the country is on Canada and Mexico.

7. Before Palin, remember those classic Doonesbury strips on Obama and Rezko? No? (Chicago Tribune)

John Kass argues that there is a liberal bias in the famous cartoon strip.

8. Bipartisanship of the Wrong Kind (New York Times)

It's not just Republicans who are opposing President Obama's jobs program, says this editorial. Americans need Democrats to step up now.

9. A Ponzi scheme that should be fixed (Washington Post)

The political chatter misses the bigger picture about social security, says Charles Krauthammer.

10. Why cut taxes for rich investors? (USA Today)

Eliminating capital gains tax would mean losing $574 billion in revenue in five years, says this editorial.

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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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