US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. A grim night for Perry, but a good one for Romney (Boston Globe)

Things got less funny for Texas Governor Rick Perry as last night's Republican presidential debate went on, writes Joan Vennochi.

2. Perry's sweet spot (Los Angeles Times)

Republican voters want to beat Obama, says Jonah Goldberg. But they also want to like their candidate. That's a bigger challenge for Mitt Romney than for Rick Perry.

3. Rick Perry is no George W. Bush (USA Today)

Richard Land argues that voters should understand that the two Texans aren't cut from the same cloth.

4. Doubts About Perry Echo Those Faced by Reagan (Wall Street Journal)

Republicans worry that Perry is too ideological, too conservative or too extreme to win a general election, says Gerald F. Seib.

5 Failing the Lincoln test (Washington Post)

Michael Gerson argues that Obama is blowing his chance at greatness.

6. Jobs plan is good and strategic policy (USA Today)

DeWayne Wickham suggests that Obama has blended some GOP tax cuts into his plan to put people back to work.

7. Protect Our Right to Anonymity (New York Times)

Jeffrey Rosen discusses a court case on surveillance technology which threatens Americans' expectation of anonymity in public places.

8. The pass-alone pain from school cuts (Star Tribune)

The state should step up to reduce the need for voters to fund basics, says this editorial.

9. Political roadblock threatens transportation projects, jobs (Detroit Free Press)

This editorial makes the case for investment in transportation to connect communities, fuel the economy and shape patterns of growth.

10. The Misuse of Life Without Parole (New York Times)

A fair-minded society should not sentence anyone to life without parole except as an alternative to the death penalty, 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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