"If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself!"

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain adds to his growing list of gaffes.

 

Herman Cain, surprise front-runner in the race to become the Republican candidate in next year's presidential election, has said he believes the Occupy Wall Street protests were "planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration".

Cain made the comments -- which he admitted he couldn't "back-up" with "facts" -- in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, broadcast yesterday. He went on to say that individuals, rather than Wall Street or the major banks, were to blame for poverty and unemployment in the United States: "if you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself."

In response to the interviewer's suggestion that the financial services industry was partly responsible for the 2008 economic crash, Cain said:

But we're not in 2008, we're in 2011. Yes they had a big part to do with it, and obviously you could go back and say 'what did the banks do to do this', but these demonstrations, I honestly don't understand what they are looking for. To me they come across more as anti-capitalism.

This is the latest in a series of gaffes by Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. In a discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Fox News earlier in the year, he appeared not to understand the issue of the Palestinian right of return -- a crucial sticking point in negotiations between the two sides. He has also said he would not be "comfortable" having a Muslim in his cabinet.

James Maxwell is a Scottish political journalist. He is based between Scotland and London.

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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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