US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Lessons From the Amanda Knox Case (New York Times)

The overturned verdict in the Amanda Knox case should make us look hard at other murder trials, says Timothy Egan.

2. Another Boomlet for an Unknown Republican (Roll Call)

Like a heroin addict who needs his next needle, the national media have once again whipped themselves up into a frenzy about a noncandidate. This time, it's Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, writes Stuart Rothenberg.

3. Infant death ranking a shame on US (USA Today)

A country spending more per person on health care than any other stands 41st out of 193. This editorial says there is no excuse.

4. What if Christie were a woman? (Washington Post)

The extra weight would have precluded any kind of political career, says Ruth Marcus.

5. The mask of Anonymous (Boston Globe)

Anonymous' once-idealistic group of hackers are behaving more like web vigilantes now, and have turned their wrath against those who seek to expose that very fact, says Juliette Kayyem.

6. You're truly in love with your iPhone (St Petersburg Times)

Turn it off, order some good Champagne and find love and compassion the old-fashioned way, advises Martin Lindstrom.

7. In Defense of Romney (New York Times)

Mitt Romney does not fit the exciting mold Republicans think they want, but he may be just what the times require, writes David Brooks.

8. Sarbox and Immigration Reform for Jobs (Wall Street Journal) ($)

The president is right, says Bob Greifeld: America can't wait until 2012 for change.

9. Covering maternity care in California (Los Angeles Times)

Last month state lawmakers passed two bills that would require maternity coverage to be included in comprehensive health insurance policies. Gov. Brown should sign them into law, argues this LA Times editorial.

10. Chris Christie, unfit for the White House (New York Daily News)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie would be a bull in a china shop if he were to become president, says Richard Cohen.

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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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