Cain's accuser allegedly got a year's salary in severance pay

The <em>New York Times</em> claims that woman who made sexual harrassment allegation received $35,00

In the latest instalment in the Herman Cain scandal, the New York Times has alleged that the one of the women who accused the Republican presidential hopeful of sexual harrassment in the 1990s received $35,000 (£22,000) severance pay -- one year's salary -- over the incident.

The paper cites "three people with direct knowledge of the payment", and says that "new descriptions from the woman's friends and colleagues of her level of discomfort at work" challenge Cain's claim that he is the victim of a "witchhunt". The Republican hopeful's spokesman declined to comment on the severance pay allegation.

Indeed, the scale of the payment will be difficult to justify, if proved true. As I reported earlier this week, Cain has denied all knowledge of any pay-out, telling Fox News:

If the Restaurant Association did a settlement, I wasn't even aware of it and I hope it wasn't for much.

Adding to the pressure on Cain, a lawyer for the second woman has requested that the National Restaurant Association, where all three parties were employed, lift the non-disclosure agreement so that she can publicly dispute Cain's version of events.

In an attempt to focus on the positives, Cain's team have been trumpeting the support he has received from high profile conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, and fundraising successes.

However, Cain's inability to deny that a settlement had been made more or less guaranteed that this story would rumble on, and it is difficult to see how he will recover from it. Asked by conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer if his race was one of the reasons for this negative coverage, he said: "I believe the answer is yes, but we do not have any evidence to support it." Such attempts to detract attention and shift the blame compound Cain's initial tactical errors -- such as inconsistency about the nature of the "agreement" reached and vagueness about whether a payment had been made. It is time for him to change his tactics, and fast.


Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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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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