US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Last chance on mortgage mess (Poliltico)

The financial sector has been the Obama administration's Achilles' heel, writes Simon Johnson.

2. Time to bring back Bill Clinton (Washington Post)

If Republicans are yet again tempted by Newt Gingrich, then Democrats must bring back his nemesis Bill Clinton, writes David Maraniss.

3. Government, big or small (Los Angeles Times)

Presidents from Nixon to Obama have promised to streamline government, but in truth they've usually found uses for government power instead, says Brent Cebul.

4. For GOP candidates, 10 questions from Florida (Tampa Bay Times)

The Republicans should be able to answer 10 questions ahead of the Florida primary, according to this editorial.

5. The war on political free speech (Wall Street Journal) (£)

Two years after the US Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the campaign to silence opponents is becoming more censorious, says Bradley Smith.

6. Why we will no longer endorse in elections (Chicago Sun Times)

The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board will approach election coverage in a new way, according to this editorial.

7. The GOP's final four face an impulsive electorate (USA Today)

Eight days remain before a very different test in Florida, a far larger state where voters aren't the same mix of conservative evangelicals who dominate in South Carolina, says this editorial.

8. 'Reformer' Gingrich embodies what is wrong with Washington (Washington Examiner)

Gingrich exemplifies what is wrong with Washington in both parties -- professional politicians say all the right things, but they keep doing the wrong things, this editorial argues.

9.Is our economy healing? (New York Times) (£)

There is a case for modest optimism when it comes to the economy, writes Paul Krugman.

10.Warning: this site contains conspiracy theories (Slate)

Google has a responsibility to help stop "fringe beliefs" such as 9/11 denialism which should be given a "socially responsible curated treatment" , argues Evgeny Morozov.

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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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