US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Who Decided That This Election Should Be About Sex? (New York Times)

David Brooks and Gail Collins discuss the surprising role debates over contraception, abortion and unwed mothers have played so far in the campaign.

2. Two miscast candidates (Washington Post)

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum still look like weak nominees, writes George F. Will.

3. Big cases on high court docket highlight need to allow cameras (Boston Globe) ($)

This editorial argues that giving viewers a chance to witness oral arguments before the Supreme Court would enhance respect for the Constitution, the court, and its procedures.

4. Obama's defense of religion (Chicago Tribune)

Steve Chapman explains how the President has expanded freedom for the faithful.

5. Getting Iran to back down on its nuclear program (Washington Post)

A threat of overwhelming force could force retreat, writes David Ignatius.

6. The Incredible Disappearing 2013 Obama Budget (Roll Call) ($)

Stan Collender notes that even in a city like Washington, D.C., the speed with which the Obama budget went from lead story to old news was impressive.

7. Teacher's right (Chicago Sun Times)

Against the ruling of an Illinois public school, this editorial argues that kids need to know the history of the n-word

8. Healthcare reform's missing link -- nurse practitioners (Los Angeles Times)

Millions more Americans soon may be searching for primary care providers. Nurse practitioners can do the job and save taxpayer funds, says Patricia Dennehy.

9. NY Knicks' Jeremy Lin shows no sign of cover jinx (New York Daily News)

A second straight Sports Illustrated cover can't slow the media sensation caused by this basketball star, writes Filip Bondy.

10. US leadership at World Bank remains critical (Washington Times)

Robert Zoellick's announcement that he would not seek another term as president of the World Bank has begun anew an old debate: Senator John Kerry asks: should an American continue to lead this institution?

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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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