US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Ghastly Outdated Party (New York Times)

Republicans are getting queasy at the gruesome sight of their party eating itself alive, says Maureen Dowd.

2. I work for Uncle Sam, and I'm proud of it (Washington Post)

It's time to stop bashing federal employees, writes Jason Ullner.

3. Halftime in Detroit (Wall Street Journal) (£)

Taxpayers will be paying for the auto bailouts for decades to come, writes George Melloan.

4. Obama's dream: To run against Santorum (Washington Post)

Rick Santorum is a good man. He's just a good man in the wrong century, says Kathleen Parker.

5. Fighting L.A.'s gangs with families (LA Times)

L.A. Deputy Mayor Guillermo Cespedes' effort to fight gangs is working, writes Jim Newton.

6. What ails Europe? (New York Times)

Why has Europe become the sick man of the world economy? Everyone knows the answer. Unfortunately, most of what people know isn't true, writes Paul Krugman.

7. Trickle-down environmentalism lacks public support (The Examiner)

When it comes to buying electric cars, the headlines may be about going green, but the reality is most Americans say they'll be motivated to go electric for a far more mundane reason: When the price of gas gets too high, they'll switch, writes Scott Rasmussen.

8. Obama policies threaten America's energy boom (Politico)

It's time for the president to stop stifling American energy and start encouraging the development of all our nation's energy resources, writes Sen. John Thune.

9. As Santorum rises, so does scrutiny (USA Today)

The spotlight has begun to give Santorum a difficult problem: the characteristic most responsible for his rise -- his authenticity as a social conservative -- is also his greatest vulnerability, says this editorial.

10. The enduring fallacy of the CEO president (Politico)

Disagreements are central to politics -- Does life begin at conception? Is health care a right? Should we end the Fed? But they are more foreign to business, writes John Paul Rollert.

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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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