US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. What Greece means (New York Times)

Greece -- like other European nations forced to impose austerity in a depressed economy -- seems doomed to many more years of suffering, writes Paul Krugman.

2. How to sink Iran's regime? Sanctions, not bombs (Washington Post)

The worst option in terms of regime change would probably be a unilateral Israeli military strike, writes David Ignatius.

3. The reproduction of privilege (New York Times)

Politically, the lack of access to a four-year college education is a crucial problem for one of the key battleground constituencies of 2012: whites without college degrees, says Thomas Edsall.

4. Greece's credit non-event (Wall Street Journal)

Greek's default is only one chapter of a much larger economic and political tragedy, but at this stage any good news is welcome, says this editorial.

5. Obama's politicized energy policy (Wall Street Journal) (£)

The Obama administration does have a national energy policy - it's just a subservient by-product of his radical environmental policy, writes Bobby Jindal.

6. Tough poses in a political theater (Boston Globe) (£)

Last week's annual meeting of the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee was just theater... Progress in foreign affairs is less a stylized performance for an exclusive audience and more often improv wrapped in Greek tragedy, says Juliette Kayyem.

7. Obama vs. Israel (Chicago Tribune)

The new open-ended negotiations with Iran fit well with this strategy of tying Israel down, writes Charles Krauthammer.

8. Candidate media-bashing popular, but a losing tactic (USA Today)

Yes, the media are easy, sometimes deserving targets, and huffy outbursts against journalists during debates usually bring cheers from the crowd and could help fundraising. But as a strategy, it's misguided, writes Peter Funt.

9. Drop talk of war on Iran; let diplomacy, sanctions work (St. Louis Today)

There may some day be a case for intervention in Iran. Sooner than that there may be a case for intervention in Syria. But as a last resort, not the first one, says this editorial.

10. Defining the Occupy Movement: It's not just about the money (Oregonian)

Our lives are not just about the paycheck. Happiness depends on a balance between meaning and money. A real people's movement that aims for true solidarity, felt individually and collectively, can and should make room for both, writes Rich 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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