US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Israel's Best Friend (New York Times)
President has offered the greatest support for Israel that any president could at this time: He redefined the Iran issue, writes Thomas Friedman.

2. The Future of the Santorum Coalition (New York Times)
Rick Santorum's victories in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota on Super Tuesday, and his very strong showing in Ohio, will give hope to journalists who love the horse race, writes Ross Douthat.

3. Will Occupy be heard from? (LA Times)
The Occupy movement appears to have lost its way. To be a factor in the November vote, it needs to get organized, argues this editorial.

4. Dear Mitt: Ignore the man in the bow tie (Washington Post)
There's no predicting what will happen in November, no matter what the pundits say. But if you go down, enjoy the ride by being fearlessly yourself -- uncool, unafraid, intelligent, experienced, determined and, as you put it, resolute, says Kathleen Parker.

5. Lasting damage for Romney (Washington Post)
The campaign has not been kind to Romney's image. Nearly four in 10 voters said they had a somewhat or very negative view of Romney, compared with one in four a year earlier, says Ruth Marcus.

6. On Iran, patience and power (LA Times)
It is far too early to give up on diplomacy, argues this editorial.

7. The End of Apple's Roach Motel? (Wall Street Journal)
Apple's vast profit margins aren't built to last, writes Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

8. Apologize like you mean it, Rush (Boston Globe) (£)
Rush Limbaugh's sullen 'apology' only compounds his offense, says Jeff Jacoby.

9. Finding transportation funds (Politico)
Obama and Congress appear unwilling to increase transportation investment, says Slade Gorton.

10. Why the jobs picture remains cloudy (USA Today)
Ohio has a huge "one-stop" job services facility. But drugs, crime and red tape strangle efforts to put people to work, says Don Campbell.

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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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