US press: pick of the papers

1. Kony is not the problem (New York Times)

Killing Mr. Kony may remove him from the battlefield but it will not cure the conditions that have allowed him to thrive for so long, says Angelo Izama.

2. A Javelin or a Petrus in the White House? (Washington Post)

Romney, though not an athlete, does look as though he stepped down from Mount Olympus, says Kathleen Parker.

3. Heart of darkness (New York Times)

The impossible has happened in the past few weeks. A war that long ago reached its breaking point has gone mad, with violent episodes that seemed emblematic of the searing, mind-bending frustration on both sides after 10 years of fighting in a place where battle has been an occupation, and preoccupation, for centuries, writes Maureen Dowd.

4. Any given Sunday (Wall Street Journal)

In his budget speech today, Chancellor George Osborne is set to give London something to which it can honestly look forward: a suspension of Sunday-trading restrictions for the duration of the games, says this editorial.

5. How al-Qaeda tried to control the media (Washington Post)

The al-Qaeda spinmeister didn't like Fox News ("let her die in her anger"), but it's hard to understand why, says David Ignatius.

6. Not the same old North Korea? (LA Times)

Pyongyang has us right where it wants us, in a sense, which shows again the bankruptcy of a policy designed to bargain for nuclear and missile concessions that the North is never going to provide, says Michael J. Mazarr.

7. Mistakes were made (New York Times)

Romney and his staff made three mistakes: They didn't know how to talk about Romney's wealth, they played a prevent defense in South Carolina and they let up after Florida and let Rick Santorum back into the race, writes Ross Douthat.

8. Santorum's contraception deception (Boston Globe) (£)

Rick Santorum portrays himself as an unabashed, open-book conservative. But in courting religious voters while dismissing questions about his faith-based beliefs as unfair, he's trying to have things both ways, writes Scot Lehigh.

9. Seven principles of real health care reform (Politico)

Though the Obama administration has issued 10,000 pages of regulations since Democrats in Congress passed the more than 2,000-page behemoth, the law still does little to protect patients and is unlikely to make care more affordable, writes Governor Bob McDonnell.

10. Romney's romp (Chicago Tribune)

On Tuesday, Illinois Republicans established that Romney's message -- more attuned to economic rather than social issues -- makes him the party's dominant force in urban and suburban areas, says this editorial.

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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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