Month: August 2008

Military Space Race , Again?!

Military Space Race , Again?!

The Americans seem determined to flood outer space with weapons. In early April U.S. Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Henry Obering again called for the early deployment of space-based missile defense systems, a universal means of hitting either ground or space targets.

His Russian counterpart and longtime opponent on this issue, Space Forces Commander Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, responded in late May, warning for the umpteenth time: “We are against any deployment or placement of weapons in outer space, as it is one of the few realms where frontiers do not exist. Militarization of outer space will disrupt the current balance in the world.”

The Russian general is seriously worried that space-based attack weapons could increase the risk of igniting hostilities on the ground.

Putting the long-distance dispute between the two generals aside, let us recall that the defensive doctrines of most industrialized countries are space-oriented. Satellite systems are involved in every aspect of an industrialized country’s activity, warfare included. The majority of modern weapon systems, both nuclear and conventional, include space-based components.

Russia is behind the United States in development and deployment of space-based systems. The figures are far from encouraging. A total of around 500 American and 100 Russian satellites currently are orbiting the Earth. The U.S. military satellite fleet is more than four times the size of Russia’s, and some of the orbiting Russian satellites are inoperable.

The Americans also have the Navstar Global Positioning System, which has been working successfully already several years. Russia’s equivalent, the widely publicized GLONASS, is undergoing its initial deployment, with only 12 operable satellites presently in orbit, compared with 31 American ones.

Obviously the Pentagon can afford to speak of space-based weapons deployment, possessing such impressive assets.

Now back to Col. Gen. Popovkin’s idea that space-based weapons could spark a war. He says that present space systems and complexes are very sophisticated and susceptible to failures, and “in such cases, I cannot guarantee that a failure was not caused by hostile action.”

Is this statement logical? Surely it is. Strategic nuclear stability — that is to say, a high-degree guarantee against a surprise nuclear missile strike — depends on the trouble-free operation of early warning and intelligence satellites. If a satellite fails with another country’s attack weapons deployed in orbit, there will be an increase of mistrust, which could lead to a military disaster.

Besides, it is well known that tests involving satellite destruction result in a growing amount of orbital debris, which is difficult to counter. According to NASA and the U.S. Air Force, China’s anti-satellite weapon tests in January 2007 left up to 2,000 baseball-sized fragments orbiting at altitudes of 120 to 2,340 miles above the Earth. High speed makes these fragments extremely dangerous for man-made space objects.

An international treaty banning weapons from outer space certainly would help avoid more such trouble, or at least minimize the risks. Yet the United States sticks to the opinion that such an agreement would be impracticable.

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Mobile Healthcare program in Rural AP

Mobile Healthcare program in Rural AP

Satyam Computer Services has announced that it has embarked on a revolutionary program to deliver world-class healthcare to remote villages in India.

The public/private partnership between the government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and Satyam provides a fleet of healthcare vans – mobile health units (MHU) – that visit villages on designated days to deliver healthcare services to rural Indians, many of whom have never been seen by medical professionals before.

The program, known as 104 Mobile, is designed to expand the scope and delivery of healthcare in rural areas. The technology-enabled, comprehensive offering provides a range of health services to villagers located more than three kilometers from public health service providers.

While it will help cure numerous afflictions and prevent countless others, the program is expected to make a transformational difference with regard to maternal and infant health problems, as well as chronic ailments. It is also especially effective at delivering preventive medicine, which is lacking in most villages.

“Mobile 104 will enhance the lives of rural Indians dramatically,” said Satyam Founder and Chairman B. Ramalinga Raju.

“Too many villagers are troubled by ailments that are entirely preventable or easily cured in this day and age; they simply need access to basic healthcare, which this program provides. Satyam is proud to participate in the initiative and we will leverage our expertise with other rural healthcare programs and public/private partnerships to ensure that its expansion is rapid and seamless.”

Much of the expertise Raju mentioned concerns the Byrraju Foundation and the Emergency Medical Research Institute, organizations he founded.

Satyam works closely with the Byrraju Foundation, which establishes basic infrastructure elements in Indian villages, including sanitation, education, clean water and healthcare. The Foundation works on the premise that people must be healthy before they can tackle other problems.

As such, healthcare is its primary concern. Additionally, Satyam established EMRI, and was integral in the creation of Call 108, an emergency number based on 911 in the United States. Both Byrraju and EMRI have been tremendous successes; their programs, which began in Andhra Pradesh, are being replicated throughout India.

With each MHU serving villages of about 1,500 people for four hours per month, each vehicle will be able to visit approximately 56 villages every month. The “fixed-day” approach will enable villagers to adjust their schedules to accommodate MHU visits.

For instance, residents of a particular village – via posters and other marketing initiatives – will know that the vehicle will show up on the 3rd of each month. By November, the service will deploy 475 vehicles and cover 50,000 rural villages – 40 million people, most of whom live below the poverty line.

MHUs include paramedics, pharmacists and lab technicians. The modern, state-of-the-art vehicles are equipped to carry numerous drugs and can store blood/urine samples for testing. They even feature a television that can show public health education programs.

Services they provide include pre- and post-natal checkups, height and weight monitoring, nutritional supplements for mothers and children, basic blood and urine lab investigations and screening, advice and medicine dispensation for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy and anemia.

When seriously ill patients show up at an MHU, an ambulance is summoned via EMRI (Call 108) and the sick person is brought to an Andhra Pradesh hospital.

Moreover, because cultural sensitivities in many rural areas prevent some women from pursuing care they may need, the 104 Mobile program trains female health volunteers (known as ASHA workers) in rural communities. These female healthcare providers conduct beneficiary visits and provide villagers with 24-hour access to 104 advice, often via mobile phone. Eventually, Andhra Pradesh will feature 40,000 ASHAs.

Satyam is enabling much of the technology that drives the program. Its engineers designed the vehicles – with rural India in mind – and have established the infrastructure to support a rapidly growing initiative. Other examples of how technology enables the Mobile 104 abound:

+ Each patient is assigned a number, which is stored in a secure database. The tracking number, when accessed, will provide a patient’s entire medical history. This will facilitate care and prevent distribution of drugs to which a patient is allergic.

+ The program is web-enabled; patients can communicate with the call center via phone, fax, chat, SMS or email. In addition, ASHA workers can send patient data from field visits via SMS.

+ Medical information is uploaded immediately to hospitals, enabling immediate follow-up.

+ Results of each patient contact are tracked daily in a database.

+ Villagers are connected with other healthcare services for which they qualify.

+ Mobile units use GPS to find remote villages quickly.

“We are proud to apply our world-class technology and healthcare management expertise, along with all we have learned with EMRI and the Byrraju Foundation, to help make Mobile 104 a success,” Raju said. “The comprehensive, integrated virtual platform will enable Satyam to collaborate with healthcare delivery networks – government and private hospitals, clinics, etc. – to transform the way rural Indians receive medical treatment.”

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