A consortium of actors including the National Space Studies Center (CNES)
and the Pasteur Institute of Paris announced last week the establishment of
a not-for-profit organization to be called LEDA, for Liaison, Education,
Diagnostics, and Assistance, whose overarching goal is to bring the benefits
of advanced medicine to developing areas via satellite. Telemedicine as
practiced by LEDA will enable doctors in the field to communicate via a
satellite pack–or by Internet when a telephone hookup is available
locally–with a specialized center set up at the Pasteur’s headquarters in
Paris and staffed by doctors from the NGO MŽdecins du Monde (MDM), one of
LEDA’s founding members. Assistance to isolated practitioners, whether of
local or international origin, will take the form of interactive diagnostic
help, as well as access to specialized expertise, to data bases and to any
of LEDA’s member organizations. These include the Pasteur and its worldwide
network of labs and institutes devoted to fighting infectious disease, MDM
and its volunteer expertise and international presence, the CNES, the
telemedicine technical specialist NGO MEDES, several specialist medical
NGO’s (such as Pathology, Cytology and Development), and health education
NGO Development and Health (DŽveloppement et SantŽ). LEDA will begin to
equip field practitioners by next month, and eventually some will possess
the tools necessary for transmitting images derived by X-ray, endoscopy,
tissue section or smears, thus allowing access to informed expert opinion
and case discussion on histological, cytological, haematological or
parasitic pathologies. It is expected that the LEDA structure will also
prove valuable in providing health teaching and medical skill refining at a
distance. (Pasteur Institute CommuniquŽ, December 21)


The French National Space Studies Center (CNES) celebrated its fortieth
birthday last month, with a gala bash at the Sorbonne replete with
appearances by the PM, assorted ministers, European notables and industry
chiefs, who gathered in acknowledgement of the resounding success the CNES
has enjoyed at getting Europe into the space race and keeping it there with
relatively modest resources at its disposal. Guessing the right trends and
most effective strategies, France’s space agency has often heard a different
drummer than NASA, and the result is that the EU now enjoys the luxury–if
it chooses–of independence in space, as it seemed to do at the recent
Edinburgh summit. The only blue note sounding in the birthday chorus was the
apparent backpedaling by some EU member states on the financing of Galileo,
a European satellite positioning system. According to European Transport
Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, a Galileo defender and interviewed by
LibŽration around the time as the CNES party, the project although touted at
Edinburgh as being right in line with a common European space strategy has
come under heavy pressure from the US. In a Defense Department memo
disclosed by El Pais, American officials fear, in the wake of September 11,
that the existence of another positioning system will jeopardize GPS
security, leaving it open to appropriation by the forces of evil. LibŽration
obtained a US government report attacking the findings of a
PriceWaterhouseCoopers study released in late November showing Galileo to be
a feasible, profitable, well-conceived program. Under these and similar
pressures, several of the more Atlanticist members (UK, Netherlands,
Germany, Denmark) have found their feet growing cold. Ms. De Palacio argues
that the growing importance of satellite positioning for many aspects of
society is strong reason for an independent system, especially as the GPS is
military-controlled and can be turned off at any moment for security or
strategic reasons. The fact that the GPS is currently free of charge is, she
points out, no reason to think it will stay that way. Ms. De Palacio is
lobbying members hard to ante up their share in the next few months, before
the window of opportunity for an alternative system to gain subscribers and
pay for itself closes. In any case the CNES’ milestone was an occasion to
confirm that the European space effort, like European integration overall,
is on its feet but not always unanimously sure where it wants to head.
(LibŽration, December 18, p20, Sylvestre Huet; December 20, p29, Jean