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Mark Kelly, former NASA astronaut: Trump’s Space Force ‘a dumb idea’

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President Donald Trump has pushed the US one step closer to establishing the first new military branch in more than 70 years: a Space Force.

Trump can’t create a Space Force on his own; that requires the approval of Congress. So on Tuesday, the President signed a document called Space Policy Directive-4, or SPD-4.

The new memorandum asks the Department of Defense (DoD) to draft legislation for Congress that would ultimately set up a Space Force. Should such legislation pass, the new division would exist alongside the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy.

“Space Force would be authorized to organize, train, and equip military space forces … to ensure unfettered access to, and freedom to operate in, space, and provide vital capabilities to joint and coalition forces in peacetime and across the spectrum of conflict,” according to the directive.

President Donald Trump displays the “Space Policy Directive 4” directive he signed to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces in the Oval Office at the White House on February 19, 2019.
Jim Young/Reuters

The directive says the legislation establishing a Space Force should not include NASA. But Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator and a former Republican congressman, weighed in on the document’s signing via Twitter.

“Civilization is dependent on freedom of navigation in space. SPD-4 ensures our freedom continues. @NASA has billions of dollars of assets and a permanent human presence in space. NASA will not have a direct role, but I support @POTUS Trump’s announcement,” Bridenstine said on Tuesday, adding that he once voted for a similar proposal in Congress.

But not everybody is on board with a Space Force.

Retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly has been vocal in his opposition to the idea. Kelly is a former Navy captain, pilot, combat veteran, four-time space-flyer, and the identical twin brother of former astronaut Scott Kelly. He is also running for a US Senate seat in Arizona.

“This is a dumb idea. The Air Force does this already. That is their job,” Kelly tweeted in June. “What’s next, we move submarines to the 7th branch and call it the ‘under-the-sea force?'”

Kelly reiterated and expanded upon his argument in August, during an MSNBC interview.

“There is a threat out there, but it’s being handled by the US Air Force today. [It] doesn’t make sense to build a whole other level of bureaucracy in an incredibly bureaucratic DoD,” he said, according to Reuters. “It is an area where we should continue focus … but we can do this within the US Air Force.”

Kelly and his campaign did not immediately respond to Business Insider requests for comment on the signing of SPD-4.

However, some members Congress have also voiced their distaste for the idea of a Space Force, and other critics question its utility, expense, and potential role in weaponizing space— perhaps to disastrous effect.

Why the US already has a ‘space force’

USAF

In his criticisms, Kelly was referring to the Air Force Space Command — though the group has had different names over the years.

Space Command is headquartered in Colorado, and its responsibilities include supporting military use of satellites, rocket launches, and cyberwarfare operations. The group also helps track the countless pieces of space junk and debris around Earth that pose a persistent threat to anything in orbit.

Space Command is managed by US Strategic Command, one of 10 groups that direct major pieces of the Defense Department. Its responsibilities include oversight of the country’s nuclear-weapons capabilities, which involves space because long-range, nuclear-tipped missiles fly through space.

In July 2016, Space Command even announced the creation of a Space Mission Force, which military leadership said was akin to an expeditionary force.

Red dots are known pieces of China’s destroyed FY-1C satellite. Green dots are low-Earth orbit satellites.
Celestrak/Analytical Graphics, Inc.

This force was created in part to quickly respond to outer-space attacks from adversaries. The main countries of concern are Russia, which continues to publicize new weaponry, and China, which destroyed one of its own satellites in a 2007 test with a “kill vehicle” (essentially a giant bullet launched by missile).

“Despite world interest in avoiding militarization of space, potential adversaries have identified the use of space as an advantage for US military forces, and are actively fielding systems to deny our use of space in a conflict,” Gen. John E. Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, wrote in a white paper about the decision in 2016, when he led Space Command.

The Trump administration wants to peel these space-related capabilities from the Air Force, however, and form a new division entirely.

For and against a Space Force

Aaron Bernstein/Reuters

Some members of Congress, especially Republicans in the House of Representatives, have appeared warm to the idea.

“As we get all these briefings about what adversaries are doing, our dependence on space, it’s clear that we have to do better,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, told reporters in early June, according to Space News. “Organizational changes don’t fix all the problems. But on the other hand, they can sometimes help make sure space gets the kind of priority it should have, like cyber, as a domain of warfare.”

But others in Congress — and apparently some high-ranking military officials — have, like Kelly, questioned and pushed back on the idea of a Space Force.

“The president told a US general to create a new Space Force as 6th branch of military today, which generals tell me they don’t want,” former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida tweeted in June. “Thankfully the president can’t do it without Congress because now is NOT the time to rip the Air Force apart. Too many important missions at stake.”

In September 2018, the Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson noted that creating a Space Force may cost $13 billion, and he pushed back on aspects of its creation, according to Defense One. One independent security organization suggested that money would be better spent on establishing a Cyber Force to better prepare the US for cyberwarfare.

Stationing or testing any weapons of mass destruction in space, including nuclear weapons, is banned by the United Nations’ Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Peaceful use and exploration is permitted, however, and smaller-scale weapons are not explicitly barred. Experts fear that militarizing space with such weapons could stoke a costly new arms race.

A war in space might also lead to something called a Kessler event. In this scenario, uncontrolled space debris could collide and create even more uncontrolled space debris, ultimately shutting off human access to space for decades, if not centuries.

Ben Brimelow contributed reporting.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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