Government To Help Shopkeepers Survive

A package of financial and other types of assistance to help high-street retailers, small family-run shops and village stores, especially in rural Spain, is being prepared by the national government in a bid to keep them trading.

Online shopping is threatening the presence of physical shops practically everywhere in the world and Spain is particularly vulnerable to this as nearly three-quarters of companies of all types are small and medium-sized businesses, owned and run by families, with staff numbers in single figures. This is even more pronounced in Spain’s least-populated areas, such as rural parts a long distance from their nearest coast or large city.

Minister for industry, commerce and tourism, Reyes Maroto, says a scheme is being drawn up to help retailers ‘modernise’ their facilities and adapt to the ‘digital age’ and new consumer habits, in order to become more competitive. New technology and training on how to use it and encouraging its use, setting up online and international sales systems and developing protection against anti-competition practices are among the key areas the ministry wants to improve. Support and advice via the Chambers of Commerce and local trade associations will also be offered.

As yet, the amount of funding due to be set aside for the schemes has not been confirmed. 

Free Science Museum Tickets

Valencia’s iconic Prince Felipe Science Museum is 20 years old this year and they are offering free entry tickets to anyone born in the year 2000, when it first opened. Visitors of any nationality who will turn 20 at any point this year only needs to show their passport or, if they are Spanish citizens, their DNI at the ticket office at the entrance on the day they wish to attend.

The offer is valid up to and including New Year’s Eve 2020.

Part of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences (Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias), the science museum holds a variety of temporary exhibitions year-round, often interactive. Previous displays have included genetics, new technology, astronomy and even live experiments. Since the museum first opened on the complex designed by cult architect Santiago Calatrava, it has welcomed nearly 12 million visitors.

This year, to mark the end of its second decade, the museum is set to open its new Teatro de la Ciencia and the exhibition Play: Science and Music.

Spanish Researchers In Largest-Ever Genetic Autism Study

Researchers at Madrid’s Gregorio Marañón Hospital have successfully identified 102 genes after analysing more than 700 patients.

Some 35,000 individuals took part in the study, including people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and also mentally-disabled persons with neuro-developmental delay (NDD), plus confederates and scientists.

30 of the genes identified are completely new.

ASDs cover a multitude of neurological differences. There is some debate over whether Asperger is a form of high-functioning Autism and it is often the most ‘invisible’ on the spectrum as those with it lead normal lives and are often of very high intelligence and abilities, whilst other more severe strains can mean the patient is, in medical and psychological terms, mentally-disabled (typically characterised as with an IQ of 70 or less) meaning they need round-the-clock care. Some Autistic people are non-verbal and show developmental delays, although at the higher-functioning end of the spectrum, advanced development is often a feature.

Mental disability or learning difficulties are not necessarily associated with Autism per se, but the two often overlap in the severely-Autistic. Until now, it has often been questioned whether Autism is passed on through generations – in the case of high-functioning Autism, or Asperger’s parents, their children will often receive the same diagnosis, but the Gregorio Marañón study has found both ‘rare’, or unrelated, genes, as well as hereditary genes, involved in both ASDs and NDD. The principal genes involved in ASDs are not inherited from either parent, the team reveals.

A group of 24 genes involved in neurological communication were found to affect individuals with ASDs exclusively, whilst another, wider group of 58 genes was found to be present in individuals with ASDs and generalised NDDs or mental disabilities combined.

The Autism team on the Child and Teenager Psychiatric Service played a major role in the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC). The Gregorio Marañón has a complete and all-round programme for supporting ASD patients – a pioneering scheme that carries out over 3,000 consultations a year and receives around 300 new referrals every year. Patients studied in the sequencing research partly came from this programme. According to the report on the research, the genetic study has enabled scientists to differentiate between the DNA makeup responsible for ASDs and the genes that cause generalised NDDs.

The results appear to show that these two conditions exist independently, but that a combination of the two sets of genes are what leads to those with severe Autism often being mentally disabled or suffering learning difficulties and slower development. Diagnoses of Autism have increased dramatically in recent years, due to improved methods of detecting the condition, but much work is still needed in diagnosing Autism, especially high-functioning Autism or Asperger’s, in women and girls, since the vast majority are overlooked. Statistically, only 20% of people with autism or Asperger are female, since diagnosis focuses on ‘male-brained’ behaviour due to historic studies having used only male volunteers.

Polar’ Marine Fossils Of 465 Million Years Found In Central Spain

According to the ministry of environment and energy transition, the fossils are of a cephalopod; a family which includes the squid that have turned up hundreds of kilometres from the nearest sea. They were located by scientists working in the Cabañeros National Park, which sits across the borders of the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real, in Castilla-La Mancha.

The site has been key in naming the fossils and the mysterious prehistoric sea creature has been baptised as the Cabaneroceras Aznari; the Aznari part has no link to Spain’s former PP president José María Aznar, who ruled until 2004. It comes from the owner of the land in the village of Horcajo de los Montes (Ciudad Real province) where the fossils were found; Alejandro Aznar.

It is believed to have lived in the now-disappeared sea platforms in what was originally one of the planet’s two continents, Gondwanaland and Laurasia and belong to a rare group of intejocerids, a type of cephalopod originally thought to have only lived in paleotropical zones. They were believed to be exclusive to what is now Siberia, the Asian part of Russia, and North America, especially in Polar regions, as they would have thrived in very cold waters.

The discovery came as part of a wider research project into national parks, led by Dr Juan Carlos Gutiérrez Marco of Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC), and specialist in fossilised cephalopods from Finland’s Natural History Museum, Björn Kröge. Once fully examined, the fossils will be put on display in the Geo-Mining Museum in Ciudad Real, the Castilla-La Mancha Palaeontology Museum in Cuenca, the Natural Science Museum in Viso del Marqués and the Cabañeros National Park Visitors’ Centre.