Largest Digital Library On Earth For The Blind 

The biggest digital library on earth in the Spanish language adapted for the blind has just opened, with over 64,000 works accessible to anyone in the world with serious vision problems.

The Spanish national organisation for the Blind, ONCE, which runs the daily lottery to raise funds for the disabled, says a total of 285 million people worldwide are either completely non-sighted or have very serious vision problems that practically impede their eyesight at all bar the most functional levels, such as recognising the position of large objects when navigating their homes. This translates to 4% of the planet’s population, all of whom could potentially read the contents of any published text on earth as long as they understood Spanish. 

In total, the library has 34,000 texts in DAISY (Digitally Accessible Information System) format, 27,000 in Braille and 3,000 in sounds.

Its access is completely free of charge and its creation makes Spain the first country in Europe to apply the Treaty of Marrakech on integration of cultural material for the blind and partially-sighted, an agreement for which ONCE is the main representative.

During the presentation at the Cervantes Institute, the global centre for promotion of the Spanish language and Spanish and Hispanic culture, ONCE’s social services deputy chairwoman Imelda Fernández and the Institute’s director Luis García Montero unveiled the system and a man named Carlos Galindos, who is blind from birth, gave a demonstration on how it works.

Key Role For Spain In 2020 Mars Mission Technology

Spanish-made technology will be used for the next mission to Mars, planned for 2020, in what will be a huge year for national science, especially for researchers based in Valladolid (Castilla y León).

Two unmanned missions, one by NASA and another by the European Space Agency (ESA,) will set off for Mars next year around July and will take 7-8 months to complete, using a monitored crewless craft which will analyse the surface of Mars in depth. The idea is to see whether it could ever have been inhabited at any time, or if it could potentially house life.

Spain’s role will be significant enough to put it on the world science map, according to Dr Fernando Rull whose star invention will play a major part.

ERICA’s participation will involve creating calibration cards that form part of the SuperCam built into the space vehicle which allows for highly-detailed analysis of the planet’s surface in a very simple operation.

Spain’s part in the ESA mission will involve creating a spectometer to examine material found beneath the planet’s crust in a bid to seek out possible traces of life.

National Online Security Helpline Launched: 017

A free national cyber-safety helpline number has been launched, which anyone who suffers a threat to their online security can ring. The three-digit number is also for reporting internet fraud, phishing, hack attacks or dodgy websites of any description. It can even be used just to ask questions and advice about security for computers, phones, tablets or any other internet-based device. 

The number 017 is based on the format used for the domestic and gender violence helpline, 016 – which does not show up on an itemised bill – and the emergency services number 112. In practice, the 017 line merely replaces the nine-digit number formerly used to contact the National Cyber Safety Institute, INCIBE, in order to make it easier to remember.

The main purposes of the helpline are for seeking methods and tools for protecting data, inquiring about safety of WiFi connections and networks, configuration of privacy in internet services and devices and digital identity protection, identifying different types of online fraud, advising users who have been affected, virus, malware and spyware infections and to clarify concerns or doubts about content which may or may not be dangerous or inappropriate for children. Parents, teachers and children can call the number to report online bullying and request information about parental controls on devices and check whether their kids’ screen use is excessive. 

The free nine-digit INCIBE number, 900 116 117, remains operative and the same call centre is reached by dialling this as by dialling 017. In use 365 days a year, the line is open from 9am-9pm mainland Spain time. 

Bioinvasion

The Southern Coast of Spain is under attack from a foreign species of algae. For over six months now catching any fish in the Strait of Gibraltar has become extremely difficult. The only catch fishermen have managed to haul in was worrying amounts of brown algae. Rugulopterix Okamurae has set its eyes on the Southern coast of Spain and it is attacking with unseen malice. The entire marine biodiversity is under threat as are the beaches where it is quickly spreading.

It is the trammel net ships that have been affected the most. According to the fisherman, they have lost practically 100% of their catches. Trawlers, however, have managed to haul in at most 50% of theirs. Back in 2015 this invasive species was first noticed off the coast of Ceuta in North Africa. In little under 4 years, it has managed to spread as far as Cadiz, covering its entire coast, stretching as far as Huelva and Marbella on the Atlantic coast. This is not just alarming the fisherman, but also the scientific community. 

The Rugulopterix okamurae algae, native to the warm waters near Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines, is believed to have arrived in the Strait on board a ship from one of these regions. Due to the fact that it is similar to local species, it went undetected for a while. Its attack is unprecedented and has relentlessly expanded and destroyed local algae species and occupied space normally used by marine animals. Not only has it affected the fishing industry and the biodiversity, but also the tourism industry, as the coast is being blanketed by rotting algae half a metre deep. 2,800 tons of algae were collected in just six weeks from the beaches of Estepona.

Fishermen have been unknowingly causing the algae to release millions of spores every time they return them to the seas after getting trapped in their nets. Other factors include having no predators being able to attach to rocky ground and they have also benefited from the wastewater being released into the sea. Experts agree that an eradication plan needs to be implemented as well as research into the species from different angles to get a better understanding of how to fight against it. 

Cambodia-Themed Adventure Park Planned For Valencia

Taking its inspiration from the tropical rainforests of Cambodia, the new park will offer canyoning, abseiling, climbing and a multitude of slides, alongside a park and an area to bathe and relax.

The project, proposed by Rain Forest, the company that currently manages Bioparc, aim to recreate the temples of Angkor on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. The new adventure park will cover an area of four hectares and will be accessed via the catering and customer service area in the central square.  One of the nearby farms has an ancient system for farming silk and the intention is to plant more mulberry trees and create and educational area for children.