All posts by Robert A Williams

Female Brains Appear More Than Three Years Younger Than Males’, Study Suggests

All brains age – but how they do so differs among us all in singular ways. Some wane in cognition and others remain sharp even as they idle up in years. Now, it seems, gender may play a role too.

Women’s brains, on average, appear more than three years younger than men’s of the same age, at least in terms of metabolic rate. A team from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis used the brain’s metabolic activity to determine age based on previous studies that found aging is associated with a decline in such activity. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For the study, the researchers used PET technology to measure the flow of oxygen and glucose in the brains of more than 200 individuals (121 women, 84 men) ranging in age from 20 to 82 years. For each participant, they noted how much sugar certain regions of their brain devoted to aerobic glycolysis – a metabolic process. A machine-learning algorithm was then tasked with finding a relationship between their age and brain metabolism. First, the team taught the algorithm to predict the age of men from their metabolic data. The program estimated men’s ages correctly, but when fed the women’s data, they appeared to be 3.8 years younger than men’s brains.

Intrigued, the team swapped the analysis around and trained the machine to predict women’s ages from metabolic data. When they did it this way, the men were estimated to be 2.4 years older than their actual age. Even more curious, this metabolic gap between men and women was seen even in their 20s.

“It’s not that men’s brains age faster – they start adulthood about three years older than women, and that persists throughout life,” said senior author Manu Goyal, an assistant professor of radiology at the university’s Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology, in a statement. “What we don’t know is what it means. I think this could mean that the reason women don’t experience as much cognitive decline in later years is because their brains are effectively younger, and we’re currently working on a study to confirm that.”

It should be emphasized that the participants’ brain age here was only determined by metabolic activity, not other factors. Whether other physiological differences exist was not studied in this research. However, it does open doors for further study to see if this contributes to the trend we see in female resiliency to age-related changes.

“The average difference in calculated brain age between men and women is significant and reproducible, but it is only a fraction of the difference between any two individuals,” Goyal said. “It is stronger than many sex differences that have been reported, but it’s nowhere near as big a difference as some sex differences, such as height.”

For now, more research is needed to better understand why this difference occurs and whether it plays a role in age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. A key follow-up study would see whether low glucose metabolism in the brain makes an individual more prone to cognition declines and neurodegenerative diseases.

“We’re just starting to understand how various sex-related factors might affect the trajectory of brain aging and how that might influence the vulnerability of the brain to neurodegenerative diseases,” added Goyal. “Brain metabolism might help us understand some of the differences we see between men and women as they age.”

Manu Goyal, MD, oversees a brain scan. Matt Miller


Read more: CEO Richard Liu wasn’t charged in the US, but back in China people are still weighing his case

Hong Kong (CNN Business)Richard Liu won’t face sexual assault charges in the United States, but the tech billionaire is having to contend with a renewed bout of public scrutiny at home in China.

Liu’s case has gripped China, where billionaire company founders often enjoy celebrity status. Social media users have been sounding off in large numbers about the prosecutors’ announcement and Liu’s response.
The business leader, whose Chinese name is Liu Qiangdong, said in a statement that the prosecutors’ decision “proves I broke no law.” He went on to apologize for his “interactions” with the young woman who accused him of rape, saying his actions had hurt his family and his wife.
    Many users said that while Liu, 45, may not have been charged, he still deserves censure for cheating on his wife, Zhang Zetian.
    “Liu Qiangdong is not guilty, that is the legal judgment. But there is morality behind the law. As a public figure, he should have higher requirements for his words and deeds,” said a widely shared post by China Women’s News, the news outlet of a women’s rights organization backed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
    Zhang, 25, is a popular figure in China. Before she met Liu, she gained internet fame when a picture of her holding a cup of milk tea went viral, earning her the nickname “Sister Milk Tea.” Zhang could not be reached for comment.

    Fellow tech entrepreneur calls actions ‘harmless’

    People argued on Weibo, a Twitter-like Chinese social media platform, over what the outcome of the months-long investigation by police and prosecutors meant for Liu.
    Some users suggested his reputation has been irreparably damaged. But there were others who defended him, including one fellow tech entrepreneur.
    “It wasn’t sexual assault, just extramarital sex, harmless to shareholders and employees,” wrote Li Guoqing, a co-founder of online book seller
    “It wasn’t an extramarital affair, just sex, low impact to his wife,” he added in a post that drew criticism from other users.
    Dangdang quickly distanced itself from Li’s comments, posting a statement on its official Weibo account saying that he plays no meaningful role in the company’s management. Dangdang was acquired by a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate HNA in April.
    Liu said in his statement that he feels “deep regret and remorse” and that he hopes his wife “can accept my sincere apology.”
    “I will continue to try in every possible way to repair the impact on my family and to fulfill my responsibility as a husband,” he added.

    Battered JD shares rebound

    The allegations against Liu have weighed on his company’s share price for months.’s Nasdaq-listed stock closed up about 6% on Friday after prosecutors declined to press charges, but it’s still down more than 30% since his arrest. Like many other Chinese stocks, it has come under pressure from concerns about the country’s economic slowdown and trade war with the United States.
    Liu’s case was particularly significant for JD because of the power he wields as its founder. He holds a large majority of the company’s voting rights, giving him control over key decisions.
    The CEO was in Minneapolis in August because he was enrolled in a doctorate program in business administration at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. His accuser, a Chinese woman, was studying at the university.
    The Minnesota prosecutors said they found “profound evidentiary problems” that would have made it hard to build a criminal case against Liu.
    The Chinese executive maintains that the sex with the young woman was consensual. The student, who was 21 years old at the time of the alleged assault, said Liu raped her at her off-campus apartment after a group dinner. Liu was arrested the same night, but police let him go the following day without charging him or asking for bail.
      He quickly returned to China after his release, where millions of Weibo users were sharing the police mugshot of him dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit.
      The young woman’s lawyer said she plans to pursue a civil lawsuit against Liu.

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      Im Honestly Fed Up With All The Bad News So I Illustrated The Best News Of 2018 (And Recent Years)

      I’m honestly fed up with all the bad news everywhere. I am not a journalist or an influencer, but I want to use my art to spread some positivity.

      I wanted to create something positive as an anti-venom to the vitriolic rhetoric that pervades our media.

      That’s why I want to share some of this year’s positive news from around the world in the hope that it brings you some happiness and inspires you to spread some good news yourself!

      Art, technology, food, science, animal rights, human rights… we have progressed in so many categories and it’s necessary to let the world know that, despite having much more to do, we’ve accomplished some amazing things in 2018.

      More info: Instagram | Instagram


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      Killer nabbed by chewed gum and a water bottle apologizes for murdering a teacher as he heads to prison for life

      (CNN)Christy Mirack’s brother had one critical question left this week for his sister’s killer.

      He often struggled to keep the case going and maintain the public’s interest. He put up a billboard asking for information that could help crack the case.
      But authorities had no suspects.
        Then, thanks to a piece of gum and a water bottle, authorities identified suspect Raymond Rowe, a disc jockey known locally as “DJ Freez.”
        Rowe, 50, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder, rape and related counts in Mirack’s killing, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.
        Rowe’s attorney said her client has admitted he murdered Christy Mirack, the prosecutor reported.
        “The person standing beside me has admitted his guilt,” Patricia Spotts said.
        Rowe’s guilty plea includes a sentence of life without the possibility of parole with a consecutive prison term of 60 to 120 years, the district attorney said.
        In accepting it, Rowe turned Tuesday to Mirack’s relatives, who’d waited more than 26 years for answers in the case.
        “I can’t imagine what you are going through,” the killer said. “I apologize.”
        Still, Vince Mirack had one searing question when he addressed Rowe in court, the district attorney reported.
        “Why?” he asked. “Why are we sitting here today?”

        New DNA technology helps crack the case

        Christy Mirack was found on the floor of her living room on December 21, 1992, strangled, beaten with a wooden cutting board and raped.
        DNA was collected at the scene, but there were no matches — until last year, when the sample was sent to Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company, for genetic testing.
        Parabon NanoLabs generated a genotype file from the DNA sample, then a DNA phenotype “composite” of the killer’s attributes — including hair, eye color and skin tone, the district attorney said.
        That helped experts get an idea of what the killer looked like as he aged. They released composite images to the public in 2017, then submitted them to a public genetic genealogy database, which brought back matches of Rowe’s relatives.
        That database, GEDmatch, shows the amount of shared DNA between two people, said Parabon NanoLabs’ president, Steven Armentrout. Members of the public voluntarily send their DNA to the database, making it an important resource for both genealogists and investigators.
        This same technology was used to catch the Golden State Killer and solve many other cold cases, including one in which a WWII veteran stole the identity of an 8-year-old boy and another in which DNA from a napkin helped solve a young girl’s murder.
        GEDmatch pointed to Rowe’s family. Parabon NanoLabs’ genealogical research named Rowe as a “strong viable suspect,” the district attorney said.
        To be certain, investigators tracked down Rowe in May at a school function where he was playing music. Undercover officers collected his DNA from gum and a water bottle he’d used and sent it to the state crime lab.
        It matched DNA found at the murder scene.
        Rowe was arrested at his home in June.

        Statistics can’t satisfy a brother’s plea

        Owing to DNA technology, the odds are “astronomical” that anyone else committed the crime, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman said. Indeed, the probability of the perpetrator being anyone else is 1 in 200 octillion among the Caucasian population.
        Those are numbers with 27 and 30 zeros, he said.
          “In other words,” Stedman said Tuesday, “it was the defendant. There are only 7.6 billion people in the world.”
          But even those statistics and Rowe’s confession cannot answer Vince Mirack’s lingering question: “Why?”

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          Self-harm images ‘groom suicide victims’

          Media playback is unsupported on your device

          Media captionMolly Russell’s father told the BBC he believed Instagram had ‘helped kill my daughter’

          Harmful suicide and self-harm content online “has the effect of grooming people to take their own lives”, the suicide prevention minister has said.

          Jackie Doyle-Price has told the BBC that social media companies must “step up” to protect vulnerable users.

          It comes after links were made between the suicide of teenager Molly Russell and her exposure to harmful content.

          Digital Minister Margot James is to reveal details of a “new regulatory regime” for social media later.

          According to the Daily Mail, Ms James will promise to crack down on many of the social media platforms that have “fallen short” in their response to online bullying, abuse and misinformation.

          In a speech at a conference for Safer Internet Day, Ms James is expected to say: “We will introduce laws that force social media platforms to remove illegal content, and to prioritise the protection of users beyond their commercial interests.”

          Facebook meeting

          Meanwhile Ms Doyle-Price is due to meet Facebook later on Tuesday to discuss what action it is taking.

          She told BBC Breakfast: “We want social media not really to be doing this through the stick of the law, we want them to do it to look after their users.”

          She said she hoped senior staff at Facebook, which also owns Instagram, would act – ideally using algorithms to protect people rather than “bombard” them with advertising.

          Ms Doyle-Price said: “Sometimes they do [act], but more often they don’t”.

          Addressing the National Suicide Prevention Alliance Conference on Tuesday, she said: “If companies cannot behave responsibly and protect their users, we will legislate.

          “They shouldn’t wait for government to tell them what to do. It says a lot about the values of companies if they do not take action voluntarily.”

          Speaking to the BBC, she said: “We could use fines, we could make social media companies much more responsible and apply the full force of the law to them if we feel they are being negligent in their duty of care to their users.”

          The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Home Office are due to publish a white paper on the government’s approach to online safety later this year.

          Image copyright PA
          Image caption A family photo of Molly, taken in 2009

          Ms Doyle-Price said the father of Molly Russell, who took her own life in 2017 aged 14, had done much to highlight the issue.

          “I am full of admiration for Molly’s father for being so brave and frank,” she said.

          Molly’s father, Ian Russell, told the BBC he believed Instagram had “helped kill my daughter”.

          When her family looked at her Instagram account after her death, they found distressing material about depression and suicide.

          Molly case ‘has focused minds’

          Ms Doyle-Price said that after Mr Russell spoke out, “so many other parents have spoken out…it has really focused people’s minds”.

          She added: “The really shocking thing is that he had absolutely no idea that his daughter was looking at these things online.”

          The boss of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, is due to meet the health secretary this week over the platform’s handling of content promoting self-harm and suicide.

          Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said Molly’s case had left him “deeply moved” and he accepted the site had work to do.

          He wrote: “We rely heavily on our community to report this content, and remove it as soon as it’s found.

          “The bottom line is we do not yet find enough of these images before they’re seen by other people.”

          ‘Hooked on self-harm’

          Media playback is unsupported on your device

          Media captionLibby used to post images of her self-harm injuries on Instagram

          In a separate case, Libby, 16, and her father Ian have shared their story after hearing of Molly’s death.

          At the age of 12, Libby, became “hooked” on posting and viewing self-harm images on Instagram – including pictures of cutting, burning and overdosing.

          Her father said his family reported such images to Instagram, but the social media company did nothing.

          Speaking to the BBC, Libby described how she was drawn in to an online community and recalled sharing pictures of her fresh cuts with 8,000 followers.

          Read more of her story here.

          If you’ve been affected by self-harm, eating disorders or emotional distress, help and support is available via the BBC Action Line.

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          Critics are not impressed with the tired jokes in ‘Holmes & Watson’

          The comedic duo's third film falls short.
          Image: sony pictures entertainment

          Remember when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly collectively made the world double over with laughter in 2008’s Step Brothers? Well hold on to that feeling, because it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen with Holmes & Watson.

          Starring Ferrell and Reilly as the titular Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Holmes & Watson attempts the capture the comedic duo’s chops seen in Step Brothers and Talladega Nights in a new, historic setting. Unfortunately, that magic seems to have been lost along the way with jokes that don’t land and a backdrop that doesn’t allow for Ferrell and Reilly’s improvisation to take hold.

          With 12 reviews in on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of reporting, Holmes & Watson is currently sitting at a 0 percent. That’s not a good look for writer and director Etan Cohen.

          Here’s what the critics have to say about Ferrell and Reilly’s third movie together.

          The setting isn’t right

          Peter Debruge, Variety:

          As far as Ferrell and Reilly are concerned, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s unstumpable sleuth and the thankless sidekick who recorded his every exploit are not just a great crime-solving duo but one of the great bromances of English literature — and therefore a natural target for the two actors’ ongoing exploration of dysfunctional friendships. The trouble is, Sherlock Holmes exists so large in audiences’ minds already that the pair’s uninspired take feels neither definitive nor especially fresh — just an off-brand, garden-variety parody.

          Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club:

          Written and directed by Etan Cohen (not to be mistaken for Ethan Coen, under any circumstances), Holmes & Watson imagines the title characters as a couple of needy, middle-aged manchildren—though the similarities with Ferrell and Reilly’s work together on Adam McKay’s Step Brothers end there. Struggling with objectively awful English accents, the two actors spend their time on screen dragging out terrible jokes, as though trapped in the improv-exercise equivalent of eternal damnation. Though it’s mostly the audience that suffers. Even the movie’s attempts at gross-out humor—such as an extended bit in which Holmes keeps barfing into a bucket, or a sequence where he calculates the trajectory of his arcing urine in slow-mo, à la Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes—are timorous and half-assed.

          Almost all the jokes are bad

          David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

          Instead of picking a particular tone and wringing it for all it’s worth, Cohen just throws a mess of half-funny jokes at the wall in the hopes that some of them might stick. They don’t. Not enough of them, anyway. Mild gross-out humor (projectile vomit, cadavers baked into party cakes, etc.) is mashed together with poorly choreographed physical comedy (Holmes and Watson accidentally unleash a swarm of killer bees while trying to kill a single mosquito) and limp post-modern gags that poke fun at old technology (Watson telegrams someone a dick pic) or current events (a “Make England Great Again” hat precedes a conversation about how the Electoral College will always protect America from tyrannical grifters).

          Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter:

          There’s at least one scene that proves mildly amusing, when Holmes silently communicates with his brother Mycroft (Hugh Laurie, who had the good sense to go uncredited) via their shared ability to “brainspeak.” It’s a slyly witty moment that contrasts with the otherwise lame slapstick permeating the frenetic proceedings. A gag involving the eating of raw onions isn’t so much running as limping. And there’s a strange amount of anachronistic Donald Trump-related humor, including bits about fake news and red MAGA hats (here reading “Make England Great Again”) that fall utterly flat in this context.

          None of the actors shine

          Sandy Schaefer, ScreenRant:

          Holmes & Watson is missing a key ingredient from Talladega Nights and Step Brothers – namely, director Adam McKay. Where McKay knew how to create comedic scenarios that allowed Ferrell and Reilly room to improvise, Cohen’s approach seems far more dependent on scripted jokes. That wouldn’t actually be a problem if his film could settle on a clear throughline, like McKay’s movies with Ferrell and Reilly had. Instead, Cohen’s script recycles Ferrell’s character arc from his 2000s comedies (his Sherlock is an egomaniacal jerk who doesn’t appreciate Watson) and can’t decide if his comical take on the super-sleuth is dumber than he thinks or too smart for his own good. Reilly isn’t given much to work with here either, and is left trying to get additional mileage from listless scenes that subject Dr. Watson to all sorts of comedic torment (be it emotional neglect or mean-spirited slapstick).

          David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

          The cast is rounded out by an incredible array of actors and comedians, including Kelly Macdonald as Holmes’ secretary, Hugh Laurie as Holmes’ brother, Steve Coogan as a one-armed tattoo artist, Rob Brydon as a flabbergasted inspector, and someone who shows up for a last-minute cameo so good that it almost redeems the rest of the movie. Of course, none of these people are given anything to do — forget standing out, Laurie isn’t even on-screen long enough to stand up. Usually, you’d have to watch the Golden Globes to see this much wasted talent. As it stands, the only compelling mystery about “Holmes & Watson” is how so many funny people have been squeezed into such an unfunny movie, a movie that isn’t nearly smart enough to recognize how stupid it should have been.

          It’s awful

          Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, AV Club:

          One might call it a failure on almost every level—that is, if the movie ever gave the impression that it was trying to succeed. Instead, it’s pervaded by an air of extreme laziness. It’s cheap and tacky—a bizarrely dated parody of Ritchie’s Holmes (complete with a soundalike score) poisoned with rib-elbowing topical references and puerile gags. It’s the Sherlock Holmes movie with the red “Make England Great Again” hat and the lactating Watson. It succeeds in only one respect. As a Christmas Day release that wasn’t screened in advance for critics, it managed to avoid our list of the worst films of 2018. It belongs at the top.

          Holmes & Watson is in theaters now.

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          Artificial Intelligence Creates Portraits Of People Who Dont Exist And Its Creepy

          Who said robots couldn’t be creative? artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer the stuff of science fiction films and now this technology is tapping into the art world. In a new paper published by NVIDIA researchers, they released portraits completely generated by artificial intelligence (GAN) but with a twist – none of the people in the images actually exist.

          Image credits: Tero Karras, Samuli Laine, Timo Aila

          According to The Verge GAN was introduced in 2014. The portraits at the time were semi life-like, grainy and in black and white. Jump forward to the portraits today and the resemblance to a real person is so accurate that most people can’t tell the difference.

          The current researchers were able to use their AI to copy the ‘styles’ of various face sources then create blends of these originals to create completely new “people.”It took 8 weeks for the researchers to train the AI, using powerful GPUs.

          Faces generated by “A Style-Based Generator Architecture for GANs”

          But this revolutionary technology doesn’t stop at faces, in 2014 75% of IKEA’s catalogue photos were computer generated. Just like with any technological advance there could be negative repercussion. With the ability to create faces, furniture, cars and real estate it calls into question the future for stock photographers and where their place will be in this new digitized world.

          “These datasets were trained using the setup for the duration of 70M images for ‘bedroom’ and ‘cats’, and 46M for ‘cars’”

          Watch how AI has progressed in this 6- minute video

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          Wellness Valentine’s Day Gifts Your Boyfriend Will Love

          Valentine’s Day will be here before we know it, which means it’s time to start brainstorming what you can give your boyfriend to let him know how much you love him! (Because gifts are what truly matter, amirite?) Whether you have $30 or $1,000 to spend, there are unique gifts out there that he’ll probably like. If your mans is into health and fitness sh*t, here are a few awesome wellness Valentine’s Day gifts that he will actually love.

          Personalized Gym Gear

          Your boyfriend lifts weights on the regular. Everyone at the gym knows him by name and waves at him when he walks in the door. Yeah, he’s pretty cool. For those who don’t already know his name, it’s time for them to learn! Get him some personalized gym gear to rock when he works out. There are tons of websites (like Etsy) and sports stores (like Spread Shirt) that offer gym gear that can be personalized with the design or words of your choice. Buy him a backpack or weight-lifting belt (or something else that he’ll love) and embroider his name onto it so people know who it belongs to when it inevitably gets lost in the locker room.

          Iron Attitude Belts Men’s Blank Belt

          Smart Scale

          If your boo is obsessed with the number on the scale and how many gains he’s gotten over the last week, he’d definitely love to get a smart scale for V-Day (if he doesn’t already have one). Certain smart scales like the ones by Withings (shown below), Garmin, and Fitbit offer tons of features that the average scale doesn’t, including the ability to track and compare your progress, body fat, water weight, muscle weight, etc. They can even connect to your smartphone (yay, technology!). You can purchase a smart scale online on Amazon or in store from Best Buy and Kohl’s.

          Amazon Withings Smart Digital Scale

          Wearable Sleep Tracker

          Maybe your man doesn’t sleep well, or he obsesses over the amount of hours he sleeps every night. Sounds like he could benefit from a sleep tracker like the Fitbit Versa. This sleep tracker will monitor just how well he sleeps at night, and for how long. You can buy a sleep tracker from Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, Target, or any electronics stores inside your local mall. By using it, maybe he’ll stop snoring and keeping you awake all night, and then complaining to you the next day about how he slept like sh*t.

          FitBit Versa Watch

          Weekend Getaway Trip

          Look, self-care is an important part of wellness. So give your man some much-needed R&R for V-Day with a weekend getaway. This gift is a win-win because not only is your man getting a gift, but so are you! Go for a hike, hit the beach, or relax at a spa for a weekend. Depending on the type of vacation you know he’d enjoy (and your budget), you can find super cheap getaway deals on websites like Groupon Getaways (there’s literally an $88/night deal for a hotel overlooking Niagara Falls) or Cheap Caribbean. There are all types of deals for all types of prices out there somewhere. No matter if you can only spend $100, or if you’re ready to drop a grand, he’ll be sure to ~thank you~ for this one. 

          Groupon Embassy Suites By Hilton Niagara Falls

          Images: Shutterstock; Iron Attitude; Amazon; Fitbit; Groupon

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          UK police given new powers to seize and search misbehaving drones

          Keep those pesky drones away from the airport.
          Image: Getty Images/EyeEm

          Remember the enormous, pre-Christmas chaos those drone sightings caused at London’s Gatwick Airport last month?

          The ones that put the whole airport on lockdown, delayed roughly 1,000 flights and prompted a lengthy police investigation?

          Well, it looks like people have had enough of it. In a tweet on Tuesday morning, the UK government’s Department for Transport announced the introduction of new powers for police to seize and search suspicious drones, as well as new airport exclusion zones and safety measures.

          You can read the full announcement, which comes following a 5000-people strong consultation, on the government’s website. They’ve summarised the key points as follows:

          – police to be given additional powers to land, seize and search drones

          – government to work on expanded use of technology to detect and repel drones in sites like airports and prisons

          – exclusion zone extended around airports where drones are banned from flying

          – from November 2019 drone operators will be required by law to register

          “There is no question but that lessons have to be learned from what happened at Gatwick,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement on Monday. “Passengers have to be able to travel without fear of their trips being disrupted by malicious drone use.

          “Airports must be prepared to deal with incidents of this type, and the police need the proper powers to deal with drone offences.”

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