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Scientists develop low-cost chip that could lead to cocaine breathalyser

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cocaine breathalyser

US researchers claim to have developed affordable technology that could one day lead to the introduction of a viable portable cocaine breathalyser.

Scientists at the University at Buffalo are working on a chemical-sensing chip they say might result in the creation of handheld devices that could detect substances such as cocaine, opioids or cannabis on a user’s breath as quickly and efficiently as alcohol breathalysers do today.

As well as being used in breathalysers, the researchers say the chip could also be integrated into other types of devices that could screen for traces of drugs in blood, urine and saliva.

The new chip, which only costs a few cents to produce, works by trapping light at the edges of gold and silver nanoparticles.

When chemical molecules land on the chip’s surface, some of the captured light interacts with the molecules and is “scattered” into light of new energies, the researchers said

This results in the production of recognisable patterns that act as fingerprints, which reveal information about compounds that are present in any sample, be they heroin, cocaine of the active ingredient in cannabis.

Qiaoqiang Gan, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said: “Currently, there is a great demand for on-site drug testing.

“The high-performance chip we designed was able to detect cocaine within minutes in our experiments.

“It’s also inexpensive: It can be produced using raw materials that cost around 10 cents, and the fabrication techniques we used are also low-cost.”

Gan noted that the technology could be particularly significant due to the widening legalisation of cannabis in the US, which is prompting a greater need for reliable methods of roadside drug testing for law enforcement officers.

While breathalysers have been designed to detect the presence of cannabis in the past, these were prohibitively expensive for law enforcement authorities to roll out at scale, costing as much as $1,000 per unit.

As well as being cheap to produce, the researchers’ chips have a long shelf life, and are said to work effectively after being stored for 12 months.

Commenting on the new technology to the BBC, Joshua Harris from UK road safety charity Brake said: “These findings have the potential to improve the speed and accuracy of roadside drug testing.

“Shockingly, drug-driving was a factor in 81 fatal road crashes in 2016 and it is clearly an ever-increasing danger on our roads.

“We are calling upon the [British] government to prioritise the type-approval of roadside screening devices that can detect all banned drugs and step up roads policing levels to deter offending.”

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Researchers develop new ‘fingerprint’ tracking method for 3D-printed guns

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‘fingerprint’ tracking method

In a discovery that could help law enforcement agencies across the globe track 3D-printed guns and counterfeit goods, a team of scientists at the University at Buffalo has found that no two 3D printers are the same, and that all have their own “fingerprints”.

The researchers claim to have developed what they describe as the world’s first accurate method for tracing a 3D-printed object to the device on which it was made.

Commenting on the discovery, study lead author Wenyao Xu said:”3D printing has many wonderful uses, but it’s also a counterfeiter’s dream. Even more concerning, it has the potential to make firearms more readily available to people who are not allowed to possess them.

“3D printers are built to be the same. But there are slight variations in their hardware created during the manufacturing process that lead to unique, inevitable and unchangeable patterns in every object they print.”

Xu and his team found that every layer of a 3D-printed object contains unique tiny wrinkles that can be used to identify various characteristics of the machine that was used to create it, including printer model type, filament, nozzle size and other factors.

To test their new tracking method, which they dubbed the PrinTracker project, the scientists printed five door keys from 14 common 3D printers.

They then scanned each of the door keys to create a digital image that was enhanced and filtered, allowing for the identification of the unique in-fill patterns of each object.

The researchers were then able to match each key to the printer on which it was produced with 99.8% accuracy.

Xu likened the tracking method to the ability to identify the source of paper documents, a practice that has been used by law enforcement agencies, printer companies and other organisations for decades.

Speaking with Vice News, David Chipman, Senior Policy Adviser at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said: “For this to be useful to law enforcement who would be tracing guns, you’d have to have a record of the unique signature of every 3D printer being sold. We can only match it if we already have a record of it.”

While 3D-printed guns are currently widely considered as being flimsy and unreliable, experts fear that as the technology advances, they could be routinely used by criminals and terrorists on account of the fact they were considered to be nearly impossible to trace.

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British government calls on business to tackle forced labour in supply chains on Anti-Slavery Day

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Anti-Slavery Day

Landmarks across the UK were bathed in red light on Thursday evening to mark Anti-Slavery Day in Britain.

Government buildings including 10 Downing Street and the Home Office, along with business landmarks such as London’s BT Tower and Manchester’s Co-Op HQ were illuminated to mark the event, which was intended to raise awareness of the crime and encourage support for the UK’s Modern Slavery Victim Support Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.

The bill is intended to improve the support available to victims of modern slavery,

In an announcement released to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day, the UK Home Office said it is writing directly to the CEOs of 17,000 businesses across the country, demanding that they accurately report instances of modern slavery discovered in their supply chains, or risk being named and shamed as being in breach of the law.

Under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, large British companies are required to report on the prevalence of modern slavery in their global supply chains.

“Some businesses are already leading the way in taking action by being open and transparent about what they are doing to identify, tackle and prevent forced labour in their supply chains, but too many are still failing to meet their basic legal obligations,” Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins said.

“That’s why the Home Office is sending letters to businesses today with a clear message that continued non-compliance will not be tolerated.”

In a report released days before Anti-Slavery Day, the Salvation Army charity revealed that the number of British people referred to its specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery had nearly doubled over the course of a year.

The study found that 86 British victims of modern slavery were supported by the Salvation Army between July 2017 and June 2018, up from 44 the previous year.

The report also revealed that slavemasters are routinely using drugs and alcohol as means by which to control British victims of modern slavery across the UK.

Elsewhere, the National Crime Agency (NCA), the UK’s equivalent to the FBI, on Thursday announced it has teamed up with NGO Stop The Traffik to raise awareness of the difference between sex work and sexual exploitation, and to encourage better reporting of trafficking concerns.

The agency has also told big technology firms to better police the online sex trade.

NCA Deputy Director Tom Dowdall said: “We know from sex workers who are not being exploited that adult services websites (ASWs) provide safety benefits as they are able to vet customers and avoid those with a history of abuse or violence.

“However, we recognise that ASWs also provide offenders with the ability to easily advertise multiple victims, increase the amount of sexual services victims are forced to provide, and maximise criminal profits.”

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Canada to pardon minor cannabis possession convictions as country legalises the drug

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pardon minor cannabis possession convictions

Canadians convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis are to be pardoned, a source from Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party has said.

Speaking as Canada became only the second country in the world after Uruguay to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, the source said Ottawa will allow anybody with a criminal record that includes any such charge to apply to have it removed from their files.

Revealing that the exact process people will need to follow to apply for a pardon will be announced in the near future, the official told Canada’s Star newspaper: “For people to whom this applies in their past, we’re going to give them certainty that there will be recourse for them… in terms of exactly how it gets rolled out, the steps that we take, how much time it will take them, we’ll lay that out in the coming days and weeks.”

The announcement was made after members of the New Democratic Party lobbied the Canadian government to pardon people who had been caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, noting how such convictions can prevent individuals from marginalised communities from accessing housing and services.

The amnesty was announced after Canada officially legalised cannabis on Wednesday after the country’s parliament voted to do so back in June.

Long queues formed outside new cannabis shops across the country on Tuesday evening ahead of the first legally-sold marijuana being purchased from a store on the eastern island of Newfoundland at midnight.

Tom Clarke, 43, who owns the shop in Newfoundland, told reporters: “I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now.

“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border,” added Clarke, who told reporters he had been dealing cannabis illegally in Canada for 30 years.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve only been discussing this for 50 years. It’s better late than never.”

Despite the introduction of the new law, it will remain forbidden for Canadians to be in possession of more than 30 grams of cannabis while in public, grow more than four marijuana plants per household or buy the drug from unlicensed dealers.

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