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Peru Aims to Eradicate Record-Setting 22,000 Hectares of Coca in 2013

first_img LIMA — Peru’s government wants the world to know it’s dead serious about eliminating illegal coca crops used to produce cocaine. Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza announced Jan. 14 that his government will eradicate at least 22,000 hectares of coca in 2013. This is 4,000 hectares more than the original target for the year, and well above the record-breaking 14,100 hectares destroyed in 2012. Meeting the ambitious eradication target would be a major step in reversing the upward trend in Peruvian coca production that began around 2005. While previous governments met eradication targets, coca-growing farmers replanted at a faster rate. The government’s new plan includes a much broader reach for the eradication squad, known by its Spanish acronym CORAH, an increase in the budget for coca eradication and drug interdiction, and a program to dramatically boost the state’s presence not only in zones where coca is currently grown, but in areas where it could be grown. “We are developing post-coca and preventative strategies,” said Mario Ríos, head of the promotion and monitoring unit at state anti-drug agency DEVIDA. “We need to provide alternatives to farmers leaving coca, and make sure coca does not spread to other areas.” It’s still unclear if the CORAH eradication brigades will move into Loreto. Zarate said an eradication program similar to the Upper Huallaga would be too costly, because of the remoteness of the area. An alternative would be periodic eradication missions, as well as anti-drug operations coordinated with Brazilian and Colombian authorities. Peru and Brazil set up a task force late last year to develop protocols for joint police and military operations in border zones, given the fact that the two countries share nearly 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) of jungle border. Peru recorded 62,500 hectares of coca in 2011, according to the annual report presented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an increase of slightly more than 2 percent over the previous year. That gain came despite the eradication of more than 12,000 hectares in 2010. Peru is the world’s second-largest coca producer, according to UNODC figures — right behind first-place Colombia, with 64,000 hectares under cultivation, and ahead of Bolivia, with 27,200 hectares. President Ollanta Humala has declared he’d like to see Peru fall to last place by the time he leaves office in July 2016. While estimates differ on production, most analysts believe Peru produces between 350 and 400 metric tons of cocaine annually. TThe Peruvian government had kept eradication brigades out of the VRAEM for fear of a social explosion, fueled not only by the Shining Path and drug traffickers, but also due to the lack of a state presence. Yet the Humala government, faced with increased violence and the spread of coca crops in the Belgium-sized zone, ultimately announced a major offensive for 2013. The Humala administration has earmarked $1.1 billion for the VRAEM this year, more than double the previous year’s budget. This includes major outlays in roads, water, electricity systems, education and health care. Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano announced in late December that the state would also incur $300 million in new debt in 2013 to fight terrorism and drug trafficking in the zone, including the construction of eight anti-terrorism bases and acquisition of boats and aircraft. Former coca farmer Teodoro Rojas said extending eradication to the VRAEM is contingent upon the government following through on its development pledge. “Coca can be eradicated, but the state also needs to eradicate the root cause behind coca-growing, which is poverty,” he said. “If the root cause is not eliminated, coca will only spread elsewhere.” Ríos said that Loreto is “a troubling new scenario. We are seeing a spread of coca and [opium] poppies happening at a fast pace.” Retired Police Gen. Juan Zarate, who coordinates CORAH, said the VRAEM and Loreto pose different challenges. The issue in the VRAEM, according to Zarate, is security, and the eradicators will require protection. This should be helped by legislation passed by Congress in late 2012, which gives Peru’s Armed Forces a role in fighting drugs. The government estimates that it will need at least six years to get a firm grip on the coca-cocaine problem in the VRAEM. The Humala administration has budgeted about $15 million for CORAH in 2013. This may not seem like much, but it’s the first time the program has its own line item in the budget. In the past, CORAH has been funded primarily by international donors led by the United States and the 27-member European Union. CORAH extends coca eradication efforts to VRAEM By Dialogo January 21, 2013center_img This year, Peru plans to extend its forced eradication program to major hotspots. The eradication brigade, CORAH, has focused exclusively on the northern Upper Huallaga Valley since its founding. Ríos said the coming year will see eradication in the valleys formed by the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, known as the VRAEM, and possibly in the Putumayo zone, in the department of Loreto, along the northern border where Peru meets Brazil and Colombia. In 2012, the VRAEM was home to nearly 20,000 hectares of coca, said the UNODC report, accounting for 32 percent of Peru’s total land devoted to coca cultivation. Coca crops have been on the rise there since early in the past decade. The area — the last bastion of leftist Shining Path rebels — has also been under a state of emergency since June 2003. Last year saw a jump in Shining Path violence, including the mass kidnapping of gas pipeline workers in April, and the killing of 20 police officers and soldiers. While coca crops in Loreto represented just 7 percent of land used for coca in the UNODC report, they have expanded rapidly, increasing from 1,209 hectares in 2008 to 4,450 hectares in 2011; that same year, coca output jumped by 40 percent. “This is the first time there will be eradication in the VRAEM and it has to be done correctly, accompanied by a state platform that provides all the necessary services. Isolated programs will not work,” said Ríos. Authorities say eradication will succeed only if coca farmers have viable alternatives and markets for what they grow. Peru has already replaced coca with coffee and cacao; other alternative products that show promise include rubber, biofuels and tropical fruits. “Alternative development is working and we are focusing on cooperation, not only in financial assistance but cooperation for technical assistance, creating markets and certifying products. We have to guarantee a diversity of products and markets for farmers,” said Carmen Masias, the director of DEVIDA. Project gets $1.1 billion in funding this year last_img read more

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Twitter, Facebook and YouTube Survived Election Day. More Tests Loom.

first_imgOAKLAND, Calif. — For months, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube prepared to clamp down on misinformation on Election Day.On Tuesday, most of their plans went off without a hitch. The social platforms added labels to misleading posts by President Trump and notified their users that there was no immediate outcome to the presidential race. On television, news anchors even cited fact-checks similar to those made by Twitter and Facebook.- Advertisement – Then came Wednesday. With ballots still being counted and the absence of a clear result, the flow of misinformation shifted away from seeding doubts about the vote to false claims of victory. Twitter rapidly labeled several tweets by Mr. Trump over the course of the day as being misleading about the result of his race, and also did the same to tweets from others in his circle, such as Eric Trump and the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. And Facebook and YouTube used their home pages to show people accurate information about the election.The actions reinforced how even a smooth performance on Election Day did not mean that the social media companies could relax, fighting a relentless flow of toxic content. In fact, the biggest tests for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are still looming, misinformation researchers said, as false narratives may surge until a final result in the presidential race is certified. “What we actually saw on Election Day from the companies is that they were extremely responsive and faster than they’ve ever been,” said Graham Brookie, the director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. But now, he said, misinformation was solely focused on the results and undermining them.- Advertisement – “Platforms need to quickly expand their efforts before the country is plunged into further chaos and confusion,” he said. “It is a democratic emergency.” On Tuesday night, Facebook had to do just that. Shortly after Mr. Trump posted about the election’s being stolen from him, Facebook officials added labels to his posts. The labels noted that “no winner of the presidential election had been projected.”After the polls closed, Facebook also sent users a notification that if they were waiting to vote at a polling place, they could still vote if they were already standing in line.On Wednesday, Facebook added more labels to new posts from Mr. Trump, checking his claims by noting that “as expected, election results will take longer this year.” On Tuesday, as Americans voted across the country, falsehoods about broken voting machines and biased poll workers popped up repeatedly. But the companies weren’t tested until Mr. Trump — with early results showing how tight the race was — posted on Twitter and Facebook just before 1 a.m. Eastern time to baselessly lash out at the electoral process. “They are trying to STEAL the Election,” Mr. Trump posted on the sites, without being specific about who he meant.Twitter moved quickly, hiding Mr. Trump’s inaccurate tweet behind a label that cautioned people that the claim was “disputed” and “might be misleading about an election or other civic process.” Twitter, which had started labeling Mr. Trump’s tweets for the first time in May, also restricted users’ ability to like and share the post.On Wednesday morning, Twitter added more labels to posts from Mr. Trump. In one, he tweeted that his early leads in Democratic states “started to magically disappear.” In another message, Mr. Trump said unnamed people were working to make his lead in the battleground state of Pennsylvania “disappear.”Twitter also applied other labels to posts that falsely asserted victory. One was added to a post by Ben Wikler, head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, in which he asserted prematurely that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had won the state. The Associated Press and other news outlets later called Wisconsin for Mr. Biden, though Mr. Trump called for a recount.On Wednesday afternoon, Twitter also affixed context to tweets from Eric Trump, one of Mr. Trump’s sons, and Ms. McEnany when they preemptively claimed that Mr. Trump had won in Pennsylvania, even though the race there had not been called. The company also fact-checked other assertions from Mr. Trump claiming victory in several battleground states such as North Carolina and Georgia, where the race has not been called, and restricted his false statements about voter fraud from being shared.“As votes are still being counted across the country, our teams continue to take enforcement action on tweets that prematurely declare victory or contain misleading information about the election broadly,” Twitter said. But the site did encounter a problem early on Tuesday night when several YouTube channels, one with more than a million subscribers, said they were livestreaming election results. What the live streams actually showed was a graphic of a projection of an election outcome with Mr. Biden leading. They were also among the first results that appeared when users searched for election results.After media reports pointed out the issue, YouTube removed the video streams, citing its policy prohibiting spam, deceptive practices and scams.On Wednesday, One America News Network, a conservative cable news network with nearly a million subscribers on YouTube, also posted a video commentary to the site claiming that Mr. Trump had already won the election and that Democrats were “tossing Republican ballots, harvesting fake ballots and delaying results” to cause confusion. The video has been viewed more than 280,000 times.Farshad Shadloo, a YouTube spokesman, said the video did not violate the company’s policy regarding misleading claims about voting. He said the video carried a label that the election results were not final. YouTube added that it had removed ads from the video because it did not allow creators to make money off content that undermined “confidence in elections with demonstrably false information.”Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, said the tech companies still had a fight ahead against election misinformation, but were prepared for it.“There will always be a long tail of disinformation, but it will become less impactful,” he said. “They are still working, for sure, and will try to maintain this staffing level and focus until the outcome is generally accepted.”But Fadi Quran, campaign director at Avaaz, a progressive nonprofit that tracks misinformation, said Facebook, Twitter and YouTube needed to do more.center_img “You have a hyperfocused audience and a moment in time where there is a huge amount of uncertainty, and bad actors can use that opportunistically,” he said.Twitter said it was continuing to monitor for misinformation. Facebook said, “Our work isn’t done — we’ll stay vigilant and promote reliable information on Facebook as votes continue to be counted.” YouTube said it also was on alert for “election-related content” in the coming days.The companies had all braced for a chaotic Election Day, working to avoid a repeat of 2016, when their platforms were misused by Russians to spread divisive disinformation. In recent months, the companies had rolled out numerous anti-misinformation measures, including suspending or banning political ads, slowing down the flow of information and highlighting accurate information and context. – Advertisement – Updated Nov. 4, 2020, 5:23 p.m. ET Unlike Twitter, Facebook did not restrict users from sharing or commenting on Mr. Trump’s posts. But it was the first time Facebook had used such labels, part of the company’s plan to add context to posts about the election. A spokesman said the company “planned and prepared for these scenarios and built the essential systems and tools.”YouTube, which is not used regularly by Mr. Trump, faced fewer high-profile problems than Twitter and Facebook. All YouTube videos about election results included a label that said the election might not be over and linked to a Google page with results from The Associated Press. Facebook took a more cautious approach. Mark Zuckerberg, its chief executive, has said he has no desire to fact-check the president or other political figures because he believes in free speech. Yet to prevent itself from being misused in the election, Facebook said it would couch premature claims of victory with a notification that the election had yet to be called for a candidate, if necessary. – Advertisement –last_img read more

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