News Follow the news on Cameroon CameroonAfrica Reporters Without Borders is having difficulty establishing whether Cameroonian mobile phone operator MTN’s Twitter via SMS service has finally been restored after being blocked for about 10 days at the government’s behest. Contradictory statements are being made.Many Tweets yesterday suggested the service had been restored in practice. And when reached by phone, telecommunications minister Jean-Pierre Biyiti Bi Essam seemed to confirm this to Reporters Without Borders: “It is not suspended. The measure has been lifted. I have nothing more to say on the subject.”But an MTN representative said the contrary today. “The service is interrupted for the time being,” she said. “It is currently unavailable. If you read on the Internet that Twitter has been restored, that is not the information we have.”“We condemn this lack of transparency and fear its implications for online freedom of expression in Cameroon,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope the blocking of Twitter via SMS is not a prelude to other kinds of censorship of mobile phone services or tighter controls on the Internet. Everything suggests that the authorities are trying to stop microblogging. We deplore the apparent readiness to impose censorship for the least reason, especially when the target is the peaceful expression of opinions.”MTN Cameroon announced the suspension of its Twitter via SMS service on 8 March “for reasons beyond our control.” The service enabled its mobile phone clients to posts Tweets by sending an SMS to the number 8711. There has been no interruption in access to Twitter via the Internet in Cameroon.After initially blaming a technical problem, MTN admitted that it had blocked the service on orders from the government. MTN’s head of information, Georges Mpoudi, tweeted on the day of the suspension: “We can’t comment further than ‘security reasons’ on #government instructions for #SMSTweets suspension.” Communication minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told Agence France-Presse on 11 March: “I am not aware of all aspects of the situation but I can tell you one thing, that it is the government’s job to protect the nation.”So far, social networks do not have many participants in Cameroon and Facebook, for example, is used by only 1.5 per cent of the population. Only around 50 people were affected by the suspension of MTN’s Twitter via SMS service but it prompted a great deal of comment and protests by Twitter users, especially on the #SMSTweet hashtag.The suspension of the service, coming as it did after demonstrations against President Paul Biya at the end of February, has prompted fears of an attempt by the Cameroonian government to suppress the use of social networks, which have played a crucial role in the political unrest in the Arab world.With a presidential election due in October, 2011 will be a crucial year for Cameroon and Reporters Without Borders will be paying close attention to respect for media freedom and the free flow of information online. News Cameroonian reporter jailed since August, abandoned by justice system CameroonAfrica May 31, 2021 Find out more Help by sharing this information March 22, 2011 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Blocked for more than 10 days, is Twitter via SMS in the process of being restored? Receive email alerts News Case against Amadou Vamoulké baseless, French lawyers tell Cameroon court Organisation RSF_en Cameroonian journalist Paul Chouta sentenced and fined in defamation case to go further News May 19, 2021 Find out more April 23, 2021 Find out more
This is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.Gabby Thomas almost gave up on Harvard before her college career had really begun. Balancing grueling track workouts with a demanding science-heavy class schedule pushed her to the brink freshman year. Then, she did the thing people needing advice do every day: she called her mom.“She just said ‘you’ll be OK, you’ll be fine,’” recalled Thomas of the conversation with her mother, Jennifer Randall, a statistics professor at UMass Amherst, who told her daughter she should give it time. So, Thomas stayed, dived into her studies, and made NCAA history.Today the 5’11’’ sprinter and Atlanta native knows she made the right choice.“Here I am. I am more than fine,” said Thomas, a neurobiology concentrator and a standout track athlete for the Crimson who signed a contract with athletic shoemaker New Balance in October, foregoing her last year of collegiate eligibility to race against the elite in her sport. Currently an assistant coach as she completes her senior year, Thomas still trains with the team, traveling to meets and occasionally running in the professional races that are held alongside collegiate events. She supports the Crimson runners however she can, offering up everything from emotional encouragement to tips on relay handoffs. “Honestly, it’s a lot of fun. I enjoy being there for them in any way that they need it,” she said.“I’ve just had such an amazing experience here,” Thomas said of her Harvard time. “Everything has just gone so well for me, and I am so grateful for every opportunity that I’ve had.”“Gone well” is one way to describe it; others might call it exceptional. During her University career Thomas managed to compete in Olympic qualifying trials in 2016. She also logged multiple personal, Harvard, and Ivy League bests, setting the School and Ivy League records in the outdoor 100-meter and 200-meter dash and the indoor 60-meter dash, and becoming the Ivy League Most Outstanding Track Performer at the league’s outdoor and indoor track and field championships in 2017 and 2018. And she excelled at the triple jump, long jump, and the 4×100- and 4×400-meter relays.But her biggest title, the one that got her seriously thinking about turning pro, came last year at the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas. Fresh from a Harvard study abroad summer program in Senegal, Thomas was eager to run. “I was ready to be at Harvard again,” she said. “I was ready to compete with track and I think that really showed.”,She smiles as she recalls her record-breaking 200-meter dash at the national meet last March. An earlier runner had posted a blistering time, meaning Thomas would have to tie the then-NCAA record of 22:40 to win. “All I could do was focus on what I could do in the moment: run as fast as I could and try to win the heat,” she said. “When I saw it was a collegiate record, I couldn’t believe it.” Others appeared just as stunned by her time of 22:38, a personal and NCAA best.She credits her sprint coach and her fellow track athletes with helping her excel at Harvard.“My teammates have inspired me so much since freshman year. Watching senior … Autumne Franklin and junior Jade Miller work so hard really shaped me as an athlete,” said Thomas of the standout sprinters. Now as a leader on the team, the Harvard athletes she watches over continue to motivate her to push herself, she said, “to be a good example.”In her youth, soccer was Thomas’ top sport, but when her high school required that she pick a spring activity, her mother insisted on track. When it came to her studies, Thomas had a “knack for science,” and initially envisioned a career spent researching autism. “It’s close to family, very personal,” she said of the developmental disorder affecting her younger brother.But a Harvard first-year seminar and a summer internship helped point her in a different direction. Through the course came a fuller appreciation of the disadvantages facing African Americans in the nation’s health care system. Research at a local hospital helped her decide that she wasn’t cut out for a life in the lab. She added a secondary in global health and health policy to her concentration and plans to pursue a master’s in public health once she hangs up her running shoes. Eventually, she sees working in health care administration or public policy with a focus on health care disparities.“My work at Harvard changed my perspective,” said Thomas.Evelynn Hammonds, chair of the Department of the History of Science, Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science, and professor of African and African American Studies, worked with Thomas on a global health and health policy independent study project. “I have always been impressed with Gabby’s passion for studying issues of race and health,” said Hammonds. “She always asked very thoughtful questions and clearly wants to look at issues such as health disparities with the aim toward finding solutions to these vexing problems.”But classes and track weren’t the only things keeping Thomas busy. She also carved out time to serve as diversity director for Harvard Undergraduate Women in Business, join the Sab Club, and mentor Cambridge middle schoolers.One of her immediate post-college goals is to train for the USA track and field outdoor championships in July. Top finishers qualify for the World Championships two months later. She is also aiming for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. After that, it’s “really hard to say.”“I never thought I would be going professional until less than a year ago. It just happened so quickly and it was a great opportunity, but I haven’t really thought about that at all. I think I am just going to take it day by day, year by year.”“Looking back,” Thomas added, reflecting on her Harvard time. “I am very happy that I didn’t give up on being here.” The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news.
Related Priscilla Guo sees importance of technology in challenging imbalanced scales As a prosecutor, a federal and state policy maker, and now a Harvard scholar, Thomas Abt has firsthand experience with the complex challenges of fighting urban crime, and in particular the violence plaguing many low-income neighborhoods.In his new book, “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence — and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets,” Abt outlines a concrete, multipronged strategy of prevention and policing to bring peace to America’s cities.The Gazette recently spoke to the Harvard Kennedy School research fellow and former Obama official about the destructive effects of inner-city violence and the failed policies he believes undermine the fight against it.Q&AThomas AbtGAZETTE: Your book argues that we fail to fully account for the true toll posed by urban violence. What costs get overlooked?ABT: Every violent death causes immeasurable suffering for the victim and their family and those closest to them. We always have to begin with that. But one of the other things that the book describes is the invisible costs that we’re all paying with regard to urban violence. Every homicide costs society anywhere between $10 million and $20 million per murder. Some of those costs reach the average American in the form of increased taxes, higher insurance premiums, and lower property values, just to name a few. [Others, detailed in his book, include lost labor and property damage, medical and justice system costs, diminished quality of life and costs associated with the avoidance by consumers of crime areas, and lost sales tax and property tax revenue.] One of the things that I hope the book gets across is that while this problem appears to involve only one segment of the nation’s population, we’re all impacted by the issue.GAZETTE: You contend that both the right and the left have it wrong when it comes to making urban streets safer. How so?ABT: The issue suffers from politicization on both sides, but I want to be careful not to suggest a false equivalence. I think progressives are closer to the right answers than conservatives, especially when the lead conservative, President Trump, uses the issue in a disingenuous way to divide Americans. In terms of progressives, they have been unwilling for a variety of reasons to advance policies that address urban violence directly. When progressives talk about urban violence, they reference poverty reduction, criminal justice reform, or gun control. All those things are extremely important, but the evidence shows that directly focusing on the proximate causes of urban violence, as opposed to the root causes, is the best way to get real results on violence reduction.GAZETTE: What led you to the conclusion that stopping the violence is the urgent priority when it comes to urban crime?ABT: I’ve been connected to urban violence as a teacher, prosecutor, policymaker, and now finally as a researcher. I’ve been dealing with this issue from one perspective or another for 20 years. And so it was over the course of those personal and professional experiences, and also learning about the empirical evidence, that I eventually became convinced. Over the past five years or so, a nascent consensus has emerged around the most rigorous research concerning violence reduction, and it really does point to a very clear conclusion, which is to reduce urban violence, one must focus on the violence directly. And when focusing on urban violence, concentrate on the people, places, and behaviors that drive the vast majority of the problem.GAZETTE: What about anti-gang measures and gun restrictions? Are they not part of the solution?ABT: We’ve been approaching gangs the wrong way for decades. Gangs are a symptom of urban violence, not the cause. Specific gangs and specific gang members are certainly drivers of violent crime, but we need to focus on the specifics and not the generalities. We need a war on violence, not on gangs.On guns, we often fail to recognize that there is more than one type of gun violence challenging the country right now. In my view, there are four discrete but connected types of gun violence: urban gun violence, which causes the vast majority of homicides in the United States; domestic gun violence; mass shootings; and gun suicides. The public debate over gun violence is shaped largely by discussions about mass shootings despite the fact that they account for less than 1 percent of all gun deaths. It’s important that we support solutions to all four types of gun violence, but especially with regard to urban violence. For this type of violence, the solutions don’t require new legislation — they require new policies and practices, supported by a new way of thinking.GAZETTE: You say even popular strategies, such as community policing and gun-buyback programs, have done little to bring down violence levels.ABT: Popular anti-crime strategies often fail to reduce urban violence because they are an overly broad solution to what is, in reality, a very specific problem. Community policing hasn’t successfully impacted urban violence because community policing means thousands of different things to a thousand different police organizations. Gun buybacks don’t work because they generally don’t get the kinds of guns that will be used in a crime; they typically recover old, inoperable, and inaccessible guns. “There are no easy answers when it comes to building trust between law enforcement and poor communities of color. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit on our hands.” Negative ‘Impact’ on learning GAZETTE: Your research for the book involved talking with divergent groups and individuals, including even former criminals. What did you learn from talking to past lawbreakers?ABT: Effective violence reduction is both an art and a science. To reduce violence over the long term you need to use your head but also your heart. In the book I tried to create a conversation between the academy and the community, and I learned something that surprised me: The two are largely in agreement about what urban violence looks like and how to address it.To make a real change in the United States, we are going to need a diverse coalition — policymakers, researchers, practitioners, community members, and others. This coalition doesn’t need to be large, but it needs to be loud. If a few people in every city stand up and demand solutions like the ones identified in this book, they can change how their city approaches these issues. Ultimately the book has a simple goal: to save lives in urban America.This interview was edited and condensed for length and clarity. GAZETTE: What is an example of an antiviolence initiative that has worked?ABT: There are many examples, but let’s look at Oakland [in California]. The city has suffered high rates of violent crime for decades, but recently, using an intervention called Oakland Ceasefire, the city has managed to cut homicides in half in a relatively short period of time. They did it by bringing together police officers, community members, and service providers in a united effort to engage those individuals who are at the highest risk of perpetrating gun violence or of being victimized by it. The group confronts these individuals with a very simple, balanced message: Stop the shooting. If you stop shooting, we will help you; if you don’t stop shooting, we will stop you. Oakland Ceasefire is successful because it embodies the three principles laid out in the book: focus, balance, and fairness. Those three principles can be found in most successful anti-violence efforts today.GAZETTE: There has been data showing a long-term decline in violent crime. How do you convince people that we need a new approach?ABT: If you look at urban violence compared to where we were 25 years, ago we’ve made tremendous progress. Violence has been reduced by about half. But if you look at violence compared to where we were 50 years ago, we’re almost exactly in the same place. And the United States is still an extreme outlier among high-income nations, with a gun violence rate that is several times higher than any other wealthy nation. I believe we can and should do better.GAZETTE: Part of the solution you advocate involves building trust between police and low-income communities. But that seems a long-term project. What can be done in the short term?ABT: There are no easy answers when it comes to building trust between law enforcement and poor communities of color. But that doesn’t mean we have to sit on our hands. We have evidence that principles of procedural justice — trust, respect, fairness, openness — can slowly change attitudes and even behaviors over time. In addition, we have to do the hard work of addressing the abuses and overreach in the system itself. There are still too many instances of racial profiling and excessive force. We still over-rely on arrests and incarceration. Building trust requires making progress on all of these fronts. With regard to urban violence, however, the important takeaway is that you can build trust and reduce violence at the same time. Cops and communities all around the country are working together to address high rates of violence despite all the reasons to reject one another.GAZETTE: You talk a lot about the connection between peace and justice. What is that relationship?ABT: Protesters commonly chant, “No justice, no peace” and there’s an increasing amount of empirical support evidence to back up that idea. What we’re learning is that when trust in law enforcement declines, community violence goes up. It rises because when people don’t trust the system, they don’t use it. In particular they don’t use it to solve conflict. Instead, they take the law into their hands, and often violently so, creating the cycles of violent retribution we see in so many cities.GAZETTE: Poverty has long been seen as a major contributor to urban crime, yet you suggest the reverse is also true.ABT: I believe in reducing poverty, but the notion that to address urban violence you must first address poverty is simply not backed up by the evidence. In fact, the evidence may be stronger in reverse. Increasingly we’re learning that exposure to violence is one of the primary mechanisms for keeping poor people trapped in the cycle of poverty. Violent trauma impacts everything: learning, health, employment, all of it. New research from sociology’s Joscha Legewie show lower test scores follow aggressive policing Finding a link to the human in algorithms setting justice