Jason McLure

Stories by Jason McLure

  • South Africa's Strikes Leave Country Reeling

    The three week strike by government workers in South Africa that was suspended last week ended badly for both the government and the public-sector unions. Teachers, nurses, and civil servants tentatively won wage increases of 7.5 percent—more than double the rate of inflation—but after going without pay during much of the strike, it will take far more than two years just to match what they would have earned had they accepted the government’s initial offer. But if there’s a silver lining for a country now being shaken by factory and mine workers trying to match raises won by their government counterparts, it’s that the enmity generated by the strike could yet lead to the fracture of the African National Congress’s ruling alliance and spur the formation of a stronger and more dynamic opposition. Bolstered by its stand against apartheid, the ANC has dominated the country’s parliament since the first all-race elections in 1994. But the party has become increasingly incoherent...
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    Something’s Not Working in South Africa

    It may have been a relief to many when the World Cup’s vuvuzelas finally stopped blaring, but now the Rainbow Nation’s winter of good feeling is emphatically over. A recent government workers’ strike grew so massive that the Army was called out to keep hospitals open.
  • The African Union Sighs at Somalia

    Somalia’s future looks more precarious every day. Last week’s African Union summit ended with promises that Guinea and Djibouti would send battalions of reinforcements to keep the AU’s embattled peacekeeping force in Mogadishu from being overrun by the Islamist militants of Al-Shabab. But the mission may be doomed nonetheless; most AU members see scant chance of success in Somalia and now fear their presence may be making things worse.
  • Africa’s Failing Democracies

    When human rights Watch criticized the results of Ethiopia’s May elections, in which the ruling coalition “won” an improbable 545 out of 547 seats, leaders in Addis Ababa didn’t ignore the influential NGO. Instead, they paid tens of thousands of demonstrators to gather in the capital and denounce the report.
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    Why Democracy Doesn't Work in Africa

    To a casual observer, the tens of thousands of people who poured into the central square of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on May 25 to peacefully celebrate the country’s elections might have been mistaken for a massive symbol of democratic progress in a poor and troubled part of the world. In fact it was quite the opposite.
  • When Refugees Won't Return Home

    Among the tens of millions of refugees around the globe, a growing minority won't go home. Most would love to return to their native lands, but a significant number have come to embrace the stability of living in U.N.-funded camps. At the U.N.'s Fugnido camp, in western Ethiopia, workers say that only a quarter of its Sudanese refugees returned home in the wake of a peace accord between Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army nearly five years ago. "They're not going home because south Sudan is poor…cFugnido is like heaven for them," says Abiy Girma, a U.N. field officer at the camp.This is a new phenomenon. Through the 1970s, most refugees were taken in by neighboring countries or by wealthy nations, as in the case of the "boat people" from Southeast Asia. But as refugee numbers grew, barriers went up. African nations shut their doors as wars for independence turned into endless internal conflicts. As U.N. refugee camps started to build schools, health clinics, and sports...
  • Meles Zenawi: An Impatient Ally

    We understand why the U.N. could not send a peacekeeping mission. But why not provide some funding to the African Union?
  • Africa’s Worst Crisis

    Congratulations, Kofi Annan, you just cut a peace deal for Kenya. But with a half-dozen African crises still burning from Congo to Sudan, what's next? Right now, all eyes are on Somalia.The headless country is descending once again into chaos. Since U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops invaded Somalia in December 2006, overthrowing a Mogadishu-based Islamist coalition, fighting has raged. Last week came world headlines of a U.S. cruise-missile strike against suspected Qaeda insurgents in southern Somalia. Pirates off the coast discourage aid from reaching the 1 million people who have been displaced. While that's less than half the number of refugees in Darfur, Somalia is much less safe for international organizations—only 2,000 aid workers operate there, while Darfur has six times that figure, and six workers have already been killed in Somalia this year. "I truly believe this is the worst humanitarian crisis on the continent, possibly in the world," says Philippe Lazzarini, the United...
  • Caught in Ethiopia’s War

    Somalis living in Ethiopia are caught in the crossfire between the government and rebels.
  • Ethiopia, Eritrea Face Off. Again.

    These two nations should be as close as the U.S. and Canada. So why are Ethiopia and Eritrea on the verge of war—again?
  • Ethiopia-Eritrea: Border On-Scener

    As Ethiopia and Eritrea edge toward another conflict, refugees in a border camp are watching with trepidation. An on-scene report from Shimelba.
  • Why the Pentagon Builds Toilets in Africa

    The U.S. military is hoping that soft projects like drilling wells and building schools will help it win friends in a volatile part of Africa. It's a risky strategy.

    As America's 12,000 gay newlyweds get back from their honeymoons, they'll have to face the same reality their straight counterparts do: taxes. But can same-sex couples file jointly? No, according to the IRS. Certainly not if they married after Dec. 31, 2003, and not as long as the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.Still, if gay couples file together, they're not likely to be targeted by auditors. Tax experts say that the IRS doesn't normally confirm whether joint filers have a marriage certificate--much less cross-check gender. (An IRS spokeswoman says any disallowed characterization "is likely to be picked up.") Tom Ochsenschlager, a tax specialist with the American Institute of CPAs, says that even couples named, say, Bob and Jeff won't be flagged. Nearly all returns aren't read by people--they're scanned into a computer that kicks out suspicious forms for a human to review. Bob and Jeff will call attention to themselves...

    As any job coach will tell you, the best time to get a job is when you already have one. For many seeking greener pastures, that means the best time to look for new work is during office hours. How can you pull off a full-fledged job hunt from your desk?Since bosses not only have the tools but often the right to search your hard drive and e-mail, consider storing your resume at Xdrive.com, which offers handy online storage space. And rather than tie up company phone lines with a bunch of cold calls to prospective employers, try linkedin.com, a business-networking site modeled after friendster.com that lets you build contacts through acquaintances. Finally, to erase traces that you've been surfing the help-wanted ads, check outonymizer.com. The company offers software that will hide your domain while you're online and erase digital evidence like cookies and tracking bugs. Just don't forget who's signing your current paycheck.

    Few travelers who have ridden a Greyhound bus would consider the experience luxurious. But a hotly competitive group of so-called Chinatown bus companies are moving in on the company's biggest East Coast routes by offering rock-bottom prices and no-frills service. For a trip from Boston's Chinatown to a street corner in front of the Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Manhattan, Fung Wah and rival Travel Pack/Lucky Star charge just $10--and throw in a screening of a Jackie Chan movie. Greyhound charges $30 for the same trip. Fung Wah now claims to be the largest carrier on the busy Boston-New York route, and other Chinatown companies offer regular service to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Norfolk, Va., for a fraction of Greyhound's price.But which frills can be cut from a humble Greyhound? Bus stations, advertising, English-speaking staff and (occasionally) heated buses. Fares have also been kept low by fierce competition among the Chinatown lines. At times, perhaps, too fierce: New...
  • 'We're Ready'

    In his 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush surprised and delighted AIDS activists by pledging $15 billion over five years for an emergency AIDS relief plan in more than a dozen hard-hit countries in Africa and the Caribbean. But in this year's speech, as the President ticked off a list of his accomplishments--the fall of Baghdad, the capture of Saddam, and the expansion of drug coverage for seniors--there was no mention of AIDS. That came as little surprise to his critics. Since the announcement of Bush's high-minded sounding emergency plan 12 months ago, another three million people worldwide have died of AIDS--but not a penny of the money he pledged to fight the disease has been released from the U.S. Treasury.What was meant to be a bold display of American generosity to the world is at risk of turning into a public relations disaster for Bush. In his 2003 speech, the president pledged the monies would assure the treatment of "at least 2 million people with life-saving...
  • Vatican: Condom Crusade

    Using slogans such as "Abstinence has a high failure rate," Catholics for a Free Choice, a dissident lay group, began a pro-condom ad campaign last week in defiance of Vatican policy. The $300,000 advertising effort, which kicked off with spots on the Washington, D.C., Metro on World AIDS Day, will expand next year to include U.S. newspapers and magazines, and outlets in South Africa, the Philippines and elsewhere in the developing world. Though relatively small in scope, the initiative comes when there's an increasingly public divide over the church's policy, given the growing global AIDS epidemic.In a recent issue of U.S. Catholic magazine, Kevin Dowling, a South African bishop, challenged the Vatican, calling the question of condoms "not simply a matter of chastity but of justice." Despite Dowling's opposition, much of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in AIDS-blighted countries firmly resists condom distribution. Earlier this fall, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the...
  • Gay Marriage: Touting The His-His Suite

    Provincetown, Mass., may very well become the gay Niagara. With Massachusetts' ruling to legalize same-sex marriages set to take effect in less than six months, merchants in Provincetown--long a gay mecca--are readying for a tidal wave of gay and lesbian honeymooners to strike Cape Cod's tip. "People used to go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon," says tourism director Pat Fitzpatrick. "We'll have a lot of gay and lesbian couples whose first thought is Provincetown." Travel agents specializing in gay vacations are expecting Massachusetts to supplant Vermont as the wedding destination of choice. The town's ready: the seaside Post Office Cafe & Cabaret is already running ads urging couples to "Have Your Reception Here," and manager Dixie Federico is seeking to become an ordained minister. Down the street at clothing store Diane Z, owner Diane Fernandez is preparing to offer his-his and hers-hers tuxedo and gown combinations.Other gay-friendly Massachusetts communities like...
  • Testing: Cheater Teacher

    Pressure to make the grade has led more than a few students to jot answers on the soles of their sneakers. But new research published in the journal Education Next reveals that teachers are sometimes cheaters, too. Researchers Brian Jacob and Steven Levitt examined records from 1,000 Chicago classrooms over eight years and found that school staff help students cheat on standardized tests in 4 to 5 percent of classrooms. To find cheating, they identified classrooms where nearly all students answered questions identically, as well as classes that showed sharp increases in scores one year, followed by declines the next. Jacob and Levitt found that teachers went so far as to change students' answers, give them answers ahead of time and quiz them in advance with actual test questions.Why cheat? Two motivations: sympathy for students who might be held back and fear of losing funding if they fail to show higher scores. (The study found that cheating jumped more than 30 percent after...
  • Controversy: Read, Write And Scout

    Former Eagle Scout Clint Lawton stopped pursuing a business major when he learned that Brigham Young University offered a new major: Scouting. "I thought, 'Oh, you can get paid to do Boy Scouts?' "Gay-rights groups don't share his enthusiasm. They say the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which runs the university, is already the moving force behind the Boy Scouts of America's policy not to permit "avowed homosexuals." Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a former Utah Boy Scout, says the new major was more evidence of the church's "insidious" efforts to take over the Boy Scouts.The Boy Scouts are the official boys' youth group of the LDS, and more than one in nine Scouts are Mormons. Critics say the church exerts disproportionate influence through membership on the national advisory council and vigorous fund-raising. (In New York, LDS leaders recently launched a fund-raising campaign with pamphlets carrying an endorsement from...
  • Keeping Up With Wi-Fi

    During baseball season, the air at minor-league Raley Field in Sacramento, Calif., is filled with more than fly balls, cheers and the faint aroma of hot dogs and sauerkraut. Streams of data also pervade the stadium, the result of the magic of wireless Internet access, or Wi-Fi. Funded partly by chip giant Intel to show off its technology, the stadium network lets engineers monitor lights and heating from their handheld computers and allows luxury-box owners to check e-mail and surf the Net between innings. By the end of next season, team officials say, new Wi-Fi antennas will be installed all over the park; fans will order hot dogs and check out-of-town scores from the cheap seats; ticket takers will scan tickets with handheld PCs and greet fans by their first names. And the players--well, maybe they won't notice that everyone is suddenly staring at computer screens.Over the past four years, Wi-Fi, a.k.a. 802.11, has evolved from for-geeks-only status to a feature that's included in...