Good times ahead for Costa Ricas economy says Chinchilla

first_imgRelated posts:Nicaragua Canal opponents call on Costa Rica to join fight to save lake President Solís laments media criticism; analysts say it’s nothing new Costa Rica’s changing definition of family hits cookie commercial Mexico GDP growth beats forecasts as services sector lends boost Days after Sunday’s election, President Laura Chinchilla hoped to regain the public’s attention with the announcement of positive economic news. But election news and questions about whether the unpopular president hurt the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) at the polls lingered.“The message from the Central Bank is that our economy is solid, stable, and Costa Rica has good times ahead,” said the president, citing growth of gross domestic product, low inflation and improving unemployment numbers.The Central Bank’s economic outlook, released late last week, estimated that Costa Rica’s GDP could grow 3.8 percent in 2014, and 4.1 percent in 2015. The estimate is similar to estimates from the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean released in December 2013 that forecasted 4 percent growth for the Central American country.Vice President Luis Liberman said that preliminary figures from the National Statistics and Census Institute suggested that unemployment had fallen to 8.5 percent from 8.9 percent at the end of the third quarter of 2013. If the figure holds, it would mean the fewest Costa Ricans out of work in the last three years.Despite the presidency’s optimism on improving economic conditions, poverty has remained stubbornly high at nearly 20 percent.“The government’s policies have worked because the poverty level stayed even and did not rise,” said Liberman, defending the administration’s response, including keeping inflation at historic lows.The vice president said that the global recession cost Costa Rica some 73,000 jobs. Since 2010, Liberman claimed that the economy generated 168,000 jobs.“There are people who enter and leave poverty, and much of it has to do with employment,” he said, adding that if Costa Rica could maintain the current trend in growth and unemployment for “2, 3, 4 years,” poverty levels would eventually drop.Questions about the timing of the news sparked questions about whether the ruling PLN was attempting to campaign for its candidate, Johnny Araya.Araya finished a disappointing second in Sunday’s election after Luis Guillermo Solís of the Citizen Action Party surpassed him in polls and pushed the election to a runoff.“I think that question is absurd, I feel like I shouldn’t even answer it,” Chinchilla said, denying the timing of the bank’s report was politically motivated.When asked to comment on how perceived fatigue shown by her government might have hurt Araya and the PLN’s chances in the elections, the president responded, “When someone does nothing, there’s no fatigue.”Chinchilla added: “These are circumstances to feel optimistic about as we open the year. We trust that the elements that we’ve achieved will pass on to the government that will take over on May 8.”https://infogr.am/ticos-out-of-work8?src=web Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Brazilian police crack down on preWorld Cup protest

first_imgRelated posts:Brazilian street artist creates World Cup’s first viral image Transport chaos, World Cup security fears hit Brazil Most Brazilians don’t want to host the World Cup World Cup fervor begins winning out over opposition in Brazil as tournament begins SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Police in São Paulo fired tear gas Monday to disperse protesters supporting a subway strike that has unleashed transport chaos three days before the Brazilian mega-city hosts the World Cup kickoff.A group of about 150 strikers and protesters set fire to piles of garbage to block a central avenue in the Brazilian business hub, prompting some two dozen riot police to fire stun grenades and then tear gas to disperse them.But demonstrators regrouped with chants of, “There won’t be a Cup, there will be a strike!”The protest grew to about 1,000 people, who marched to the state transport secretariat waving red banners, banging drums and blowing whistles and vuvuzelas.Protest leaders delivered speeches blasted from a sound truck outside the transport offices as 50 riot police with shields guarded the entrances.The demonstrators are backing a five-day-old strike by subway workers, the latest in a wave of protests and strikes that has swept Brazil ahead of the World Cup and elections in October.The walkout has posed a major headache for commuters in São Paulo, a sprawling city of 20 million people, and threatens to disrupt transportation plans for Thursday’s opening match, when the world’s eyes will be on Brazil.Around a billion people worldwide are expected to watch the game on TV, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and 12 heads of state and government will be in the stadium to see Brazil play Croatia.World Cup teams, meanwhile, continue arriving in Brazil, with reigning champions Spain touching down Sunday night.France, Cameroon, Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras and the United States are all arriving Monday — the latter three in São Paulo.Union defiantPolice said they had detained 13 strikers for damaging a door and interfering with colleagues’ work at a central subway station where officers used tear gas and truncheons to disperse picketers last Thursday.The metropolitan transport authority said it had fired around 60 strikers for “just cause.”The reasons for the dismissals included vandalism, blocking commuters and inciting people to jump turnstiles, Transport Secretary Jurandir Fernandes told newspaper Jornal da Manhã.Union president Altino Melo dos Prazeres condemned the sackings as “unacceptable.”The union has reduced an initial demand for a 16.5-percent wage hike to 12.2 percent, but the government is offering only 8.7 percent.A labor court ruled Sunday that the strike was illegal and imposed a $222,000 fine for every day it continues, but the union voted to press on with the walkout.Some 4.5 million people use the subway daily and it is the main transport link to Corinthians Arena, which will host the World Cup opening ceremony and match.The subway has been partially operating, but trains were not arriving at the stadium.Prazeres said he was confident the strikers had the upper hand.“I don’t believe the government wants to thwart this Cup,” he told AFP.Rising inflation and a sluggish economy have tarnished the World Cup glow in Brazil, fueling the anger of strikers and protesters who say the $11-billion budget would have been better spent on education, health and transport. Striking subway workers and members of the Homeless Workers’ Movement protest on June 9, 2014 in São Paulo, Brazil. Nelson Almeida/AFPUnfinished stadium Authorities are keen to resolve the latest labor dispute and avoid further embarrassment in a World Cup hit by delays and cost overruns even before it has started.Corinthians Arena has become a symbol of the problems besetting the tournament.At the weekend, workers were still racing to finish the 61,600-capacity stadium, which has been chronically behind schedule and over-budget.Work on the 12 host stadiums has also been overshadowed by accidents that have killed eight workers. Three of the deaths were at Corinthians.President Dilma Rousseff, who is seeking re-election in October, insists the money spent on the tournament will leave a legacy of modernized airports and transport infrastructure that will benefit Brazil for years.But many of the promised projects have been shelved, adding to protesters’ anger.A year ago during the Confederations Cup, a World Cup dress rehearsal, more than a million people flooded the streets, some trashing property and clashing with police.Recent protests have been smaller, but activists are vowing to revive last year’s “Tropical Spring” during the World Cup.Find more World Cup coverage at our hashtag #Brazil 2014. Recommended: Most Brazilians don’t want to host the World Cup Facebook Commentslast_img read more

You can fight the NSA by resetting the Net

first_imgRelated posts:Snowdenfreude The NSA has surveillance system to record ‘100 percent’ of a foreign country’s phone calls What happened to the 15 people the Internet hated most in 2015? Yahoo shuts users out of their email NEW YORK – It’s been a year since the first documents leaked by Edward Snowden began showing up in the Guardian and the Washington Post. The surveillance apparatus they described was so enormous that it took months for the country and the world to understand and process the implications of what was going on. In the meantime, the NSA and other government surveillance programs around the world have collected another year’s worth of data. But opponents of these agencies are fighting back.This week tech companies, democracy advocates, and open-Internet activists joined forces for a Reset the Net campaign that emphasizes both personal privacy and open access to information on the Web. As part of the initiative, companies including Google, Mozilla, Yahoo, Twitter and Reddit are fundraising, educating and launching new security features and services. For example, this week Google announced a Chrome extension that will make it easier for average users to implement end-to-end encryption in their digital communications.In the past year, activists have encouraged NSA reform like the USA Freedom Act (which passed the House in a neutered form last month), and many big tech companies have increasingly worked to offer privacy tools and be more transparent when the government mandates that they deliver user data during criminal investigations. Out of these and other efforts, activists have rallied behind two main ideas: that even someone who has “nothing to hide” has things to hide, and that bulk surveillance becomes extremely expensive, perhaps even prohibitively so, if a majority of citizens are encrypting their personal communications. Governments can always focus time and resources on targeted digital attacks to look at data and information about suspicious individuals, but widespread bulk collection becomes less cost-effective if there isn’t as much unencrypted data floating around.In a statement released by his attorney for Reset the Net, Snowden said, “Today, we can begin the work of effectively shutting down the collection of our online communications, even if the US Congress fails to do the same. … We have the technology, and adopting encryption is the first effective step that everyone can take to end mass surveillance.”Reset the Net is spreading personal privacy measures through its Privacy Pack, which gives a breakdown of the services users can easily install on their devices to protect their communications. You can look for the type of operating system you’re running on a given device and then go through vetted options for tools you can start using right away.At the Personal Democracy Forum in New York City this week, Tiffiniy Cheng and Holmes Wilson of the Internet advocacy nonprofit Fight for the Future talked about strategies for fighting back. They ranged from targeted grassroots efforts, to broad political goals. And the No. 1 thing they and others advocated is getting people to download email clients, messaging apps, and file-sharing services that offer strong encryption. “Can we make mass surveillance too hard and expensive to be worth it?” Cheng asked. “The answer is hell yes.”Snowden himself spoke later in the conference via Google Hangouts with John Perry Barlow, a co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Snowden encouraged everyone to take advantage of encryption, something he has championed as a solid privacy protection all year, and argued that governments shouldn’t use technology in ways that violate citizen privacy, even though they have the technical ability to do so.Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University.© 2014, Slate Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Who will win the World Cup A psychic sloth will predict

first_imgUPDATE: Watch Sheena the sloth make her prediction hereWith the death of Paul — the “psychic” octopus who correctly predicted all six of Germany’s 2010 World Cup games and the tournament final between the Netherlands and Spain — sports fans all over the world have been scrambling to find another clairvoyant creature to take his place.An elephant, a python and baby pandas have all stepped forward to fill Paul’s shoes. But after Sassy the Cockatoo incorrectly picked Costa Rica as the winner in their quarterfinal match against the Netherlands, it is clear a new animal is needed. With La Sele’s historic run in the World Cup, we at The Tico Times believe the animal mystic should come from Costa Rica.We teamed up with the Springs Resort & Spa in Arenal to help us find the perfect oracle, and after a thorough search of the resort’s rescue animals, it became clear that the only animal with the slow, deliberate thinking required for this important task is the sloth.Tomorrow afternoon, our sloth will make its careful decision. Enticed with delicious sloth food, our new fortune teller will choose the flag of the team that will win the World Cup final. Check out our website Thursday night for the prediction. Facebook Comments Related posts:Sheena the sloth predicts the 2014 World Cup winner Sloth Kong Reigns: Costa Rica conquers Group of Champions The Sloth Kong dance 11 little-known sloth factslast_img read more

Obama Central Americas Northern Triangle leaders meet on child migrants

first_imgPresident Barack Obama met Friday with three Central American leaders to try to get control ofa humanitarian crisis triggered by a tide of child migrants crossing the southern US border.Obama’s won pledges of support from the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and repeated his appeals to Central American parents not to send their kids north.Guatemala’s Otto Pérez Molina, Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras and Salvador Sánchez Cerén of El Salvador attended the discussions with Obama.“We reiterated our commitment to prevent families and children from undertaking this dangerous journey and to work together to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration,” the four said in a joint statement.They also pledged to pursue the smugglers that prey upon migrants desperate to reach the United States and to “counter misinformation about U.S. immigration policy” that encourages the exodus.The U.S. president, in remarks to reporters following the hour-and-a-half long meeting stressed that Americans feel “great compassion” for the child migrants, who have often endured tremendous suffering before and during their journey.“But I also emphasized to my friends that we have to deter a continuing influx of children putting themselves at risk,” he said.Obama has sought to pour cold water on the hopes of millions of families in Central America planning to join the tens of thousands of young migrants and their relatives arriving in the United States.And he warned that many of those who manage to cross the border fail to qualify for longterm residency status.“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” Obama said. “But I think it’s important to recognize that that would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants.”His Central American counterparts gave no comment to the U.S. media immediately after the White House meeting.But they have already pinned some blame for the flood of young migrants at Washington’s door.Honduran President Hernández said recently that the child migrant phenomenon is closely connected to drug-related, as well as somewhat fuzzy U.S. immigration policy.“It is a matter that arises, we believe, from the lack of clarity, or ambiguity, that has become the hallmark of the policies and the debates on immigration reform in the United States,” he said during a visit to the U.S. Congress on Thursday.For the White House, the crisis is the visible symptom of a broken immigration system in desperate need of reform.The U.S. Senate last year passed an immigration reform bill that included a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country, but the measure has run aground in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.Bitter DebateNow Obama — who made immigration one of the central campaign themes in 2008 and 2012 — finds himself facing midterm legislative elections as the debate over immigration takes a heated turn.“The conversation has become more toxic and what Obama is dealing with now is layers of politicization of the issue,” said Audrey Singer of the Brookings Institution.Republican Texas governor Rick Perry announced he is sending 1,000 National Guard troops to secure his state’s long border with Mexico.In southern California, meanwhile, several “anti-immigrant” movements have sprung up. “We want a fence not a reform” and “Return to sender” read signs carried by protesters.At least 57,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained on the border with Mexico since October.The government expects this to reach 90,000 by the end of September, although the total may prove lower because the White House says detentions dropped by half since last month.Obama has asked Congress to approve $3.7 billion in emergency funds to deal with the influx, but lawmakers seem likely to provide a far lower sum — perhaps as little as a third of that sought.Republicans also want to amend a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that gives greater legal protections to minors from countries that do not border the United States than to those from Mexico and Canada.Time for a legislative remedy is running out, however: Congress goes into its summer recess next week, and lawmakers do not return to Washington until September 8. Facebook Comments Related posts:Obama to host Central America leaders for immigration talks next Friday Central American leaders offer plan to slow child migrant surge Central America’s ‘Northern Triangle’ leaders to ask Obama for US aid to stem immigration  Mexico has key role in confronting surge of Central American migrantslast_img read more

Sonámbulo cancellation adds to FIA woes

first_imgAs the troubled2015 edition of the International Arts Festival limps to a close, the show of popular national band Sonámbulo Psicotropical promised to be a bright spot in a fortnight filled with disorganization and controversy. However, it turned out to be just another casualty on a long list of cancellations.“WE ARE SORRY to report the cancellation of our concert… thanks to the Culture Ministry and its terrible management,” read a statement on the band’s Facebook page, posted four hours before the scheduled show and peppered with angry words in all capital letters. “We hereby publicly express our TOTAL INDIGNATION with the people who are currently governing our country. We could name several problems that have taken place during the past year, but today we’re focusing on cultural issues.”According to the statement, the concert was cancelled because a neighbor of the concert site, the National Culture Center (CENAC) in downtown San José, complained about the noise generated by the previous nights’ shows. As part of the FIA’s organizational problems this year, several shows have been rescheduled and relocated to the CENAC in recent days, causing an unexpected din in the neighborhood.Tico Times Editor-in-Chief David Boddiger, who lives in the immediate vicinity of the CENAC, said he was not the neighbor who called in the complaint but agrees with the caller.“Apparently the ‘C’ in ‘CENAC’ stands for ‘cacophony,’” he said, adding that parking during the rescheduled shows has been inefficiently and unfairly enforced. “It’s been two weeks of hell – nonstop noise. Why should we have to suffer for the ministry’s incompetence?”Sonámbulo’s statement went on to call for the immediate firing of Culture Minister Elizabeth Fonseca, vice ministers Luis Carlos Amador and Alfredo Chavarría, and festival organizer Inti Picado, all of whom have received ample criticism in recent weeks as the festival disintegrated before the eyes of a horrified public.The changes capped off a week of continued fallout from initial festival disorganization that resulted in the cancellation of all major concerts, although the smaller-scale components of the festival such as artisan demonstrations and folk-music shows continued as planned. Controversy in recent days included criticism of the reported $188,000 the government paid Chilean rock group La Ley, whose show was among those cancelled but is now rescheduled for June 20, with the government assuming the costs of La Ley’s trip back to Costa Rica in June as well.The festival still offers a variety of activities on this, its final day, including performances by Zarzuela company of “El Huésped del Sevillano” at the Parque La Libertad Auditorium in Desamparados at 3 p.m., and the Grupo Folclórico Curubandá at the Aserrí Central Park at 4 p.m. A full day of action (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.) is also scheduled for the CENAC, including an hour of poetry from writers such as Carlos Villalobos and Julieta Dobles at 2 p.m.For a full schedule of events, along with plenty of colorful commentary from disgruntled festival fans, visit the FIA Facebook page.See also: How Costa Rica’s 2015 International Arts Festival flopped Facebook Comments Related posts:Ousted culture minister blames subordinates for arts festival woes Crash course: Your guide to the International Arts Festival’s first weekend PHOTOS: Despite hiccups, International Arts Festival draws crowds Lawmakers to probe Culture Minister about International Arts Festival fiascolast_img read more

Workers unions deliver petition to reverse raise in Social Security rate

first_imgPetitionUnion leaders ended the protest after meeting with Caja’s Pension Manager Jaime Barrantes and delivering him a written petition.The document demands that the Caja board reverse its decision to raise the monthly deduction. It also includes a series of recommendations to improve income without hurting worker’s salaries.Among others, unions are suggesting the creation of a temporary tax on all financial/banking transactions of up to 0.03 percent. Debit or credit card payments, ATM withdrawals and transactions over mobile phones would be exempt.It also recommends eliminating, for 3 years, tax exemptions for various services and sectors. Unions leaders say this measure is both politically and technically feasible as “even experts from the Inter-American Development Bank have said that 50 percent of all exemptions in Costa Rica benefit only the wealthiest 20 percent of the population.”Caja’s Barrantes told reporters that the institution will take the petition under consideration, along with others they have received from other groups in recent days.“I think these demonstrations are unnecessary because workers are the ones who will benefit the most with this measure. [The increase] will strengthen the funds to pay for their future pensions,” he said.The Caja Board of Directors based their decision to raise the monthly salary deduction on results of a study conducted by experts from the University of Costa Rica’s School of Mathematics. The research recommended the measure to avoid the bankruptcy of the Caja’s Pension System. Facebook Comments A group of just over 100 public employees and workers’ unions members blocked the capital’s Second Avenue on Monday morning to demand that officials from theSocial Security System, or Caja, back out of their decision to increase by 1 percent the monthly salary deduction of all the country’s workers.Demonstrators gathered around 7:00 a.m. in front of the Caja building in downtown San José and blocked the vehicle passage for some four hours. Aside from traffic jams, there were no major incidents, National Police reported.The group consisted mainly of workers and leaders of the National Association of Public and Private Employees, the country’s largest union, and of the Patria Justa Collective Union.Demonstrators chanted slogans and also displayed banners against “the pensions of 367 former bureaucrats exceeding ₡5 million ($8,700) a month” and paid with funds from the national budget.ANEP Secretary General Albino Vargas said that they are ready to escalate their protests to “a major event,” in case Caja officials maintain their stance of increasing the salary deduction. Related posts:Workers’ unions to demonstrate against raise in Social Security rate Caja moves forward with raise in social security rate, but in two phases Caja Executive President steps down at President Solís’ request Government tables draft bills aimed at approving fiscal reformslast_img read more

Nicaragua expels international human rights missions

first_imgRelated posts:As Nicaragua elections approach, banned opposition decries Ortega’s budding dictatorship La Prensa publishes blank front page to protest Nicaraguan government Nicaraguan government and opposition agree on road map for talks More than 60,000 people flee Nicaragua crisis: UN The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega expelled two expert missions from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Wednesday, accusing them of meddling and bias in evaluating the crisis-hit country.A letter to Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro said the suspension of the Special Follow-up Mechanism for Nicaragua (MESENI) and the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) would remain “until conditions of respect for sovereignty and internal affairs are re-established.”Read to mission members by foreign minister Denis Moncada, it accused the two entities of demonstrating “an interfering, interventionist attitude, echoing United States government policies against Nicaragua.”The missions said they would leave the country on Thursday.The order came a day before GIEI —created to collaborate with authorities to assess Nicaragua’s human rights situation— was due to present findings on human rights during the first weeks of anti-government protests, which erupted in April.But the government accused it of acting outside agreed parameters by directly interviewing victims.GIEI coordinator Amerigo Incalcaterra denied the allegations, but said the mission had been advised not to present its report.MESENI representative Ana Maria Tello meanwhile told a press conference it would continue to monitor the situation in Nicaragua from Washington.Ortega’s government also accused the Organization of American States of promoting an “irresponsible” and “slanderous” campaign against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.In a statement, the General Secretariat of the OAS said the expulsion decision “further places Nicaragua into the terrain of authoritarianism.”It comes as the Ortega government revoked local human rights groups’ permits, raiding their headquarters along with those of independent media.In September, the government also expelled a UN human rights mission, branding a report it produced as biased.Rights groups say at least 320 people have been killed in Nicaragua in a brutal government crackdown launched in response to the escalation in April of street protests, initially against a now-ditched pension reform.Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years. Support the Tico Times Facebook Commentslast_img read more

Rights groups hit Sudan for womans death sentence

first_imgKHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) – Nearly 30 Africa-based rights groups have signed a letter condemning Sudan for sentencing a 20-year-old woman to death by stoning over charges of adultery.The statement, signed and released Friday, is urging Sudanese authorities to cancel the sentence passed May 13 and release Intisar Sharif Abdallah.Rights groups are concerned that Sudan is leaning toward the application of a strict interpretation of Shariah, or Islamic law. Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy Comments   Share   New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Abdallah is being held in a prison in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum with her 4-month-old baby.The rights groups say she initially pleaded not guilty to the adultery charges, but later admitted to them after beatings from her brother. Then she was subjected to what they called an “unfair trial.”Rights lawyers have filed an appeal for her.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Sponsored Stories center_img Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates The vital role family plays in society Top Stories 3 international destinations to visit in 2019 Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, familylast_img read more

Offensive to retake north Mali unlikely till 2013

first_img Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day “Weapons deliveries to Mali are not up for debate. It’s about a training mission. It’s not about combat troops,” he said. “It might be about providing logistical, technical and financial help, but that depends on how the situation develops there.”O’Brien said Britain was “in a position where one of the things we could contemplate offering is training of various kinds. At this stage, I’m not going in with a closed mind to rule anything out. We will do our best to play our part. I haven’t ruled anything out.”After talks with Westerwelle in Berlin, ex-Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the U.N.’s special envoy for the Sahel, suggested the priority should be a political solution in Mali _ where the country’s democratically elected leader was ousted in the March coup.In August, Mali’s interim leaders announced a 31-minister government, including five seen as close to coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo, who nominally handed over power but still has not completely relinquished control. European diplomats said elections are not likely to be held there before next April.“It is our and my duty to examine all possible solutions and not to fixate on a military solution,” Prodi said. “We are facing a particular situation that has a political and ethnic origin, and that’s why we should even avoid a military operation. And we can discuss military aspects in a later phase, but there’s a real need to find a political solution.” Comments   Share   ___Associated Press writer Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Clean energy: Why it matters for Arizona Proposals for an offensive by Mali’s forces, supported by troops from neighboring nations and other African Union states _ but not Western countries _ are to be discussed at a meeting of African officials in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Wednesday.However, diplomats expect that the preparations and moves to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution to authorize the action could take months.Ex-British aid minister Stephen O’Brien, U.K. special representative to the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa, which includes Mali, said nations will take until December to work out what help to provide to the troubled West African country.The assistance will likely include training for the nation’s armed forces, help with military logistics and work on a plan to hold elections in 2013.“That will all, around the turn of the year, start developing a very clear twin track approach _ on both the political and the possible military side,” O’Brien said.France, which plans to move surveillance drones to West Africa and is holding secret talks with U.S. officials on Mali, has pressed for quicker action, as have some African nations. Last month, French President Francois Hollande called for an African-led military intervention in Mali “as quickly as possible.” Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Sponsored Stories Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Associated PressLONDON (AP) – A planned African-led military offensive to reclaim northern Mali from al-Qaida-linked rebels is unlikely to begin before next year _ despite growing concern about the terrorist threat militants there pose to the continent and the rest of the world, a Western official said Tuesday.An international plan is being finalized to help Mali’s weak interim government root out the Islamist groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, that have become the de facto rulers of the country’s north following chaos prompted by a military coup in March. O’Brien insisted that plans won’t likely be finalized by the year’s end, but acknowledged there are growing concerns over the security risks posed by extremists sheltering in northern Mali.“Al-Qaida in the Maghreb, which has activities in the area, is growing in both capability and ambition, and if we don’t act there is a very real threat of further attacks in Africa, and eventually Europe, the Middle East and beyond,” he said.In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was also growing increasingly wary. “If the north of Mali falls apart, if terrorist schools appear and a safe haven is created for terrorists worldwide, then it won’t just endanger Mali and the North African states, but it endangers us in Europe, too,” he said.Asked by The Associated Press if Germany would consider sending unmanned observation drones, like France, he said: “It’s too soon to talk about further details.”Westerwelle said European foreign ministers will discuss options for supporting Mali at a meeting on Nov. 19, but insisted that nations in Europe would not contribute troops or weapons _ seeking instead to offer training and logistical assistance. 4 ways to protect your company from cyber breaches The vital role family plays in society Top Stories last_img read more