- The Washington Times - Monday, September 5, 2005

UNITED KINGDOM

Blair’s office mum on who paid for trip

LONDON — Ten Downing Street has refused to reveal who paid for Tony Blair’s family trip to the Caribbean, amid a growing row over the cost of the British prime minister’s luxury vacation.

Three yachts were chartered to take the Blair family and its entourage on a five-day cruise. The Mail on Sunday reported that two of the yachts were hired to carry Mr. Blair’s security team at an estimated cost of $3,000 per day.

The weekly paper reported that the Blairs spent three weeks last month living the billionaire lifestyle in a luxurious villa in Barbados. Mr. Blair faces questions about whether he, a third party or the taxpayers picked up the bill. His annual salary is equivalent to $338,000.

ARUBA

Missing teen’s mom returns to Alabama

ORANJESTAD — The mother of an Alabama teenager missing in Aruba said Sunday that she was leaving the Dutch Caribbean island, having “exhausted all my avenues” there after the release of all three suspects in the case.

Beth Holloway Twitty arrived in Aruba hours after her daughter, Natalee, vanished May 30 and has been an almost permanent fixture since, focusing intense U.S. press attention on the case through frequent television appearances and interviews.

“I will never allow my daughter’s voice to be silenced, but I have exhausted all my avenues in Aruba,” Mrs. Holloway Twitty told the Associated Press before returning to Mountain Brook, Ala. She said she would seek justice from her home.

VENEZUELA

Malls cater to capitalist urges

CARACAS — The shopping mall is a blur of Guess jeans, Louis Vuitton purses and Motorola cell phones — a temple of consumerism in a country that is supposed to be on a path toward socialism.

So popular is the Sambil Mall that “Sambil society” has become a derogatory term in the Venezuelan socialist vocabulary. Reject it and build a fairer Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez urges his nation of 25 million, but for many, it’s a hard sell.

“We’re capitalists, consumers by nature,” said Marbelys Gonzalez, 26, strolling through the mall with two friends and toting a bag with five pairs of designer jeans.

“We’re crazy about shopping. If we go out and don’t end up buying anything, we don’t feel good,” said the middle-class university student, whose spending money comes from her father, a jeweler, and her boyfriend, a soldier.

Weekly notes …

Honduras will join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Sept. 28, having ratified its convention Aug. 29, the group said yesterday. “All the countries of Central, North and South America are now covered by the convention’s arms control and disarmament regime, along with the majority of states in the Caribbean basin,” said the OPCW, based in The Hague. … The number of deaths in Brazil caused by firearms has dropped for the first time in 13 years. A Health Ministry report said 36,000 people were killed by guns in Brazil last year, an 8 percent drop from 2003. The government attributes the drop to innovative disarmament measures, including a gun buy-back program. There are more gun deaths in Brazil than in any other country, and the number had risen each year since the early 1990s.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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