Proponents of the new system say they expect the federal courts to rule in favor of the military commissions. Meanwhile, Australia, a steadfast U.S. ally in the War on Terror, has been pressuring the Bush administration to send Hicks back to his native country. Last month, Sandra Hodgkinson, the State Department’s deputy director for war crimes issues, told reporters that “it’s certainly believed that Mr. Hicks may be able to carry out his incarceration, after the appeals process is complete, in Australia.” President George W. Bush and Congress established the new legal system last fall. Lawmakers set up the tribunals after the Supreme Court ruled an older version established by Bush was unconstitutional because it lacked Congress’ blessing and violated international agreements. WASHINGTON – The Bush administration filed charges Thursday against an Australian captured in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and held ever since without trial, the first terror-war suspect to face prosecution under a new system of military tribunals. David Hicks, a 31-year-old former kangaroo skinner now held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, was charged with providing material support for terrorism and could face life imprisonment if convicted. Court challenges are certain before any trial. Hicks’ case, which has attracted broad attention in the U.S. and overseas, could well become the one that opponents of the new military tribunal system use to challenge the system at the Supreme Court. Opponents of the military commissions say they are illegal because they do not afford many legal rights guaranteed under the Constitution. “It all seems to be an intermingling of politics and pressure,” said Jumana Musa, advocacy director for Amnesty International. “But none of it screams to me to be in the interest of justice.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
“Between buying myself a car and getting breast surgery, I decided on my breasts, and I think the sacrifice was worth it,” said Omaya Davila, a 31-year-old shopkeeper who was waiting for a follow-up appointment with a plastic surgeon after getting breast implants. Eight other patients were in the waiting room. A record 30,000 Venezuelan women out of a national population of 26 million underwent breast augmentation surgery last year, an increase of nearly 80 percent over the previous year, according to statistics from the Venezuelan Plastic Surgery Society. Dr. Reinaldo Kube, the society’s president, said the proportion of the population with breast implants in Venezuela is one of the highest in the region. By comparison, a slightly smaller proportion of the U.S. population – more than 291,000 women – had breast augmentation surgery in 2005, according to figures from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “2006 was the year of cosmetic surgery in Venezuela. I’d estimate 200 percent increases in consultations and operations,” said Dr. Victor Rada, who has worked as a plastic surgeon for more than 15 years. A key force behind Venezuela’s economic growth has been the oil industry, which accounts for 78 percent of exports and some 14 percent of Venezuela’s gross domestic product. High oil prices also are helping fill government coffers. This year, an estimated 45 percent of government revenues are projected to come from oil. The consumption trend has touched all social classes, including low-income Venezuelans. A growing state work force, new government benefits and a rising minimum wage have helped put money in Venezuelans’ pockets, even as high inflation has eaten away at those gains. Chavez on Sunday called rising consumption among the poor a sign of positive economic change, saying “it’s part of our policy of seeking equality.” Extended credit lines also have contributed to the spending spree. Loan portfolios grew by 118 percent to $6 billion last year, according to Softline, a Caracas-based banking consultancy. For the wealthy, new auto dealerships have opened to sell BMWs, Audis and Hummers. Importers have brought about 300 Hummers to Venezuela in the past two years, and the SUVs have sold for an average of $93,000, Garcia Tunon said. Chavez regularly tells Venezuelans that capitalism is evil and urges them to leave behind their yearnings for wealth. “Consumerism carries inside it a cell that we could call carcinogenic: corruption. What is the root of the corruption? The desire to possess material goods,” Chavez told thousands of supporters during a recent speech in which he urged them to embrace socialist ideals. For some, though, encouraging Venezuelans to change is a hard sell. “We are accustomed to a free lifestyle, to the sensation of having just to have,” said 49-year-old Antonio Garcia, who was looking for a new television. “Trying to box us into socialism isn’t going to work with us.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “Everything is selling – sport utility vehicles, pickups, buses, everything,” said Jorge Garcia Tunon, who runs one of the leading auto showrooms in Caracas. “The demand is impressive. The market has grown like crazy.” Waiting lists of two months or more are common for many car models. The waiting lists for compact, inexpensive cars are particularly long. American cars are among those selling well. Other areas of the economy have experienced similar growth. Consumer spending grew by a historic 20 percent last year compared with 2005, according to estimates by the private polling company Datanalysis. Seven new shopping malls were built in the country last year, and this year at least 13 more are projected to be completed. Plastic surgeons also are doing a brisk business. CARACAS, Venezuela – Plastic surgeons are performing nips, tucks and breast implants at a record pace. BMWs are being snapped up from the sales lots. And sleek new shopping malls are springing up among the high-rises in Venezuela’s capital. Although President Hugo Chavez is urging Venezuelans to adopt more ascetic socialist values, a culture of consumerism is flourishing as an oil boom surges through the nation’s economy. Shoppers are buying up everything from cell phones to Scotch whisky at a rapid clip as the economy benefits from high world oil prices and banks compete for clients by cutting consumer loan rates in half. Venezuelans bought 343,000 automobiles last year, a 50 percent increase over 2005.