In Haiti, public unrest is growing as the lead of Presidential front-runner Rene Preval continues to decline. After initial returns gave him over 60% percent of the vote, Preval’s share has fallen below the 50% needed to avoid a run-off vote. Two voting officials have charged Haiti’s electoral council with “manipulation.” On Monday, thousands of Preval supporters took to the streets around the capital of Port-au-Prince. Witnesses said United Nations troops fired into a crowd of un-armed protesters when they refused to let their convoy pass. At least two people were reported killed and another four injured.
The Bush administration is on the defensive over Vice President Dick Cheney’s accidental shooting of hunting companion and Republican fundraiser Harry Whittington at a Texas ranch Saturday. Whittington is reported to be in stable condition. It took the White House at least 19 hours to inform the public — and only after a local Texas newspaper broke the story. Cheney is also coming under criticism for violating Texas game law. On Monday, state officials said Cheney had not purchased a stamp required for bird hunting.
In other news, the New York Times is reporting the US and Israel are considering a campaign to destabilize the Palestinian Authority so that Palestinians will grow frustrated and force a Hamas-led government to call new elections. According to anonymous US and Israeli officials, one of the main options under consideration is starving the Palestinian Authority of money and aid.
In Iran, the government says it has resumed small-scale enrichment of uranium, defying an international effort to limit its nuclear activity. The news comes amid fresh speculation over a possible US attack on Iran. Over the weekend, the Sunday Telegraph reported the Pentagon has drawn up an attack plan as a last resort to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. An anonymous senior Pentagon official said: “This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment… This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months.”
Back in the United States, the Associated Press is reporting three former associates of indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff say he frequently told them he had strong ties to the White House through senior Presidential advisor Karl Rove. On Monday, the White House said Rove considers Abramoff to be a “casual acquaintance.” New questions concerning Abramoff’s ties to the White House have arisen with the publication of an e-mail in which Abramoff said he had met with President Bush in “almost a dozen settings.” On Saturday, Time magazine published a photograph on its website of Abramoff attending a White House gathering hosted by President Bush in May 2001. The White House had previously said there was no record of Abramoff attending the event. They’ve also refused to release several other photos reportedly showing Abramoff with the President.
The New York Times is reporting of what it calls “one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history.” Under a Congressional measure enacted ten years ago to encourage drilling, energy companies will be allowed to extract about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal land over the next five years without paying taxpayers any royalties. According to the Times, the government will give up over $7 billion ” in lost royalties over the next five years.
And finally, a new report from the Government Accountability Office says the Bush administration has spent over $1.6 billion on advertising and public relations contracts in the last two years. Of this amount, the Pentagon has been the biggest spender, paying $1.1 billion for recruitment campaigns and other public relations efforts.