During a brief visit in Saudi Arabia today, President Bush asked the country's leader, King Abdullah, to increase the country's oil production. The appeal comes during a volatile and historic time: Oil prices hit a new record high today, climbing above $127 a barrel, and Congress voted earlier this week to temporarily halt oil shipments to the country's emergency oil reserves. The Senate has also introduced a measure meant to coincide with the President's trip thatwould stop a $1.4 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia unless the latter agrees to boost its oil production by 1 million barrels per day.
The electoral commission of Zimbabwe has announced that there will be an election runoff on June 27 between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. During the country's presidential elections in March, Tsvangirai received more votes than Mugabe, but the official results, released on May 2—and widely criticized by Mugabe's critics and many observers—showed that Tsvangirai had not received an outright majority, thereby forcing a runoff. Opposition leaders have since pressed for a runoff in late May, before the regime can stage a further crackdown on the opposition, and called the government's decision today to extend the date into June "irresponsible." Speaking at a conference of liberal political leaders in Northern Ireland, Tsvangirai told reporters, "This is a regime which operates not on the basis of the law, but operates on the basis of impunity from the law. So they are changing goal posts to suit themselves."
There is a glimmer of good news this morning about the state of the U.S. economy from the Commerce Department, which reports that the construction of new homes in the United States rose at its fastest rate in two years during the month of April. New housing construction last month was up 8.2 percent overall, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million units. The rebound was mainly due to a boom in apartment housing, which was up 36 percent. Also encouraging: a nearly 5 percent rise in applications for building permits, marking the first positive gain in the past five months.