Driven by rising energy and food costs, wholesale prices in May posted the biggest gain in six months. The Labor Department reported today that the producer price index, which measures the costs of goods before they hit store shelves, advanced 1.4 percent last month. The overall inflation rate of 1.4 percent was higher than the 1 percent many economists were predicting. But removing volatile energy and food prices, the "core" rate of inflation rose 0.2 percent in May, an improvement from the prior month's 0.4 percent increase. Also, as builders pulled back in the face of the market's deep slump, the number of new housing starts in May also fell by 3.3 percent, the Commerce Department reported.
A Rush for Same-Sex Marriages in California
On the first full day that same-sex nuptials will be legal throughout California, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples rushed to secure marriage licenses and exchange vows today. While couples donned their formal wear from San Diego to San Francisco, conservative groups warned of a backlash as the country's most populous state was poised to join Massachusetts in permitting gay unions. Unlike Massachusetts, which made same-sex marriage legal in 2004, California does not have a residency requirement for marriage licenses, meaning a large number of couples are expected to head west to wed. The May 15 California Supreme Court ruling that overturned the state's bans on same-sex marriage was finalized at 5:01 p.m. yesterday, and clerks in at least five counties extended their hours to mark the historic occasion.
Taliban Steps Up the Fight in Afghanistan
In apparent preparation for battle, Taliban militants destroyed bridges and planted mines in several villages they control outside southern Afghanistan's largest city, residents and officials said today. More than 700 families—perhaps 4,000 people or more—fled the Arghandab district 10 miles northwest of Kandahar city, said Sardar Mohammad, a police officer manning a checkpoint on the east side of the Arghandab River. Police stopped and searched every person passing along the road today. "Last night the people were afraid, and families on tractors, trucks, and taxis fled the area," said Mohammad. "Small bridges inside the villages have been destroyed." The Taliban have long sought to be in command of Arghandab and the good fighting positions its pomegranate and grape groves offer. NATO aircraft dropped leaflets in Arghandab telling residents to stay indoors, NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.