Supreme Court Affirms

Seizure of Property

The Supreme Court ruled that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project's success is not guaranteed.

The 5 to 4 ruling provided the affirmation that state and local governments had sought for their increasing use of eminent domain for urban revitalization.

Opponents, including property-rights activists and advocates for elderly and low-income urban residents, argued that forcibly shifting land from one private owner to another, even with fair compensation, violates the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits the taking of property by government except for "public use."

But Justice John Paul Stevens, writing for the majority, cited cases in which the court has interpreted "public use" to include not only such traditional projects as bridges or highways, but also slum clearance and land redistribution. He concluded that a "public purpose" such as creating jobs in a depressed city can also satisfy the Fifth Amendment.

The court's decision removed a possible obstacle to the District's plans to build a baseball stadium along the Anacostia River waterfront and to redevelop the Skyland Shopping Center in Southeast.

-- Charles Lane

Pentagon Is Creating

Recruiting Database

The Defense Department has begun working with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.

The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.

The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass.

Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government's right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.

Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act.

-- Jonathan Krim

House GOP Endorses

Own Social Security Plan

After watching the Social Security debate from the sidelines, House Republican leaders embraced a new approach to Social Security restructuring that would add individual investment accounts to the program, but on a much smaller scale than the Bush administration favors.

The new accounts would be financed by the Social Security surplus -- the amount of payroll tax revenue not needed to pay current benefits. That money is now used to fund other government activities and is expected to run out after 2016 as the baby boomers retire.

By contrast, President Bush's proposed accounts would divert payroll taxes used to fund existing Social Security benefits, which would force the government to borrow to prevent cuts in retirees' monthly checks. Once fully phased in, the Bush plan would allow workers to sock away $3,600 a year in today's dollars. Even in its peak year, the new plan could limit average account contributions to as little as $588.

-- Mike Allen and Jonathan Weisman

Middle East Leaders Fail

To Reach Agreements

A rare meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ended bitterly after they failed to reach new agreements on issues related to Israel's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and on measures to rein in violence by Palestinian radicals.

Less than two months before the scheduled Israeli evacuation, the leaders clashed over Abbas's efforts to confront such militant groups as the Islamic Resistance Movement and Islamic Jihad, the release of additional Palestinians from Israeli jails and the reopening of the Gaza airport that Palestinians see as key to the future of the local economy after the pullout. Agreement on those issues could have bolstered a four-month-old truce now strained by fresh violence.

Palestinian officials said the meeting was dominated by Israeli demands that Abbas disarm the militant groups. Israeli officials said Sharon pledged to implement previous agreements, which Israel has yet to fulfill entirely because of what it says are lingering security concerns, but made no new deals.

-- Scott Wilson

Call For Bolton Vote

Fails to Pass in Senate

The Senate refused for a second time to confirm John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

But President Bush refused to surrender the fight over Bolton's nomination, persuading Senate GOP leader Bill Frist to back away from an earlier statement that it would be futile to keep pressuring Democrats to buckle on their opposition to ending debate on the nomination and allowing an up-or-down vote.

The vote on Monday was a setback for Bush, whose party controls the Senate, and the latest in a string of partisan impasses that also have stymied his efforts to appoint judges and restructure Social Security.

A vote to end the debate requires 60 votes, although the nomination itself would need a simple majority of 51 votes.

Bush could still circumvent the Senate through an unusual "recess appointment," which would have to be made while Congress was not in session and would allow the nominee to serve for 18 months without Senate approval.

-- Jim VandeHei

Rice Has Stern Words

For Egypt, Saudi Arabia

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sharply criticized Egypt and Saudi Arabia for democratic failings, mounting a direct challenge to autocratic U.S. allies in the Middle East and calling on governments in the region to embrace "certain basic rights for all their citizens."

"Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty," Rice told an audience of government officials, academics and diplomats at the American University in Cairo on Monday.

She later traveled to Saudi Arabia, where "many people pay an unfair price for exercising their basic rights," she said.

Rice was much tougher on Iran and Syria, two countries often in disagreement with the United States, than she was on Egypt and Saudi Arabia, two longtime U.S. partners with virtually no history of representative government. She denounced the "organized cruelty of Iran's theocratic state" and called on Syria "to make the strategic choice to join the progress all around it."

-- Glenn Kessler