Nation/world digest 09/07/05

Saudi forces overrun villa where militants holed up

DAMMAM, Saudi Arabia -- In a barrage of gunfire and explosions, Saudi special forces overran a seaside villa Tuesday where Islamic militants had been holed up, ending three days of heavy fighting that killed at least nine people. Security forces that swept into the building in the eastern city of Dammam found several charred bodies, apparently those of militants killed in explosions -- suggesting the death toll from the fighting would rise. It was the fiercest clash in months in the kingdom's two-year crackdown on al-Qaida-linked militants.

Another tropical system forms off Florida coast

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- About 120 miles of Florida's Atlantic coast were under a tropical storm warning Tuesday as a new system formed just offshore and threatened to dump up to 15 inches of rain in parts of the state. The tropical depression could strengthen into Tropical Storm Ophelia by today, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is expected to bring tropical storm conditions -- with winds of at least 39 mph -- to the state by this morning.

Lawmakers seek to nullify eminent domain ruling

WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers have a message for any local officials who think farmland on the edge of town might make a nice shopping mall: Seize the property and you'll lose federal funding. Republicans and Democrats alike want to negate a recent Supreme Court ruling that gave cities broad power to take private properties for use as shopping malls or other development. The House Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing today on the most far-reaching of several bills to thwart the high court's ruling. The measure would yank all federal economic development funds from any state, city or town that seizes private property in the name of economic development.

California Legislature OKs gay marriage bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California Legislature on Tuesday became the first legislative body in the country to approve same-sex marriages, as gay-rights advocates overcame two earlier defeats in the Assembly in June. The 41-35 vote sends the bill to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Supporters compared the legislation to earlier civil rights campaigns. Opponents cited the public's vote five years ago to approve Proposition 22, a ballot initiative to keep California from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states or countries.

Union reports security problems at Army bases

WASHINGTON -- A labor union is reporting significant security problems at seven Army bases where federal contractors are guarding the gates. Based on interviews with current and former guards, the Service Employees International Union says job screening is often inadequate and that security checks at the gates are frequently cursory. The Wackenhut security company said the union is leveling false allegations in a campaign to sign up the firm's 35,000 guards as members. The bases are Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Fort Monmouth and Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, Letterkenny Depot in Pennsylvania and Fort Lee in Virgnia.

Israel OKs construction in West Bank settlement

JERUSALEM -- Israel has approved construction of 117 houses in the Ariel settlement in the heart of the West Bank, the government said Tuesday, signaling it will not relinquish the sprawling community that Palestinians complain would cut up their future state. The announcement -- and suggestions that much larger construction projects are in the pipeline -- came despite the risk of a U.S. reprimand, just as Israel was reaping the diplomatic benefits of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Bob Denver, television's Gilligan, dead at 70

LOS ANGELES -- Bob Denver, the bumbling namesake of "Gilligan's Island" who embarked on what was supposed to be a three-hour tour and endeared himself to generations of TV fans, has died at age 70. He died Friday of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer, his agent said Tuesday.

-- From wire reports

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