Justice watch

Soldier-mother could be tried

FORT CARSON, COLO. - A soldier who stayed home with her children during a custody battle rather than returning to Iraq was reassigned to Fort Carson to give her time to find care for her children or get out of the Army. But, at the same time, a commander in Iraq called Simone Holcomb, a medic in the Colorado National Guard, on Monday, to give her an administrative punishment and read her her legal rights for possible criminal charges.

Holcomb and her husband, Sgt. First Class Vaughn Holcomb, lived with their children at Fort Carson near Colorado Springs when both were sent to Iraq in February.

Family members were taking care of their seven children, but the couple returned on emergency leave in September when Mr. Holcomb's ex-wife went to court to get full custody of two of the children, who were from their previous marriage.

Simone Holcomb told a judge she would stay home with the children and refused an Army order to return to Iraq.

It was not immediately clear what the administrative punishment would be or what criminal charges Holcomb might face.

Indian funds squandered?

WASHINGTON - Government lawyers are challenging a federal judge's order that the Interior Department account for money owed to thousands of American Indians, arguing that a new law shields the department from the court's demands.

The government's appeal was filed last week, hours after President Bush signed into law a bill that includes a provision seeking to block the court-ordered accounting.

US District Judge Royce Lamberth has ordered the department to conduct an investigation into money that was supposed to be collected from oil, gas, timber, and grazing on Indian lands for more than a century.

The Interior Department has estimated it could cost between $6 billion and $14 billion to do the audit. Congress added language to the Interior Department's budget bill that prevents money from being spent on the audit until Congress defines the scope and methods of the study.

Lawyers for the American Indians insist that, with interest, the account should be as much as $176 billion. They claim that the government squandered billions of dollars owed to Indian landowners.

FBI: Hate crimes down in 2002

WASHINGTON - Hate crimes dropped significantly in 2002, the FIB reported last week.

The 7,462 reported incidents represented a nearly 25 percent drop from 9,730 reported in 2001 and were also lower than the 8,063 recorded in 2000.

Crimes listed as anti-Islamic - incidents of violence against those thought to be Muslim or Middle Eastern - dropped sharply to 155, down from 481 reported in 2001, immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

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