Friday, January 30, 2004

Nobles: The Cold Case Cowboys of Roseburg, Ore.

Most Western crimefighters eventually ride off into the sunset, or at least onto the golf course. The Cold Case Cowboys of Roseburg are riding back.

The squad of four retired law enforcement officers was formed two years ago in Douglas County. It was the idea of a sheriff who saw that the county had many retirees, several unsolved crimes and little money. The sheriff’s office asked for volunteers to form a cold-case squad and eventually settled on Syd Boyle, Tom Schultz, Al Olson and Tom Hall.

The Cowboys range from 58 to 68 years old, and the crimes that they investigate — and solve — are almost as ancient. They were first assigned the 1975 murder of Benny Lee King. Within nine months, they obtained a confession from Johnny Carlos Tinker. They solved their second case in three months, pinning the 1988 murder of Barbara Gallagher on a former boyfriend, who committed suicide in 2001.

In addition to the inherent difficulties of solving any homicide, the Cowboys must also contend with age-related difficulties, such as witnesses who have forgotten details, moved or died.

For rounding up criminals long after they should have ridden off into the sunset, the Cold Case Cowboys are the Nobles of the week.

Knaves: The unbearably biased BBC for allowing the airing of “sexed-up” allegations against the government.

Last May, the BBC’s Andrew Gilligan reported what seemed a sensational scoop on an unscripted radio show — the Blair government had “sexed-up” a prewar dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs with information it knew was false.

Mr. Blair’s government denied the allegations and demanded a retraction. The BBC refused, causing a ferocious fight between the two. Weapons inspector David Kelly committed suicide in July after being revealed as Mr. Gilligan’s source. Lord Hutton was appointed to chair an investigation into the matter.

This week, Mr. Hutton released his finding that it was the BBC, not the government, that had “sexed-up” its report. He excoriated the BBC’s “defective” editorial system for allowing Mr. Gilligan’s allegations to be aired without review and added that the BBC’s managers should have been as aware of Mr. Gilligan’s “loose use of language and lack of judgment.”

Mr. Hutton’s report has triggered the resignations of Greg Dyke, the BBC’s editor-in-chief, and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC’s board of governors. Others may follow. Ministers of Parliament are also looking into possible changes in the BBC’s charter, which expires in 2006.

The BBC has needed such an airing out for some time. For untrustworthy news, the BBC is the Knave of the week.

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