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Furthermore …

Everyday heroes help maintain order in city

Heroes seldom see themselves as such. Doing the right thing, they say, is just what should come naturally to all of us.

But it doesn’t, especially when people witness something as serious as murder.

The neighbor who phoned police when Elijah Freeman was shot and killed at a home on Hugh Street last April is, in fact, a hero. Oster Jackson was willing to testify and, with his testimony corroborated by other witnesses, helped convict the killer.

The police, the City Council, the churches and social organizations throughout the city have tried to respond to the nearly record-breaking wave of homicides this year. There are all kinds of factors and all kinds of solutions: strengthening families, improving educational opportunities, bringing more development and jobs to Fort Wayne’s southeast side.

But police say two things could make the biggest difference in the short run: keeping guns out of the wrong hands – a near-herculean task – and getting more cooperation from people in the community.

Garry Hamilton, deputy chief of police for the department’s southeast division, tells of witnesses and even shooting victims who adamantly refuse to talk. This can make it impossible to solve cases, even if investigators have a good idea of who committed the crime.

Sometimes, victims or relatives are plotting their own revenge. But often, it’s fear of retribution that makes witnesses hold their tongues. Hamilton and Chief Rusty York say that fear is usually unfounded. It’s to be hoped that the full wrath of the law would descend on anyone foolish enough to pursue that kind of wrongheaded retribution.

We need to encourage, celebrate and ensure that people like Jackson can step forward without fear. Because of him, justice was possible in one of this year’s 41 homicides, and the streets of Fort Wayne may be at least a bit safer.

Missile launchers’ malaise

We probably aren’t the only ones who get a little uneasy when we see the word “burnout” coupled with the phrase “launch officers with their fingers on the triggers of 450 weapons of mass destruction.”

Robert Burns of the Associated Press got his hands on the draft of an unpublished Air Force study that, he wrote, “adds to an emerging picture of malaise in the ICBM force.”

Now, anyone who’s seen the old movies “Dr. Strangelove” or “WarGames” knows full well how a couple of little missteps can lead to a cowboy-hatted Slim Pickens riding an A-bomb to its target or a young Matthew Broderick almost blowing up the world from a computer in his bedroom.

There are, too, the heartwarming, recently revealed details of how one low-grade switch prevented a nuclear bomb 260 times more powerful than the device that leveled Hiroshima from exploding over North Carolina in 1961.

That all was when the Cold War between the U.S.S.R. and the United States kept us up late every night, wondering whether we would wake up to another day.

All of that worry about accidental Armageddon was supposed to be in the past. We’ve learned to focus our worry on terrorists who want to blow themselves up and take all the rest of us with them.

And now we learn that the nuclear arsenal, built to deter an enemy country that no longer exists, may someday get launched out of sheer … malaise? Wasn’t that a word from the Carter administration?

Hello, Air Force HR people? Can we get some doughnuts in for these people in the silos? Maybe a couple of holiday parties?

BMV pays high costs for errors

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles officials’ lesson in accountability is a costly one, both in dollar terms and in trustworthiness. The state agency will pay out $30 million to settle claims it overcharged Hoosiers renewing licenses.

If you’re among the 4.5 million Hoosiers who obtained or renewed a license between March 7, 2007, and this past June 27, you’re in line for a credit or refund, ranging from $3.50 to $15.

The big winner in the suit might be the Indianapolis law firm Cohen & Malad, which served as counsel for plaintiffs in the suit and negotiated the settlement on behalf of the class. Attorneys stand to collect $6 million.

BMV officials admitted to overcharging motorists and adjusted fees, but the goodwill the agency had earned from improvements in service is sorely tested over nearly six years of routinely overcharging customers.

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