Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - December 13, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania
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By CHRIS TOMLINSON The Associated IT ess
TORA BORA, Afghanistan Joined by U.S. special forces on their front lines in the eastern mountains, Afghan tribal commanders set a new deadline Wednesday for trapped al-Qaida fighters to surrender — and said they must hand over their leaders as well
American AC-130 gunships did not stop their attacks during the negotiations, strafing a desolate canyon in the White Mountains where a group of Arabs and other non-Afghans fighting for al-Qaida were pinned down. Afghan tribal chiefs gave the fighters an ultimatum to lay down their arms by midday today.
Ghafar, a leader in the tribal eastern alliance, said the al-Qaida fighters are believed to include some from a list of 22 “most wanted terrorists” made public by the Bush administration after the Sept ll terrorist attacks in the United States.
“They have to hand them over, but they didn’t I want to]," said Ghafar. who goes by one name. He said a plan for the fighters to surrender Wednesday morning collapsed in part over the refusal of leaders to give up.
“They must turn over at least some of these people.”
He said it was not certain if bin Laden was among them. U.S. and Afghan officials have said he may be in the Tora Bora region of caves and tunnels, where the eastern alliance — backed by U.S. bombing — has been besieging al-Qaida.
Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington that the Pentagon does not know if the al-Qaida leadership was in the Tora Bora area. He said it would be “great” if they were.
He said, however, it is possible that some al-Qaida fighters had fled the country'.
“It is certainly conceivable that groups of two, three, 15, 20 could, walking out of there, in fact, get out," Pace said.
An undetermined number of foreign fighters is in the heavily forested canyon, where they fled after being routed from their mountaintop positions and caves the day before.
The alliance had given them until 8 arn. Wednesday to give themselves up, but the deadline passed with no surrender.
>r t hoto illustration by Jason Sipes/Tom Worthington ll
Postal workers preparing for stress of annual rush
SEND IT SOON
The period from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23 is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the U.S. Postal Service.
Some Deadlines for customers to remember:
■ Regular parcel post should be mailed this week, the sooner the better.
■ Priority mail should be sent by the third week of December.
■ Express mail should be sent by Dec. 21.
By Walt Frank
Think ifs hectic trying to get your Christmas cards in the mail on time?
Try taking responsibility for getting them delivered.
“It puts more stress on employees because of the volume to get the mail out on a timely fashion,” Howard Banks said while working at a window at the Altoona post office.
“Not only do we have our home life to deal with, but we have increased mail with the same amount of employees and the same amount of hours in a day."
Between Dec. I and Christmas Day, workers at the Altoona Processing and Distribution Facility in Duncansville are expected to cancel about 5.94 million pieces of mail, and that figure does not include packages,
Altmma Postmaster Charles Burford said.
“During the Christmas season, our mail volume doubles and our parcel post volume increases by six times,” he said.
Saturday window service at the Altoona Post Office will be expanded from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the next two weeks.
Eight temporary workers help process, collect and deliver the mail, and permanent employees are required to work overtime based on the volume of mail, Burford said. Additional delivery vehicles are rented to handle the volume of mail.
“It is hectic, but everyone pulls together and gets the job done,” Martinsburg Postmaster Mark Oldham said. “You try to do what you can to help people who are stressed.
Please see Pushing/Page A14
■ Improvements made in management, but more work needs to be done, study suggests.
By Michael Race
capitol wire am
HARRISBURG - A statewide association that oversees high school sports still needs to boost its accountability but has made some improvements in its management, a legislative review suggests.
The review, released Wednesday by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, found questionable expenditures, lax policies and recurring budget shortfalls within the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association.
The PIAA — a nonprofit group whose members include 1,360 public and private high schools and middle schools across the state establishes and enforces rules tor interscholastic athletics.
John Rowe, the committee’s chief analyst, acknowledged the PIAA has improved its operations in recent years after prodding by some lawmakers.
But, he added, “more needs to bt* done in a number of areas where PIAA practices continue to fall short of best business and accounting practices.”
Among other things (see box at right), the review found the PLAA continues to tally expenses that exceed its revenues. In fiscal 200001, the association had revenues of $8.1 million but $8.7 million in expenses, despite raising membership fees and ticket prices.
In the past four years, the PIAA headquarters has had operating losses of $1.4 million, according to the review, including $314,000 to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by a female basketball referee who alleged the PIAA refused to let her officiate boys’ basketball games.
State Senate President Pro Tem and Lt. Gov. Robert C. Jubelirer, one of the most vocal critics of the PIAA, was not available to comment on the review Wednesday.
PIAA Executive Director Brad Cashman downplayed the critical aspects of the review.
Although he seemed receptive to recommendations for improvements, he refused to commit to any specific changes when questioned
Among the problems discovered in the PIAA view released by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee.
■ Some “questionable” expenses, including $3,536 to buy 26 watches for board members, $770 for a pair of 10K gold rings tor board members and more than $2,700 for clothing for board members and staff
■ A limited competitive bid policy that is “not sufficiently clear" and applies only to certain merchandise and services.
■ A lack of a formal policy for reviewing expenses and setting guidelines for reimbursements The PIAA, for example, lacks written guidelines regarding the staff's use of corporate credit cards.
■ A lack of compliance with the PIAA's own open meetings policy.
by lawmakers who constitute the legislative committee.
Cashman’s contention that the PIAA is, for the most part, in compliance with its rules brought a harsh response from Rep. Frank Pistella, D-Allegheny.
“That’s sort of like being a little bit pregnant,” Pistella told Cash man. “Either you are (in compliance! or you’re not.”
The PIAA has had a rocky relationship with many members of the General Assembly in recent years.
Concerns about the association’s accountability led to a legislative inquiry in 1998 and prompted a 2000 law that created a 17-member PIAA oversight board that includes lawmakers and school officials.
Sen. Gerald La Valle, D-Beavar. who sits on both the oversight board and the legislative committee, said there “seems to be some reluctance” by Cashman to cooperate with lawmakers in improving the PIAA.
“Your organization has to be receptive to dealing with those concerns,” La Valle told Cashman.
Please see PIAA/Page AllFinal congressional redistricting plan could take months
By Robert Igoe Staff Writer HARRISBURG — Democrats outraged by a congressional redistricting plan approved by the state Senate Republican majority earlier this week may find some relief in the House’s counterproposal.
But both sides likely will wait until early 2002 to agree on a final plan.
The House’s version, which was passed
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Wednesday, differs from the Senate version in that it would eliminate only two Democratic seats rather than the four in the Senate plan.
Among the seats preserved would be U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s 12th District seat, which under the Senate plan would have been drastically redrawn, pitting Murtha against fellow Democrat and 20th District Rep. Frank Mascara in the 2002 primary.
One prominent political analyst said it
may be February until the final lines are agreed upon.
“Maybe this will be put off until after Christmas, just as was done in 1981 and 1991,” said Jon Delano of the H. John Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University.
“In those years, redistricting plans were not approved until just days before the [February J filing date for nominating petitions.”
State Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, said that while any redistricting plan will see the influence of the majority party in determining new districts and the elimination of old ones, he said the Senate plan went too far.
“That plan had too many political overtones,” he said. “It was clearly being done to maximize the number of seats they could gain and Democratic seats they could eliminate.
Please see Plan/Page All
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Attorneys for the state and the coalition of labor unions at the Hollidaysburg Car Shop filed their briefing Wednesday with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2001
PIAA UNDER SCRUTINY