Altoona Mirror (Newspaper) - December 15, 2001, Altoona, Pennsylvania
PROGRAM LISTINGS FOR THE WEEK FREE INSIDE
SPOTLIGHT: FRANKSTOWN TOWNSHIP NAMES NEW SUPERVISOR ► PAGE A4
O’Leary admits he fibbed, resigns as Irish coach
How to steer clear of car problems this winterAltoona Mirror
© Copyright 2001
WAR ON TERRORISM:
More on Pages Cl ,2
By Robert Burns The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - U.S. commanders believe they quickly are narrowing Osama bin Laden’s options for escape from the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Yet even as U.S.-backed tribal forces advance in the rugged Tora Bora region, no one seems certain whether bin Laden is even there.
“The honest answer is we really don’t know,” Gen. Tommy Franks, the U.S. war commander, said Friday.
If bin Laden is still there, he has little room to maneuver.
Afghan tribal forces, operating with a few dozen U.S. commandos and supported by American air power, are closing in from the north, and Pakistani troops stand in bin Laden’s way to the south. American forces are not with the Pakistanis, but U.S. officials believe Pakistan wants to keep bin Laden out.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday that there are few escape routes left for al-Qaida fighters.
“We think there are not a lot of ways out,” he told reporters traveling with him to Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Uzbekistan.
U.S. surveillance planes, including high-altitude Air Force U-2s and an unmanned Global Hawk, are scanning the mountain passes to the east and west, and the al-Qaida fighters thought to be shielding bin Laden in Tora Bora are being targeted by relentless American bombing. Franks said those al-Qaida troops do not have enough ammunition, food or water to hold out indefinitely in the mountains.
“We can wait longer than they can,” Franks told a news conference in Tampa, Fla.
Pentagon officials Friday were reluctant to embrace the notion that bin Laden has been surrounded.
Please see Escape/Page A3
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 15, 2001
I KA WMNHi
Mirror photo by Kelly Bennett
Jean Johnstone (left) and Tom Parsons (center), both of the Altoona Kiwanis Club, collect donations Friday at Wal-Mart at Plank Road Commons.
Man plagued with past troubles helps needy during holidays
By William Kibler
Brian L. Smith took the trouble to stop the rental car he was driving on 12th Avenue Friday afternoon next to the Salvation Army kettle station and to give money to the bell ringer.
Smith, who is on a holiday trip visiting friends and relatives, has known trouble firsthand.
The Altoona native worked seven years at Hollidaysburg Veterans Home until he lost his job in 1993.
He was out of work, except for a few temporary jobs, for the next four years.
By the end of that time, he ran out of welfare and medical assistance, they foreclosed on his home and he declared bankruptcy.
The troubles drove him out of town.
Even that wasn’t easy; by then, he had lost his driver’s license.
He went west, using a temporary
license and settling in Arizona.
He got a job and began to stand on his own two feet — with some assistance from others, including a friend who helped him get a driver’s license.
He works for Saunders & Associates near Phoenix, assembling electronics for companies such as Motorola and Intel. At $8.50 an hour, he’s learning skills he hopes will help him move back to the area.
The Army’s goal at the 12th Street kettle in front of WRTA was $5,000, and they made it by the time Smith dropped off his donation, with three hours left. There were bags of food and toys stacked in front of the radio station’s front door.
All the money and goods will go to down-and-out people for the holidays, said longtime Salvation Army board member Frank Thompson, who worked the kettle in a Santa suit while radio announcer Dave Weaver plugged it on WRTA.
They’re people like Smith used to be.
Through the Internet, Smith knew about the layoffs in the area before he returned. Every dollar counts, even if only to boost morale, he said.
The WRTA gig is an extracurricular component of the overall holiday campaign for the Salvation Army, whose goal this season is $60,000. The Salvation Army is running about $4,300 behind on the larger goal because some stores are limiting kettle time or eliminating it altogether — although some stores made payments in lieu of permission, Thompson said.
Aside from WRTA, there are eight kettle sites this year, down from the typical 12, Thompson said. Money and goods collected at those sites will go toward making a Christmas meal and additional food and toys for 800 families. The money also helps pay for some of the year-round operating expenses of the Army, which distributes surplus food, utility payments and travelers aid.
Please see Needy/Page A3
Deals offered in Dr.’s sex case
■ Prosecutors are trying to line up witnesses against Dr. Barry Bender.
Bv Phil Ray
Prosecutors are offering a plea agreement of 7 Vi to 15 years in prison to a Clinton County man charged with providing drugs and young male sex partners to a Tyrone doctor during an eight year period.
State Deputy Attorney General Mike Madeira said Friday that discussions were held when Gilbert Stevenson .lr. of Avis appeared fora preliminary hearing in District .Justice Todd F. Kelly’s courtroom.
Madeira was ready to place 121 witnesses on the stand to testify against Stevenson, but after dis cussing options in the case,
Stevenson agreed to waive 31 counts against him to Blair C ounty court.
Stevenson has until mid-January to decide if he will accept the plea agreement and cooperate with prosecutors.
Madeira said the preliminary hearing for the doctor, Barry L. Bender, 54, 1057 Pennsylvania Ave., won’t be held until mid-January.
Bender’s preliminary hearing, scheduled for Friday, was canceled when Bender’s attorney, Thomas M. Dickey of Altoona, informed officials his client was in the hospital undergoing an angioplasty procedure.
Dickey, a Blair County defense lawyer, will be tied up in trials for the next several weeks, which means Bender’s preliminary hearing probably won’t be scheduled until mid- or late January.
Bender faces drug law violations and charges of corruption of minors, selling to minors, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, criminal solicitation and prostitution.
Stevenson faces many of the same charges.
If the cases go to trial and the two men are convicted of the charges against them, they each could be sentenced to 19 to 323 years in prison.
Prosecutors said Bender held parties at his homes in Tyrone and Mackeyville, Clinton County, that were attended by teens ages 14 to 18.
Stevenson was charged with recruiting the teens, often providing them cocaine, Ecstasy and marijuana.
Please see Deals/Page A5
BenderTeachers give failing grades to state computerized tests
From Mirror staff and wire reports
A statewide computer test to gauge teachers’ understanding of math and reading standards has proven so riddled with glitches that some teachers don’t think the results will be of much use.
Teachers in one district gave up after struggling with the $7.5 million program.
“I made the decision to end the test,” South Fayette School District Superintendent Linda B. Hippert said. “This was not good
Instructors in one district gave up after struggling widt the $7.5 million program.
use of professional time.”
Teachers refusing to take the test could lose their right to participate in state-funded training programs, which are required to keep their
teaching certificates valid, according to a law passed in May.
State officials excused South Fayette teachers from the requirement because of the testing glitches, Hippert said.
"They said we had made a good-faith effort,” Hippert said.
Other school districts including Bellwood-Antis and Hollidaysburg Area, have had similar trouble operating the testing software.
Please see Tests/Page A3Prosecutors object to request to interview Wright jurors
By Phil Ray Staff Writer
HOLLIDAYSBURG - Blair County prosecutors are objecting to a request by lawyers representing William L. Wright of Altoona for an investigator to interview the Lebanon County jurors who sentenced Wright to death nearly 20 months ago.
The defense wants to explore whether the out-of-county jurors were exposed to outside influ
ences during Wright’s weeklong trial that may have prejudiced them against him.
Wright was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for killing 34-year-old James Mowery, the husband of a woman carrying Wright’s child.
On Thanksgiving Day 1998, Wright shot his way into the Mowery home on Beale Avenue, then went to an upstairs bedroom, where he killed Mowery. He was apprehended by city police not
long after he fled the home.
Wright has insisted from the start that he is not guilty of the shooting.
He and his attorneys, R. Thomas Forr Jr. and Brian H. Grabill, both of Altoona, are asking Judge Hiram Carpenter to toss out the death sentence as well as Wright’s first-degree conviction.
One of the steps the defense team has taken is to determine if any of the jurors were biased against Wright.
Please see Wright/Page A3
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