Harvard student finds attorneys to defend him in Apple lawsuit

An Associated Press story, carried on Yahoo, reports that www.ThinkSecret.com publisher Nicholas Ciarelli has found a lawy firm to defend him against a lawsuit filed by Apple Computer. Ciarelli, accused of stealing trade secrets and posting them on his web site, will be represented by Gross & Belsky of San Francisco.

tags

Michael Powell out at FCC

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell plans to resign today, FCC officials confirmed, ending what has often been a controversial tenure as he tried to push the telecom and media industries into an increasingly deregulated world that some lawmakers, companies, and consumer groups didn’t like.

The news, first reported on The Wall Street Journal’s Jan. 21 editorial page, was something of a surprise, coming just one day after President Bush’s inauguration and with some very hefty issues yet to be dealt with by the FCC. These issues include how to treat burgeoning internet phone services and how to overhaul the Universal Service Fund, a federal subsidy program under increasing financial pressure.

Related story:
  • Spellings confirmed as ED secretary

    The eRate, which provides up to $2.25 billion in telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries, is funded through the Universal Service Fund. Earlier this year, under Powell’s direction, eRate funding was suspended while the Universal Service Administrative Co. brought its accounting practices into line with federal government standards.

    Also still in play: An FCC payola investigation of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) launched early in January. The FCC probe seeks to determine if ED’s $241,000 payment to commentator Armstrong Williams constituted illegal payola. Williams reportedly plugged the No Child Left Behind Act on television and radio shows after ED made the payment.

    Rumors have circulated for months that Powell, who has been on the FCC since President Clinton appointed him as a commissioner seven years ago, would step down. Recent conventional wisdom had him leaving in the spring after at least some of these regulatory issues were dealt with.

    The FCC is a five-member commission, with a majority representing the party of the president, in this case, Republicans. Possible successors discussed have included current Republican Commissioner Kevin Martin.

    Links:

    Federal Communications Commission
    http://www.fcc.gov

    tags

    Spellings confirmed as ED Secretary

    Margaret Spellings, a White House adviser and longtime confidante of President George W. Bush, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Jan. 20 as the new Secretary of Education. She succeeds Roderick Paige, the controversial former Houston superintendent who served in that post throughout the first four years of the Bush administration.

    Spellings assumed the cabinet-level post after Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., agreed to waive his objections, which had been holding up her final confirmation. Lautenberg’s move came after Spellings agreed to review the promotional tactics–such as paying a conservative pundit $241,000 to praise the No Child Left Behind Act–that stirred up trouble at the Department of Education (ED) in early January.

    “I made clear to Ms. Spellings that these propaganda efforts at the Department of Education must stop,” Lautenberg told the Associated Press.

    “Too often the administration has misspent taxpayer funds to further President Bush’s political agenda … Ms. Spellings assured me that she takes the propaganda problem very seriously and will meet with me” when Congress’ investigative arm finishes a report, Lautenberg said.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is trying to determine whether ED violated a federal ban on propaganda.

    White House spokesman Trent Duffy confirmed that Spellings had committed to “reviewing the recommendations of the GAO report.” He also reiterated the administration’s view that the department’s deal with commentator Armstrong Williams “should be looked into.”

    The maneuver that Lautenberg used allows senators to prevent a confirmation vote until they resolve an outstanding issue. Lautenberg agreed to lift his hold on the nomination after speaking with Spellings on Jan. 19, according to two of the senator’s aides.

    In a statement in support of Spellings’ confirmation, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., had this to say about the role of ED Secretary: “There is no more important position in a president’s Cabinet. Education is key to opportunity and a strong economy.”

    Powell out at FCC

    Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Michael Powell plans to resign today, FCC officials confirmed, ending what has often been a controversial tenure…

  • FULL STORY
  • Previously, Kennedy had called her “a capable, principled leader who has the ear of the president and has earned strong, bipartisan respect in Congress.”

    Spellings, 46, has a long association with President Bush, having served as his senior adviser while he was governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. During the president’s first term, Spellings served in the White House as assistant to the president for domestic policy. As a member of Bush’s staff when he was governor of Texas, she helped him formulate a state education policy that later became the backbone of the national No Child Left Behind Act.

    Considered by some Washington insiders as a policy maven, Spellings also is said to possess keen political acumen. When Bush ran for governor in 1994, she was his political director. Shortly after Bush won, Spellings–then known as Margaret LaMontagne–became his education adviser and helped him pass legislation that emphasized accountability and achievement, local control, and early-childhood reading skills.

    A 1979 graduate of the University of Houston, Spellings was associate executive director of the Texas Association of School Boards before joining Bush’s gubernatorial campaign.

    Spellings is the second woman to become Secretary of Education since the department was created in 1979. The first woman to hold the office, Shirley M. Hufstedler, was appointed by President Carter on May 7, 1980.

    Margaret Spellings, the new U.S. Secretary of Education, has been part of President Bush’s political team for more than a decade, dating back to Bush’s early years as Texas governor. (Associated Press photo)

    In Spellings’ home state of Texas, she oversaw the Texas Reading Initiative and the Student Success Initiative to eliminate social promotion. She also played a key role in developing a rigorous assessment system–and is a strong advocate for school accountability.

    Since coming to Washington, Spellings reportedly has influenced Bush’s domestic agenda on everything from justice to housing. Many policies she advocated were endorsed by the president during his 2004 re-election campaign. These include a revision of Social Security, limiting medical malpractice litigation, and making more taxpayer funds available to faith-based organizations that do charitable work.

    “You bet she was an education person in Texas, but I realized how brilliant a woman she is,” Bush told the Dallas Morning News in 2001. “She can handle just about every task we give her.”

    The National Education Association (NEA), which former Secretary Paige alienated in 2004 when he called it a “terrorist organization,” reacted positively to the Spellings when her nomination first was announced in November.

    “This is a great opportunity for the administration to change the tone of its discourse with the education community, particularly the 2.7 million members of the National Education Association who are in schools all over this nation,” NEA President Reg Weaver said in a published statement. “We look forward to finding common ground with Ms. Spellings in her new role.”

    ED accounts for approximately 6 percent of the $852 billion spent on public education each year, with the rest coming mainly from state and local governments and private sources, according to government figures.

    During her tenure at the White House, Spellings traveled the country visiting schools that had improved test scores. She also briefed reporters on behalf of the White House on Bush’s education policies.

    “She has my complete trust,” Bush said when he nominated Spellings to the education post.

    Related story:

    Powell out at FCC
    http://www.eschoolnews.com/news/showstory.cfm?ArticleID=5467

    Links:

    Spellings’ White House bio http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/spellings-bio.html

    U.S. Dept. of Education
    http://www.ed.gov/index.jhtml

    tags

    Kansas newspaper editor asks voters to support ed tech

    Writing for The Johnson County Sun of Johnson County, Kansas, opinions editor Bob Sigman discusses the local Blue Valley school district’s $280 million bond package. Some $47 million is budgeted for technology spending, and Sigman expresses complete support for these expenses, urging voters to endorse it as well.

    tags

    Virginia legislators want state exempted from parts of NCLB

    The Washington Post reports that the Virginia Board of Education will ask the federal government for exemptions from parts of the No Child Left Behind Law. Republican legislators in the state’s General Assembly say the federal mandate interferes with the state’s existing Standards of Learning testing program. (Note: This site requires registration.)

    tags

    IP Telephony and eRate eligibility: New rules this year

    In the September 2004 edition of eSchool News, a series of articles was published under the caption, “eSN Special Report: IP Telephony.” In that series, an article entitled “IP telephony and eRate funding” made specific representations regarding eRate eligibility of IP telephony services. This guidance has recently been updated and clarified with the October 5, 2004 release of the FCC’s most recent Eligible Services List. In that list, the following is now listed as being “Not Eligible” for eRate funding as a Priority One service:

    “Voice over IP (VoIP), IP telephony, and related service offerings all employ a technology to transmit voice conversations over a data network using the Internet Protocol. Similar Internet protocols can be used to provide video services.”

    Thus, IP Telephony as a Priority One service is now expressly not eligible for eRate funding, and that represents a reversal of what was said in the article. Voice over IP equipment (not a service) remains eligible for eRate funding as Priority Two “Internal Connections” when there is an outright purchase of the equipment.

    It is important to note that this new Eligible Services List does not, however, alter the eligibility of Wide Area Networks and Digital Transmission Services, which remain eligible for eRate funding as Priority One services. A Wide Area Network is defined in the new Eligible Services List as:

    “A wide area network is a voice, data, and/or video network that provides connections from within an eligible school or library to other locations beyond the school or library.”

    Digital Transmission Services are defined in that list as:

    “Leased data circuits for voice, video, and/or data that connect an eligible school or library facility to other locations beyond the school or library, including an Internet Service Provider, are eligible for discount.”

    Trillion Partners, Inc., a sponsor of the report in question, has conferred with the entity responsible for issuing eRate funds, the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co., to confirm the accuracy of this information. Trillion has an uncompromising approach to compliance with FCC and eRate regulations, and always wants to keep its customers informed as these regulations evolve. We appreciate that eSchool News has been a strong partner with school districts in keeping them informed on the latest developments on issues that affect them, including news affecting their access to eRate funds.

    Scott Smyth
    Vice President, Legal and Regulatory
    Trillion Partners, Inc.

    tags

    ENA CEO charged with obstruction

    Federal prosecutors in Tennessee have brought two obstruction of justice charges against the head of an internet services company that caters to K-12 schools.

    Albert Ganier III, founder of Education Networks of America (ENA), appeared in a federal courthouse Jan. 4 after prosecutors allegedly uncovered evidence that he deleted eight documents from his desktop computer and four from his laptop.

    Investigators sought the documents–which reportedly concern contracts worth nearly $200 million to provide internet service to Tennessee schools–as part of a federal probe into how those contracts were awarded.

    A federal grand jury indicted Ganier in November, alleging he deleted company eMail messages after discovering that investigators were seeking them. Ganier also was charged with deleting 11 contract-related documents from his secretary’s computer.

    SPECIAL REPORTS

    Learn about technologies that are revolutionizing school administration and classroom instruction in eSN Special Reports. Each report offers a comprehensive overview of a hot topic in the education field.

  • School Safety and Security
  • Informed Instruction
  • IP Telephony
  • Accessible Technologies
  • Data-Driven Decision Making
  • Investigators have subpoenaed company eMail messages related to contracts and grants won by ENA during the administration of former Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, a Republican who reportedly is a longtime friend of Ganier. The contracts named ENA as the main provider of internet connectivity and technical training to Tennessee public schools through ConnecTen, a statewide education network that once was publicly owned and operated but now is privately owned by ENA.

    Ganier’s lawyer, Aubrey Harwell, contends that when Ganier put the files in his computer’s recycling bin he wasn’t really deleting them.

    “The government says that Mr. Ganier–a businessman who is very computer literate–has somehow violated the law because he’s put [the documents] in a recycle bin. I’m hard pressed to understand the theory of their case,” Harwell reportedly told a local television reporter. “Someone as literate as [Ganier] understands one can go to a recycle bin and bring documents back.”

    Ganier has pleaded not guilty to the obstruction charges, and his trial is set for March 29. But prosecutors have indicated in a memo they say was accidentally made public that they have uncovered “evidence of illegal and otherwise inappropriate activity” in the awarding of the ENA contract and are pursuing other charges, too.

    If convicted on both obstruction counts, Ganier could receive up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

    Ganier did not return an eSchool News reporter’s telephone calls before press time.

    ENA President David Pierce said it was inappropriate for him to comment on a pending court case. He added that Ganier, who had served as the company’s chief executive officer, “basically stepped down in late December to concentrate on his defense,” though ENA has not formally announced Ganier’s resignation. Ganier was still listed on the company’s web site as its CEO on Jan. 19, although the listing has since been removed.

    The indictment stems from a far-reaching Justice Department investigation that began in 2002. At that time, federal and state agencies began investigating charges that contracts won during Sundquist’s administration were awarded unfairly.

    In 1998, the state of Tennessee, which then owned ConnecTEN, sold the network to ENA and now pays the company for upgraded internet access to its 1,600 schools. The sale made it possible to bypass a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule stating that the building or upgrading of a state-owned wide area network can’t be done with eRate funds.

    Government contracts and grants followed. ENA won two long-term contracts from the state reportedly worth approximately $180 million during Sundquist’s final term in office. On two occasions, contracts awarded to ENA were contested–once with the FCC, and once with the Tennessee State Comptrollers office. On both occasions, rulings were made in favor of ENA. During that time, ENA also won a federal Appalachian Regional Commission grant to provide online training services to Tennessee teachers.

    In December 2002, Ganier reportedly tried to change ENA policy so that company eMail messages would be deleted automatically from ENA computers after six months. By then, Ganier was allegedly aware that a federal investigation of Sundquist-era contracts was under way.

    Former Tennessee Labor Department official Joanna Ediger was convicted in May 2004 on wire- and mail-fraud charges. The court found that Ediger illegally helped another friend of the governor–a business owner and former lobbyist for ENA, John Stamps–win a no-bid contract for his company, Workforce Strategists. Ediger was cleared on charges of bribery and lying to federal officials.

    Stamps is currently under federal investigation for his own connections to the governor while working as a lobbyist for ENA when it received contracts and grants from the state. Stamps is identified by federal officials as an unindicted coconspirator in the Ediger case and also was an investor in Ganier’s ENA.

    The federal government has withheld eRate funding from ENA for two and a half years as its investigation has proceeded. Through an agreement that allows eRate payments to be made to some ENA subsidiaries and, according to ENA President Pierce, an agreement reached with large telephone contractors to suspend their payment demands for the time being, ENA has continued to provide complete internet service to Tennessee schools.

    Pierce contends that the company itself is innocent of any wrongdoing. He argues that charges the contract was improperly given are “absolutely false,” pointing to the FCC and Tennessee comptroller rulings. The current governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, also maintains the contracts were won fairly.

    ENA currently has no other K-12 business agreements with any state government other than Tennessee. But Pierce said the company is “pursuing [such agreements] aggressively in multiple places.” Pierce also noted that 100 percent of the Tennessee school districts responding to a customer satisfaction survey carried out by ENA said they were “highly satisfied [with service provided by the company] and would recommend ENA to others.”

    Tennessee school districts contacted by eSchool News supported Pierce’s statement.

    Linda Bales, technology coordinator for the Huntingdon School District, said ENA does anything her district asks it to do. “They keep us up and going all the time,” she said. “The turnaround time if we have a problem is very short. They are right on it, fixing it right away.” Bales said she did not know of anyone working in the Tennessee school system who is dissatisfied with ENA’s service.

    “I think they do a great job,” agreed Robert Haviland, technology coordinator for the Hickman County Schools. “Often, when I have a problem, they’ll call me before I call them. I can get help with my local network [and], if I need quick advice, they’ll be glad to tell me what to do.”

    But Haviland said he is worried about the situation that could arise if ENA lost the contract. “ENA owns everything outside the building from the wires up to and including the router inside the building. We own everything inside the building except that router,” Haviland said. “ENA would have to come in and remove all its equipment, and the new vendor would have to install all their equipment.” He added: “I dread it if ENA loses the contract, because of what the kids would have to go through. We would have to go without internet access for a very long time.”

    Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

    Links:

    Education Networks of America
    http://www.ena.com

    Federal Communications Commission
    http://www.fcc.gov

    Tennessee Comptroller’s Office
    http://www.comptroller.state.tn.us

    tags

    Educators worry about plagiarism by internet generation

    The Seattle Times reports that local educators are starting to blame the internet for an increase in cheating among students. The same generation that routinely violates copyright laws when downloading music might not understand that taking a few lines of text off a web site constitutes plagiarism.

    tags

    Online and into your school: The Smithsonian brings history to life

    The Smithsonian Institution has upgraded its central education web site to include a wealth of new educational content for students ages 6-12, including interactive activities, homework help, and games for all disciplines–from art and history to science and space. Updated features include Explore and Learn, an online gateway to dozens of interactive and educational Smithsonian web sites for kids; Smithsonian Kids, a site that invites younger learners to see and explore many of the artifacts preserved by the Smithsonian over the years; Apollo 11, an interactive feature that takes student learners back to the days of Neil Armstrong and examines the state of science, politics, and technology during the days when man first set foot on the moon; and Mr. President, a resource created in response to the 2004 presidential elections, which provides resources that include brief biographies of our country’s leaders and portraits of current and former presidential figures. Overall, the web site–which features separate sections for children, families, and teachers–contains resources from 18 Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo, and the Smithsonian’s many research centers.

    tags