Published Online: April 30, 1997

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An Oval Office confession

President Clinton wants every 8th grader to be able to conduct research via the Internet in three years. By then, he may have learned to use it himself.

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During a recent Internet conversation with children in Los Angeles, Mr. Clinton 'fessed up: Seems he's still in the slow lane on the information highway.

At the end of the conversation, a labor leader organizing volunteers asked how many students knew how to use the school's computers. Most raised their hands.

"Don't ask the adults," joked Miguel Contreras, the secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, after seeing the response.

"Don't ask the adults on this side of the screen, either," Mr. Clinton said from the Oval Office, where a video camera captured images of him and Vice President Al Gore and transmitted them to a computer across the country as part of Net Day festivities on April 19. "The vice president can raise his hand. I'm not so sure about me."

A few moments later, the president and the vice president spoke with a group of teenagers in Hartford, Conn., who tutor youngsters on how to use computers.

"Maybe you could send me a volunteer. I need some help down here," Mr. Clinton said.

The nation's top elected officials participated in the conversations to encourage the wiring of schools for Internet access on the third national Net Day. Cabinet secretaries, union members, and educators volunteered in schools throughout the country.

Eavesdroppers plead guilty

Two Florida school employees who taped a politically sensitive conference call involving House Republicans pleaded guilty last week to illegally intercepting a cellular telephone call.

John and Alice Martin, Democratic activists who belong to the Florida Teaching Profession-NEA, recorded the Dec. 21 conversation between House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other GOP leaders about the ethics violations Mr. Gingrich planned to admit to later that day. ("Federal File," Jan. 22, 1997.) The Fort White couple later gave the tape to a Democratic congressman who leaked it to the press.

The Martins' crime qualifies as an infraction under federal law and could carry fines of up to $5,000. The penalty would have been worse if the couple had used the tape for "private financial gain," the Department of Justice said in a news release.

--DAVID J. HOFF federal@epe.org

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