Crime never pays

And it doesn't pay to be too nosy either. Nilda Ortiz, who worked for the Social Security Administration in Meriden, Conn., pleaded guilty last week to using her desktop computer at SSA to access hundreds of accounts in the agency's electronic database.

She was sentenced to a two-year probation and fined $1,000.

"Federal government employees who have access to sensitive personal information have a special responsibility not to access this information outside of the scope of their job responsibilities," said U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns.

A New York moment

Straphangers, take note: Your New York City subway ride may no longer be free of wireless phone chatter.

In a massive security effort following the London Underground bombings, officials at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority have decided to solicit proposals for wireless phone coverage at the city's underground stations.

The authority's request for proposals comes after officials decided to follow Britain's lead in installing cameras inside train cars and stations. Lockheed Martin won a $212 million contract Aug. 23 to install 3,000 sensors and 1,000 cameras and closed-circuit televisions in the subway system. Images captured by such surveillance tools were instrumental in hunting down the London bombers.

No longer a 'manned' flight

NASA wants to be more PC in its search for ET. No astronauts were onboard the space vehicle that recently took off in a quest to find past or present Martian life, but the vehicle was not unmanned.

"That's sexist," said NASA spokeswoman Dolores Beasley. "Inhuman" is not a good alternative because such a description could hurt the vehicle's feelings. NASA prefers "robotic."

Recharge it

It's time to give laptop computer users a break, and engineers at Purdue University may have done just that. They have developed a new way of producing hydrogen for fuel cells to automatically recharge batteries in portable electronic devices, such as notebook computers. The recharged batteries would eliminate the need to use a wall outlet.

The American Chemical Society was slated to demonstrate the battery technology at its annual conference this week, and we predict there will be a run on this product as soon as it hits the shelves. In addition to laptop computers, the new device could be used for wireless phones, personal digital assistants, digital cameras, handheld medical diagnostic tools and defibrillators.

Benefiting the troops

Acquisition Solutions, in cooperation with Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates, will host a golf fundraiser Oct. 12 in support of Comfort for America's Uniformed Services Elite.

CAUSE raises money to buy needed items for troops recuperating in military hospitals and rehabilitation centers. It buys clothing, gift packs, razors and playing cards, for example.

The benefit will be held at the Andrews Air Force Base golf course.

For contact information about the golf fundraiser, go to Download's Data Call at

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