'Did you hear...'

Busted. The General Accounting Office this month sustained a small-business protest against the Veterans Affairs Department because of a bogus database search. According to the ruling, VA decided to open up an eyeglass fitting and manufacturing contract to all bidders instead of just small businesses, which had previously snared the four-eyes awards. The reason? VA's contracting officer searched the Small Business Administration's Pro-Net database for small businesses with annual revenue no higher than $6, instead of $6 million. Not surprisingly, the small-biz database doesn't bother to track kids' lemonade stands, dot-bombs or corporate paupers such as Enron Corp. GAO upheld the protest of Rochester Optical Manufacturing Co. of Rochester, N.Y.

No phasers in that small-biz database, either? NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center last month solicited quotations for 69 Glock 40-caliber Model 23 semi-automatic pistols with tritium night-sights. The tritium glows in the dark'
presumably essential for targeting aliens in deep space.

Inferred censor technology. That's what Marx Toys Corp. will build into its 'toyware' robots for holiday giving. The $24.99 animatronic toyware, shaped like cartoon characters Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny, will sit atop your monitor and quack out your incoming instant messages, read stories or play online games via a wireless link with your PC. The 'inferred censor' presumably keeps the text-to-speech translations decent. So why can't e-mail developers hire some inferred censors? Tell [email protected].

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