WASHINGTON BUYS NEXT-GENERATION CARS

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Washington is setting yet another technological precedent.

Seventeen government entities in the state have purchased 28 "green" cars through a contract offered by the states Department of General Administration.

The Toyota Prius is a hybrid, powered by both gasoline and electricity. The car gets about 52 miles per gallon in the city and emits 90 percent fewer emissions than a standard car. The car generates its own electricity so you dont have to worry about plugging it in overnight.

The first agency to buy one of the vehicles was, fittingly enough, the Department of Ecology. Six cities in the state have purchased the vehicles, and even Pueblo, Colo., has put in an order.

The Department of General Administration awarded a contract to Toyota last June. Washington is one of the first state governments in the country to contract for the Prius.

NO MORE MILK MONEY

ARDMORE, Pa. -- Several schools in Pennsylvania are doing away with 20th-century school-lunch cards, opting instead to install fingerprint scanners that deduct a students lunch costs from an already-established account.

Because some public funding for school districts, including E-Rate funding, is based on the amount of students participating in federal lunch programs, the scanners help school districts accurately track the number of students involved in these programs. The scanners also alleviate the potential embarrassment of students having to present free lunch program cards in front of other students.

"Take a school district that would have, across the board, a

30 percent free and reduced lunch [program] participation: At the elementary school level, its more like 40 percent, while at the high-school and junior-high level, its more like 20 percent," said Mitch Johns, president of Food Service Solutions, a company that sells fingerprint scanners to school districts. "Every school district we visit has that decrease. It may not be a 40 percent to 20 percent drop, but its a significant drop off from the elementary to the high-school level."

Although school districts reimbursement from the federal government for school lunches is based on how many students are eating free or reduced lunches, E-Rate funding comes from how many students sign up for the free or reduced lunch program, Johns said.

"Your E-Rate funding is based on how many free and reduced [students] there are in your school district as a percentage of the whole district," Johns said. "If youre doing a poor job on your free and reduced school lunch program in your district and not getting the kids to sign up because they dont trust that system or they know that they are automatically going to be termed poor, they tell their parents, Dont even sign me up for it."

PAPER CELLULAR PHONE

NEW YORK -- A cellular phone made from recycled paper products that will cost a measly $10 is expected to hit the U.S. market in the third quarter of this year.

The device, called the Phone-Card Phone, is made by Dieceland Technology. The phone is disposable, is as thick as three credit cards and comes with an hours worth of calling time and a hands-free attachment, said Randi Altschul, president and CEO of the company.

"Its just the tip of the iceberg of what were planning," Altschul said, adding that her company has 22 patents on the technology behind the disposable phone.

Two versions of the phone are available -- one that allows calls only to be made and one that receives calls as well. When users burn their allotted time, they can