The Office of Consumer Affairs
April 1999 Report
DOC Consumer-Related Activities


The following agencies are included in this report:


One in Three Custodial Parents Without Child Support Are Poor: About a third (32 percent) of custodial parents who did not receive the child support payments awarded them in 1995 were poor. Custodial parents receiving at least some of the child support they were owed had a poverty rate of 22 percent. In general, 30 percent of custodial parents were poor in 1995, compared with 16 percent of all parents with children. (Source: Child Support for Custodial Mothers and Fathers: 1995, P60-196. Internet address:

Peru=s Fertility Rate Declines, Census Bureau Reports: Peru=s birth rate has declined dramatically since the mid-1970s, a trend expected to continue into the early part of the next century. Peruvian women now give birth to 3.3 children, on average, a number projected to decline to 2.3 births per woman by the year 2020. The international brief provides current and projected data on life expectancy, changing age composition, urban-rural residence and access to health care. (Source: Population Trends: Peru, IB/99-1. Internet address:

Census 2000 Dress Rehearsal Shows Undercount Persists, Scientific Methods Correct Race and Ethnic Differential: The Census Bureau released both adjusted and unadjusted redistricting data from last year=s Census 2000 Dress Rehearsal, conducted in Sacramento, Calif., Menominee County, Wisc., and Columbia, S.C. The data showed across-the-board that the undercount, which has been measured in every census since 1940 persists today, but that scientific methods used at two of the three test sites corrected it. (Source: Decennial Media Relations Team. Internet address:

State Government Tax Collection Up 7 Percent: State government tax revenues increased by 7 percent from 1997 to 1998. Among major taxes, individual income tax revenues rose the most (11 percent), followed by general sales (6 percent) and motor fuels (4 percent). The 1998 tax-collection tabulations show the population, tax collections by category and per-capita tax collections for every state. (Source: State Government Tax Collections. Internet address:

Federal Domestic Spending Reached $1.5 Trillion, Social Security Topped $400 Billion: The federal government distributed $1.5 trillion for domestic benefits, subsidies, grants, goods and services, and salaries and wages in fiscal year 1998. Federal direct payments for disability and retirement totaled $507 billion in 1998, a 3.7 percent increase over 1997. Spending on Social Security alone totaled $403 billion in 1998, a 3.9 percent increase over 1997. Other direct payments reached $328 billion in 1998. These were followed by grants ($269 billion), procurement contracts ($209 billion) and Federal Government salaries and wages ($170 billion). (Source: Consolidated Federal Funds Report, FY98, State and County Areas, CFFR/98, and Federal Aid to States for FY98, FAS/98. Internet address:

U.S. Business Investment in Capital Goods Totals $870 Billion in 1997: U.S. businesses invested $870.2 billion in new and used capital goods in 1997. The Census Bureau report defined capital goods as items with an expected use that exceeds one year and which are ordinarily depreciated by businesses. They include buildings and other structures, machinery and equipment, furniture, computers, and vehicles. (Source: Annual Capital Expenditures: 1997, ACE/97. Internet address:

World Population Continues to Grow Despite Declines in Fertility: The world=s population will increase to 8 billion by the end of 2026 and will reach 9.3 billion by 2050, according to an international brief released by the Census Bureau. Over the past three decades, the world=s population has continued to grow, despite declines in the fertility rate that marked developing countries in the late 1970s. This year the world=s population will pass the 6 billion mark. (Source: World Population at a Glance: 1998 and Beyond, IB/98-4. Internet address:


Constituent Contacts: During April 1999, OCA responded to 424 requests from constituents: 224 complaints, 98 requests for information, and 102 requests for publications. The top areas of complaints, in rank order, concerned banking and credit, automobiles, telecommunications, computers, and mail orders.


Workshop to Focus on Parcel Shipping Scale Regulations: Billions of dollars worth of packaged goods are shipped between businesses and customers every year with fees based on the weight of the shipped goods. Established regulations and protocols exist to ensure the accuracy of all scales used in the United States for these business transactions.

However, in recent years, some package shipping services have claimed that another law, the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 1994, prohibits states from inspecting their scales. In response to concern from state inspectors, NIST=s Office of Weights and Measures and the National Conference on Weights and Measures will hold a workshop to clarify inspection policies and related issues. This one-day workshop will be held June 3, 1999, at NIST in Gaithersburg, MD. Weights and measures officials, representatives of Federal regulatory agencies, parcel shipping companies, and other interested parties are invited to attend.

Presentations will cover the U.S. system of measurement, weights and measures requirements, and inspection policies. Representatives of parcel shipping companies will give an overview of the industry and the FAA Authorization Act of 1994. Participants will help identify issues that need resolution in order to ensure uniform national inspection policies.

The NIST Office of Weights and Measures provides technical advice and training to state, Federal, and industry representatives and, in collaboration with the National Conference on Weighs and Measures, develops inspection procedures to assure accurate weights and measures. The National Conference on Weights and Measures is a voluntary standards organization that works closely with NIST to ensure uniform weights and measures in the United States.

NIST Will Lead Study on Danger of Fire Smoke: NIST and the Fire Protection Research Foundation are announcing a research initiative to study how smoke and heat impede escape and survival in fires.

The research will help policy makers determine whether, when and how to incorporate sublethal effects of hot fire smoke in safety decisions. Sublethal effects are those that do not kill quickly.

Fire smoke consists of fine particles and hundreds of gases, some of which are toxic. Most fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation rather than burns from flames. Much is already known about how smoke inhalation can kill fire fighters and building occupants, but little information exists about more subtle effects of smoke exposure. These include mental disorientation, eye irritation, and coughing that makes it difficult for someone to escape a burning building.

Richard G. Gann, of the NIST Building and Fire Research Laboratory, will lead the NIST research team. James R. Hoover, global regulatory manager of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. will coordinate the effort with domestic and international standards committees.

The data portion of the program will examine existing information on post-fire health effects and prior studies of laboratory animals exposed to gases typical of those in fire smoke. Fire scenario analyses will help determine the types of fires in which sublethal effects are likely to affect survival. Researchers will develop a standard method for measuring gases produced when everyday products burn, and will construct a data base of that information.


Kosovo Crisis: Through a new icon on the NTIS home page at, customers can link to maps, reports, and studies for sale on the Kosovo and Albanian crisis. Some titles listed include Kosovo: The Balkan Time Bomb (Master=s Thesis); Crimes Against Humanity (video); Kosovo (CIA Map); War CriminalsBTesting the Limits of Military Force; and Forsaken PeopleBCase Studies of the Internally Displaced.

Violence Prevention in ASafe@ Places: NTIS has placed an icon on its home page through which consumers can access information about available reports, guides, and multimedia programs addressing the issues of violence prevention in the schools and in the workplace. The schools category includes titles such as Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools; Combating Fear and Restoring Safety in Schools; and Annual Report on School Safety, 1998. Violence and trauma in the workplace also have had a serious impact. In 1996, homicide was the second leading cause of occupational injury and death in this country, with a weekly average of 20 murders and 18,000 reported assaults on workers. The workplace category includes titles such as: Combating Workplace Violence: Guidelines for Employers and Law Enforcement; Manager=s Handbook: Handling Traumatic Events; and Stress in One Occupational Group: Teachers.

GOV.SEARCH: NTIS and Northern Light Technology LLC are pleased to announce gov.searchBa one-stop Federal Government, information resource that utilizes powerful searching, crawling, and classification technologies. Bringing together the innovation and experience of the private sector with the resources and content of the Federal Government, NTIS and Northern Light have formed a joint venture. Researchers will now be able to access the latest Federal research, Government web sites, and archived content from thousands of premium publications, all available in one place, suing this versatile new subscription information product. provides access to not only the NTIS Bibliographic Database and specifically selected Government web sites, but also to Northern Light=s online research library of more than 5 million articles from professional and technical journals such as Defense Daily magazine and FedNet Government News.


(Unless otherwise indicated, call the NTIS Sales Desk at 1-800-553-NTIS to order these products.)

National Teleconference on School Reform (AVA20400VNB1NEN, $90 plus a handling fee): Do you work with or for a school that is planning major reform, change, or improvement or needs the inspiration to take on this awesome task? This 90-minute video and its accompanying book, Selected Readings, takes the mystery out of this important community effort. It is designed to be viewed and discussed in three 30-minute segments: Student Learning; Professional Learning Communities within the School; and Engaging Families and Communities.

HIV, Pregnancy, and AZT: Your Health, Your Baby, Your Decision (English and Spanish Version) (AVA19984VNB1NEN, $55 plus a handling fee): This 21-minute video informs and educates Medicaid-eligible, HIV-infected women, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age about the benefits and risks of AZT therapy during pregnancy and assists them, in conjunction with their health care providers, in making an informed decision about AZT therapy.

Conducting Sobriety Checkpoint Operations AVA19319VNB1NEN, $55 plus a handling fee): This 26-minute program presents basic operational procedures for legal and safe roadside sobriety checkpoints. It covers pre-operation briefing; site set-up; initial driver screening; and detailed investigation.

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