The Office of Consumer Affairs

February 1998 Report


DOC Consumer-Related Activities


The following agencies are included in this report:





  • "Married With Children" Describes Hispanic Households:

    -- Married couples with children comprise 36 percent of Hispanic households. Less than a quarter (24 percent) of non-Hispanic households are made up of married couples with children.

    -- Children are included in 52 percent of the 8.2 million Hispanic households. Children are found in 33 percent of all non-Hispanic households.

    -- An estimated 28.4 million persons of Hispanic origin resided in the United States in 1996, representing 10.8 percent of the total population.

    -- About one-half (53 percent) of all Hispanics 25 years and over had at least a high school diploma in 1996.

    For questions about the data, contact John Reed (301-457-2403). For more information, see The Hispanic Population in the United States: March 1996 (P20-502). For ordering information, contact Customer Services (301-457-4100). The Internet address is:




  • Business Champions Program: Director spoke to a group of Archbishop Carroll High School students about the importance of business ethics in the workplace. Other speakers included an official from the Small Business Administration, several area business owners and a Carroll graduate who went from shadowing to an internship and is now an assistant to a business owner in addition to owning a successful small business himself. Director is a member of the Business Champions Program and serves on the Internship/Employment/ Shadowing committee.

  • Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) Planning Meeting: Director and staff attended a small group planning session with members of the DSEF board of directors to discuss the foundation=s consumer-education agenda for 1999. OCA has worked with DSEF on several projects related to NAFTA and consumers.

  • "Connecting All Americans for the 21st Century: Telecommunications Links in Low Income & Rural Communities": Director attended a conference sponsored by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Public Utility Law Project, February 24-26, 1998. The conference addressed ways to improve access to new telecommunications technology for low income and rural communities and strategies to connect and network those communities. Speeches by Vice President Albert Gore, Secretary William Daley, and Assistant Secretary Larry Irving highlighted the conference.

  • Smart Cards and the Future of Money: Director attended the MasterCard Money Forum on February 12 where Richard Phillimore, Senior Vice President, Chip Card Business Development, MasterCard International, and David Medine, Associate Director for Credit Practices, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, discussed both the convenience and liability of smart cards.


  • Constituent Contacts: During February 1998, OCA responded to 116 requests from constituents.




  • Trade Compliance Center: The U.S. Department of Commerce, as part of the Clinton Administration strategy to further step up the pace against unfair trade practices, established the Trade Compliance Center (TCC) in July 1996 and now has announced that the "TCC On-Line" service is now open and available to the public. This service will allow U.S. exporters to file market access and trade agreements complaints instantly through an electronic mail hotline via the Internet. A series of articles on the subject and specific TCC initiatives in the coming months can be found in the February 1998 issue of Business America, the ITA magazine of international trade.



  • African American Cultural Exposition and Trade Fair: MBDA sponsored an African American cultural expo and trade fair in commemoration of the national African American History Month. The expo and trade fair was held in the lobby of the Herbert C. Hoover Building. Vendors sold a diverse array of clothing, accessories, artwork, crafts, jewelry, books and food.



  • Sharks Protected in Federal Ruling That Supports Precautionary Approach: In a victory for natural resource conservation, Judge Steven D. Merryday of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that strong management measures were justified to stabilize Atlantic shark populations, officials with the Commerce Department=s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced. The ruling, which is in response to a suit brought against the agency for reducing shark quotas because of overfishing, confirms that the fisheries service's science is sound. In his ruling, Judge Merryday ordered that shark quota reductions remain in place pending further analysis of economic impacts on fishermen, to be completed on or before May 1, 1998.

  • Fisheries Service Proposes Protection for 13 Salmon and Steelhead Populations on West Coast: The NMFS proposed to protect under the Federal Endangered Species Act more than a dozen salmon and steelhead population in Washington, Oregon, and California that are heading toward extinction. A final decision on all these populations will be made next year. The populations formally proposed for protection range from sockeye salmon in tiny Ozette Lake in Washington's rugged Olympic Peninsula to chinook salmon in the state's heavily urbanized Puget Sound.




  • Failure of Tiny Rivets May Have Sunk "Unsinkable" Liner: When the remains of the RMS Titanic were discovered more than two miles beneath the surface of the North Atlantic in 1985, the story of the great liner once dubbed "unsinkable" by the press began moving from legend into scientific fact. Numerous research investigations have been piecing together the details of what really occurred on April 14-15, 1912, after Titanic struck an iceberg, broke in half and carried more than 1,500 people to their deaths. Now, the answer to one of the most elusive questions--Why did the 46,000-ton ship sink in less than three hours?--may be contained in a new report from NIST.

    The culprit, says NIST metallurgist Timothy Foecke in the report, is very possibly one of Titanic'ssmallest components--the 3 million wrought iron rivets used to hold the hull sections together.


    Foecke performed metallurgical and mechanical analyses on steel and rivet samples recovered from the Titanic's hull. His examinations revealed that the wrought iron in the rivets contained three times today's allowable amount of slag (the glassy residue left behind after the smelting of ore), making it less ductile and more brittle than it should have been. This finding provides strong evidence that Titanic's collision with the iceberg caused the rivet heads to break off, popped the fasteners from their holes and allowed water to rush in between the separated hull plates.


    Photographs of Titanic's sister ship, the RMS Olympic, back up the rivet failure theory. Taken after the Olympic collided with another vessel in 1911, the photos clearly show dozens of vacant holes in the hull where rivets once sat. Sonar and other evidence gathered during a 1996 visit to the Titanic also point to seam and rivet failure. For a single copy of Metallurgy of the RMS Titanic (NISTIR 6118) send a request to Public Inquiries by fax at (301) 926-1630 or by e-mail at

  • "Baldrige Index" Outperforms S&P 500 Again: For the fourth year in a row, the fictitious "Baldrige Index" has outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 by almost 3 to 1. The "Baldrige Index" is made up of publicly traded U.S. companies that have received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award during the years 1988 to 1996. NIST invested a hypothetical $1,000 in each of the six whole company winners of the Baldrige Award--ADAC Laboratories, Eastman Chemical Co., Federal Express Corp., Motorola Inc., Solectron Corp. and Zytec Corp. The investments were tracked from the first business day of the month following the announcement of award recipients (or the date they began public trading) to December 1, 1997. Adjustments were made for stock splits. Another $1,000 was hypothetically invested in the S&P 500 at the same time. NIST found that the group of six outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 2.7 to 1, achieving a 394.5 percent return on investment compared to a 146.9 percent return for the S&P 500.


    A similar hypothetical investment in a group made up of the six whole company Baldrige Award winners and the parent companies of 12 subsidiary winners outperformed the S&P 500 by 2.4 to 1, a 362.3 percent return on investment compared to a 148.3 percent return for the S&P. A copy of the three-page stock study is available on the Internet at


  • Two New Quality Categories Proposed for FY 1999: Non-profit education and health care organizations will be able to apply for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award next year if funding is approved as part of President Clinton's fiscal year 1999 budget proposal. The proposed budget includes $2.3 million for the new award categories. The new Baldrige award programs could help these organizations improve performance.
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    In May 1997, the private Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award announced a $15 million endowment drive to help establish the new awards, provided Federal funding also is available.

    The education and health care sectors have expressed strong interest in establishing Baldrige awards for these communities. In 1995, NIST conducted a successful pilot program to determine the interest and readiness of these organizations in participating in a Balldrige Award program. Since then, Federal funding has not been available to continue the pilots or to establish award categories.


    More than 40 state quality award programs are based on the Baldrige Award program, and 35 of these recognize health care and education organizations.


    The 1999 Budget also includes $3.1 million for the existing Baldrige Quality Award for businesses.


  • Proposals Sought for New Learning Technologies Program: A new Advanced Technology Program (ATP) focused program in Adaptive Learning Systems and the start of its first competition were announced on February 2, 1998, by Commerce Secretary William M. Daley. The new program will help support high-risk research and development by industry to develop new infrastructure technologies based on information networks such as the World Wide Web.

    The goal of the focused program is to ultimately put powerful tools for developing interactive instructional software in the hands of educators and other content specialists. Future "Aadaptive learning systems" envisioned will reduce the cost of producing and disseminating educational materials, improve instructional effectiveness and workplace productivity, and make training and learning more accessible than ever before.


    The competition announcement for the ATP program in Adaptive Learning Systems appeared in the February 2, 1998, Commerce Business Daily and can be found on the Internet at the following address: The deadline for proposals is 3 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, May 13, 1998. For more information, including an ATP Proposal Preparation Kit, contact the ATP at (800) ATP-FUND (287-3863), fax: (301) 926-9524 or e-mail:





  • Fedworld:


    The Web 100--FedWorld and the IRS Digital Daily (operated by FedWorld) were listed in the top 100 Web sites for Government and politics. Consumers can connect to FedWorld's Web site at and may also visit the NTIS Home Page at


  • WORLDTEC: The NTIS has launched a new online subscription service, Worldtec. For the first time online, users can access timely and retrospective information on developments in foreign science and technology initiatives from dozens of sources. Accessible 24-hours a day, the Worldtec Web site brings consumers English-language reports on the most recent worldwide technology developments in areas such as microelectronics and biotechnology. Worldtec also includes information on science policy and budgets, conferences, and other business opportunities and provides material that, until recently, had been under restrictive use only. For only $25 a month, it enables consumers to search online and review significant events, breakthroughs and discoveries in foreign research and industrial technology. This reliable, unbiased reporting is from U.S. Government agencies, cables, and reports from science counselors and other staff of U.S. embassies abroad. Consumers can visit the site at

  • National Organic Program: NTIS and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are co-hosting a Web site for public comments on the National Organic Program. This rule proposes a nationwide standard for determining what food products can be labeled organic. The online rule-making process, initiated December 15, will continue for 90 days. Other written comments received on letters, faxes, and e-mails are also uploaded onto the Web page for public review. NTIS has received thousands of registered comments on the Web site. In an article in the February 23 issue of Government Computer News entitled "USDA Rule Proposal Draws Abundant Online Comments," USDA describes the exchange of online comments about the organic food rule and praises NTIS online comments about the organic food rule and praises NTIS for its technical Web system. Register, view, download, and search the comments online at

  • Surviving Chemical and Biological Warfare: NTIS assisted ABC News in preparing a story on surviving chemical and biological warfare. Information and reports will appear in a story on ABC's Nightline before the second week of March.

  • Products of High Interest: (Unless otherwise indicated, call the NTIS Sales Desk at 1-800-553-NTIS to order these products.)

    -- EPA Solid Waste Test Methods on CD-ROM: An interview was conducted with Environment Testing and Analysis Magazine about the new EPA Solid Waste Test Methods on CD-ROM. The article, to appear in the April issue, will focus on the features of the CD-ROM, including search options and cross-reference tables. (NTIS Product Number PB97-501928, $125)


    -- NIOSH Quick Guide to Chemical Hazards: The monthly software column in the March issue of Chemical and Engineering News will feature the NIOSH Quick Guide to Chemical Hazards. (NTIS Product Number PB97-502850, $141)


  • Promotional Material: (Call the NTIS Sales Desk at (1-800-553-NTIS to order this free material.)

    PR-1001 National Audiovisual Center Catalog of Multimedia and Training Products
    PR-1047 Seeing is Believing, Catalog of Audiovisual Educational Materials