NOAA overhauls Web site, agencies join to fight fraud

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has overhauled its home page to reflect the rich data and images the agency collects as part of its mission to monitor, assess and predict oceanic and atmospheric conditions.

Before the design change, NOAA's home page (www.noaa.gov) was primarily text-based, but now the page sports dramatic changes. The site is well-organized, presenting users with a broad choice of general data about NOAA or links to World Wide Web pages with specific data about the five NOAA agencies.

The highlight of the Web page is what NOAA describes as "the world's first underwater Web site." Click on the "Explore NOAA" button on the site's home page and then click on the "NOAA Frontiers" category. This area beckons users to NOAA's Aquarius project, an underwater habitat that is located 60 feet below sea level and houses scientists and researchers for up to seven days at a time. Users can take a virtual-reality tour of Aquarius or peek out through its portholes.

NOAA's Web designers have made its current weather conditions section -- one of the site's most popular offerings -- much easier to find. Users can click a button on the home page to go to the latest forecasts. The page also offers breaking news from NOAA as well as a link to a special page dedicated to El Nino, offering the latest state-by-state forecasts, threat assessments and reams of other data.

For users in search of more in-depth information, a good place to start is the "Explore NOAA" category. This category sweeps users down several intriguing paths to peek into the world of NOAA data collection and research. Click on "Multimedia Collection" to access the agency's stunning collection of photographs, including more than 350 images of marine life, weather phenomenon and others. Many photos date back to the 1800s, such as photographs of the U.S. coastline, which were requested by Thomas Jefferson.

Warding Off Consumer Threats

Six federal agencies have launched the U.S. Consumer Gateway, a Web site designed to be a one-stop link to federal resources for protecting consumers.

Point your browser to www.consumer.gov to access this information-packed site, which divides data into the categories of food, health, home, transportation, children, smart buying, product safety, money and education. The first page of the site is dedicated to breaking consumer news such as the Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of irradiation for meat products to control diseases.

The main page also provides access to the 1997 Consumer's Resource Handbook, which is one of the most popular books published by the federal government. The handbook offers names, addresses, telephone numbers and electronic addresses of corporations, trade groups, state and local consumer protection offices and federal agencies. Users should be sure to check out the ScamAlerts located in the bottom right corner of each page to learn about the latest techniques criminals are using to dupe consumers.

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