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Friday Facts: Government Information You Can Use

This Week's Facts:

  1. Toy Safety Checklist Keeps Kids Safe Around Holiday Gifts

  2. USA.gov Offers Safety, Money-saving Tips for Online Shoppers

  3. Online Resources Prepare Readers for Winter Weather Challenges

  4. Website Devoted to Preventing Distracted Driving

Governor Directs Flags Be Flown at Half-Staff Through Monday

Governor Mike Pence is directing flags at state facilities statewide be flown at half-staff Saturday, December 7 in honor of Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Also, In accordance with a presidential proclamation regarding the passing of Nelson Mandela, Governor Pence is directing flags be flown at half-staff beginning immediately. Flags should remain at half-staff until sunset Monday, December 9.

Governor Pence also asks businesses and residents across the state to lower their flags to half-staff to pay tribute.


Microwave has Notable Place in Modern American History

December 6 is National Microwave Oven Day. This handy appliance has changed the way many of us prepare food. Today, over 90% of American households own a microwave oven. In fact, there is an entire food industry based on this one appliance. In 1942, a man named Dr. Percy Spencer was testing the magnetron and discovered that the candy bar in his pocket had melted. He conducted a series of tests and concluded that microwave energy caused food to cook much faster than the heat from a conventional oven. The first microwave oven (called the “Radarange”) made its debut in the late 1940s. It stood over six feet tall and weighed over 700 pounds! What began as an accident and experiment has now evolved into life-changing appliance.

For more information about the history of the microwave, see the Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications, and Computation’s webpage on the Microwave Oven and the International Microwave Symposium’s website on the History of Microwaves. The U. S. Department of Agriculture has tips and resources for microwave cooking safely.

Happy microwaving!


Friday Facts Editorial Team:

Katharine Springer
State Data Center Coordinator

Kim Brown-Harden
Federal Documents Coordinator

Andrea Glenn
State Documents Coordinator

Indiana Federal Depository Library Program


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Toy Safety Checklist Keeps Kids Safe Around Holiday Gifts

December is Safe Toys and Gifts MonthDecember is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, sponsored by Prevent Blindness America. The organization has created a Safe Toy Checklist to ensure children’s eyes are protected from potential damage. One of the important items is to look for the letters "ASTM." This means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

According to SafeKids Worldwide, In 2010, an estimated 181,500 children were treated in an emergency room for a toy-related injury. That’s 500 kids every day. Nearly half of those injured were children 4 and under.

Help keep kids safe by following the tips and recommendations on the following educational websites:


USA.gov Offers Safety, Money-saving Tips for Online Shoppers

USA.gov: Online Shopping TipsNow that Thanksgiving is behind us, many people are focused on decorating and shopping for holiday gifts. For some people, the idea of going to the mall and being in the hustle and bustle of the crowds and traffic is invigorating. For others, it’s uncomfortable. For those who prefer to shop at home, USA.gov helps to keep online shopping safe and easy.

When shopping online, please keep the following in mind:

  • Search for coupons and promotion codes to ensure you get all discounts from the “e-tailer”. To find current codes, search the e-tailer’s name along with the words ‘promotion code’ or ‘coupon’. After applying the coupon code double check your total price to make sure the discount was applied correctly. Also check the ‘Deal of the Day’ websites, where many retailers offer discounts on merchandise and services.
  • The way you pay matters! You get the most protection with a credit card. Debit cards are more risky. Virtual wallets such as PayPal are convenient but have disadvantages also. Single use credit card numbers are another option. Ask your credit card provider if they offer this feature.
  • Shipping and handling can add a further expense in your shopping budget. Look for sites that offer free or discounted shipping rates. Make sure you understand all the conditions placed on free shipping offers and that you’ll receive your merchandise in time if you choose that option. The law gives you rights regarding time-frames for shipping your purchase.
  • Understand the e-tailer’s return policy. Do they offer special, extended return policies for the holiday season? What documentation is needed with a return? If you purchase online, and the e-tailer also has a physical store, can you return to the store? Will the e-tailer pay for return shipping of the item or do you have to pay for the return?
  • One of the most common online purchasing problems is products that don’t arrive in time. Even if the company is unable to ship as promised, it must provide you adequate notice promptly and give you a revised delivery date. You must be allowed to agree to the delay of cancel the order and get a refund. If you’re not happy about a purchase, you should complain to the retailer using the address or phone number you kept from your receipt. If you don’t receive the merchandise you ordered file a dispute with your credit card company.

Please click here for more tips on online and home shopping. Remember your rights when shopping from home. Hopefully, these tips will help ensure stress-free shopping experiences this holiday season.


Online Resources Prepare Readers for Winter Weather Challenges

Indiana Department of Homeland Security: Winter Weather PrecautionsPurdue Agriculture News recently announced new publications from the Purdue Extension Office on tree care including Winterize Your Trees, which provides advice on how to help your trees survive cold winter months.

While winter officially starts December 21 at 12:11 p.m. EST, meteorological winter is already upon us. The December 21 solstice marks the beginning of astronomical winter for the northern hemisphere and the shortest daylight hours of the year. Meteorological winter spans December 1 through February 28, including the three coldest months of the season.

To get prepared now and for cold weather ahead, several state agencies and other organizations offer tips. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security offers Winter Weather Precautions to stay safe while heating your home, riding out a winter storm, and traveling for work or holidays. Check out the Indiana Department of Transportation - Road Conditions to view your local area travel conditions on the County Travel Status Map. Find Winter Driving Safety tips from the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The Indiana Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor suggests ways to Reduce Your Winter Energy Bills. The Indiana Department of Insurance recommends steps to take if you experience damage to your home or vehicle due to winter weather. The Indiana State Department of Health provides links to safety tips on kids’ toys, clothing, and other issues around the home.


Website Devoted to Preventing Distracted Driving

Distraction.govThis week, four people died and many more were injured when an engineer for the Metro-North Transit Authority (MTA) became distracted while operating a train. The U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration maintain a website devoted to lessening distraction while operating motor vehicles called Distraction.gov.

From the Get the Facts portion of the website, “Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.”

There is a major effort to curb accidents caused by texting and driving. 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving. A brief bibliography of recent research is available on the Research portion of the website. A compilation of state laws for all 50 states is available in the Digest of Distracted Driving Laws, where you can click on a state and receive detailed information about the law where you live. In Indiana, for example, there are the following bans: 1. Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice (teen) drivers (Primary law) 2. Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary law).

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