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After two weeks training at Etaples Base Camp, soldiers were sent to the Western Front. This usually involved a journey of about 60 miles. This was usually a combination of a train journey and several hours of marching. This became known as going 'Up the Line'.
The men complained bitterly about the way they were transported to the front-line. As Private W. T. Colyer commented: "We were not expecting to travel first or even second class on the train, but we thought we might have a reasonable chance of 3rd. It turned out we were to go about 7th class; i.e. in plain cattle-trucks with a little straw on the floor of them." Another remarked that the experience convinced him that the: "Army have no consideration for the men at all".
Once they got to the front-line the men suffered from nerves. Harry Patch later recalled: "You talked to your mates in the team. There was always a certain amount of chatter. Nerves, you might call it. I used to think, shall we get through tomorrow, or shall we get a packet? Am I going up the line tonight, will I be coming back? It's dark and everything may be quiet now, but am I going to see the sun come up in the morning? And when the sun comes up in the morning, shall I see it set at night? At some point you showed your emotions. That was why our comradeship was so important, because I was scared more or less all the time I was out there."
The journey to the front-line was full of hazards. As Guy Chapman pointed out: "We tore ourselves singly from the mud and bundled on to the road, diving towards a dark opening in the other bank. The machine gun threw a few desultory shots past us. The bullets cracked sharply overhead. We tumbled into another trench and went on. This one was narrow, too, but shallower and duck-boarded. We moved more quickly. We could see lights raising and falling in front of us, and the noises interpreted themselves as rifles and machine guns firing."
Up at 5.30 to depart for Front at 6.30. Breakfast supposed to be at 5.30 but had a job to get it and when we did, only jam. Paraded at 6.30 and marched to sidings.
We were not expecting to travel first or even second class on the train, but we thought we might have a reasonable chance of 3rd. in plain cattle-trucks with a little straw on the floor of them.
One of the largest trains I ever saw: 38 coaches of all sizes and shapes: we had two smashes on the way up: couplings pulled out, with a fearful jerk and consequent delays of half an hour, whilst we all got out to stretch our legs and the men made fires and cooked food in their billy cans.
By the time we arrived at the outskirts of Ypres the traffic of ammunition and ambulance wagons and ceased and we were alone on the road. Suddenly we came across the corpse lying across the pavement - it was the body of a peasant. Just over the canal bridge a timber wagon and two shattered horses came into view and we walked through the blood of these noble animals as we passed them on the road. we were now in the town proper - everywhere nothing but ruins could be seen - not a house but was either shattered by shells or gutted with fire. On the way we passed more dead horses, which in many cases were in a state of decomposition and emitted a fearful odour of rottenness.
The communication trench was just wide enough to accommodate a man with a full-pack, and about seven feet deep, so that one's vision was limited to a patch of darkening sky and the shoulders of the man in front. Its floor was covered with a foot of tensely glutinous mud. We drove slowly through the morass, wrenching out each foot before putting it down again.
Darkness fell. After what seemed half a night, the guide stopped and said: "There's a road here. See and hurry over it. There's a machine gun on it. See? One at a time."
We tore ourselves singly from the mud and bundled on to the road, diving towards a dark opening in the other bank. We could see lights raising and falling in front of us, and the noises interpreted themselves as rifles and machine guns firing.
Suddenly someone said: "Hullo," and Smith, my company commander, loomed up. "Is this the front line? I asked. "That's it."
You talked to your mates in the team. That was why our comradeship was so important, because I was scared more or less all the time I was out there.
We were part of the battalion, but at the same time we were a little crowd on our own. You could talk to your pals about anything and everything. I mean, these boys were with you night and day, you shared everything with them. We each knew where the others came from, what their lives had been and where they were. You were one of them - we belonged to each other. It's a difficult thing to describe, the comradeship between us. I never met any of their people or any of their parents, but I knew all about them, and they knew all about me and mine. There was nothing that cropped up, doesn't matter what it was, that you couldn't discuss with them in one way or another. If you scrounged anything, you always shared it with them. You could confide everything to them. They would understand. Letters from home, when we got them, if there was any trouble in them, they would discuss it with you.
Frontline Systems Company History
This page highlights just some of the milestones in Frontline Systems' history, when Frontline's Solver technology was widely adopted by users and chosen by other, larger software companies, often over other developers' technology and even over internally developed software -- and several occasions when Frontline advanced the state of the art in optimization and simulation technology itself.
In 1990, Frontline introduced What-If Solver, an add-in for Lotus 1-2-3 and Symphony which was the precursor of the modern spreadsheet solvers. What-If Solver solved both linear and nonlinear problems, at speeds much greater than competitors such as the solver in Lotus 1-2-3/G for OS/2, which appeared at about the same time. What-If Solver won the Editor's Choice in its category in PC Magazine's 1991 roundup of spreadsheet add-ins. In 1992, Frontline developed the Student Edition of What-If Solver, distributed by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company to colleges and universities for use in MBA programs.
The Excel Solver
The introduction of Lotus's spreadsheet solver in 1-2-3/G motivated the other spreadsheet vendors to develop or acquire solvers of their own. In 1990 -- well before the launch of Windows 3.0 -- Frontline won a competition among third-party Solver developers to create a Solver on an OEM basis for Microsoft Excel 3.0. In 1991, Windows 3.0 and Excel 3.0 with its new Solver were both introduced, beginning a period of rapid adoption and growth for the Microsoft products. Frontline Systems has continued to work with Microsoft on the Excel Solver, through and including its latest releases in the 2020s.
Quattro Pro Solver
Borland International originally developed its own linear programming Solver, called the Optimizer, for Quattro Pro 2.0 for DOS. But in 1991, Frontline won another OEM-level competition to develop a new Solver for Borland, simultaneously for Quattro Pro 3.0 for DOS and for the new Quattro Pro for Windows. This Solver appeared in both Quattro Pro versions and replaced the former Borland Solver. In 1992 and 1993, Frontline developed enhanced versions of these Solvers for new Quattro Pro releases. Ownership of Quattro Pro was transferred from Borland to Novell, Inc., which contracted with Frontline to develop further Solver enhancements for the next Quattro Pro version. This latest Solver is part of Quattro Pro as marketed by Corel Corp. in the WordPerfect Suite.
Lotus 1-2-3 Solver
In 1-2-3 for Windows, Lotus carried forward the Solver from 1-2-3/G through 1-2-3 Release 5, the last version for 16-bit Windows. In planning for a 32-bit Windows version of 1-2-3, Lotus recognized the merits of Frontline's (then) five-year program of continuous improvement in spreadsheet solver capabilities, and asked Frontline in early 1996 to develop a new and better Solver for 1-2-3 97 Edition. Frontline's new Solver replaced the earlier Lotus-developed Solver, and was carried forward in subsequent years through 1-2-3 Millennium Edition. It provides capabilities on a par with Frontline's Solvers for Excel and Quattro Pro.
In 1998, MathSoft, Inc., developers of the popular Mathcad product which provides visual display, editing and computational power for technical mathematics users in Windows, surveyed alternatives and then asked Frontline to develop a new and better Solver for Mathcad, with constrained optimization capabilities for linear and nonlinear problems. Frontline's Solver technology provided the new optimization capabilities built into Mathcad 8.0, plus an add-in product marketed by MathSoft called the Mathcad Expert Solver. This Solver has been carried forward to MathSoft's most recent product releases.
In 1997 and 1998, other vendors developed "Solver" products for Microsoft Excel that were based on genetic algorithms. Although these products were hundreds of times slower than Frontline's Solvers which used classical optimization methods, they had the advantage of handling arbitrary Excel functions, such as IF and CHOOSE, and of getting closer to (but not necessarily finding) a global optimum than classical methods.
In response, Frontline introduced the Premium Solver V3.5 in 1999, which included both fast Solvers based on classical methods and a new, state-of-the-art Evolutionary Solver based on genetic algorithms (that by itself outperformed competitive GA-based Solvers). This gave users "the best of both worlds," since they could define their models once, even using the standard Excel Solver, then apply all of these methods to find the best solution. The Evolutionary Solver has proven extremely popular with users. A special version is bundled with more than twenty textbooks, several of which devote extensive coverage to its methods.
As the types and sizes of optimization problems that users wanted to solve grew ever more ambitious, Frontline responded to the challenge by introducing the Premium Solver Platform in 2000. The Platform included major enhancements to the Simplex, GRG and Evolutionary Solvers in the Premium Solver, and also accepted "plug-in" Solver Engines employing specialized methods for large-scale problems. By 2004, the Premium Solver family had grown to 12 Solver Engines, solving problems ranging from a few thousand to over a million variables and constraints. Most of the best known algorithms and methods for linear, quadratic, conic, convex, smooth nonlinear, and non-smooth optimization are now available in Excel, thanks to the Premium Solver Platform.
Interval Global Solver
In 2002, Frontline broke new ground by launching the Premium Solver Platform Version 5 with a new Interval Global Solver -- publishing new research results in academic journals in the process. The Interval Global Solver is the first commercially supported implementation of a range of new methods (interval Branch & Bound, interval Newton method, linear enclosures and the like) that can reliably find solutions to global optimization problems, and all real solutions of a system of nonlinear equations -- a feat that was widely regarded as 'impossible' twenty years earlier, but is now routine for Excel users.
Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter
To make the Interval Global Solver possible, Frontline had to take the radical step of replacing -- and extending -- the core of Microsoft Excel with a new and more powerful "recalculator" -- the Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter (PSI Technology) in the Premium Solver Platform V5. This enables the Platform to evaluate Excel models in many different ways.
In addition to computing "regular number" values for Excel formulas, the Platform can compute intervals such as [1, 2] at every stage of a formula. It can also compute derivatives (gradients and Hessians) for Excel formulas involving thousands of variables, through a process known in the technical literature as automatic differentiation. And it can perform 'diagnostic evaluation' of Excel formulas, to find likely user errors involving poor scaling or non-smooth functions.
This powerful Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter is an 'enabler' not only for the Interval Global Solver, but for all of the Solver Engines supported by the Platform. For example, smooth nonlinear models were solved seven times faster on average, by all of the nonlinear Solvers in the Premium Solver Platform V5.
Convex and Conic Optimization
In 2004, Frontline again broke new ground by launching the Premium Solver Platform Version 6 with a new automatic test for convex models, and a new SOCP Barrier Solver for conic optimization. The automatic convexity test, so new that it was first presented by Frontline at research conferences in the summer of 2004, is not available in any other commercial software -- though it addresses a problem so important that it is sure to be imitated. The SOCP Barrier Solver is the first commercial product of its kind in spreadsheets, and one of the first and only conic optimizers available in any commercial software.
Second order cone programming (SOCP), the natural extension of linear programming (LP) and quadratic programming (QP), has important applications in finance/investment and engineering design, especially in dealing with uncertainty and risk. Convex optimization -- which includes conic optimization -- is the heart of the whole subject of solvers and optimization the difference between convexity and non-convexity has been called "the great watershed in optimization."
High-Speed Monte Carlo Simulation
Since Microsoft Excel is by far the most-used tool for building business planning models, it is a natural "host" for tools that enable users to "stress-test" the uncertainties in their models through Monte Carlo simulation -- a process where many trials (spreadsheet 'what-if' tests) are automatically performed, sampling values from user-specified probability distributions. While highly useful, simulation in Excel has been slow, because of the need to perform thousands of recalculations of potentially large spreadsheet models. In 2005, Frontline broke new ground in this domain, creating an extension to its Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter (PSI Technology) that was capable of performing Monte Carlo simulations up to 100 times faster than previous Excel-based approaches, using innovative "vectorized evaluation" that computed values for all Monte Carlo trials simultaneously .
Frontline licensed PSI Technology to Decisioneering Inc., a leading vendor of Monte Carlo simulation software, to provide the Extreme Speed feature of Crystal Ball Professional 7.1, their flagship product for Excel. Users and industry experts have applauded the results. According to David Vose, Partner in Vose Consulting and a recognized authority on simulation modeling, "Extreme Speed is a welcome relief to all of us who have large simulation models."
Interactive Simulation in Excel
In 2006, Frontline further leveraged PSI Technology to create Risk Solver Engine for Excel -- a new tool that performs an instant Monte Carlo simulation whenever a user changes a number on a spreadsheet.
"Risk Solver Engine provides the easy to use, lightning-fast Interactive Simulation in Excel that I've envisioned," said Dr. Sam Savage, consulting professor at Stanford University, and a noted authority on Monte Carlo simulation. "It has the potential to do for uncertainty what the spreadsheet did for numbers."
Risk Solver Engine was also the first software product to support two new ideas of Probability Management in large enterprises -- with direct support for Stochastic Libraries (SIPs and SLURPs) of pre-generated Monte Carlo trials, and Certified Distributions, created or reviewed by experts and made available in easy-to-use form to end users building risk analysis models.
High-Speed Simulation Optimization
Once they've modeled uncertainty, users want to make choices for the factors that are under their control, to achieve best results over the range of future scenarios explored by Monte Carlo simulation. This is an optimization problem, and other vendors of simulation software have sought to address it by providing "simulation optimization" tools in their packages. But these tools have been exceedingly slow, and capable of finding solutions only for very limited-size models.
In late 2006, Frontline introduced the Premium Solver Platform V7.0, and in early 2007, Frontline introduced Risk Solver V7.0 for Excel -- its own powerful, interactive simulation software with a full GUI, charts and graphs. Premium Solver Platform and Risk Solver work together to empower users to solve sizable simulation optimization problems. The potent combination of the Premium Solver Platform and its multiple Solver Engines with Risk Solver is frequently ten to a hundred times faster for simulation optimization than other products for Excel.
Robust Optimization and More
Simulation optimization is just one way to solve optimization models with uncertainty. In October 2008, Frontline introduced Risk Solver Platform -- the first commercial product to implement new methods of robust optimization, as well as classical methods for stochastic programming. Users can now define a model with uncertainty once, in a simple form upward compatible from the Excel Solver, analyze its structure automatically, and solve it using any applicable method.
For linear programming problems with uncertainty -- very common in practice -- the Platform's new solution methods can be as much as a thousand times faster than the simulation optimization methods in other products for Excel. Even more important, users can now define models that include recourse decisions (made on a "wait and see" basis, once the uncertainty is resolved), and solve them using robust optimization and stochastic programming methods. Such models -- which often yield superior solutions with far better objective values -- can't even be defined in other products for Excel, let alone solved.
Multi-Core Optimization and Simulation
In 2009, Frontline was again first to offer a wide range of parallelized algorithms, exploiting modern multi-core processors to solve challenging nonlinear optimization, non-smooth optimization, and simulation optimization problems faster than ever, in Risk Solver Platform V9.5 for Excel, and in Solver Platform SDK V9.0 for application developers working in a programming language. Frontline has not only parallelized algorithms such as Multistart methods for global optimization and Branch & Bound for mixed-integer nonlinear problems -- it has embedded parallelism deeply into its Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter, which exploits multiple cores to compute derivatives (gradients and Hessians) for Excel formulas in parallel -- greatly speeding nonlinear optimization.
Solving Excel Models Outside Excel
In 2010, Frontline took another major step, to meet customers' needs to deploy their Excel-based optimization and simulation models to remote users: By adding XML parsing facilities and embedding its Polymorphic Spreadsheet Interpreter in Solver Platform SDK V10.0, Frontline made it possible to load Excel workbooks and solve them anywhere -- on the desktop, on Intranet or Web servers, or "in the cloud" -- even on Linux. The SDK solves conventional optimization models, Monte Carlo simulation models, and even stochastic and robust optimization models "at runtime." This gives customers unprecedented flexibility to develop and deploy applications.
Making Technology Easier to Use
In 2011, Frontline focused on making its advanced technology even more accessible to business analysts without a formal background in optimization or simulation. Guided Mode, first introduced in 2010 and enhanced in 2011, takes users step-by-step through the PSI Interpreter's automated model diagnosis and transformation, automatic Solver Engine selection, and solving of the problem. A new Constraint Wizard helps new optimization users define constraints, while a new Distribution Wizard helps new simulation users select probability distributions, automatically analyzing their formulas and data behind the scenes. And work begun on the Evolutionary Solver came to fruition in 2012.
GPUs, Web Services and More
In 2012, the Evolutionary Solver was extended to include both a full set of genetic algorithm based methods, and a full set of methods from tabu search and scatter search -- while also using classical linear, nonlinear and derivative-free optimization methods. Frontline also pioneered the use of GPU (graphics processing unit) technology to achieve massive parallelism in the solution of challenging non-smooth, non-convex problems in the Evolutionary Solver. Risk Solver Platform V12.0 was enhanced with the stochastic decomposition algorithm, used to solve the largest stochastic linear problems ever solved, on any platform. And Solver SDK Platform V12.0 was enhanced with a Web Service API and the ability to "solve models over the wire" -- with cloud-based servers, and clients from Excel to web browsers and mobile phones.
Solver for Office 365 and SharePoint
With Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013, Microsoft introduced a new way to create "Apps" based on Web technologies, that can run in both desktop Office and its "Web App" counterpart. Frontline was again first to introduce an "analytics" App, the Solver App for Excel 2013, Office 365 and SharePoint 2013, which appeared in the Office Store in July 2013. The free Solver App provides the same solving power offered by Solver in Excel, which Frontline had developed for Microsoft more than 20 years earlier -- but it can be used in the Excel Web App on a tablet or phone, or in any Web browser. Models in the Solver App are solved by Frontline-operated servers running on Windows Azure, leveraging Solver SDK Platform's Web Service API.
Multi-Dimensional Modeling, Google Sheets
In December 2013, Frontline introduced its Solver Platform V2014 product line, again leveraging PSI Technology to offer a powerful new set of tools to build multi-dimensional models in Excel -- giving spreadsheet modelers capabilities previously available only in specialized modeling languages or high-end business intelligence tools. Users can create multi-dimensional cubes, based on either PivotTables or regular cell ranges, use Excel formulas to perform multi-dimensional calculations, and show calculated results in either PivotTables or regular cell ranges. What-if and sensitivity analysis, optimization models, and simulation models can all take advantage of multi-dimensional modeling.
In Fall 2014, Frontline introduced three analytic tools as free add-ons for Google Sheets, the popular web spreadsheet: Solver for optimization, Risk Solver for simulation and risk analysis, and XLMiner Analysis ToolPak for forecasting and basic statistics. Also new were Risk Solver, XLMiner Analysis ToolPak, and XLMiner Data Viz apps for Excel Online.
2015: RASON® Modeling Language in JSON
2016: XLMiner SDK, AnalyticSolver.com
In Spring 2016, Frontline introduced XLMiner SDK, a complete Software Development Kit for data mining and machine learning, with a high-level Object-oriented API in C++, C#, Java, R and Python. In Fall 2016, Frontline was first to introduce a complete, cloud-based, "point and click" end user platform for advanced analytics that interoperates with an equivalent desktop software suite, accepts Excel workbook models, and empowers business analysts to create and solve their own models, without any programming -- using Frontline's own cloud-based RASON server as its computational engine. By year-end, AnalyticSolver.com had over 30,000 user accounts.
2017: Analytic Solver: Models in Power BI, Tableau
In Spring 2017, Frontline introduced Analytic Solver®, its comprehensive Excel add-in for analytics, with all the optimization power of Premium Solver®, all the simulation power of Risk Solver®, and all the data mining and machine learning power of XLMiner®. Fall 2017 was an exciting time with the launch of capabilities to create live models in the form of Power BI "custom visuals" and Tableau "dashboard extensions" -- culminating in a "main stage demo" for 14,000 enthusiasts at the Tableau User Conference in Las Vegas. New versions of Solver SDK and XLMiner SDK brought new analytics power to professional developers.
2018: Data Science Workflows, Solver Academy
In Spring 2018, Frontline enabled Analytic Solver users working in Excel to easily create multi-stage data science workflows, using either “drag and drop” icons connected via arrows on a visual canvas, or a "record macro" feature for Excel-based actions -- bringing the power of more expensive tools (claiming to "go beyond Excel") directly to Excel users. In the same year, Frontline introduced Solver.Academy, a new educational platform with online interactive courses about optimization, simulation/risk analysis, data mining and machine learning.
2019: Analytic Solver Cloud, Business Rules
2020: Broad Support for Power Platform
In early 2020, Frontline introduced RASON® Decision Services, a major enhancement of its Azure-hosted analytics REST API, several years in the making, with broad support for Microsoft's Power Platform -- including Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow), and Dynamics 365. This release also introduced multi-stage analytics decision workflows -- going well beyond data science workflows to include optimization, simulation, business rules and more -- and rich data connectivity support for the Common Data Service, CData Cloud Hub, OneDrive for Business, and OData endpoints. In late 2020, Frontline introduced a major enhancement of Analytic Solver for Excel and a new RASON release that unified these two offerings -- enabling, for the first time, point-and-click deployment of Excel-based analytic models to the RASON cloud, with model versioning and management.
2021: Collaboration and Cloud Security
In January 2021, Frontline introduced another major enhancement of RASON Decision Services to enable users to ‘publish’, manage and govern analytic models as RESTful decision services, easily update them with new data and solve them, with exceptional security, privacy, and new collaboration and governance features, for firms using Microsoft Azure with teams of analytic model-builders. In the same year, Frontline introduce a new version of Analytic Solver for Excel with support for custom functions that users can define either with Excel's new LAMBDA and LET functions, or with DMN 1.3 compatible “box functions”.
And There's More To Come.
Frontline has exciting plans for further, industry-leading capabilities for predictive analytics, risk analysis and optimal decision-making under uncertainty, using quantitative models inside and outside Excel . Check our Blog and our Press Releases page for the latest news.
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Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the Ford Foundation. Additional funding … More
Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Park Foundation and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation, and additional support from Koo and Patricia Yuen.
Customer-focused for over 25 years
The Frontline Group began in 1992 as OGCI Management by recognizing how standardizing processes could become the required platform for Organizational Learning—the application of previous project experience to improvement on the next iteration, regardless of team member continuity or immediate repetition. Mark Brooker had recently started serving as a business process consultant to Amoco’s drilling department, based on his dozen years in field operations. Ford Brett was doing technical process analysis consulting for Amoco drilling, based on his decade in drilling research. The two began to merge their thoughts and observations about the emerging needs they saw in the oil and gas industry.
As partners in OGCI Management, the two men took on two key aspects of a gap they had identified in the industry. Brooker began supplying effective management consultants to project and departmental teams, and Brett began working on process development and software applications that could be effective for project management in the dynamic environment of subsurface intervention. The two initial Guiding Principles of Frontline, Serve Customers Creatively and Institute the Learning Loop, are directly reflective of these two service approaches from the early days of Frontline.
The company's ability to flex with the dynamics of the oil business and other project-driven industries has kept TFG offerings for the customer up-to-date and relevant to the requirements of the current business environment. TFG tailors the solutions to the outcome, time, cost, and scope demanded by the current pressure on your business.
Since TFG's beginnings in the energy sector 25 years ago, the company has enlarged its well of expertise to include business process and software implementation in the legal community, the aviation and aerospace industries, and healthcare , IT, and cyber security.
Today, we’re doing the same thing we’ve always done—solving needs. Our efforts include meeting expanding industry, regulatory, financial, and corporate requirements through the development of customer-tailored process development and project management systems for operators, risk management, cyber security, and compliance.
The program debuted in 1983, with NBC anchorwoman Jessica Savitch as the show's first host, but Savitch died later after the first-season finale. PBS NewsHour ' s Judy Woodruff took over as host in 1984, and hosted the program for five years, combining her job with a sub anchor place on The MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour when Jim Lehrer was away. In 1990, episodes of Frontline began airing without a host, and the narrator was left to introduce each episode.
Most Frontline reports are an hour in length, but some are extended to 90 minutes, 2 hours, or beyond. Frontline also produces and transmits such occasional specials as From Jesus to Christ, The Farmer's Wife, and Country Boys. 
Since 1995, Frontline has been producing deep-content, companion web sites for all of its documentaries. The program publishes extended interview transcripts, in-depth chronologies, original essays, sidebar stories, related links and readings, and source documents including photographs and background research. Frontline has made many of its documentaries available via streaming Internet video, from its website.
Will Lyman is the distinctive voice who has narrated most of the installments of the program since its inception in 1983.  However, certain reports have been narrated by David Ogden Stiers and Peter Berkrot.
The Choice Edit
Since 1988, Frontline has also aired "The Choice": a special edition aired during the lead-up to the presidential election every four years, focusing on the Democratic and Republican candidates contending for the office of President of the United States. An installment aired on October 14, 2008, using a dual-biography format for Barack Obama and John McCain. The 2008 documentary, produced by Michael Kirk, generated favorable reviews from The New York Times, which stated that the program helped viewers "gain perspective" about the "idea-oriented campaign",  and Los Angeles Times, which labeled it "refreshingly clear" and "informative". 
A subsequent episode aired on October 9, 2012, and featured the same dual biography tracing the lives and careers of incumbent President Barack Obama and his challenger, Mitt Romney. The following episode aired on September 27, 2016, and featured the biography of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. "The Choice 2020" is the most recent installment and aired on September 22, 2020, featuring Joe Biden and Donald Trump. 
The show is produced by the WGBH Educational Foundation, the parent company of WGBH-TV in Boston, which is solely responsible for its content. WGBH is the creator of The Documentary Consortium, with another 4 PBS stations, including WNET in New York and KCTS in Seattle.
In 2015, the creator and founding executive producer of Frontline, David Fanning, retired after more than 32 years as executive producer of the program, and Raney Aronson-Rath succeeded him in senior grade. Fanning, however, remains editor-at-large of Frontline as a founding member.
On September 14, 2017, the program launched its first-ever podcast called The Frontline Dispatch. The podcast is a production of PBS and WGBH in Boston alongside PRX.
Frontline/World is a spin-off program from Frontline, first transmitted on May 23, 2002, which was transmitted four to eight times a year on Frontline until it was canceled in 2010. It focused on issues from around the globe, and used a "magazine" format, where each hour-long episode typically had three stories that ran about 15 to 20 minutes in length. Its tagline was: Stories from a small planet.
Initially a co-production of WGBH, Boston and KQED, San Francisco, Frontline/World was later based in part at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, where the program's producers recruited a new generation of reporters and producers to the Frontline program. 
Frontline/World also streamed stories on its website, which won two Webby awards in 2008 for its original program of online videos called "Rough Cuts." In 2005, the Overseas Press Club of America gave the program its Edward R. Murrow Award for the best TV coverage of international events, citing producers David Fanning, Stephen Talbot, Sharon Tiller and Ken Dornstein. The program broke new ground in 2007 by winning two Emmys one of these was for a broadcast story, "Saddam's Road to Hell", and the other was for an online video, "Libya: Out of the Shadow."
Frontline has received generally positive reviews from television critics and parents of young children. David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun wrote, "One of the finest hours of non-fiction TV that I have seen."  Vern Gay of Newsday wrote, "Bores down on hard truth. journalism at its best."  Tom Brinkmoeller of TV Worth Watching wrote, "Indispensible."  Sean Gregory of TIME wrote for the episode, League of Denial, "A first-rate piece of reporting."  David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun wrote, "Superb and daring work."  Alasdair Wilkins of the A.V. Club wrote, "Hardest-hitting show on television."  Margaret Sullivan, the Media Columnist of The Washington Post wrote for the episode, The Choice 2016, "Fair and completely riveting."  Vern Gay of Newsday wrote, "Authoritative and comprehensive."  David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun wrote, "As good as non-fiction television gets."  Chris Barton of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "Unflinching and in-depth." 
Other Frontline reports focus on political, social, and criminal justice issues. Ofra Bikel, who has been a producer for Frontline since the first season, has produced a significant number of films on the criminal justice system in the United States. The films have focused on issues ranging from post-conviction DNA testing, the use of drug snitches and mandatory minimum sentencing laws, the plea system, and the use of eyewitness testimony. As a result of the films, 13 people have been released from prison.
After the September 11 attacks, the White House requested a copy of "Hunting Bin Laden". In 1999, Frontline had produced this in-depth report about Osama bin Laden and the terrorist network that would come to be known as Al-Qaeda in the wake of the 1998 United States embassy bombings. Following the September 11 attacks, Frontline produced a series of films about Al-Qaeda and the War on Terrorism. In 2002, the program was awarded the DuPont-Columbia gold baton for the seven films.
In 2003, Frontline and The New York Times joined forces on "A Dangerous Business", an investigation led by reporter Lowell Bergman into the cast iron pipe making industry and worker safety. OSHA officials credit the documentary and newspaper report with stimulating federal policy change on workplace safety. In 2004, the joint investigation was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
Producer Michael Kirk's Frontline documentaries have won multiple awards. These films include "League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis" (Peabody Award, 2013),  "Cheney's Law" (Peabody Award, 2007),  "The Lost Year in Iraq" (Emmy Award, 2006), "The Torture Question" (Emmy Award, 2005), "The Kevorkian File" (Emmy Award), and "Waco: The Inside Story" (Peabody Award).  
Director Martin Smith has produced dozens of films for Frontline, and won both Emmy and Writers Guild of America Awards. His 2000 film Drug Wars was the winner of the Outstanding Background/Analysis of a Single Current Story Emmy and The George Foster Peabody Award.  Additionally, Separated: Children at the Border, for which he was writer and correspondent, also won a 2018 Peabody Award,  presented at the 2019 awards ceremony.
Other notable producers of multiple Frontline documentaries have included Sherry Jones, Marian Marzynski, Miri Navasky, Karen O'Connor, June Cross, Neil Docherty, Stephen Talbot, Raney Aronson, Rachel Dretzin, James Jacoby  and Rick Young.
As of July 2016, Frontline has won a total of 75 Emmy Awards  and 18 Peabody Awards.  In 2020, Frontline was also awarded an Institutional Peabody Award. 
Intervention in the case of the Somnath temple was brazen and more political with a view to arouse Hindus against Muslims. The facts are fully recorded in John William Kaye’s History of the War in Afghanistan ((1851): Volume 2, Richard Bentley: London). The East India Company ruled India until the British government took over in 1858 after the Mutiny.
Governor General Lord Ellenborough drew up an address to the princes and people of India. It was translated into “the Hindee and was published in its English dress” on November 16, 1842. Its text reads thus:
“From the Governor General to all the Princes and Chiefs, and People of India.
My Brothers and my Friends,
Our victorious army bears the gates of the temple of Somnath in triumph from Afghanistan, and the despoiled tomb of Sultan Mahomed looks upon the ruins of Ghuznee.
The insult of eight hundred years is at last avenged. The gates of the temple of Somnath, so long the memorial of your humiliation, are become the proudest record of your national glory, the proof of your superiority in arms over the nations beyond the Indus.
To you, Princes and Chiefs of Sirhind, of Rajwara, of Malwa, and of Guzerat, I shall commit this glorious trophy of successful war.
You will yourselves, with all honour, transmit the gates of sandal-wood through your respective territories to the restored temple of Somnath.
The Chiefs of Sirhind shall be informed at what time our victorious army will first deliver the gates of the temple into their guardianship, at the foot of the bridge of the Sutlej.
I have ever relied with confidence upon your attachment to the British government. You see how worthy it proves itself of your love, when, regarding your honour as its own, it exerts the power of its arms to restore to you the gates of the temple of Somnath, so long the memorial of your subjection to the Afghans.
For myself, identified with you in interest and in feeling, I regard with all your own enthusiasm the high achievements of that heroic army reflecting alike immortal honour upon my native and upon my adopted country.
To preserve and to improve the happy union of our two countries, necessary as it is to the welfare of both, is the constant object of my thoughts. Upon that union depends the security of every ally, as well as of every subject of the British government, from the miseries whereby, in former times, India was afflicted: through that alone has our army now waved its triumphant standards over the ruins of Ghuznee, and planted them upon the Balla Hissar of Caubul.
May that good Providence, which has hitherto so manifestly protected me, still extend to me its favour that I may so use the power now entrusted to my hands, as to advance your prosperity and secure your happiness, by placing the union of our two countries upon foundations which may render it eternal.
Kaye remarks: “No document that ever emanated from the bureau of a statesman has been overwhelmed with so much ridicule as this. It is still fresh in the recollection of men who dwelt in India at this time, how the authenticity of the proclamation was gravely doubted—how many, at first, declared their conviction that it was a newspaper satire upon the Napoleonic style of address which Lord Ellenborough had recently adopted and how at last, when it came to be known—thoroughly known and understood—that it was a genuine emanation from the ‘Political Department’, with the right official stamp upon it, such a flood of ridicule and censure was let loose upon it as had never before descended upon an Indian state paper. The folly of the thing was past all denial. It was a folly, too, of the most senseless kind, for it was calculated to please none and to offend many. It was addressed to ‘all the Princes and Chiefs, and People of India’. The ‘Brothers and Friends’ thus grandiloquently apostrophised, were a mixed family of Mahomedans and Hindoos. Upon the Mahomedans it was an open and most intelligible outrage. To the Hindoos, the pompous offer of the polluted gates of Somnath was little better than a covert insult. The temple to which it was to have been restored was in ruins, and the sacred ground trodden by Mahomedans. Looking at the effusion from the Oriental side, it was altogether a failure and an abortion. Among Europeans, worldly men scouted the proclamation as a folly, and religious men denounced it as a crime. It was said to be both dangerous and profane.”
The Frontline States
In 1975 Angola and Mozambique won independence from Portugal. Zimbabwe achieved majority rule in 1980. Together with Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania these countries became known as the frontline states. South Africa was ringed by black majority governments on its northern border. The prospects for liberation seemed transformed.
But South Africa attacked its northern neighbours and destabilised their economies. It mounted raids on Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, killing local residents and South African refugees.
CIVIL WAR IN MOZAMBIQUE AND ANGOLA
South Africa fomented civil war in Mozambique and Angola, destroying their infrastructure and causing huge loss of life. It provided weapons and logistical support to the dissident group RENAMO, which terrorised civilians over wide areas of Mozambique.
In Angola it launched repeated invasions with the aim of overthrowing the MPLA government. It helped the rebel movement UNITA carry on a prolonged civil war which only ended with the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in 2002. At least half a million people died in the war. Millions were displaced and the country’s economy was devastated.
SUPPORT FOR THE FRONTLINE STATES
Together with the Mozambique Angola and Guine Information Centre (MAGIC) and the Mozambique Angola Committee (MAC), the Anti-Apartheid Movement campaigned for practical support for the frontline states. It worked with the Namibia Support Committee to raise funds for Namibian refugees attacked by South African armed forces in Angola. It gave a platform to leaders like the future President of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, and Education Minister Graça Machel. When UNITA refused to accept the result of the 1992 election in Angola, the AAM campaigned to raise awareness in Britain and the international community of ‘the world’s forgotten war‘.
SANCTIONS AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA
The AAM argued that the best way to support the frontline states was to campaign for international sanctions against South Africa. Ultimately, the frontline states would only be able to achieve peace and economic development after apartheid had been overthrown.
Wrapping paper produced by the workers cooperative AA Enterprises.
Hotel with a history
THE Great Eastern Hotel of Kolkata, one of the oldest hotels in the country, appears all set to change hands as a result of the West Bengal Left Front government's larger effort to restructure loss-making public sector undertakings (PSUs). There is little existing record of its ups and downs through the passage of time. If the walls of this landmark site on the map of Kolkata could talk, the tale would indeed be a fascinating one. In its 165 years it has seen many changes - from a time when bullock carts and horse-drawn carriages rolled along the wide half-empty streets outside its premises, to the present-day congestion and pollution that darkens its white faade from the days of opulence bordering on vulgar ostentation to its present condition that turns away respectable people. It has been a part of Kolkata's history for nearly half the city's life. In this period it has changed hands many a time. Now, once again, it is entering a new phase, with the State government clearing the process of its sale to private owners.
It all started when David Wilson, an Englishman who owned a confectionery shop in Cossitola, now Bentinck Street, decided to enter the hotel business. In 1840, Dainty Davie, as he was popularly known, set up the Auckland Hotel on the premises in the corner of the road running parallel to the British India Street and the Old Court House Street. According to Major Harry Hobbs, author of John Barleycorn Bahadur (1943), the hotel was set up in 1841. But an advertisement published in The Englishman and Military Chronicle in November 1840 says otherwise:
"The Auckland Hotel For Families and Single Gentlemen Opposite to Government House The above hotel is now open Pleasant, airy and well-furnished with A Table d' Hote for Gentlemen 19th November, 1840, D. Wilson & Co."
The hotel was named not after its proprietor, but the Governor General at that time, Lord Auckland (1784-1849). But locally, the hotel was known as Wilson's Hotel. Until 1850, the business was carried on in the name of D. Wilson and Co., a partnership firm with A. Clader, Gregory, C.H.B. Wilson, J.C. Mandy and G. Mandy. After 1850, a project to expand the hotel began. A report published on June 16, 1862 in the Calcutta Monthly Magazine said: "David Wilson purchased land on the Old Court House Street in 1851 with existing shops and carried on the business of a hotel keeper under the name of Auckland Hotel and Hall of All Nations."
Room 209, one of the exclusive suites which were always booked for lavish New Year eve parties thrown by the surviving members of the aristocracy until the 1970s.-
After nearly 15 years since its inception, on September 10, 1865, the hotel was floated as a company called the Great Eastern Hotel Wine and General Purveying Co. and was registered with limited liability under Act XIX of 1857 of the Legislative Council of India. Two years later, the management of the hotel took a landmark decision and inducted Peary Chand Mitter, more popularly known by his pen name Teck Chand Thakur (1814-1883), an eminent author and member of the British India Association's board of directors. Even W.C. Bonerjee, the first Indian president of the Indian National Congress, held shares worth Rs.5,000 in the company during 1890-1896.
The hotel continued to grow in popularity and all through maintained its social exclusiveness. Its exterior style and ornamentation matched its interior elegance, and it became the favourite haunt of the city's elite. Newspapers of those days reported in detail the lavish parties inside, as Great Eastern became the nucleus of high society activities. By 1883, the entire premises of the hotel were electrified. It was probably the first hotel in the country to be illuminated by electric lights. So exalted was its reputation, that for a while, the hotel was even referred to as the `Jewel of the East'.
A glimpse of what the hotel must have been like during this period can be found in Rudyard Kipling's short story "City of Dreadful Night" from the book The City of Dreadful Night and Other Places (1891): ". The Great Eastern hums with life through all its hundred rooms. Doors slam merrily, and all the nations of the earth run up and down the staircases. This alone is refreshing, because the passers bump you and ask you to stand aside. Fancy finding any place outside the Levee-room where Englishmen are crowded together to this extent! Fancy sitting down seventy strong to table d'hote and with a deafening clatter of knives and forks! Fancy finding a real bar whence drinks may be obtained! And joy of joys, fancy stepping out of the hotel into the arms of a live, white, helmeted, buttoned, truncheoned Bobby!" It is interesting to note that while Indian policemen patrolled most of the other areas of that part of Kolkata, British policemen were stationed outside the Great Eastern - an indication of the kind of people who would frequent it. A letter to the editor published in The Statesman in January 1887 further substantiates this: ". a European policeman is paid to stand opposite the Great Eastern Hotel, to turn bullock carts into by-lanes, out of the way of the Burra Sahibs."
The name Great Eastern Hotel Wine and General Purveying Co. continued till 1915, after which it was re-christened Great Eastern Hotel Co. Ltd. By the middle of the 1930s, the management of the company was entirely controlled by directors from Bengal. The hotel continued to flourish. In fact, during the Second World War, many soldiers of the allied forces passing through Kolkata were accommodated here. Ho Chi Minh is believed to have stayed in the hotel during a short visit in 1948.
If a hotel is to be judged by the frequency of celebrity guests, then throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Great Eastern ruled the roost as far as the hotel industry was concerned. Purnendu Ghosh was publicity assistant to the Government of West Bengal and has been associated with the Great Eastern Hotel since 1953. When contacted, the 78-year-old Ghosh was only too happy to talk about the bygone days. "As liaison officer to the State government I have had the privilege of meeting so many great people and heads of state, and for nearly 50 years I had been escorting them either to Raj Bhavan or to the Great Eastern. So closely was I associated with the hotel that there was a permanent room reserved for me, where I would often stay."
In those days, the entire entourage of a visiting head of state would be put up at the Great Eastern. For instance when Russian leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Nikolai Bulganin visited Kolkata in the late 1950s. Their party of nearly 70 stayed there.
Queen Elizabeth II's retinue also stayed here during her visit to the city in 1961. There is an interesting story relating to the Queen's visit. The hotel's chairman at that time, A.L. Bilimoria, owned a horse not known for its success at the races. That year, the Queen herself was to present the trophy at the Calcutta races. The chairman's horse surprisingly won the event. What remains unknown to most people of Kolkata is that a six-foot concrete replica of the cup that he received from the Queen stands hidden in a balcony in the back quarters of the hotel even today.
From the Darbar Hall, decorated and brilliantly lit, music used to drift out of the hotel until the wee hours of the morning.-
Purnendu Ghosh also has other interesting anecdotes to tell - ranging from the conduct of inebriated heads of states, to that of eccentric danseuses and publicity-hungry film stars. He recounted with a mischievous glint in his eyes, the occasion when a legendary Bengali film actress sent 12 bottles of champagne to cricketer M.L. Jaisimha after the latter had played an impressive innings in Eden Gardens. "It was my job to ensure the bottles were delivered to Jaisimha, and I couldn't resist the temptation, and quietly helped myself to two bottles of champagne," he said. With the Eden Gardens barely half-a-kilometre from the hotel, cricket teams, till the early 1970s would generally be accommodated in the Great Eastern.
It may seem a little unbelievable now, but that was the period when the Great Eastern was the venue for lavish New Year's parties hosted by the surviving members of the aristocracy, including the Rajas of Darbhanga and Coochbehar. Four of the largest and most exclusive suites - rooms 208, 209, 210 and 211 - were always booked for the occasions. From the massive Durbar Hall, decorated and brilliantly lit, music would drift out of the hotel until the wee hours of the morning.
Interestingly, this hotel in the 1950s was also referred to as the "Japani Hotel". According to Assistant Manager Surajit Das Gupta, "Japanese and Koreans really loved this hotel. Whether on business or on holiday, most of them preferred to be put up here. Perhaps it was the size of the rooms and the quality of the food here that attracted them. They loved our rice and naan." The cuisine in the hotel was famous all over the city. The speciality in the menu included Chinese food, roasted breast of chicken, baked boneless hilsa fish and of course, bread. "The bakery of Great Eastern was arguably the best on this side of the Suez. There was a time when people passing by the hotel could get a whiff of the smell of baking and vanilla," said Das Gupta. The Baruas from Chittagong (Bangladesh), famous in the region for their culinary prowess, were the cooks usually. Two of the most popular places in the hotel were the Sherry Bar and the restaurant Maxim's. These places were frequented by the rich and the famous in the city, and it was not surprising to spot matinee idols there occasionally.
THE decline started in the early 1970s, when bickering among the partners led to a financial crisis. As the hotel was tottering on the brink of closure, the Congress (I) government of West Bengal under Siddhartha Shankar Ray took over the management of the hotel through the Great Eastern Hotel (Taking over of Management) Act, 1975. The degeneration continued, until the Left Front government tried in vain to arrest it by nationalising it on July 17, 1980 under the Great Eastern Hotel (Acquisition of Undertaking) Act, 1980. The management was vested in the Great Eastern Hotel Authority, a statutory body comprising representatives of the Government of West Bengal.
After more than 30 years, the Great Eastern Hotel will once again fall in the hands of private owners. This is not the first time that it has been under the auctioneer's hammer the idea of privatising it surfaced as early as 1994, but owing to union pressure and many other reasons, the sale was stalled. This time, however, it might well and truly be off the back of the State government.
All the employees of the hotel have accepted the early retirement scheme, and most of the demands of the eight shortlisted prospective buyers have been met. Great Eastern is all set to embark on yet another journey in its history.
But there is another aspect that has to be considered before the final sale. The hotel building has been marked as having heritage value. It remains to be seen if the Heritage Commission of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation will allow it to be demolished.
Frontline has its origin in Frontline AB, which was founded in 1985, and which was listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange from 1989 to 1997. Hemen Holding (a company indirectly controlled by the largest shareholder and chairman of Frontline, John Fredriksen) became the largest shareholder of Frontline in 1996. In May 1997, a decision was made at the general meeting in Frontline AB to change its domicile from Sweden to Bermuda and to list its shares on the Oslo Stock Exchange. The change of domicile was executed through a share for share exchange offer from the then newly formed Frontline in Bermuda.
Under Fredriksen the company absorbed several other companies: London and Overseas Freighters (1997), ICB (1999), and Golden Ocean (2000). These takeovers made Frontline the world's largest tanker company, a position it has retained to the present day.  
As of 31 December 2010, Frontline's tanker and OBO fleet consisted of 73 vessels. The fleet consists of 44 VLCCs, which are either owned or chartered in, 21 Suezmax tankers which are either owned or chartered in and eight Suezmax OBOs which are chartered in. Frontline also had five VLCC newbuildings and two Suezmax newbuildings on order and three VLCCs under their commercial management. The company's largest shareholder is Hemen Holding Ltd., a company indirectly controlled by the chairman of Frontline, billionaire John Fredriksen, Norway's highest net worth person.
The freight market is very volatile, with standard deviations of up to 70%. From an options perspective, this is a possibility for a very large up and downside—part of this downside can be hedged away via freight derivatives. AG-Japan clean and dirty are the most liquid routes traded in the derivatives market. Frontline has a very high dividend yield, both in cash and in Ship Finance (SFL) stocks for example, in late 2007 its annual dividend ran between 12 and 18%, depending on the fluctuating share price. SFL is an offshoot of Frontline the offshoot is estimated to have generated 25% gains to shareholders due to the different risk in Frontline and SFL. Golden Ocean Group (GOGL), a dry bulk carrier firm, was also spun off of Frontline and listed on the Oslo Stock Exchange. GOGL is a volatile stock, and as with Frontline, dry freight derivatives are available. In 2006, Frontline started a new Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) project, Sea Production.
In June 2007, Frontline sold its entire holding of 25,500,000 shares in Sea Production. The sale of the shares was in line with Frontline's strategy to remain a pure crude oil transportation company. Frontline and Sea Production will continue a strategic partnership with respect to conversion of crude oil tankers into oil storage and production units.
Frontline - History
An unprecedented account of the crisis inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Life and Death in Assisted Living September 24th
Life and Death in Assisted Living
FRONTLINE and ProPublica investigate assisted living in America.
League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis October 8th
League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis
What did the NFL know, and when did they know it? In a special two-part investigation, FRONTLINE reveals the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries.
Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria October 22nd
Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria
FRONTLINE investigates the rise of deadly drug-resistant bacteria.
Here is a brief overview of the history and spread of meth, the potential solutions to the crisis -- and why they weren't fully carried out.
A Japanese chemist first synthesizes amphetamine in a lab. During World War II, the Japanese and Germans use the drug to keep tank drivers awake and increase workers' productivity.
Amphetamine, popularly known as speed or uppers, becomes known as a drug used by athletes, college students, motorcycle gangs and truck drivers.
1980 Crystal Meth: Twice as Potent
Amphetamine's key chemical, Phenyl-2-propanone, is put under federal control.
However, the cooks making the drug for West Coast motorcycle gangs discover that ephedrine -- an ingredient found in over-the-counter cold remedies -- produces methamphetamine, better known as crystal meth, and it is twice as potent.
And, unlike other hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin, crystal meth can be made from household products. The only essential ingredient is ephedrine, or its cousin, pseudoephedrine, also found in many cold medicines.
Early 1980s Enter the Cartels
Mexican drug runners begin supplying ephedrine to the biker gangs' cooks. Within a few years, Jesus and Luis Amezcua, Mexican cocaine traffickers, become top meth dealers.
Home meth labs also begin spreading throughout the West Coast where cooks make the drug from household products such as paint thinner, acetone, and battery acid.
1986 First Attempt to Stem Meth
The DEA's number three man, Gene Haislip, authors legislation requiring companies making 14 kinds of chemicals used in making illegal drugs -- including ephedrine and pseudoephedrine -- to keep sales and import records. The bill would affect sellers of nonprescription asthma and diet pills containing ephedrine, and even more importantly, it would also affect makers of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a $3 billion market. (Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are interchangeable for making meth.)
The pharmaceutical industry mounts a strong lobby against the proposed regulation.
1988 A Compromise With a Loophole
The pharmaceutical industry and the DEA agree on a compromise version of the DEA's proposed regulation two years earlier, and the bill is passed. However, it exempts from regulation any chemical -- such as ephedrine and pseudoephedrine -- turned into a legal drug product. Importers of raw ephedrine and pseudoephedrine powder will have to keep records of their purchases and sales. Sellers of finished pills containing the chemicals will not.
Surveillance footage of a "super lab" in California's Central Valley.
Early 1990s Meth Explodes
The meth cooks switch to using pills, since pill form cold medications containing ephedrine/pseudoephedrine remain unregulated.
The Amezcua cartel in Mexico develops an additional source for ephedrine, buying bulk ephedrine powder overseas from some of the same nine factories (in Germany, Czech Republic, China, and India) from which the American pharmaceutical industry buys their supply of ephedrine/pseudoephedrine for cold medicines. Meth's purity doubles, and a flood of meth spreads eastward from the West Coast. The number of people entering rehab for meth skyrockets.
Robert Pennal, head of the Fresno (Calif.) Methamphetamine Task Force, starts seeing large meth labs in California's Central Valley. Four out of every five hits of meth consumed in the United States are coming from these industrial-scale labs.
March 1994 Accidental Discovery
A U.S. customs agent inadvertently discovers 3.4 metric tons of ephedrine on a plane traveling from Switzerland to Mexico. The powder comes from a factory in India, and the Amezcua cartel's source is exposed. The DEA learns that during one 18-month period, the Amezcua brothers smuggled 170 tons of ephedrine to the United States, enough for 2 billion hits of meth.
The United States asks foreign manufacturers to cease ephedrine exports to the cartel. The chemical becomes more scarce, and meth's purity on America's streets starts to plunge.
April 1994-August 1995 Another Loophole for Traffickers
Legislation passed in 1993 goes into effect in phases, requiring ephedrine pill sellers to register with the DEA, keep sales records, and report suspicious customers. However, the bill does not cover sellers of pseudoephedrine pills.
Pill bottles confiscated from a meth lab.
Meth cooks switch to using the unregulated pseudoephedrine pills, but the pills need to be broken down to remove the key ingredient. The cooks add flammable chemicals to the process, making their already toxic labs more susceptible to explosion.
Removing pills from blister packs (AKA "smurfing").
1996 Yet Another Loophole
After the DEA reaches a new compromise with the pharmaceutical industry, Congress passes a law regulating pseudoephedrine sales. Wholesale distributors of over-the-counter cold medicines would have to register for a DEA license. However, the law exempts from regulation cold remedies sold in foil "blister packs," which are considered harder for meth cooks to open in volume. (Within three years, blister packs of pseudoephedrine will be found in 47 percent of seized meth labs.) In addition, the deadline for distributors to start registering with the DEA is pushed back a year.
| Read "Lobbyists and Loopholes," Part Two of The Oregonian's award-winning series on meth dealing with the pharmaceutical industry's opposition to regulation.
1997 Bogus Fronts Supply the Trade
By the time the new DEA licensing law goes into effect in late 1997, meth traffickers have completed their switch to using pseudoephedrine. And the DEA is swamped by thousands of bogus companies applying for licenses and, short on staff, it begins issuing temporary permits. Before long, companies licensed by the government are making millions selling pseudoephedrine to the super labs.
A train crossing the U.S.-Canada border.
In June, Mexican authorities arraign Jesus and Luis Amezcua on charges of money laundering and racketeering. At the time, the DEA estimates they control 80 percent of the American methamphetamine market. The DEA has also found evidence that several other major Mexican cartels are now trafficking meth.
| Read more about Mexican Meth.
1999-2001 The Canadian Connection
Meth cooks in the Central Valley begin to grow desperate as the DEA tracks down the last bogus companies selling pseudoephedrine to meth labs. However, it takes two years before the DEA discovers the traffickers are getting a new supply of pseudoephedrine from bogus pharmaceutical companies in Canada, where pseudoephedrine is unregulated. Over a period of four years, Canada's bulk pseudoephedrine imports for the manufacture of cold pills quadruple.
2003 U.S. - Canadian Crackdown
Canada successfully curbs imports of pseudoephedrine to U.S. meth labs by adopting a licensing system similar to the United States'. Canadian law enforcement teams up with the DEA to make arrests in 10 cities and bring charges against three Canadian chemical companies.
The number of super labs in California drops, but more labs open in Mexico. A 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates 12 million Americans over the age of 12 have tried methamphetamine in their lifetimes.
2004 The Meth Battle Heats Up
Mexico legally imports 224 tons of pseudoephedrine -- twice as much as they need to make cold medicine. The extra 100 tons is cooked into meth, then smuggled, like other drugs, across the border into the United States. As a result, meth on American streets is as pure as it's ever been.
The president's Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) releases its National Synthetic Drugs Action Plan, [PDF] summarizing the progress and concerns in battling methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy) and other club drugs.
In April 2004, Oklahoma becomes the first state to pass a law placing limits on sales of pseudoephedrine to pharmacies and requiring retailers to sell pseudoephedrine products from behind the counter and ask purchasers to show I.D. and sign a register. (In previous years, the pharmaceutical industry had opposed similar legislation in Oregon, and it was defeated.)
Over-the-counter pseudoephedrine-based cold medicines.
2005 State/National/International Initiatives
To curb home-lab meth production, more than 35 states have passed legislation restricting sales of pseudoephedrine in some way, either by placing limits on the amounts purchased, requiring that the drug be sold within a certain distance from the register, requiring customers to request the item from behind the counter or from a locked case, or requiring them to sign a registry.
At the urging of its Meth Caucus, Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 as part of the PATRIOT Revision Act. This legislation mandates that pseudoephedrine be put under lock and key in stores nationwide and that buyers register at the store counter. It will also toughen penalties against meth traffickers and enhance the government's authority to stem the flow of precursor chemicals (ephedrine/pseudoephedrine) from foreign manufacturers.
Deputy drug czar Scott M. Burns testifies that the administration's "strategy to reduce drug use in America is not focused on one illicit drug at the expense of another, but seeks to reduce all illicit drug use. However, officials at ONDCP, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice realize that methamphetamine, illicitly used prescription drugs, and club drugs -- collectively referred to as synthetic drugs -- pose a unique challenge, and constitute an emerging problem."
The Mexican government admits that drug cartels artificially inflated demand for pseudoephedrine and agrees to reduce imports to a level legitimately needed for cold medicine. Mexico will also allow only licensed pharmacies with full-time pharmacists to sell medicines containing pseudoephedrine, reducing the number of retail outlets selling the drug from 51,000 to 17,000.
2006 The Most Abused Hard Drug on Earth
The U.N. World Drug Report calls meth the most abused hard drug on earth, and the world's 26 million meth addicts equals the combined number for cocaine and heroin users. America alone has 1.4 million users, and the number is rising globally, the highest concentration of addicts is in East and Southeast Asia.
The Mexican government recognizes there is a huge oversupply of pseudoephedrine coming into the country, and most of it is being diverted to the U.S meth trade. They decide to ban importation all together. With the Mexican cartels unable to get their hands on pseudoephedrine, the potency of the meth being smuggled into the U.S. plunges.
2009 California, Super Supplier
After Mexico's ban of pseudoephedrine, Mexican drug trafficking organizations look to California to ramp up meth production, knowing they can get supplies of pseudoephedrine throughout the West Coast. Unlike before, when super labs made 100 pounds or more in one reaction, meth is produced in smaller labs across multiple locations so that if one is taken down there is less at stake. California, known as a meth-exporting nation, is by some estimates producing more meth than the next five biggest producer states in the U.S. combined.
2010 Mississippi on the Ropes
In 2010, with a growing meth crisis on its hands and more dangerous meth-cooking practices, Mississippi becomes the second state after Oregon to make pseudoephedrine products prescription only. A few months after enforcing the law, officials see a sharp drop in meth lab seizures and meth-related crime.
| Explore Our Map: "Map Meth at the State Level" Which states have adopted some kind of law restricting the sale of pseudoephedrine?
2010 Is Meth a Nationwide Problem?
Telling lawmakers "Meth manufacturing is a scourge that has been all but eliminated in Oregon,” Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduces legislation that would make pseudoephedrine a prescription drug nationwide. Law enforcement, and health and prevention groups support the measure.
More than a dozen heartland and southeastern states hit hard by meth abuse, consider prescription-only legislation. But heavy lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry stymie their efforts. Other states struggling with the problem begin using electronic tracking systems to monitor behind-the-counter sales. Kentucky is the first to use the system and more than two years in, officials say it’s failing to bring rates down.
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posted feb. 14, 2006 updated March 22, 2006 updated may 16, 2011
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