TBR News March 23, 2010

Mar 23 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. March 23, 2020:“ The Coronavirus is a mild flu of relatively short duration. It is highly infectious and spreads rapidly. From a statistical standpoint, this virus is almost at at the bottom of the list of fatal diseases. But it is capable, like all forms of influenza, of killing people with breathing problems, the aged and the very young.
The Internet has a number of analysis of the disease that more than bears out these contentions but the print media has begun a loud campaign designed to frighten the public into reading their failing newspapers.
This campaign is not successful in gaining enormous numbers of new subscribers (on which ad revenue is based) but it has been very successful in terrifying large sections of the population and has, directly, caused the shut-down of a large number of retail stores and restaurants and the firing of their employees.
It is a greedy and failing media that has caused the Coronavirus panic, not the illness itself. For their economic and social disruption, the print media deserves to go bankrupt and its instigtors jailed.”

Agitation From Reuters

• Western supply chains buckle as coronavirus lockdowns spread
• New York begs for federal help over coronavirus as Fed sets up fiscal supports
• Central banks deploy record sums to break financial logjam, but may need more
• UK calls in army and warns people to stay home or face lockdown
• EU urges nations to unblock borders, let freight cross in 15 minutes
• Germany launches 750 billion euro package to fight coronavirus
• A ‘bailout’ for Main Street
• Policy vs pandemic: Virus outpaces consensus
• Senate looks to strike deal on relief package
• Boeing to halt Washington state production temporarily due to coronavirus risks

Agitation From The Guardian

• New York ordered to increase hospital capacity as surgeon general issues warning
• Panic-buying disrupts food distribution
• What happens to people’s lungs if they get Covid-19?
• New York has 5% of Covid-19 cases worldwide as city becomes battlefront
• Can kids catch coronavirus? What we know about Covid-19 and children
• London Covid-19 doctor says soon staff will be forced to choose whose life to save
• UK coronavirus live: 7,500 former medics to rejoin NHS, Hancock says, as death toll rises across the country
• Don’t panic over your 401(k)! It’s time to emotionally distance from the markets
• The UK expects thousands of deaths, and dangerously mixed messages risk making an already grave situation worse
• The Fed is running out of options to stave off a coronavirus depression
• Nothing is working as the US central bank tries to pull the markets out of a slump

Agitation From the New York Times

• The Virus Can Be Stopped, but Only With Harsh Steps, Experts Say
• Pandemic Drives U.S. and China Deeper Into Global Power Struggle
• How to Prevent a Coronavirus Depression
• 1,000 Inmates Will Be Released From N.J. Jails to Curb Virus Risk
• ‘Our Industry Will Fail’: Retail Leaders Ask for Emergency Aid
• Warmer Weather May Slow, but Not Halt Coronavirus
• Exercising During Coronavirus: Can I Jog? Is That Water Fountain Safe?
• Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety
• The Economic Pain Is Universal. But Relief? Depends on Where You Live.
• ‘Our Industry Will Fail’: Retail Leaders Ask for Emergency Aid

Agitation From the Washington Post

• U.S. surgeon general warns of worsening crisis as more states tell residents to stay home
• Resume talks on stimulus bill
• Demorats say bill doesn’t do enough to help households, health-care workers
• The coronavirus isn’t alive. That’s why it’s so hard to kill.
• U.S. stocks tanking despite unprecedented Fed action to shore up economy
• Number of infected Grand Princess passengers is still a mystery
• Perspective: Will coronavirus intimacy lead to a baby boom? Or a divorce tsunami?
• A doctor’s urgent appeal for more coronavirus tests: ‘We need them today’
• Grief amid the pandemic: Live-streamed funerals, canceled services and mourning left ‘unfinished’
• There have been more than 350,000 confirmed cases of covid-19. The virus has killed more than 15,000.

Agitation From Deutsche Welle

• Coronavirus latest: Italian deaths slow for second day
• Coronavirus: Germany counts costs of economic shutdown
• COVID-19: Recovered patients have partially reduced lung function
• The rising number of victims in the COVID-19 pandemic is shocking Europe, much as the Lisbon earthquake did 265 years ago.
• Pressure mounts on food delivery workers amid COVID-19
• German man licks ticket machine ‘to spread coronavirus’
• Coronavirus: Canada to withdraw athletes from Tokyo 2020, Australia also acts
• Airbus cancels €1.5 billion in dividends over coronavirus
• What are Germany’s new coronavirus social distancing rules?
• Hands off! What can we touch during the coronavirus outbreak?

The Table of contents
• Decline of Print Media
• Over 2000 American Newspapers Have Closed in Past 15 Years
• FBI’s facial recognition program hits ‘full operational capability’
• FBI Facial Recognition System Gives Officers an Investigative Lead
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Decline of Print Media
According to statistics of Newspaper Association of America, print media is declining at an alarming rate compared to previous years (Newspaper Association of America, 2011). The publishing market has gone down drastically for a while as the reduction of economic activity of newspapers confronts the global recession. The US print media had a 30% decline in income from online and off-line distribution and advertisement between 2007 and 2009.
The decline of the print media is as a result of over reliance on advertising than most newspapers in the rest of the world. According to OECD, 2010, “total advertisement income of newspapers is 57%, as circulation totals to 43%” (OECD, 2010). This deduces that the average revenue of US print media generates 73% from advertisement. Circulation has declined, resulting to 23% drop in 2008 advertisements income.
This poses challenges to newspaper supply chain as buyers are keen on the competition that is on the rise from alternative media such as the Internet. This reflects the dwindling profit in print media business. The drop in revenue and the deteriorating circulation compels the firms to reduce the number of staff and the editorial content. However, this creates more problems of circulation declines with increasing loss of advertisement revenue.
An increase on Internet usage through Google for searching information has seen readers shift their reading habits. They decline to use print media as they pursue exceptional sources of information via varied sources rendering the newspaper and other print media unimportant.
With the growing trend of digital format overtaking print, marketers and publishers should consider embracing more visual and multimedia resources to add to written materials. This will help capture the target audience with appropriate content. This will raise the consumer expectation as they access written information on affordable, faster, multimedia devices. In their messaging, marketers should aim for messages that are engaging, experiential, and comprehendible in an easy format.
Observed Trends in Print Media Decline
In the recent past, the print media industry has witnessed some significant changes that can transform its existence. According to Carr, Google had plans to digitalize print media and consequently reached a settlement with book authors and publishers (Carr, 2008). A number of print media companies have indicated that they will reduce or stop publication works.
At the same time, most magazine and newspaper organizations such as Sports Illustrated, the Olympian, Fortune, and People have shown interests in reducing workforces and reorganizing their staff. This trend has not spared Gannet, the US largest print media publisher. The company announced that it was reducing its workforce by 10 percent (3,000 workers). The Tribune Company had also expressed its intention of reducing its workforce at The Los Angeles Times. 1
There are also declining trends in the pricing of print media products. For instance, some print media companies such as TV Guide commenced prices reductions in reactions to decline in readership, preferences, and purchasing power.
Despite these downward trends, print media still have the audience. However, most consumers prefer visiting print media online publications. This implies that many people still rely on print media but in different formats and platforms for deliveries. Herman Wong has observed that there is a decline in print magazines (Wong, 2009). They have lost advertisers and readers. This trend is also visible in San Francisco Public Library (Main Branch).
The library has significantly reduced its spending on print media.2 They have noticed that most magazine organizations are reacting to changes in the industry by switching to online databases. Still, the library has also experienced reductions in the number of its collections and subscriptions.
Such decline in print publications reflects changes among consumers. Students and library users demand fast access using their computers and other hand-held devices. Therefore, supplies for print media and spending have moved online. This implies that supplies and contracting among organizations in print media have significantly declined, shifted to online business, or ceased altogether.
Why the Decline in Print Media
Economic factors may bear the blame for the current worrying situation of the print media, but there are other variables that offer the explanation to the decline of the US print media. The three distinct reasons mainly are:
Deteriorating quality of journalism
The publishing firms are in quest of making profit, regardless of the circulation decline. Therefore, cutting on the staff number and trimming of the coverage. As of 2009, the number of employees in newspaper newsroom dwindled to 41,500. Such initiatives cause strained work in the newsroom that result to undeniably poor quality of journalistic work production. The American dailies have cut off many of the significant news sections.
As well, noted are the incidents of errors and falsifications that pose questions on the accuracy of journalistic work. Shortages of internal control, facilitated by financial challenges are some factors triggering unreliability and inaccuracy in print media. Staff cutbacks results to reduced editorial oversight and reduced check for accuracy.
This translates to degradation of the print media. Therefore, financial motivation has adverse effects on the quality of the paper and readers are reluctant in consulting the paper due to inaccuracy and unreliable content. Therefore, they opt for reliable and accurate information sources such as the Internet.
Poor readership
In the course of struggling to maintain the paper’s quality, print media feels the impact of the large number of American disinterested population. Decline in readership, shot in the age bracket of 18-24 years equivalent to 42% in 1999 and in 2009, decreased to 27% (Filloux, 2011).
Poor readership is as a result of readers shifting to other means of accessing news like Internet. Terminating circulation in distant areas is another cause for poor readership. This is an initiative to reduce the delivery cost. This deprives the reader the opportunity for information. As a result, readers opt for other means of acquiring information and drop the inaccessible print media.3
With prices of print media going up, and with the current global recession, readers have dropped spending on newspapers. Instead, they embrace affordable media that offer information without subscription.
Failure of the public to accept authority and institutions reinforces the print media decline. In the 20th century, print media had an agenda to set power within the realms of American politics. As the public interest decreased towards authority, the power of the print media to attract readers diminished.
The old generation associates with high readership of newspapers while the young age delves more in technology in quest for information. As the old group continues to age, the readership within the group dwindles. This reflects the dropping trend of the American readership in turn spelling the demise of print media.
Competing news media
News media compete in target for similar resources that include customers and advertisers. According to The McCombs, “Relative Constancy Hypothesis” concludes that customers set aside equal amount of income to news media irrespective of the number they can access (Edmonds, Guskin, Rosenstiel and Mitchell, 2012).
The theory is a basis for claims that decline of print media, revenue from advertisement and circulation is a result of rapid increase in other new media forms like radio, Television and most recent the Internet.
Proliferation of the Internet contributes heavily to the decline of print media. Readership of print media seems to have gone down as readers access information from the Internet. This focuses on the patterns of readership reflecting that though circulation of print is declining, on the other hand, it reaches a larger audience than before via website.
The Washington Post and Boston Globe for example record a high readership of papers on the web than on the paid circulation of the same print newspaper.
Nielson data report an increase in web readership from 60 million in 2007 to 72 million in 2009. A research on the US newspapers reflects undesirable relationship existing between web and print newspaper circulation for varied newspapers. This means that the web related news diminishes the print newspaper ability to maximize profit from circulation.
As print media are yet to recover from the recession, the Internet thrives in attracting customers for advertising due to friendly costs. While the Web pays five cent reaching for the audience, the print media spend a dollar. This indicates Internet responsibility in print media downfalls with regard to advertisement revenues.
The Internet has also taken over on classified advertisements. This has affected the once successful newspaper classified sections in terms of revenues and profits. In a bid to go online with advertisements, the print media have failed to generate sufficient funds to sustain expenses for new business ventures. The advertisement and circulation threats from the Internet indicate that new media are outdoing the print media.
Effects of Decline in Print Media in supply management and contracting
Organizational behaviors tend to reflect dynamics in the industry. The declining trend in print media is risky to the industry. Therefore, most print media companies will strive to avoid risks related to production and supply as most consumers have changed their preferences to online media. In addition, contracting has equally declined in print media. In general, operation management in print media industry has changed. Most firms have reduced a significance proportion of their workforces and budget.
Organizations must weigh risks associated with reductions in print media to their supply chains. Procurement procedures consider sustainability and affordability of materials and buying media has shifted to online contents as they tend to be cheap, and reach a wider readership across the globe.
This trend has caused risks to supply management. Organizations must focus on impacts and losses that occur as a result of decline in print media to their specific business operation. This means that they must avert risks and move with consumers’ demands. For instance, UCPS (Berkeley University of California) puts it that it has experienced difficulties in combating the decline in print and graphic markets since 2001.
UCPS notes factors such as recession and economic situations had negative impacts on their operation and financial viability leading to closure of its three units.4 This implies that such risks are serious and affect the entire supply management to a point leading to closure of the organizational units.
Organizations can plan to minimize decline in print media on its supply management and contracting. A careful planning cannot eliminate risks to the organization but can help avert serious effects such as job losses and operation closure. Managing risks to the supply chain needs a “contingency plan that must indicate possible alternatives and solutions before any problem arises” (Singel, 2000). 5
In this case, the question of “what if the there is a decline in print media” can help an organization develop a contingency plan for minimizing effects to its supply chain.
The case is that there is a general decline from primary suppliers (print media production). This issue will force the organizational decision-making teams to review their logistic processes regularly. Regular reviews of logistic procedures enable organizations to enhance their adjustment strategies, thinking, and reduce chances of possible surprises in cases of dwindling demands.
We cannot look at effects without looking at substitute products, and how they impact supply management and contracting. The Internet and mobile platforms are replacing the traditional print media. Internet giants like Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! among others constantly engage in tactics of ensuring advertisements in print media go online. Thus, the Internet and mobile are the main threats to print media, and its traditional source of revenues (advertisement).
The idea of supply chain management touches every activity in the organization. Thus, business units provide the concept of a value chain in an organization. The production processes go through all these stages and create value in the product. Distribution of print media limits availability to certain geographical regions. Costs of distribution rise and put much pressure on the industry.
Traditionally, print media have depended on advertisement revenues for supporting their operation. However, these revenues decline as online media conquer the advertisement industry. The print media have a challenge of adjusting their prices upwards due to possible consequences of reduced buyers. This implies that print media will have cost-related pressure resulting to the above observed trends of workforces’ reductions, salary cut, and possible closures.
In the supply chain, circulation revenue is hardly enough to contain huge costs of operation in organizations. Advertisers will not use print media with low circulations. Circulation of print media has become a value added service that does not generate revenues to the organization. It requires efficiency through industry expertise for fair logistic services, management, product organization, and distribution.
The print media industry should identify suitable platforms for their products and financial flows in order to align them with the supply chain and other industry practices. The most crucial factor is product flow, which is information flow. Therefore, the print media industry should optimize information flow in supply chain management. Efficient supply chain management is crucial in adjusting the industry to meet consumers changing needs, efficiency, and demands within the print media industry.
The Future of Print Media Industry
Some industry analysts concur that print media is facing its end, but some do not agree with such conclusions. There is a need to review the industry supply chain and develop conclusive understanding of all areas, especially the audience.6 The supply chain management must identify and develop strategic elements that can provide focus and future direction of the print media industry.
The industry should drive its performance. There should be different incentives and performance tracking systems. This will introduce a new culture of performance in media organizations. There are also calls to replace some aspects of traditional supply chain systems such as circulation. The industry should engage in collaboration processes with regards to aspects of distribution, warehousing and elements that media houses can outsource cost effectively.
The print media industry must also attract, retain, and enrich their workforces. This means that the print media must evolve as demands and needs of consumers change. Changes must also affect contents of the print media. The print media must create experience and engagement among consumers.
Creating experience and engagement shall remain a major challenge even if the print media changes its platform to online access. Thus, the supply chain management must create value to ensure that the print media remain relevant even if it is in the form of e-paper (Edmonds, Guskin, Rosenstiel and Mitchell, 2012).
This means that the decline in print media signifies the need for the industry to move to new platforms as the industry demands. Technology is responsible for such changes in the print media industry. This calls for diversification in the supply chain management especially in value creation in different stages and processes involved.7
Carr, D. (2008). The Media Equation: Mourning Old Media’s Decline. The New York Edition , 1.
Edmonds, R., Guskin, E., Rosenstiel, T. and Mitchell, A. (2012). Newspapers: Building Digital Revenues Proves Painfully Slow. The State of the Newspaper Media 2012: Annual Report on American Journalism , 1-5.
Filloux, F. (2011). The Publisher’s Dilemma. Monday Note, 2(27) , 4-6.
Newspaper Association of America. (2011). Trends and Numbers. Retrieved from https://www.newsmediaalliance.org/
OECD. (2010). The Evolution of News and the Internet. Washington, DC: OECD.
Singel, S. (2000). Books, libraries and electronics. New York: Knowledge Industry Publications.
Wong, H. (2009). Want evidence of the decline of print media? Go to the library. SF Weekly Articles, 8, 1-2.
1 “The American Society of News Editors employment census, released in April 2012, counted a loss of 1,000 full-time newsroom jobs in 2011, a decline of 2.4%” (Edmonds, Rick, 2011).
2 In 2009, the branch spent nearly $385,000 on periodicals, down by almost $75,000 from the year 2008.
3 “Fifteen years after the concept’s emergence, the impact of digital media on the news industry could be added to the list of most quoted examples of disrupted (devastated?) sectors” (Frédéric Filloux, 2011).
4 UC Printing Services closed all three units by April 30th 2010. These units include, the main facility located at 1100 67th St. Emeryville, CA, University Hall room-70, and The Copy Center located at UCOP.
5 Sigel notes that contents that readers need to read as “a whole and that can command an audience will continue to be more effectively disseminated in traditional book form – inexpensive, compact, portable, requiring no equipment to use and easy to handle & read” (Sigel, 2000).
6 See “The Future of Print Media: How to Adapt to the Digital Age” Monday, April 28, 2008 “We renegotiated a number of contracts, eliminated wasteful habits and realigned resources to grow online revenue, stabilize print news, improve quality, create niche products, incorporate local video, online radio and ask what else we can sell from our web presence” (Speakers: Brian, Theodore Olson, and Brian Tierney, 2008).
7 See Newspapers: Building Digital Revenues Proves Painfully Slow “Along the way, newspapers, whatever balance they strike, are getting more serious about identifying and building the elements of an innovation business culture, not just invoking innovation as a mantra” (Rick Edmonds, Emily Guskin, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell, (2012).

Over 2000 American Newspapers Have Closed in Past 15 Years
January 6, 2020
by Douglas A. McIntyre
The newspaper industry has continued its relentless downward spiral, which started with the advent of the internet and accelerated during the Great Recession. The pace of the decline has not slowed. New research shows that over 2,000 newspapers have closed since 2004, a staggering figure given that the industry was once among the largest employers in America.
Penny Abernathy, the Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism, is widely considered the preeminent authority on the number of newspapers in the United States. That is not an easy task, since the number is in the thousands, and some are so small that their fates are hard to track. She is the author of “The Expanding News Deserts,” a term coined to describe areas where there is almost no local news coverage.
Abernathy said that, “It appears at this stage that we’ve lost approximately 2,100 papers, all but 70 of which are weeklies, since 2004.” The industry implosion has left almost half of the counties in America (1,449) with only one newspaper, which is usually a weekly. As of the most recent count, 171 counties do not have a paper at all.
The number of papers in America is currently about 7,000, but as revenue at most of them declines, that number is bound to shrink further. Some newspapers already are close to shuttering. Publishers, both individual owners and chains, have resorted to the equivalent of life support. A recent example is that the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which was started 233 years ago, will cut the number of days it is printed from five to three. Two years ago, the paper appeared seven times a week. Management says that it plans to phase out the print edition completely. While the paper may survive online, the “downsizing” will cost dozens of jobs. A drop in the numbers of days a paper appears is part of the industry’s playbook to cut expenses.
No one in the newspaper business has come up with a solution to the industry’s falling revenue. Very few newspapers continue to flourish. Among them is The New York Times. Well over 3 million people pay for digital versions of the paper and its other products. Management has set a goal to reach 10 million paid subscribers by 2025. The Times, however, can afford a newsroom large enough to create a product that is unequaled anywhere else in the United States. The editorial staff of the paper is over 1,200 people.
While the Times flourishes, only one other U.S. paper (leaving aside The Wall Street Journal) has done well. The Washington Post, owned by Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, is said to be profitable and growing. That makes the list of highly successful papers, financially, in the United States as a club of two.
Another handful of papers, mostly large city dailies, are owned and supported by billionaires or nonprofits. These include the newspapers in Boston, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Tampa. Even these properties are not immune to the industry’s problems. The papers in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Tampa have recently cut staff.
Almost all the other daily newspapers in America have the same problems. Print advertising has been eroding for nearly two decades. Classified advertising, in particular, has moved almost entirely online. Digital advertising growth at most newspapers has slowed. The digital advertising business, in general, is difficult because of the large market share held by Google and Facebook.
Papers also have difficulty convincing readers to pay for digital subscriptions. This is for two reasons. The first is that most newspapers have cut so many editorial employees that they cannot create compelling content. The other is that there is a massive amount of news, entertainment and sports material available online for free.
The notion of “creative destruction” has gained a great deal of currency in the business world. It assumes that aged and inefficient business models are relentlessly and necessarily replaced by new ones. As the process shreds the newspaper industry, it begs the question of what the advantage might be if one of the primary underpinnings of free speech and public discourse disappears.

FBI’s facial recognition program hits ‘full operational capability’
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Next Generation Identification System, a biometric database reliant on tens of millions of facial-recognition records, is now fully operational, the agency announced Monday.
The NGI system, after three years of development, is billed by the FBI as a new breakthrough for criminal identification and data-sharing between law enforcement agencies.
“This effort is a significant step forward for the criminal justice community in utilizing biometrics as an investigative enabler,” the FBI said in a statement
The NGI database contains over 100 million individual records that link a person’s fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans and facial-recognition data with personal information like their home address, age, legal status and other potentially compromising details.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the NGI is the facial-recognition information, which civil liberties advocates have said for years is among the most serious future threats to Americans’ privacy. The NGI database is expected to contain 52 million facial-recognition images alone by 2015.
The FBI said Monday that two new features of the database are now complete, capping off the NGI’s “operational capability.”
One feature, the Rap Back, will allow officials to “receive ongoing status notifications of any criminal history reported on individuals holding positions of trust, such as school teachers.”
Additionally, the Interstate Photo System (IPS) facial recognition service “will provide the nation’s law enforcement community with an investigative tool that provides an image-searching capability of photographs associated with criminal identities.”
But Americans not suspected of any criminal activity could easily be swept up into the NGI, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in any number of ways. An individual who goes through a fingerprint background check for an employment opportunity, for instance, could soon be required to submit a picture of herself as well.
That picture could be stored alongside images of suspected criminals, unlike fingerprints, where a clear differentiation is made between law-abiding citizens and those who have been in trouble with the law before.
According to EFF senior staff attorney Jennifer Lynch, there is cause for concern because “the FBI and Congress have thus far failed to enact meaningful restrictions on what types of data can be submitted to the system, who can access the data and how the data can be used.”
“For example, although the FBI has said in these documents that it will not allow non-mug shot photos such as images from social networking sites to be saved from the system, there are no legal or even written FBI policy restrictions in place to prevent this from occurring,” Lynch said.
In June, EFF and other privacy advocates warned that the FBI’s facial-recognition database is in desperate need of more oversight.
“One of the risks here, without assessing the privacy considerations, is the prospect of mission creep with the use of biometric identifiers,” Jeramie Scott of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told National Journal. “It’s been almost two years since the FBI said they were going to do an updated privacy assessment, and nothing has occurred.”
A 2010 report of the FBI’s facial-recognition technology found that it could fail one in every five instances it was used, a rate higher than fingerprinting or iris scans.
Yet FBI Director James Comey has told Congress that the database would not amass photos of innocent people, and that it is only intended to “find bad guys by matching pictures to mugshots.”
In a milestone announcement, the FBI said in August that it had tracked down a 14-year fugitive suspected of child abuse using facial-recognition technology.
Meanwhile, US government intelligence researchers are developing the Janus Program which will “radically expand the range of conditions under which automated face recognition can establish identity.”
There are currently no federal restraints on the use of facial-recognition software.

FBI Facial Recognition System Gives Officers an Investigative Lead
The powerful tool replaces legacy technology and lets police officers automatically compare a suspect’s digital facial image against more than 20 million images, but it has accuracy limits and has raised concerns among privacy groups.
by Jessica Hughes
Government Technology and Emergency Management
New FBI facial recognition technology released in September means more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies can search potential criminals by face in addition to fingerprint.
The facial recognition tool, called the Interstate Photo System, lets officers automatically compare a suspect’s digital facial image against the 20 million and growing images available for searches, giving officers an investigative lead.
“What this does for our criminal justice community is it provides them another tool to be able to go out and identify criminals,” said Stephen Morris, assistant director of the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the FBI.
The facial recognition tool is part of CJIS’ Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which is a 10-year IT project begun in 2008 to replace the decades-old legacy Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The project has been launched in stages, but the September release marks the biggest rollout and the official end of the legacy system. The facial recognition technology was piloted in six states and developed in collaboration with law enforcement agencies nationwide. NGI currently operates in about 75 percent of the country’s law enforcement agencies.
“This is a long overdue effort to replace legacy technology, old technology, with new, relevant, more efficient, cheaper technology and, more importantly, more accurate technology,” Morris said.
The facial recognition technology represents the first time officers can search CJIS’ criminal mug shot database, which can store up to 92 million photos, against digital photos culled from investigations. Previously, there was no way to automatically search against the images collected along with fingerprints taken during booking or incarceration. Law enforcement officers would have to submit photos to the CJIS Division for facial recognition processing. With the new system, officers can choose between two and 50 candidates for review.
Any image used for search purposes is in law enforcement’s possession pursuant to a lawful investigation, Morris said. Digital photos, for example, can be taken from surveillance cameras or from digital devices that are seized with a search warrant. The ability to use the images captured on these devices is where the value in the tool lies, he said.
“Obviously you can’t pull a fingerprint off of a phone, but if there are images on a phone and you know that it’s that person’s phone, it’s the next best thing,” said Morris.
Facial recognition technology, however, is less reliable than fingerprint identification, with the Interstate Photo System returning the correct candidate a minimum of 85 percent of the time when a matching photos is in the repository. Any facial recognition hits are therefore investigative leads, not positive identifications, Morris said.
“In other words, it’s not an absolute identification,” Morris said. “When that agency gets that result back, they then have to go out and do the follow-up investigation.”
Additionally, controlled environments are best for facial recognition, a relatively young technology, which can be explained as an algorithm that make sense of millions of pixels describing facial features, said Chenjgun Liu, associate professor of computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. DMV photos, for instance, are a good use for the technology.
“There is no such thing as a system or program that can recognize people without any constraint,” Liu said. “That is a fiction.”
Liu, who has received funding from the Department of Defense to support his research into improving the technology, recognizes the benefit of using the technology with digital images to narrow down the number of suspects in an investigation, reducing the search effort dramatically.
“The potential benefit is of course also obvious. We have nowadays images almost everywhere,” he said.
CJIS has put into place specifications to ensure photo quality for people submitting digital images to its database, requiring they be frontal facial images with no shadows, and be taken in controlled environments. The accuracy of the photos both in the database and for those that are searched against are correlated with faster and more accurate search results, Morris said.
And although it’s not an absolute, searching for both photo and fingerprint matches for one person can give officers almost virtual certainty of someone’s identify, he said.
“For the folks out there worried about it falsely identifying people, I would say it actually closes the gap and reduces the chance of an individual being falsely identified,” Morris said.
Indeed, the fact that law enforcement can search against such a large database of digital images, has some groups uncomfortable with its possible surveillance capabilities. The facial recognition technology received attention in the spring from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Morris said NGI has been subject to privacy threat assessments and privacy impact assessments, and that abuse of the technology using photos on social networking sites is “patently false.”
“First and foremost all of these things are done with absolute guarantee that privacy and civil liberties are of first concern,” he said.
Cost of the technology overhaul is another concern. The entire NGI System is a billion-dollar project. But Morris said the high price tag is an investment. “Over a long run, over a 20-year span, the return on that will be significant. You’re talking about savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.”
That’s because the technology was built on a flexible framework, scalable as new biometric capabilities become economically and technically feasible. One such technology, iris image recognition, was just piloted under NGI.
Although the technology is not ready to be added to NGI’s set of biometrics tools, it soon may be, Morris said, just as facial recognition technology has come around.

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Webster Tarpley

Webster Griffin Tarpley is an author, critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy, founder of the Tax Wall Street Party, and deranged conspiracy theorist. Tarpley was for a long time affiliated with the LaRouche movement, and even attempted to run on LaRouche’s U.S. Labor Party platform in the NY Democratic senate primary in 1986. His 1992 book with Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, was also published by LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review magazine, and already illustrated Tarpley’s problematic relationship with truth, facts and accuracy. Currently he hosts the online talk show World Crisis Radio, and is a member of the “world anti-imperialist conference” Axis for Peace, Scholars for 9/11 Truth, as well as a “research” Netzwerk of German 9/11 authors. He also hosts the podcast AmericanSystem.tv, co-hosted with the chairperson of the Tax Wall Street Party, Daniela Walls.
Yes, Tarpley believes that the September 11 attacks were engineered by a rogue network in the military-industrial complex and intelligence agencies as a false-flag operation, and has denounced the official story as an “outrageous myth” and “absurd fairy tale.” Instead of fundamentalist islamists, Tarpley claims that the organisations involved in 9/11 included Britain’s MI6 as well as “government officials loyal to the invisible government,” the cabal that really controls everything and is invisible, so you won’t find evidence that it exists, which for conspiracy theorists like Tarpley is evidence that they really are a secret government and, moreover, extremely resourceful. As for the British connection, Tarpley is one of a rather surprising number of conspiracy theorists who have managed to convince themselves that Great Britain really are pulling the strings here and have been doing so for a long time (we’ve encountered the type before, e.g. here), and he has managed to receive some attention for instance for his “Versailles Thesis”, which lays the blame for the great wars of the 20th century on intrigues by Britain to retain dominance. For good measure, Tarpley also believes the Pearl Harbor attack was a government conspiracy. Tarpley’s views on 9/11 are summed up in his book 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA – Myth of the 21st Century (with a foreword by the noted and equally utterly deranged French conspiracy theorist Thierry Meyssan), which has been published in a number of languags.
Tarpley has, in fact, had several opportunities to take his conspiracy theories abroad. In 2011 Tarpley travelled to Syria to tell Syria’s Addounia TV that the Syrian Civil War was a NATO-CIA ploy to destabilize the country using mercenaries and death squads – in particular CIA-contracted Al-Qaeda groups, or “Ciaqaeda” – against the population and the Syrian government. Indeed, the idea that there is even a civil war going on “is absolute baloney, this is a Goebbels big lie campaign, there is no civil war here, there is no insurrection, there is no mass political movement against Assad,” just NATO working behind the scenes to try to topple a regime loved by the people. Tarpley’s evidence consists mostly of his own assertions (“I would like to argue that” followed by an assertion with neither argument nor evidence). And in 2012, he was interviewd by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation regarding the 2011 Norway attacks, saying that he believed “that the evidence points to a private network, or even a NATO network, within the police that contributed the long time delay until they stormed the Island.” That claim is, of course, not really consistent with the details, but Tarpley’s ideas are not about details but about large narratives. Tarpley’s conspiracy theory breakthrough, meanwhile, was the book Who Killed Aldo Moro, commissioned by Italian Parliamentary member Giuseppe Zamberletti, and which alleged, entirely unsurprisingly, that the US and NATO, not the Red Brigades, were behind Moro’s murder.
Part of the point of invisible shadow governments is that they remain invisible, and Tarpley’s primary evidence that the US (and everywhere else) is ruled by an invisible shadow government is of course, as mentioned above, that he cannot find any evidence for them. Accordingly, Tarpley has been rather dismissive of actual revelations of government secrets, such as Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency. According to Tarpley, Snowden is probably a triple agent ultimately working under the control of the CIA with the aim of weakening President Barack Obama and pushing him into intervening in Syria – that is why he would publicize minor public manipulation operations: in order to conceal greater covert misdeeds such as promoting war in the Middle East. Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange are other examples of covert CIA operatives.
Tarpley has actually written two books outlying his conspiracy theories about the Obama administration, Obama & The Postmodern Coup: Making of a Manchurian Candidate (2008) and Barack H. Obama: The Unauthorized Biography(2008). His discussions of Obama, in particular how Obama is “clearly being controlled” – “The Elite are using Obama to pacify the public so they can usher in the North American Union by stealth, launch a new Cold War and continue the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan” – were heavily featured in Alex Jones’s “documentary” The Obama Deception: The Mask Comes Off (there are fine discussions of that movie, including Tarpley’s contributions, here, here, here and here); Jones is in general a big fan of Tarpley’s work. In 2012, Tarpley added a book about Romney: Just Too Weird: Bishop Romney and the Mormon Takeover of America: Polygamy, Theocracy, and Subversion to his portfolio.
The general methodological principle of Tarpley’s work in his books, articles and videos is to take any claim made or article written by his target (the alleged member of the shadow government who is planning a New World Order or genocide or whatever) and interpret any description of an ongoing situation and any attempt to predict future developments, as advocating for the situation described or prediction made – so if you predict that humans may use bodily implants for various purposes in the future, for instance, then Tarpley will reinterpret you as actively trying to force people to get bodily implants. Add to that technique a generous amount of cherry-picking and strawmanning, and you quickly become, in Tarpley’s view, an advocate for a “global police force” to enforce totalitarian measures of population control, including forced abortions, mass sterilization programs conducted via the food and water supply, and forced bodily implants to prevent you from having children – such as John Holdren, who according to Tarpley, in a conspiracy theory popularized by Glenn Beck, ended up as a “Malthusian fanatic in the tradition of the arcane anti-human ideology that originated amongst British aristocracy in the 19th century.”
In 2017 Tarpley received renewed attention when he agreed to settle a libel suit brought by Melania Trump for publishing a “false and defamatory” report In August 2016 alleging that the First Lady had been a “high-end escort” prior to meeting Donald Trump. The settlement apparently involved a rather large sum of money, as well as a public apology.
Diagnosis: Tarpley has for decades been one of the leading kooks in the US, and still wields an impressive amount of influence among US conspiracy theorists – Alex Jones, for instance, seems to have picked up a trick or three from Tarpley. And his books and articles still seem to find a receptive and disconcertingly large audience. He is, accordingly, not just some harmless ball of colors and rage but someone whose paranoia might be causing actual harm.

Ellie Crystal

Ah, the freedom of having a mind unencumbered by reason, evidence or accountability. Ellie Crystal – shall we wager that “Crystal” is not her birth name? – has one of those. Crystal is what is perhaps best described as a New Age mystic – officially she’s at least a psychic and a reiki master – and she is probably most notable for her appearance on The Daily Show segment “Evolution, Schmevolution” back in the days.
Her website is here, and it is really a sight to behold (not for its aesthetic qualities, though); according to herself, Crystalinks is “perhaps the largest, most comprehensive and ambitious metaphysical and science website on the Internet today”.
Apparently Crystal “developed her abundant, intuitive and natural psychic abilities” at a young age: “At age eleven, Ellie experienced an otherworldly encounter that abruptly changed her life and shaped her future. In the Nevada desert, a spirit named Zoroaster, lovingly called Z, appeared to her. He became part of Ellie’s daily life, bringing her to a destiny set in motion from the beginning.” She also claims to have a “PhD in Metaphysical Studies,” though it is not a PhD in metaphysics but a diploma in nonsense from (presumably) some unaccredited drivel. She has, however, managed to gain herself some TV appearances – in addition to the Daily Show one – and apparently John Edward is a fan, which is something that ordinary reasonable people would be wary of bragging about.
And her website really has everything. Some of her articles starts out with reasonable descriptions of scientific or historical fact, but if you look just a bit more closely you’ll suddenly catch yourself reading things like “Atlantis is part of the consciousness hologram of reality.” Wait, what? Let Ellie Crystal explain: “Many physical events are going to happen in the years ahead that will parallel the fall of Atlantis as the myths of each creation run by the same geometric design. Reality, all realities, are sets of multidimensional grid programs running simultaneously in which we consciously experience. Atlantis is one such program. When one begins to look for answers beyond the physical, Atlantis is often felt as a connection. It can be viewed as a chip implanted in the grid of our reality that connects for someone who taps into its frequency.” Yes, she also does her own research, and that’s an example of the kind of results she arrives at. “Discoveries emerging from Egypt, describe the existence of a world wide pyramid temple system in prehistory, mounted like antennae on key energy meridians, which were employed by ancient priest-scientists as harmonic tuning forks to stabilize the tectonic plates of the planet’s cataclysmic geology. […] the ancient Jedai priests used the Language of Light to tune the planet like a giant harmonic bell. Much is being rediscovered in the last days of this time cycle.” So there you go. I won’t bother to link to her stuff on UFOs, crystal skulls, healing, OOParts, astrology, the hollow earth or other examples of the fantastic richness of crazy on Ellie Crystal’s website. She usually has her own take on these things, but you probably have an idea about what her interpretations are like (The Mayan Calendar predictions for 2012 should help us realize that “reality is a consciousness hologram”, anyone?)
She has, however, made a remarkably accurate prediction about 9/11, which has apparently impressed some of her readers. The Wayback Machine lists February 6, 2005, as the first instance of her page of predictions for 2001, however, which makes it all a bit less impressive. She did, though, post her predictions for 2005 at the same time. They were notoriously vaguer, but could at least tell us that “hurricane season will be bad but nothing like 2004.” Not all Katrina victims would be fully ready to agree with that.
Diagnosis: “Thank you for inquiring about a psychic reading. If you have been guided to this page, something in your soul is telling you that information will be given that you need to hear […] Sessions are one hour with a fee of $160 USD.” More expensive than a traveling circus, but traveling circuses usually don’t have installments about harmonic bells from holograms of Atlantis. You decide.

Herman Cummings
A.k.a. The Genesis Genius
A.k.a. Ephriam

Herman Cummings is, according to himself, “the leading expert on the book of Genesis” (“[t]here is no ‘close second’”), which he also interprets as more or less literal truth (“Genesis is a book of history, and advanced math & science, being literally true”). So much for his expertise. He is also the author of the book Moses Didn’t Write About Creation! which apparently is based on a revelation from “Lord Jesus” he received back in 1991.
One of Cummings’s endeavors is to instruct science teachers. In 2008 he apparently offered his service to Louisiana, where teachers have the “academic freedom” to use “supplemental materials” in science classes. What could he offer? “I teach a 6-hr class for science teachers which gives them an overview of the first three chapters of Genesis, as it pertains to the appearance, and extinction, of life forms during the geologic history of Earth. This is the correct opposing view of evolution as should be presented in biology classes. Creationism is not the opposing view to evolution. Creationism would oppose the theory of the ‘Big Bang’.” We are not completely sure what he is talking about but are pretty sure that he doesn’t either. But in more detail his offer was: “[B]y providing my class to your teachers, I also give protection against lawsuits which the ACLU is certainly anxious to file. I contacted the Dover Area school district in Pennsylvania, but they ignored me, and they lost both their jobs and the court case. I contacted both the Cobb County Board members and their law firm in Georgia, in 2004, and they both ignored me, and they lost their district case. I know how to defeat the ACLU in open court in such cases, to the point that they would be discouraged from filing such lawsuits again. But I would have to be invited to work with the defense.”
We are not sure anyone took him up on his offer. He also contacted the Discovery Institute “in an effort to create a united front against the false teaching of evolution,” and informed them that “‘ID’ is a waste of scholastic time, and is too inept and shallow to be of much value.” Even Barbara Cargill ignored him, and she has certainly failed to ignore some pretty ridiculous stuff in the past. So, yes: home-made theory; declares himself an expert (but has no relevant education); rejects virtually all of science; everyone else is wrong; tries to promote it by sending letters to institutions and organizations, including the White House, Congress, the US Dept. of education, “every State Governor” and the Pope; seems to be confused when they don’t respond or he isn’t taken seriously (“[s]o far, every ‘so called’ rabbi/scholar I’ve written to (830+) in the USA & Israel has either been an infidel (denying the truth of the Pentateuch), or a scriptural coward”) and concludes that they’re afraid of him; and his enemies (the ACLU) should be afraid of him, since he is completely able to beat them up. We’ve covered these kinds of people before.
But what, exactly, are his objections to evolution? Ah, glad you asked. It really deserves to be given some space: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Fish, reptiles, and birds lay eggs. If these adult species are only given life by means of the egg hatching process, how did the first fish, reptiles and birds come into existence? Evolution? If so, why isn’t all life hatched out of an egg? Is this to be explained with the same sort of reasoning which produced the theory that a bear fell into a lake/river and became a whale? Let’s address the “chicken or the egg” question. An egg cannot just drop out of the sky, or wash upon the shore all by itself. An egg, which signifies life waiting to develop, has to be laid by a egg laying female animal, unless you want think up a theory on how the first egg materialized….; those that are in denial can go there. Therefore, let us focus on the female chicken, or actually the hen. The hen can lay eggs without the rooster, but the eggs will not produce life (will not hatch). So little chicks can’t come into existence (in the wild or in the distant past) without the hen mating with the rooster. Therefore, both the hen and the rooster came first.” And the fact that scientists don’t see this and immediately reject evolution is apparently proof of a conspiracy. The whole of science seems to be a conspiracy, in fact: “Why is it that the scientific world will hide information from the public, such as the truth about Comet Showmaker-Levy-9 [sic], to avoid answering certain questions?” Evolution is also a doctrine of atheism and therefore a religious belief, and as such – unlike (his version of) creationism – illegal to teach in public schools.
So, what about creationism? “Genesis 1:1 should be interpreted as ‘4.6 billion years ago, God created this universe, starting with the planet Earth’. Yes, Earth was the first, and is the principle celestial object in this universe. All of the other objects in this universe are at least two days younger than our Earth. So now, you should be able to determine that I am not ‘young Earth’, and that I embrace the literal meaning of the scriptures, unlike ‘old Earth’ creationism. Reconciliation was achieved seventeen years ago [that was his 1991 revelation – apparently it said, simply, that “the days in Genesis are not in one week”].” 9/11 can be blamed on our failure to see the truth.
And his own view? “Adam was formed in about 7200 BC. The modern animals, along with the birds, were made in about 7100 BC, and Eve came along in about 7000 BC. I’m guessing that the animals lived in and out of the Garden, and Adam probably took Eve out on sight-seeing trips to lands surrounding the Garden. They did this for 2,733 years…, until they ate of the evil tree. It is then that the years of Adam’s age begins to be counted, because that is when he ‘began to die’. So from 7200 BC, till 3337 BC, when Adam died, Adam had lived for 3,863 years.” Apparently only Herman Cummings knows this. He is also the only one who knows that “Genesis is declaring the existence of pre-historic man, which lived more than 60 million years before God made Adam and Eve. The world of science won’t admit to mankind being on Earth any earlier than 10 million years ago…, which shows how misinformed they are. Or is it that they are in denial?” There is a simpler explanation, but that one has apparently not occurred to him.
But he has evidence, doesn’t he? “Why has the news media failed to publicize the discovery of a man-made pyramid, from the Jurassic period? A Ukrainian scientist made the discovery in his native land […] This proves mankind was here more than 65 million years ago. Another foolish theory (evolution) bites the dust. […]” Oh, yes – bring it on: “The Ark of the Covenant was found several years ago, and will be shown to the public in about three years. You can be learn about it by going to these links [not replicated here].” Moreover, “NASA found out that the Moon is hollow, when they exploded a bomb in an effort to widen an opening at its south pole. The Moon rang like a bell for several hours, causing a BIG surprise,” which means that “the Earth is also hollow, which proves the (false) theories of science to be in error.” And so it goes.
Diagnosis: Internet access has not been an indisputable blessing to everyone. At least we noticed Herman Cummings, even if Popes and presidents did not.

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