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February 22, 2018
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The U.S. may have a serious fake passport problem, two Democratic senators say.

In a letter Thursday to Kevin McAleenan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) claim that the law enforcement agency lacks "the software necessary to authenticate the information stored on" newer passports, which have been outfitted with smart chips. These so-called e-Passports bear chips that store traveler data that has been locked with verified digital signatures. Border Patrol agents are supposed to be able to access the chips and verify their information through dedicated machines.

But while CBP agents at airports and border crossings can in fact download the data off of the smart chips, Wyden and McCaskill write that the agency's software actually "cannot verify the digital signatures stored on the e-Passport chips." Without signature verification, CBP is "unable to determine" whether an individual's passport may have been "tampered with or forged," the senators claim.

Wyden and McCaskill say that CBP has had this e-Passport verification problem since 2007 because of the software deficit. Moreover, the senators claim that the agency has known this security gap exists since 2010, when the government released a report on the matter. Roughly 60 countries issue e-Passports to their citizens, including Iran, the Philippines, Russia, Turkey, Sweden, and the U.S.

"It is past time for CBP to utilize the digital security features it required be built into e-Passports," the duo writes, calling for the agency to "develop and implement a plan to properly authenticate e-Passports by Jan. 1, 2019." Read the letter to CBP here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:59 a.m. ET
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The World Health Organization's international list of diseases is getting an update.

In its revised International Classification of Diseases released Monday, the WHO removed transgender identity as a mental health disorder and added gaming disorder to the list. Recategorizing transgender as a sexual health condition is aimed at cutting stigma and improving quality of care, says the WHO.

The WHO first considered declassifying "gender incongruence" in July 2016, The New York Times reports, but didn't make the change officially until the Monday release of the ICD-11, the WHO's first revision to its list of diseases in 28 years. Over the past few decades, transgender identity has hopped from a "sexual deviation" to "gender dysphoria" in the DSM mental disorder handbook used by psychologists. Now, it's only considered a disorder, per 2013's DSM-5, if a transgender person experiences distress or dysfunction.

Gaming disorder, characterized as an addiction to gaming, also made the WHO's new list. A version called internet gaming disorder first appeared in the DSM-5.

The ICD-11 goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, so health professionals can use the next few years to get ready for the switch. But the world isn't required to and probably won't adopt the new classifications immediately, says the WHO. Some countries are still stuck on the eighth and ninth editions of the ICD, and the U.S. didn't switch to the ICD-10 until 2015. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:00 a.m. ET

A majority of Americans (52 percent) are satisfied with the outcome of President Trump's recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, CNN poll results published Tuesday show, though assessments are split along predictably partisan lines. While 85 percent of Republicans think the meeting went well, just 52 percent of independents and 28 percent of Democrats agree.

On the subject of which negotiator got the better deal, poll respondents were similarly divided, with a plurality saying Kim did better for his country than Trump did:


(CNN)

Nevertheless, his handling of North Korea is one of Trump's most popular issues with the public with 48 percent approval, second only to the economy, which nets him 49 percent support. Post-summit, Americans are markedly less likely to say North Korea poses an immediate threat to the U.S., though, as other surveys have found, skepticism remains as to whether Kim will really denuclearize. Bonnie Kristian

10:58 a.m. ET

Amid the growing outcry surrounding the separation of immigrant families, President Trump threw out several different defensive tweets Tuesday morning in the hopes that something would stick.

The first thing on Trump's mind was the "rigged witch hunt" Russia investigation, but he quickly moved on to instead criticize an American ally. "Crime in Germany is up 10 percent plus (officials do not want to report these crimes) since migrants were accepted," said Trump, citing no evidence. Official data from Germany shows that crime actually dropped 10 percent last year. "Be smart America!" Trump nevertheless warned.

Trump also defended his administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, which has led to the separation of children and parents at the border. But his defense was contradictory: First, the president declared that strong borders are essential, but then he once again falsely blamed Democrats for harsh border policies and for allowing immigrants to "infest" the U.S.

But then Trump appeared to return to the argument that family separations are actually necessary. "We must always arrest people coming into our country illegally," he wrote. He then claimed without evidence that the vast majority of children who are being detained in cages didn't actually arrive with their parents, so there were no parents from whom they could be separated.

Trump wrapped it all up by putting the blame for the supposedly very necessary separations on Congress, calling to "change the laws." Summer Meza

10:56 a.m. ET
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The National Park Service is set to reintroduce more than two dozen wolves to Michigan's remote Isle Royale, on the western edge of Lake Superior, in an attempt to right an ecological disaster that was set off when the population was decimated by a disease brought over by a sick domestic dog in 1982, Popular Science reports. In the intervening years, the wolf population on Isle Royale has plunged from 50 to just two, setting off a chain reaction — the wolves kept the moose population down, but with no natural predators, the herbivorous ungulates have exploded in number, chewing their way through the island's balsam firs.

The moose population has grown so large that "add a few more moose and one harsh winter, and the population will starve and collapse if previous trends hold true," Popular Science writes.

Unlike other regions where predators have been reintroduced, like wolves in Yellowstone or panthers in Florida, Michigan's Isle Royale is relatively undisturbed by humans. That makes it a key location for ecological research, both prior to and after the wolf reintroduction.

"The bottom line is safely capturing and releasing wolves into very remote habitat that's difficult to access," said the park's superintendent, Phyllis Green. Read more about the process of reintroducing the wolves at Popular Science. Jeva Lange

10:24 a.m. ET
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As the controversy surrounding American border policy swells, we've seen chain-link cages and heard the cries of children torn from their parents and stationed in immigration detention centers.

But these facilities aren't necessarily run by the government. Private prisons were home to 62 percent of immigrant detention beds and ran nine of the 10 biggest facilities in 2015, the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute found in a report published last month. And they've been reaping major profits for decades.

Despite transferring some detainees to federal prison earlier this month, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement still relies on private detention and spends $2 billion on it annually, NPR reported last year. That's $126 per day per immigrant in 2017, per MPI.

Proponents of private immigration insist competition drives costs down, MPI notes. But three major companies dominate 96 percent of private prison beds, and the largest, GEO Group, saw its profits triple from 2007 to 2014. GEO Group also spent $1.7 million on lobbying last year, made sizable donations to a pro-Trump super PAC, and has seen its stocks soar since President Trump's election.

The argument that private competition improves the quality of detention centers also seems moot. Human rights abuses are notoriously worse at private prisons, which is why the Justice Department tried to sever its ties with these companies in 2016, says MPI. But the Trump administration reversed, and major connections to private prisons persist to this day. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:23 a.m. ET
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Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a bill Monday evening to curtail the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the U.S. border.

Per Cruz's press release, the Protect Parents and Kids Act would prohibit family separations "absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children," authorizing the construction of "new temporary shelters" that can house families intact. It would also require that asylum cases be adjudicated within 14 days and, to that end, nearly double the number of federal immigration judges to a total of 750.

"All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now," Cruz said. "The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of 'catch and release.' Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis."

The Democratic bill Cruz referenced has the support of all 49 senators in the Democrats' caucus. The Keep Families Together Act would also prohibit separation of migrant families within 100 miles of the border except in some circumstances, such as those involving abuse or neglect. It requires development of procedure to reunite families already separated and expressly bans family separations "solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating to the United States or for the policy goal of promoting compliance with civil immigration laws." Bonnie Kristian

10:10 a.m. ET

Japan stunned Colombia on Tuesday in the World Cup, with the heavy underdogs winning the match 2-1. The victory made Japan the first Asian country to beat a South American nation in World Cup history, CBC reports.

The upset began within the first 10 minutes of the game, when Carlos Sanchez used his hand to block midfielder Shinji Kagawa's shot. Sanchez received a red card and Kagawa scored on the penalty. Playing with just 10 men, Colombia's Juan Quintero managed to score the equalizer on a free kick in the 39th minute, but Japan pulled ahead again in the 73rd minute thanks to striker Yuya Osako.

Colombia, which lost 2-1 to Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals in 2014, is stuck at 0 points in the group stage due to their loss Tuesday. In a preview of the match, The Washington Post had observed that Japan "looked inconsistent and confused in the qualifications, partly a result of shifting managers. We'll know if this team is for real after this tough early test." Certainly they've proven themselves — FiveThirtyEight now gives Japan a 76 percent chance of advancing to the Round of 16.

Watch Japan's game-opening goal below. Jeva Lange

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