Politics roundup: Democrats and White House still talking border wall. Will anything happen?


The President and Congressional Democrats are working towards a border wall deal, but no one feels good about it. Will anything come out of this?

Wall talks continue

The shutdown is over for now, but that doesn’t mean everything has been resolved. Federal employees are returning to work, some will receive back pay, the national parks are kind of open again — but, still, there looms the specter of the wall.

That’s the border wall, of course, a potential behemoth of a structure that was at the heart of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history. Or, if that doesn’t fly, it might be a somewhat less impressive fence. Or, barring that, a vague promise of “increased border security”, sans barrier. The President wanted $5.7 billion for the original wall, while Democrats in control of the House of Representatives weren’t ready to budge.

Last week, the President conceded a major battle when he agreed to reopen the government, going against previous promises that he would only do so if border funding was on its way.

According to reports, however, things are not going easily for either side right now. Both the White House and Congressional Democrats are still taking a hard line. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that “There’s not going to be any wall money in the legislation” intended for border funding. Republicans — at least those who support the idea of a wall in the first place — say that Democratic concessions for increased security and surveillance won’t do the trick.

It’s not as if the negotiations can meander along in the present climate. The temporary funding bill that reopened the government only works until February 15. If there isn’t a deal at that point, then we may enter yet another government shutdown. With the President predicting a stalemate and general gloom all around, few people feel optimistic about the situation.

Stone pleads not guilty

Last week, political consultant and lobbyist Roger Stone was arrested by the FBI and indicted by a grand jury. Stone has subsequently become the latest target of the Russia investigation headed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller. The investigation allegedly turned its focus to Stone because he had tried to acquire leaked email that could sway 2016 into Republican territory.

Agents recovered “multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information” concerning everything from FBI reports, to bank records, to applications for search warrants. Documents filed by the Mueller investigation also allege that Stone lied to the House Intelligence Committee, and also that he intimidated another witness.

This is especially damaging for the White House given Stone’s long-term association with the President. The spectacle of yet another person related to the 2016 Republican campaign being arrested for having lied to Congressional investigators is hardly a good look for anyone, much less the Executive Branch.

Stone has been charged with seven counts, including witness tampering and obstruction. He has pled not guilty to the felony charges.

Brexit deal makes EU look okay

At this point, there’s not much about Brexit that’s flattering to Britain. Maybe, for some, the first few weeks after the 2016 vote held some brightness and hope. By now, however, it’s become increasingly difficult to find someone with a sunny outlook on the entire situation. Prime Minister Theresa May just barely survived a no confidence vote, while her proposed Brexit deal has been tossed in the trash.

Right now, both the United Kingdom and the European Union are adrift with no deal for the March 29 deadline. If it gets to that point without some sort of agreement, things will go haywire for the U.K.

Such a series of events won’t be grand for the E.U., either, but it’s still starting to look pretty darn good in comparison. If nothing else, it appears able to survive a deal-less Brexit, while Britain’s fate remains deeply in doubt. Commentators further argue that the messiness of Brexit has warned off other similar challenges, such that nationalists in countries like Greece and Italy are content to stay part of the union.

Huawei troubles point to security concerns

There’s no doubt now that we are in an age where technology and politics go hand in hand. It’s been that way for a while, considering the international intrigue over tech like the enigma machine or the U-2 spy plane.

What is the modern answer to historical technology concerns? In today’s news, at least, it’s phones.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed two court cases brought against telecommunications giant, Huawei. This Chinese company happens to be the biggest of its kind of the world. According to the cases, Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, engineered a “fraudulent financial scheme” that flouted American sanctions.

The second indictment claims that Huawei stole trade secrets from T-Mobile via a phone testing bot named “Tappy.” Most Americans don’t know much about Huawei, as the U.S. government has had a hand in keeping it outside the border.

Central to all of this is the matter of Huawei’s loyalties. It’s cultivated a strong international presence, but remains a Chinese company. Who ultimately calls the shots at Huawei: customers or the Chinese government? With the telecom giant angling for incredibly powerful international contracts, the matter of worldwide espionage isn’t as far-fetched as you may think.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

You’ve probably heard of Forrest Fenn. He’s the art dealer and writer who used to make sales to the likes of Steven Spielberg and Robert Redford. Nowadays, though, he’s best known for the Fenn treasure, hidden somewhere in the American west and promising a rich cache to the persistent and lucky treasure hunter.

Fenn says that he got the idea for the treasure after being diagnosed with cancer in 1988. He filled a chest with valuable coins, jewels, gold, and, of course, a copy of his autobiography. Fenn said that he intended to hide the treasure and die nearby, ensuring a dramatic legacy.

Contrary to expectations, Fenn beat cancer, leaving the legacy of his treasure chest to sit quietly for another two decades. It was only when he was faced 80 that Fenn decided to actually hide the thing.

There’s a lot to unpack here, and not just the contents of the chest. Much of the whole affair has something to do with the near-mythical allure of the American West. Think desperadoes hiding their cache of stolen gold in the mountains, perhaps. Plenty of people have been taken by the notion of tramping through the wilderness. There’s certainly plenty of wild land where that fabled chest could sit: Fenn has said that the stash is somewhere in New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana.

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All of that tramping can be dangerous to the incautious or unlucky. Four people have died while searching for the riches, with the most recent death occurring in 2017. It’s gotten to the point where law enforcement has tried to get Fenn to reveal the location, but to no avail. People are still trying to solve the mystery, with practically everyone convinced that they’ve got the right answer this time.

So, is the story of the Fenn treasure an adventure romp? A sprawling riddle? An old man’s weird goodbye note to the world? A massive study in confirmation bias? Grave robbing? You’ll have to decide for yourself, but the story of the whole affair is vastly interesting, even as it’s currently unfolding.