The NBA All-Star Draft Featured Two Good Jokes And One Good Trade

LeBron James finally had a trade that he orchestrated go his way on Thursday. Unfortunately, that trade came in the context of a meaningless exhibition game.

Inside the NBA hosted the league’s first televised All-Star Draft, which featured the two captains, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, bantering with the show’s crew while selecting their teammates for the February 17 showcase. The jokes were about as dad-like as you’d expect, with Ernie Johnson being the main host James and Antetokounmpo spoke to during their picks. Giannis, to his credit, did manage to make one of the two good jokes that came from the show

But the most surprising moment of this event came after the teams had been selected, when LeBron decided to put his GM hat on and propose a trade to the opposing captain.

LeBron: “Well since it’s that time of the year, Ernie, and I have a feeling that Giannis would love to see Russ [Westbrook] and [Joel] Embiid be teammates—because we know how much they get along—I’m proposing a Russell Westbrook for Ben Simmons trade.”

For context, Giannis had previously mentioned how he wanted to bring the two feuding sides of Embiid and Westbrook together through the magic of the All-Star Game, because he’s “all about love” and “a lover not a fighter.” LeBron apparently figured he could bring Simmons, who James had wanted but missed out on, to his team while bringing some minor chaos to the event. Unsurprisingly, Embiid reacted on Twitter.

The cherry on top of the whole event was Charles Barkley interjecting after Giannis agreed to the trade that the Greek Freak should consider trading his whole bench for Anthony Davis—which was the second good joke of the show.



Indonesia woos Indian airlines to boost bilateral trade

During 2017, about 485,000 Indian visitors – or more than 1,300 a day – had travelled to Indonesia and the number for 2018 was expected to be about 600,000, the people cited above said.(REUTERS)

Indonesia is keen on Indian carriers starting flights to the country and renewing their air services agreement as part of efforts to boost bilateral trade and commercial relations, people familiar with developments said.

The leaders of India and Indonesia had directed civil aviation authorities of both sides to discuss enhancing of traffic rights through bilateral air services consultations during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Jakarta in May 2018. They had also emphasised the urgency of establishing more flight connectivity.

“Air connectivity continues to be a challenge as no Indian carrier is flying to Indonesia now. Given the number of Indians who visit Indonesia every year, the routes should be profitable for Indian airlines,” a person said.

During 2017, about 485,000 Indian visitors had travelled to Indonesia and the number for 2018 was expected to be about 600,000, the people cited above said. The issue of Indian carriers starting flights had become more pressing as Indonesian airlines will touch the limit of 28 direct flights a week to India under the existing air services agreement, they said. Garuda Indonesia had started direct flights between Bali and Mumbai from April 2018 and Batik Air and Air Asia Indonesia have launched flights serving Indonesian and Indian cities.

The people also said there was a lot of room for increasing bilateral trade, which had touched almost $20 billion in 2017. At the same time, India’s rice and bovine meat exports had increased and Indonesia is discussing the import of sugar from India, they said. Indonesia has invited Indian businesses to help develop the port on Sabang island, close to Malacca Strait and efforts are on to convince Indian businesses of the advantages of investing there, they added.


With more tariffs, US-China trade outlook looks grim, says data


With seven weeks to go until a deadline that could see the U.S. ramp up tariffs on Chinese goods once again, the economic damage wrought by the months-long trade war is becoming clearer even as a pathway to a lasting resolution remains muddied.

While Chinese goods going to the U.S. initially held up in the face of higher tariffs due to so-called front-loading, their value slumped in the final quarter of 2018, according to the latest available data. For sales going the other direction, the crunch was more immediate. In both cases, further declines are on the cards if the talks fail to produce a resolution.

Negotiators from both the U.S. and China expressed optimism after mid-level talks wrapped in Beijing this week, boosting sentiment across global markets. Still, the path forward remains unclear: Another round of talks hasn’t been scheduled, and the government shutdown in the U.S. has dominated President Donald Trump’s attention.

Both Trump and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan were slated to appear later this month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, providing an opportunity for high-level dialogue. But the shutdown may yet prevent Trump’s appearance, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Companies in both countries just want to see a deal get done.

“We urge both governments to use the time remaining in the 90-day negotiating period to make tangible progress on the important issues at the core of the current dispute: equal treatment of foreign companies in China, as well as China’s intellectual property and technology transfer policies,” said Jake Parker, vice president of China operations at the U.S.-China Business Council in Beijing. “Uncertainty is bad for business.”

As evidence mounts by the day that the slowdown in China’s economy is worsening, policy makers in Beijing are focusing on getting rid of the duties that Trump has leveled on Chinese goods since last year, according to a former high-level official briefed on the government’s thinking. U.S. officials appear to want to maintain the pressure of tariffs, the official said.

China and the U.S. will move ahead with trade talks as scheduled, Ministry of Commerce Spokesman Gao Feng told reporters in Beijing at a regular weekly briefing Thursday, without giving any further details over when they would take place. He wouldn’t confirm reports that Vice Premier Liu He will visit the U.S. soon to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Meanwhile, the economic risks are growing. Economists now see the threat of deflation in China after producer price inflation slowed sharply in December, to the weakest pace since 2016.

That would not only squeeze corporate profitability at home, but also put pressure on global price gains, as export prices usually follow those at factory gate. With industrial output and retail sales growth both at the weakest levels in a decade, China’s woes would also mean softer demand for imports, hurting other economies including the U.S.

A reduction in Chinese imports of U.S. goods came quickly after the retaliatory imposition of tariffs, the data show. Without a breakthrough in talks, U.S. corporations are likely to experience a deepening decline in their Chinese sales, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts even seeing an “informal boycott” in place.

The full year numbers will look somewhat different, partly because China has resumed purchases of U.S. soybeans and other goods. Even if the current truce is made permanent and the tariffs are eventually rolled back, the damage to many companies may already be done.

China’s trade data for the full year of 2018 is due to be released on Jan. 14, and economists see year-on-year export growth slowing in December from November.

The Trump administration is pushing for a way to make sure China delivers on its commitments in any deal. Trump and Xi have given their officials until March 1 to reach an accord on “structural changes” to China’s economy on issues such as the forced transfer of American technology, intellectual-property rights and non-tariff barriers.

“The hard work of addressing structural issues to create a level playing field in China do not appear to have been resolved,” said Lester Ross, a policy committee chief at the American Chamber of Commerce and also partner-in-charge at the Beijing office of law firm WilmerHale. “And China going forward will likely still want to increase the diversification of its sources of supply even for agricultural commodities.”

The 90-day time frame is a tight window in which to nail down deep changes to China’s economic model, reforms which past U.S. administrations advocated for years and U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support.

Even so, progress in talks signals that an interim deal that suspends new tariff hikes is possible, according to Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics in Hong Kong.

“The earlier escalation of the trade conflict between the U.S. and China and souring bilateral relations appear to have given way to a more conciliatory approach since early December,” he wrote in a note Thursday. “However, we do not see the U.S. fully removing the specter of tariff hikes any time soon.”


Trade Wars: China’s 2019 To-Do list includes tackling spat with US

The U.S. president is increasingly eager to strike a deal with China in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war, according to people familiar with internal White House deliberations.

China’s 2019 To-Do list includes tackling spat with US (Reuters)

China will work to tackle trade friction with the U.S. this year, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said in an interview with Chinese state media that followed three days of talks between the nations and perked up troubled financial markets.

The Ministry of Commerce, which has set trade negotiations as one of its priorities in 2019, will push talks forward and boost cooperation with U.S. states, cities, business communities and non-governmental groups in order to promote a stable bilateral trade relationship, the state news service Xinhua reported, citing an interview Zhong granted to it and a number of other Chinese agencies.

Talks between mid-level U.S. and Chinese officials in Beijing concluded on Wednesday. The negotiations were extended for a day, which added to optimism fueled by recent tweets from President Donald Trump that the two sides are making progress toward an agreement.

U.S. and Chinese stocks have advanced in the early days of 2019 on fresh hope for a breakthrough in the showdown between the world’s two largest economies. There are about seven weeks before the U.S.-imposed deadline for a deal, after which Trump may order a resumption of tariff hikes on imports from China.

Washington Talks
The U.S. president is increasingly eager to strike a deal with China in an effort to perk up financial markets that have slumped on concerns over the trade war, according to people familiar with internal White House deliberations.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, a key economic adviser to China’s President Xi Jinping, is set to visit Washington late this month for further trade talks, people familiar with the plans said on Friday. Liu would meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the people said.

Separately, Zhong told Xinhua that China’s goods consumption grew by around 9.1 percent in 2018 to 38 trillion yuan ($5.6 trillion) and inbound foreign direct investment increased by 3 percent last year to $135 billion.

Other priorities for the ministry this year include expanding market access for foreign capital. Such work includes shortening the so-called negative list nationwide, including for free-trade pilot zones, and provides for allowing foreign investors to set up 100 percent-owned companies in more industries. It also entails efforts to open up service sectors more, he said.

The ministry will also focus on hosting the second international import expo and promote the construction of more free-trade pilot zones as well as experimenting with free-trade ports, Zhong said.


US, China Vow Cooperation On Diplomatic Anniversary Amid Trade War: Report

US, China Vow Cooperation On Diplomatic Anniversary Amid Trade War: Report

Beijing: The presidents of China and the US have exchanged messages vowing to boost cooperation despite a bruising trade war on the 40th anniversary of the countries’ diplomatic relations, Chinese state media reported.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington soared in 2018 over trade disputes, although US President Donald Trump has frozen the latest planned tariff hike and on Saturday reported “big progress” after a call with his counterpart Xi Jinping.

In the messages sent Tuesday, Xi underlined the importance of working with the US “to advance China-US relations featuring coordination, cooperation and stability”, state news agency Xinhua reported.

According to Xinhua, Trump praised the last four decades of diplomacy between China and the US, hailing his “solid friendship” with the Chinese leader.

Washington and Beijing imposed tit-for-tat tariffs on more than $300 billion worth of goods in total two-way trade last year, locking them in a conflict that has begun to eat into profits and contributed to stock market plunges.

Trump initiated the trade war because of complaints over unfair Chinese trade practices — concerns shared by the European Union, Japan and others.

Since the two leaders agreed on a truce on the sidelines of the G20 summit meeting in Buenos Aires, however, there have been small signs of progress — and an absence of new threats from Trump.

China and the US established diplomatic relations on January 1, 1979, with Washington pledging to maintain only non-official ties with Taiwan.

In the same year, late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, often credited with China’s “Reform and Opening” policy which led to its economic transformation, met US president Jimmy Carter in the United States.

Ties have improved dramatically from their Cold War nadir, though the two countries have since weathered ups and downs over a number of issues including Taiwan, human rights, and trade.

In December, China’s major state-owned grain stockpiler said it had resumed buying US soybeans, and Beijing announced it would suspend extra tariffs on US-made cars and auto parts starting January 1.


On New Year Day, India, Pakistan Trade Fire On LoC In Poonch District

On New Year Day, India, Pakistan Trade Fire On LoC In Poonch District

In 2018, there have been more than 1,400 ceasefire violations on the LoC and International Border. (File)


Jammu: The Indian and Pakistan armies traded fire on the Line of Control (LoC) today in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch district, officials said.

Defence sources said Pakistan Army resorted to unprovoked firing at Indian positions in the morning.

“Pakistani firing began early this morning in Khari Karmara area of the LoC. Indian positions retaliated strongly. No casualty or damage was reported on our side,” a source said.



In Meghalaya Hills Where Mine Collapsed, Illegal Coal Trade Continues

Some villagers at East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya have been visiting a rat-hole mine every day for over three weeks after 15 men disappeared when water flooded the illegal mine in the district on December 13. Three men among the group of migrant workers trapped in the mine’s dark labyrinth are from their village.

The villagers say they are worried about the men as well as the attention this incident has drawn. For thousands of villagers in these parts, illegal rat-hole mining that involves digging into the side of hills and then burrowing tunnels to reach a coal seam is the only source of income.

“We have been mining coal for three decades. We have only done this. This is the only source of income and with no options, we didn’t care about environment laws or death,” said a middle-aged miner who came to see the progress of the rescue operation at the mine. “Many such incidents have happened in the past. Miners got buried and became skeletons,” he told NDTV, asking not to be named.

The “mining mafia” is quite strong in East Jaintia Hills, he said.

On day 19, a joint search and rescue operation involving the Navy, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Coal India Ltd and the Odisha Fire Service is running against time in looking for survivors, amid concerns that foul smell inside the mine reported by NDRF divers last week could be of decomposed bodies.


The NGT banned coal mining in Meghalaya in 2014

The incident also raises serious questions about unchecked coal mining in Meghalaya right under the government’s nose even after the National Green Tribunal banned it in 2014, environment activists and scientists say.

Freshly cut blocks of coal being carried on the back of open trucks are often seen running on the state’s highways.

NDTV found that some freshly cut coal stocks were being loaded onto trucks from a new rat-hole mine in the same district where the rescue operations are going on. Across East Jaintia Hills, cranes and freshly mined coal left behind by miners are a common sight. The area is dotted with palatial bungalows of local coal barons.

Activists say the powerful coal mafia is taking advantage of a concession the NGT made of allowing old coal already extracted before 2014 to be transported.

“In 2014, the coal lobby and the state government appealed to the NGT that they should be allowed to transport 600 tonnes of already extracted coal. These are freshly cut coal,” said Hasina Kharbhih, an environment activist from state capital Shillong whose non-profit Impulse NGO Network petitioned the NGT along with the the Dimasa Students Union Dima Hasao disrtrict committee against rat-hole mining.

Meghalaya has an estimated 5,000 illegal rat-hole mines, mostly in East Jaintia hills. After coal mining was banned in 2014, there was a slowdown in economic activities by 70 per cent.

With few migrant labourers left in the area, traders say their businesses have been hit as well. “What would migrants do? They have to live, so they go for illegal mining, get some money,” said Manoj Kumar Mishra, a Bihar resident who has been selling cloth at Khleriat, the headquarters of East Jaintia Hills, since 1995. He said coal mining was rampant between 2002 and 2014.

The Meghalaya government has admitted it failed to check illegal coal mining despite the NGT’s ban.