M&S Is Selling A Lemon, Gin And Tonic Sauce For Pancake Day

M&S usually pull it out of the bag when it comes to the things we love. There’s been Jaffa Cake flavoured cocktails, foot-long pigs in blankets and even a washable duvet meaning you don’t need to change your bed sheets…

Now, it’s now selling an indulgent lemon, gin and tonic sauce to smother over your pancakes at breakfast time – we’re all for this shiz.

The boozy sauce is here just in time for Pancake Day (5 March this year), and the tempting topping is priced at just £2 ($2.60) per squeezy bottle.

Here it is in all its glory. Credit: M&S
Here it is in all its glory. Credit: M&S

Putting a tipsy twist on the classic lemon and sugar topping, the sauce is described as both tart and tangy with a punch, emulating the ‘classic flavours’ of a G&T.

Who wouldn’t want that drizzled all over their fluffy pancakes?

It is not just G&T-flavoured either, as the lemon curd actually contains the juniper-based spirit as well as Indian tonic water. However, there will be no hangovers as it’s just 0.5% ABV.

The sauce is currently sold out online but you should still be able to get your hands on some in-store in M&S’ food hall. You’ll just have to elbow everyone out of the way once the doors open in the morning.

Now, for those who aren’t that blessed with culinary skills or skills in the kitchen then fear not because M&S has got everyone covered: they’re selling pre-made ones for ease.

You can choose from blueberry, buttermilk, as well as chocolate chip versions of the classic, smaller Scotch pancakes, all £1.60 per pack of four which you can drizzle with the lemon curd sauce.

Or if you want to make your own, combine milk, eggs and flour into a patter and fry.

A number of supermarkets also sell pre-made batter so you don’t have to mess around mixing up your own and you can spend more time flipping pancakes with the pan. See, you have no excuses now.

M&S's blueberry pancakes. Credit: M&S
M&S’s blueberry pancakes. Credit: M&S

This lemon, gin and tonic sauce isn’t the only indulgent topping M&S has to offer this Pancake Day either.

You will be able to find a boozy Scottish Heather Honey with Single Malt Whiskey in the food hall, which infuses honey with the smoky peat of a single malt. *heavy breathing*

This new honey is slightly more expensive than the lemony sauce as it is £5 ($6.50) a bottle.

Pancake Day can’t come soon enough.

Featured Image Credit: M&S

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Don’t expect the Honor 20 to have a notch

Honor just announced its first phone with a punch hole front-facing camera – that’s the Honor View 20 – and it looks like we can expect that to takeover from the notch in future handsets from the company.

That means the upcoming Honor 20 (or maybe called Honor 11) will skip the notch look and instead opt for the punch hole design to feature a selfie camera.

President of Honor, George Zhao, exclusively told TechRadar at the View 20 launch, “In the future for Honor, there will be [fewer] notches on the smartphone. We will be going with the better solution.”

Dodge the notch

That better solution Zhao was speaking about is the pinhole design. He also confirmed the reason the company wanted to move away from the larger cutout at the top of the display is because Honor believes “notches are too big”.

Honor has been one of the many phone brands to fully adopt the notch to achieve a full display on the front of its phones. Both the Honor 10 and cheaper Honor 8X feature a notch.

Announced in November last year, the Honor 10 Lite also features a notch but it’s a teardrop design at the top of the display rather than a thicker bar showing the company was already moving away from larger cutouts at the top of its devices.

Zhao didn’t confirm this would be the exact case for the next flagship Honor phone, but his certainty the company would keep embracing the pinhole design suggests we may see it appear on the Honor 20 when it appears later in the year.

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Hoaxer Who Called 999 Over 200 Times Said She Was ‘Bored’

This is the moment a nuisance 999 caller who phoned 200 times in just over two weeks said she was ringing ‘because I’m bored and I don’t give a shit about anyone else’:

Victoria Cross, 22, made the fake calls between Christmas and New Year, and patient call handlers were forced to take her seriously.

One of Cross’s false calls led to a one minute eight second delay for a child in cardiac arrest.

When she realised her number had been blocked by the emergency services, she bought different sim cards for her mobile phone so that she could continue to make 999 calls.

Credit: PA
Credit: PA

In a shocking audio clip from one of her calls, she can be heard saying: “I’m ringing because I’m bored and I don’t give a shit about anyone else. I just care about myself.”

Cross – who even laughs on the call at one stage – admitted that she didn’t need an ambulance, and said: “I’m ringing because I’m bored, okay.”

Cross was sentenced at Leicester Magistrates’ Court earlier last week and was ordered to pay £165 ($215) in fines and she was given a conditional discharge for 18 months.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to a training facility at East Midlands Ambulance Service HQ. Credit: PA
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn during a visit to a training facility at East Midlands Ambulance Service HQ. Credit: PA

Her calls were dealt with by East Midlands Ambulance Service, who also took action against another hoaxer.

Thomas Exhall, from Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, rang for an ambulance 344 times between 1 December 2017 and 29 April 2018.

His actions cost the NHS a total of £24,883 ($32,500) and staff said he was often verbally abusive.

Exhall denied both making the calls and his abusive behaviour at Mansfield Magistrates’ Court on January 14, but was found guilty and given a six-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £400 in compensation.

Deborah Powell, frequent caller lead for East Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “We are pleased that we have had two successful prosecutions after a lot of hard work.

“We would urge people again to make the right 999 call and only phone us in a life-threatening emergency.

“Our staff come to work to save lives and help people, not to be abused. We will continue to work with police to prosecute those who misuse our service to ensure that the support is there for those who need it in a real medical emergency.”

Featured Image Credit: PA/SWNS

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Predicting Boldest Roster Moves for the 2019 NFL Offseason

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Every year, unforeseen roster moves shake up the NFL. So whether viewed as hot takes or bold predictions, outside-the-box thoughts have plenty of relevance in offseason forecasts. 

    At this time last year, more mock drafts listed Sam Darnold than Baker Mayfield as the No. 1 overall pick. The Oakland Raiders devastated their fanbase by sending edge-rusher Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in September. The Los Angeles Rams acquired starting cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters via separate trades.

    Often, we know little about discussions behind closed doors among team executives—then bam! We’re hit with surprise trades, intriguing free-agent signings and shocking landing spots for high-profile draft prospects. We’ll probably have a few wow moments in the coming months. 

    In the spirit of putting together sizzling hot takes, we’ll look at eight bold but believable roster acquisitions. Who could be on the move? How will the quarterback dominoes fall? Is there a legitimate alternative to Ohio State’s Nick Bosa for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft?


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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    We’re three months away from the April 25-27 draft, but top analysts have Bosa projected as the No. 1 overall pick for the Arizona Cardinals—that includes Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah. Each has Kentucky’s Josh Allen at No. 2 or 3.

    What if Cardinals general manager Steve Keim tossed a curveball? After all, Allen played more college games than Bosa (42-29) and finished with an eye-popping 17 sacks last season. Kentucky doesn’t have Ohio State’s pipeline to the pros, but we shouldn’t overlook the former Wildcat. 

    Allen has a high ceiling, and he projects as a great fit on the edge of the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense under new coordinator Vance Joseph. It’s not that Bosa’s skills wouldn’t translate, but the decision between the two should cause some pause. 

    The Ohio State product suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him since September. Meanwhile, Allen wreaked havoc on offensive lines through the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl. He racked up three sacks against Penn State in his final collegiate contest. 

    Before penciling in Bosa as the No. 1 overall pick, take a look at Allen’s production over the last three years. It’s bold to go against the consensus, but it’s not implausible to think the Kentucky product could become the top pick.

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    Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

    It’s no secret the Baltimore Ravens will move on from quarterback Joe Flacco after rookie signal-caller Lamar Jackson helped lead the team to an AFC North title.

    Head coach John Harbaugh confirmed as much when he spoke about the 34-year-old as an available talent, per NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala. “Joe can still play,” he said. “… Joe’s going to have a market, a lot of teams are going to want Joe… Joe Flacco is a great talent, he’s a better person, he’s the best QB in the history of the Ravens… he’s going to be just fine.” 

    According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Ravens will attempt to accommodate Flacco with his preferred destination. “While there’s a chance they could let him walk into free agency, there’s also a very good chance they could try to orchestrate a trade to a team of Flacco’s choice,” he reported (via colleague Kevin Patra).

    Flacco likely wants to start. Front office executives should also think about an immediate push to contend—with the veteran quarterback as the missing piece.

    The Denver Broncos missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. On a positive note, the offense features budding talents at wide receiver in Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton along with an upstart backfield. Rookie ball-carriers Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay combined for 1,558 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. This club could make significant strides with an upgrade at quarterback.

    The draft could take care of holes on the interior of the offensive line and at cornerback. Head coach Vic Fangio had a close look at Flacco as a defensive coach in Baltimore in 2008 and 2009.

    Denver could release Keenum, who put together a lukewarm 2018 campaign with 18 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions, and save $11 million in cap space, per Over the Cap. Flacco would provide a strong arm and championship experience with three years left on his deal.

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    Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

    There’s tension between Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers following a disappointing 9-6-1 finish outside the playoffs.

    Pittsburgh benched the 30-year-old wide receiver for its final game after he had a disagreement with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and then missed team meetings and practices leading up to Week 17’s contest. Brown has removed any trace of the team name from his Twitter account. Steelers president Art Rooney II said it’s “hard to envision” Brown on the club for training camp, per Pittsburgh Post-Gazette‘s Gerry Dulac.

    In all likelihood, we’ll see the wideout in a new uniform in 2019. While the San Francisco 49ers seem like a trendy choice for a landing spot, the Green Bay Packers will have a projected $33 million in cap space, per Spotrac; they could opt to add a significant boost to the aerial attack.

    Rookie fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling tied for third on the team with Randall Cobb, who’s set to become a free agent, in receptions (38) and finished third in yards (581).

    The Packers can put their hopes in Valdes-Scantling’s development, but they can also pair arguably the NFL’s best wide receiver with its most talented quarterback. Brown would post huge receiving numbers while catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.

    Wide receiver isn’t a strong need in Green Bay, but a Rodgers-Brown connection could tear through pass defenses for years.

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller had a solid year, accumulating 973 yards and five touchdowns on 210 carries, but he faded down the stretch.

    Miller battled an ankle injury late in the season, and the Texans offensive line isn’t a top-notch group. Nonetheless, the 27-year-old has been a run-of-the-mill asset since he signed with the team in 2016. He’s averaged 4.1 yards per carry over the last three years and provided minimal impact in the passing game. 

    If the Texans release Miller, they would save $6.2 million in cap space, per Over the Cap. The front office could toss some money at running back Le’Veon Bell to take over as the lead ball-carrier; D’Onta Foreman would serve as the change-of-pace back.

    Bell can fill the pass-catching void out of the backfield and help a shaky offensive line in pass protection. Quarterback Deshaun Watson took the most sacks (62) in 2018.

    After taking a year off from football amid a contract dispute with the Steelers, the two-time All-Pro would go to Houston on fresh legs as an immediate upgrade and dynamic asset.

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Quarterback Kyler Murray declared for the 2019 draft, but he can still play for the Oakland Athletics if he chooses to. The baseball club drafted him No. 9 overall last June.

    According to Rapoport, scouts project Murray as a second- or third-round pick. Of course, these assessments come before the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days. There’s room for a rise or fall. If the Oklahoma product impresses at his workouts, the Jacksonville Jaguars, desperate for a new signal-caller, may be the team to take the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner in the first round. 

    For scouts, Murray’s height (5’10”) could raise concerns. He must be able to see the field over massive offensive linemen, move outside the pocket or have a heightened trajectory on his release to avoid batted passes at the line of scrimmage.

    The ability to play quarterback at a height under 6’0″ isn’t impossible—just look at Russell Wilson (5’11”) now and Doug Flutie (5’10”) in his prime nearly 20 years ago, but they’re outliers. 

    On the other hand, Murray has shown accuracy (69 percent completion rate) and mobility (1,001 rushing yards), which may intrigue teams. A dual-threat quarterback paired with a power ground attack could be the recipe for success or a failed experiment that costs Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone his job.

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks stood their financial ground and didn’t offer safety Earl Thomas a new deal during his offseason holdout. He played four games and broke his leg, and if the sides couldn’t agree on a deal beforehand, it probably won’t happen in March when the three-time All-Pro becomes an unrestricted free agent. 

    Before Thomas’ injury, he provided quality coverage, snagging three interceptions and breaking up five passes. The 29-year-old can still be a solid piece on a contending team. 

    Last year, Los Angeles took an aggressive approach in acquiring talent, landing cornerbacks Peters and Talib as well as wide receiver Brandin Cooks in trades. General manager Les Snead also signed Ndamukong Suh to a one-year, $14 million deal. Thanks in part to their win-now offseason moves, the Rams advanced to Super Bowl LIII. And they’ll have a projected $36.3 million to spend in the offseason, per Spotrac. 

    Last year, the Rams franchise-tagged safety Lamarcus Joyner on a deal worth $11.3 million. He’s coming off an underwhelming season, logging three pass breakups and an interception. Los Angeles allowed 31 touchdowns through the air. Thomas’ ability to take the ball away could appeal to the front office in March. There’s also the revenge factor in NFC West matchups for the ninth-year veteran.

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    According to Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson, it’s possible the Miami Dolphins will part ways with quarterback Ryan Tannehill: “The Miami Herald reported Sunday that the Dolphins are prepared to move on from Tannehill after seven seasons instead of paying him the $19 million he’s owed each of the next two seasons and carrying a $26.6 million cap hit next season. None of that money is guaranteed.”

    Keep in mind the Dolphins haven’t announced their new hire at head coach. It’s expected New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores will accept the position once his team’s playoff run ends. 

    Until there’s a press conference with questions about and answers regarding Tannehill’s future, this is only speculation. However, Jackson’s report offers the possibility we could see a new face behind center in Miami for the 2019 campaign. 

    If quarterback Teddy Bridgewater tests the market and looks for a starting job, Miami may garner his attention. He’s a native of the city, and Tannehill’s exit would likely ensure the 26-year-old will be the starter for at least one full year. 

    Since suffering a torn ACL and dislocated kneecap in August 2016, Bridgewater appeared in one contest for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017, spent the 2018 offseason with the New York Jets and started one game for the New Orleans Saints in the regular-season finale. The Dolphins could offer him a shot to show he’s a starter.

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Why would the Oakland Raiders trade for a 30-year-old defensive end during a rebuild? First, the defense desperately needs pass-rushers. The Silver and Black recorded just 13 sacks in 2018.

    The Raiders hired assistant coach Brentson Buckner, who served as the defensive line instructor for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018. Under his tutelage, Jason Pierre-Paul led the team in sacks (12.5) and posted his second-highest total in the category.

    The Buccaneers hired head coach Bruce Arians to replace Dirk Koetter; he then added defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. 

    With the Jets, Bowles utilized a 3-4 base scheme, though he’s comfortable with both three- and four-man fronts, per Scott Smith of the team’s official website. “I’ve coached half of my career in a 4-3, the other half in a 3-4,” Bowles said. “I think you coach according to what kind of players you have and what kind of guys you can put where. We’re going to be versatile, regardless.” 

    During his eight-year tenure with the New York Giants, Pierre-Paul has lined up in four-man fronts. In fact, Big Blue traded him before defensive coordinator James Bettcher installed a 3-4 base scheme last year.

    Bowles may be truthful in his desire to fit the defense to his players’ strengths, but new coaching staffs usually don’t mind turning over the roster with a new vision. Pierre-Paul will carry a $14.7 million cap hit going into his age-30 campaign and won’t have dead money owed in the last two years of his contract, per Spotrac. 

    As opposed to engaging in a bidding contest with other clubs, the Raiders could offer a middle-round pick for Pierre-Paul, who’s coming off one of his best seasons. Buckner could vouch for and guide the veteran in Oakland.

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How the U.S.-China trade war ends

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Some say the most the two sides can achieve in the near term is a “mini-deal” that would keep current duties in place while negotiations continue. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

This story is part of an ongoing series on U.S.-China relations, jointly produced by the South China Morning Post and POLITICO.

The United States and China have just five weeks to come up with a deal that both nations can hail as “wins” in their closely watched trade war, and they’re each asking the other for major concessions heading into the next round of talks in Washington next week.

Story Continued Below

But what does “winning” actually look like for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping — assuming neither leader gets everything he wants?

For Trump to declare victory by the goals he set for himself, he needs China to further open its market to American exports, especially the agricultural goods hit hard in the trade war. He also is pushing to stop China from forcing U.S. companies to hand over valuable technology, but such moves would require drastic changes on the part of Beijing.

For his part, Xi mainly needs Trump to eliminate or sharply reduce the tariffs the United States has imposed on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods. Such moves would help restore badly shaken confidence in the U.S.-China trade relationship at a time when China’s economic fundamentals are deteriorating.

The United States also wants the agreement to include provisions to ensure that China honors its commitments. Depending on how far China is willing to go, that could be a point of compromise that paves the way for the U.S. to back off some of its more difficult demands.

Some say the most the two sides can achieve in the near term is a “mini-deal” that would keep current duties in place while negotiations continue.

“My baseline assumption is that very close to the deadline, we will come up with a deal that certainly will not be comprehensive, durable and long-lasting by any means but at least allows both sides some breathing room by de-escalating hostilities or at least a cessation of future hostilities,” Eswar Prasad, former China director at the International Monetary Fund, said last week in a speech in Washington.

Face-to-face trade talks between the world’s two largest economies will resume on Jan. 30, when Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to go to Washington for two days of meetings with a team of U.S. officials led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Whether the next set of talks will lead to a real deal is uncertain, in part because of Trump’s erratic personality and penchant for making unpredictable commentary via Twitter.

Stocks tumbled Tuesday after The Financial Times reported that the United States had rejected China’s offer of new, in-person, lower-level talks to be held this week because of a lack of progress on some of the main U.S. demands. But China watchers said such cancellations were normal, and face-to-face consultations were not necessary for Liu’s coming visit.

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, denied any meeting was ever scheduled for this week. He added the two countries remain in “constant communication” ahead of the Liu-Lighthizer meeting next week.

Kudlow also emphasized the United States still has big goals for the talks.

“I acknowledge the degree of difficulty, but it is a crucial point for the United States side,” Kudlow said. “We have got to deal with these vexing problems of [intellectual property] theft and the forced transfer of technology, the lack of American ownership of its own companies in China, cyber interference with various corporations, along with various tariff and non-tariff barriers.”

Looming economic worries

At the same time, both countries are staring down tough economic outlooks. Trump is in the grips of a monthlong government shutdown triggered by his demand for border wall funding that has diminished his approval ratings and risks causing long-term damage to the U.S. government and its economy.

Xi is overseeing a drastic slowdown in China’s economic growth, which adds pressure on him to find a quick end to the trade war. In the last quarter of 2018, China reported the slowest growth rate since its government began publishing quarterly figures in 1992.

The two sides are trying to reach a deal before March 2, when Trump says he’ll order his government to increase duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25 percent, a sharp rise from 10 percent currently.

A simple win could involve commitments from China to purchase specified amounts of U.S. goods by certain target dates. On China’s side, anything that lifts some or all of the tariffs on its exports to the U.S. would be a victory.

Some analysts have speculated that Trump — faced with a jittery stock market and concerns that the government shutdown could help nudge the U.S. economy into recession — will settle for “a light deal” consisting mainly of Chinese purchases and vague promises.

In response, two influential business groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in China, are urging Trump to stand by his pledge to press for meaningful reforms.

“While reducing the trade deficit and purchases of U.S. exports may be one aspect of the negotiations, we urge the U.S. government to prioritize outcomes that address structural challenges posed by China’s economic policies and practices,” the groups said in a report released this week.

Trump is soon going to focus his attention on his 2020 reelection campaign, and he will be motivated to rapidly shrink the U.S. trade deficit with China to fulfill a core promise he made during his 2016 campaign. That, however, is easier said than done.

The U.S. exported only $130 billion worth of goods to China in 2017. So either the U.S. has to exponentially grow its manufacturing capacity in a few short years, or China has to stop exporting as much to the U.S.

Final figures for 2018 are expected to show the U.S. deficit in goods trade with China set a new record of more than $400 billion.

In addition, simple export gains are not likely to go over well after Trump’s team laid out long-standing grievances that are rooted in how Beijing runs the nation’s economy.

Among the biggest issues the U.S. has raised is getting China to address allegations that it has aggressively supported investment by state-owned or state-directed companies in the United States to secure access to cutting-edge technology in sectors such as aviation, integrated circuits, information technology, biotechnology, industrial machinery, renewable energy and automobiles.

In another big salvo, Trump’s trade office has accused Beijing of conducting and supporting cyberattacks on U.S. company computers in order to acquire valuable intellectual property and other sensitive commercial information.

The U.S. stepped up its action against China on this front last year, when the Justice Department announced an initiative to “identify priority Chinese trade theft cases, ensure that we have enough resources dedicated to them and make sure that we bring them to an appropriate conclusion quickly and effectively.”

Last year, after an investigation into China’s practices, Trump initially imposed a 25 percent duty on $50 billion worth of Chinese exports, which the U.S. trade office judged to be “appropriate” given the level of damage done to the U.S. economy.

However, when China retaliated by imposing duties on $50 billion worth of U.S. exports, Trump upped the ante by imposing a 10 percent tariff on another $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China has retaliated in kind, imposing tariffs on about 85 percent of all goods it imports from the U.S.

Seeking wholesale changes in China

A leaked document from a round of talks last May in Beijing showed the United States has a bigger agenda aimed at cutting the U.S. trade deficit with China in half by 2020. To achieve that, the Trump administration asked China to set “targets” for Chinese firms to buy hundreds of billions of dollars more of American goods.

While the deep-rooted issues could take years, perhaps even decades, for China to properly address, some trade experts theorize that there could be some partial wins to be had in the short time remaining before the March deadline.

Apart from Beijing’s pledges to purchase more American products, a deal could also include commitments to more quickly remove equity caps or joint venture requirements in some sectors in China.

The country could also easily beef up enforcement of intellectual property rights and make a “structured agreement to keep talking about more intractable issues such as technology transfer,” said Arthur Kroeber, head of research with China-focused Gavekal Dragonomics.

“USTR Robert Lighthizer and the trade and security hardliners could probably live with a restricted deal so long as it offered enough space for the U.S. to keep using investment restrictions, export controls and sanctions, and provided a window for more tariffs to be imposed if China fails to make what the U.S. defines as progress,” Kroeber said.

He added that Lighthizer would want to keep the existing tariffs in place and use the threat of additional levies as his bargaining chip. But China wouldn’t want to accept such a deal unless the U.S. gave up something — most likely a reduction of current tariffs.

China watchers also said the leadership in Beijing is very much concerned about keeping economic risks under control.

“China is interested in seeing the removal of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese products, and it is trying to get the original tariffs on $50 billion removed as well, which would be a major win from the Chinese perspective,” one source briefed on the U.S. side of the negotiations said.

Given the extent of the reforms the United States is demanding, a second source following the talks from the Chinese side played down the likelihood of a final deal by the deadline.

“The best outcome for China is to suspend tariffs and have time and room to address other issues,” the source said. “The problem is not whether we have to change or not, but how and when.”

Those systemic changes will require a real commitment from “the top leadership,” the source noted.

Lu Xiang, a researcher on China-U.S. relations with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, expected any deal would be centered on addressing trade imbalance.

“China will respond to U.S. concerns, but it can’t be like a bottomless pit to satisfy U.S. demands, otherwise it would hurt China’s economy,” said Lu.

Discussions slog along

Earlier this month, the countries held talks in Beijing at the vice ministerial level. That meeting, originally scheduled for two days, stretched into a third, in what some saw as a sign the two sides were making progress toward a final agreement.

However, the sources close to the governments cautioned against an overly optimistic reading of the extension. Rather, the third day was added because China was moving slowly through the list of agenda issues and avoided difficult discussions on structural issues, such as market access and intellectual property, the source briefed on the U.S.-side of the negotiations said.

Chinahas offered very few commitments on structural changes, but continued to focus on buying American goods to reduce the deficit,” the source briefed on the negotiations said. “The U.S. told China this is not going to end with a positive negotiation outcome.”

Members of Congress, too, said they were informed that little progress had been made. Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley conveyed to reporters that Lighthizer told him earlier this month no progress had been made on the structural overhaul the U.S. is seeking.

In addition, the United States is expected to insist that any agreement contain robust monitoring and enforcement that could reinstate any tariffs that are lifted as part of the deal.

While China might be willing to agree to an enforcement mechanism as part of the deal, they “probably don’t want the United States to be judge and jury” of whether they have faithfully implemented the pact, said Scott Kennedy, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A more attractive alternative for Beijing would be for the agreement to be enforced through the World Trade Organization. But the United States might not be willing to accept that because the WTO dispute settlement process is notoriously slow.

Still, neither side has an incentive to wrap up the talks until shortly before the March deadline.

For the United States, there is benefit in holding on to the threat of increased tariffs as long as possible to maximize leverage. For China, there is an advantage in waiting to see if Trump’s price for reaching a deal goes down because of concern about his political future, Kennedy said.

“I think it’s nowhere near decided that the U.S. is going to settle for less. I still think the U.S. raising tariffs on March 2nd is the mostly likely outcome,” Kennedy said.

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Senate set to reject government funding bill it once embraced

Chuck Schumer

The Senate was in session for just three hours on Wednesday, with no party meetings and no votes. A trickle of senators came through the hallways, none offering any endgame to the historic shutdown. | M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico

The Senate will take its first votes in more than a month on reopening government. But both a clean spending bill and President Donald Trump’s proposal appear on course to fail.

Though a short-term spending bill giving the president no new border funding bill passed the Senate with no dissent in December, it’s poised to fail on the Senate floor on Thursday. Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the Nos. 3 and 4 GOP leaders, both said Wednesday that the “continuing resolution” cannot pass the Senate.

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Democrats need at least 13 GOP votes to get to 60, and the pickings are slim barring a surprise change of opinion by Trump in the next 24 hours. Many Republicans say the president won’t sign it, so there’s no point in voting for the two-week spending bill written by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) intended to allow government to reopen and negotiations to begin.

Opponents include members like Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who has met with a bipartisan group about how to end the shutdown, and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a freshman who has attacked Washington for being dysfunctional.

“I don’t know why we’d do that,” Scott told reporters. “This idea that you just open up the government … then you deal with people that have said I will not negotiate with you, that’s crazy.”

Trump’s bill “represents an actual attempt to compromise and could get signed into law,” said Daniel Keylin, a spokesman for Tillis. “Schumer’s proposal offers no compromise, no increase in border security funding, and would get vetoed.”

A number of GOP senators declined to say how they would vote on the clean short-term spending bill, including moderate Lisa Murkowski of Alaska as well as Republicans that are sick of the shutdown like Rob Portman of Ohio, Mitt Romney of Utah, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who announced earlier Wednesday she would support the president’s plan that includes wall funding and some protections for immigrants, said in an interview on Wednesday evening she would also support the CR.

“The shutdown is so extraordinarily unfair,” she said. “I’ll vote yes and yes” on both proposals.

Though a short-term spending bill giving the president no new border funding bill passed the Senate with no dissent in December, a similar blueprint is poised to fail on the Senate floor on Thursday.

Thursday’s continuing resolution contains some differences from December’s funding bill. The legislation, which passed the House earlier this month, includes disaster aid, changes to Medicaid and some limits on the construction of physical barriers.

Democrats said they were struggling to comprehend how a bill could pass the Senate by voice vote in December and then a similar plan could fail on the Senate floor a month later.

“Let’s just vote for what you’ve already voted for,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

But Trump’s veto threat in December changed everything, setting off a 33-day shutdown and scuttling Republican support for bills that don’t offer more money for the president’s border barrier.

One senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal party dynamics, said McConnell and GOP leaders are trying to crush the “continuing resolution” to force Democrats to negotiate on Trump’s border wall.

“Our leadership is strongly encouraging us to set off a negotiation by having both go down so that it forces a negotiation,” the GOP senator said.

If there were serious efforts to whip senators, they were going on in private. The Senate was in session for just three hours on Wednesday, with no party meetings and no votes. A trickle of senators came through the hallways, none offering any endgame to the historic shutdown.

Republican sources said that a handful of GOP senators like Gardner and Murkowski may vote for the CR. But in an interview, Barrasso said plainly that the CR will fail when asked: “Correct.”

“The president has laid out a fair, reasonable proposal that shows a lot of compromise. And it’s time for the Democrats to do the same,” Barrasso said.

McConnell himself was more circumspect ahead of the vote: “We’ll see what happens.” He strongly praised the president’s proposal on Wednesday on the floor as “a fair compromise that pairs full-year government funding with immigration policy priorities from both sides” after Schumer attacked it.

The two leaders clinched a deal to have the two votes, essentially to demonstrate publicly that neither Trump’s proposal nor a spending bill sans wall money can pass the Senate. On Thursday the Senate will vote first on Trump’s proposal, then on Schumer’s.

“The first vote, unless you do it my way, ‘I’m keeping the government shut down’ – it’s the Trump amendment. Our amendment: open up the government and then let’s talk,” Schumer said Wednesday.

Some Republicans, like Collins, could vote for both proposals. Murkowski said the proposals at least represent a step forward if not an actual solution to reopen the government.

“I’m at the point of being happy that we’re going to the floor and having an opportunity to vote on anything. I’m not very optimistic about the chance of passage,” Murkowski said, declining to say precisely where she will come down on either proposal. “I think it offers us an opportunity to proceed.”

Less surprising is that the president’s proposal will go down, too, given the inclusion of $5.7 billion in wall funding and restrictions on asylum seekers in Central American countries. That turned off most Democratic senators, and McConnell needs to pick up at least seven Democratic votes for it to advance. The bill also gives Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients and people under Temporary Protected Status only three-year protections from deportation, while Democrats want permanent legal status for those immigrants.

Republicans are targeting three moderate senators to vote for Trump’s bill: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. None would say on Wednesday how they would vote. It’s also possible that some conservative Republicans oppose the president’s plan, which also includes large spending bills that fiscal hardliners loath.

So what happens on Thursday afternoon after both bills fail and the shutdown threatens to drag into next week?

“Then it’s time, I would hope, for the president to look for more things he can put on the table he’d like to do, like defense spending,” Blunt said. “But it’s also time for Democrats to talk about: If they don’t like the president’s DACA proposal, what do they like? You can’t just not like everything.”

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El Chapo witness reveals new details about the epic motorcycle tunnel escape

Listen to “Chapo: Kingpin on Trial” for free, exclusively on Spotify.

BROOKLYN — He could hear the rumbling beneath his prison cell for weeks. It was so loud that the other inmates were starting to complain. He was starting to get impatient.

It was the summer of 2015, and Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was locked up in El Altiplano, a maximum-security prison near the city of Toluca that houses many of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. He wasn’t planning to stay for long.

Chapo had been captured less than a year earlier, in February 2014, after more than 13 years on the lam. But almost immediately, according to testimony delivered Wednesday by his former lieutenant, Dámaso López Nuñez, Chapo began plotting a daring escape. It involved digging a mile-long tunnel from a shack outside the prison to the shower inside Chapo’s cell. Everything was going according to plan, but López had to explain to Chapo that it took time to finish the tunnel.

“It wasn’t something you could do overnight,” López testified.

Listen to “Chapo: Kingpin on Trial” for free, exclusively on Spotify.

BROOKLYN — He could hear the rumbling beneath his prison cell for weeks. It was so loud that the other inmates were starting to complain. He was starting to get impatient.

It was the summer of 2015, and Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was locked up in El Altiplano, a maximum-security prison near the city of Toluca that houses many of Mexico’s most notorious drug lords. He wasn’t planning to stay for long.

Chapo had been captured less than a year earlier, in February 2014, after more than 13 years on the lam. But almost immediately, according to testimony delivered Wednesday by his former lieutenant, Dámaso López Nuñez, Chapo began plotting a daring escape. It involved digging a mile-long tunnel from a shack outside the prison to the shower inside Chapo’s cell. Everything was going according to plan, but López had to explain to Chapo that it took time to finish the tunnel.

“It wasn’t something you could do overnight,” López testified.

The 2015 escape was Chapo’s most legendary feat. But the full story of how the tunnel was built, exactly how Chapo escaped, the massive bribe that was allegedly paid, and the details of what happened afterward wasn’t told until López, also known as El Licenciado, took the witness stand during El Chapo’s trial at the U.S District Court in Brooklyn. And for the first time, López claimed that El Chapo’s wife, Emma Coronel, was allegedly a key player in the escape, coordinating the plot with the drug lord’s sons.

Coronel, who sat impassively in the courtroom while López testified, declined to comment through an attorney.

With Chapo’s trial nearing a conclusion, López was a damning witness. He described multiple murders that were allegedly committed on Chapo’s orders, and corroborated previous testimony about Chapo’s 2001 escape from another maximum security prison — where López was once the deputy director in charge of security — in a laundry cart.

But the tale about the mile-long tunnel was by far the most compelling moment on the witness stand for López. Prosecutors showed several letters (see PDF below) that Chapo wrote to López from prison following his capture on Feb. 22, 2017. The letters show Chapo scrambling to keep his empire from crumbling — and hatching plans to escape.

“I wanted to tell you that, although nothing is easy, in a way I have gotten lucky because director is very kind to me,” Chapo wrote to López. “He has helped me when I have asked.”

Chapo then mentioned that his wife would contact López with an important message.

“Please be alert, compadre,” he wrote. “She will explain.”

López testified that he subsequently met with Chapo’s wife, who asked him to send someone to Toluca “to help with errands.” López dispatched his brother-in-law, who he said “had been having meetings with some guards, and he was paying them.”

Then, López claimed, Coronel dropped the bombshell: Chapo was “thinking of taking the risk again to escape from prison.”

López said he had another meeting in May or June of 2014, with Coronel and several of Chapo’s sons, known as Los Chapitos, who were now leading the Sinaloa cartel along with López. They allegedly discussed acquiring land near the prison, and Coronel allegedly passed along the message that Chapo had asked López to acquire weapons and an armored pickup truck to use during the escape. He also said they conspired to smuggle a smart watch into the prison, which would be used to provide the GPS coordinates for Chapo’s cell so that they could connect the tunnel from the adjacent property.

By July 2015, everything was in place. Chapo planned to make his move on a weekend, when there would be less personnel at the prison. Video footage from inside Chapo’s cell on the day of the escape shows him duck behind a small dividing wall that separated his sleeping area from the shower. Then he vanishes.

Read more: El Chapo escaped naked through a tunnel with his mistress. Then he got captured.

It was widely reported at the time that Chapo used a motorcycle mounted on a rail to ride through the tunnel, which was also equipped with lighting and ventilation, but López offered more details. He said that one of Coronel’s brothers was driving the motorcycle, which was towed by some type of pulley system.

According to López, once Chapo reached the exit to the tunnel, there was an ATV waiting to take him to a nearby warehouse that the cartel had acquired for use during the escape. Chapo boarded a small airplane flown by his trusted pilots, and was whisked away to the city of San Juan del Rio in the neighboring state of Querétaro. From there, Chapo flew back to his hometown of La Tuna in the mountains of Sinaloa.

López said that a week after the escape, he came to visit Chapo, who was relaxing at a palatial house on a mountaintop that overlooks La Tuna and the surrounding valley. The estate was called El Cielo — The Sky. López said Chapo’s co-leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, was present for the reunion, along with Chapo’s sons and other key members of the cartel.

“We were all happy because of what happened with my compadre’s escape,” López recalled.

Chapo didn’t remain free for long. He was recaptured in January 2016 after a shootout with Mexican marines in the city of Los Mochis and promptly sent back to the prison from whence he came. Once again, López testified, Chapo passed a message through his wife that “he was going to make a huge effort to escape again.”

López testified that in order to facilitate the last escape attempt, the cartel delivered a $2 million bribe to the chief of Mexico’s prison system. He did not identify the official by name.

The escape plan never materialized. Chapo was transferred to another prison, in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, where he was held until his extradition to the United States in January 2017.

Read more: The strange, terrifying tale of the mistress who flipped on El Chapo.

On cross-examination, López acknowledged that he was not privy to all the details of the escape plan. He said he merely helped with planning and logistics, but was not involved in the actual excavation of the tunnel.

“I never knew, not even about one shovel of earth that was removed there,” López said. “His sons were doing that.”

Chapo’s lawyer Eduardo Balarezo asked why they didn’t just attempt to repeat the laundry cart escape from 2001. He referenced the mile-long tunnel, the motorcycle, the airplane, and asked López, “It’s pretty spectacular, right?” López replied, deadpan: “It’s very real.”

Cover: A motorcycle adapted to a rail sits in the tunnel under the half-built house where according to authorities, drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman made his escape from the Altiplano maximum security prison in Almoloya, west of Mexico City, Thursday, July 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

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