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International Relations

Kim Jong Un’s sister: North Korea’s weapons not for export



North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s influential sister dismissed allegations of military cooperation between Russia and North Korea on Friday, emphasizing that her country’s weapons are intended solely for defense against South Korea, according to Yonhap News Agency. Her statement comes as the US imposed sanctions on three Russian entities and two individuals for their roles in transferring military equipment and components between Pyongyang and Moscow amid the Ukraine conflict.

Kim Yo-jong’s statement comes amid US claims that North Korea has supplied weapons to Russia to support the latter’s war in Ukraine.

“We have no intention to export our military technical capabilities to any country or open them to the public,” Kim said, adding that such allegations are “the most absurd paradox,” reported Yonhap News Agency citing the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim said that North Korea’s tactical weapons, including multiple rocket launchers and missiles, are intended to deter South Korea from engaging in “any idle thinking,” in an apparent reference to the South Korea-US joint military drills.

Moreover, North Korea has been denouncing the allies’ military drills as rehearsals for an invasion against it while, Seoul and Washington have rejected such claims, describing their exercises as defensive in nature.

“What is most urgent for us is not to ‘advertise’ or ‘export’ something but to make the war readiness and war deterrent of our army more perfect in quality and quantity and to make the enemy unable to overcome the inferiority in military capability,” she said.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s unification ministry said that North Korea’s denial of providing weapons to Russia, despite clear evidence, is showing that the regime is aware of the illegality of such actions.

“We must once again emphasize that the arms trade between Russia and North Korea is an illegal act that violates the UN Security Council resolutions and undermines international norms,” said Kim In-ae, deputy spokesperson at the ministry, during a press briefing.

In addition to the US imposing sanctions on Russian entities, America also claimed that Russia has relied upon North Korea to wage its war on Ukraine and said that the relationship between the two countries poses a wide-ranging threat to global security and the international non-proliferation regime. “The United States will continue to take action to hold accountable those who seek to facilitate the shipment of weapons and other material to enable Russia’s war,” Under Secretary of the US Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

According to the statement released by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), at a time when the United States and its allies are increasingly concerned about Russia’s deepening ties with North Korea, as well as China.

Russia and North Korea have boosted their military cooperation over the past year, the department said, with Pyongyang providing ballistic missiles and munitions for Russian forces to attack Ukraine. It also said North Korea is seeking military assistance from Russia in return.

The United States said it will continue to take all necessary steps to counter the “destabilizing” Russia-North Korea partnership while calling on other countries to join Washington’s efforts.

Recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected sites of weapons development, but he did not issue any bellicose messages against Seoul, spreading speculation that the North has been ramping up arms production for exports to Russia.

Earlier on May 10, he oversaw a test-firing of controllable shells for “the technically updated version” of the 240mm multiple rocket launcher system. The weapon system is believed to target South Korea’s broader capital area.

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Kejriwal Responds to PM Modi’s Critique: ‘Why Can’t Women Get Free Bus Rides?’



Kejriwal shared a video where PM Modi argues that free bus rides reduce Metro ridership by 50%, making it economically impractical.

Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of opposing the AAP’s scheme that guarantees free bus rides for women in Delhi, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday challenged why women cannot avail of free bus rides when the Prime Minister and other ministers benefit from free air travel.

In a post on his official handle on X, the Delhi CM and AAP leader, who is currently out on interim bail due to his involvement in the liquor policy case, stated, “The Prime Minister is openly opposing the free bus travel being provided to women in Delhi. Women want free bus rides to be introduced across the country but Modi-ji wants to end it. If the prime minister and her ministers can avail free air travel, why can’t women across the country get free bus travel?”

Kejriwal also shared a video clip from a television interview where Prime Minister Modi elaborates on the economic impracticality of offering free bus rides. In the video, PM Modi argues that providing free bus rides in cities with a dedicated Metro service, as an election strategy, detracts from the Metro’s ridership by 50%.

“If you have a dedicated Metro service in the city and offer free bus rides to women just for the sake of winning elections, it means that you are taking away 50 per cent of the Metro passengers. So, the Metro will no longer be a viable commuting option for people,” said Prime Minister Modi. He added that making bus rides more attractive also contributes to traffic congestion and increases vehicular emissions, exacerbating environmental pollution. “You are adding to the traffic woes while also bringing long-term harm to the environment by taking passengers away from the Metro. How will our Metro service prosper and the country move forward?” PM Modi questioned.

The Delhi government, under AAP, currently provides free bus rides for women, students, senior citizens, and people from the transgender community on state-run DTDC buses. This policy, introduced in 2019, aims to promote gender equality, reduce travel costs for vulnerable groups, and encourage the use of public transportation.

Kejriwal’s rebuttal emphasizes the disparity in transportation privileges between government officials and ordinary citizens. He argued that if those in power can enjoy free travel perks, extending similar benefits to women across the country should not be contentious. Kejriwal’s challenge to Modi highlights the broader debate on public welfare policies and their implications on the economy and infrastructure.

The Chief Minister’s comments are part of a larger political narrative where AAP frequently positions itself as a proponent of progressive social policies against the central government’s more conservative economic approach. The debate on free bus rides is emblematic of the clash between state and central policies, reflecting differing priorities in governance and public spending.

Moreover, Kejriwal’s defense of the free bus ride scheme underscores AAP’s commitment to social equity and support for marginalized groups. By questioning Modi’s opposition, he aims to galvanize public opinion in favor of such welfare schemes and highlight the benefits they bring to the community.

The video shared by Kejriwal serves to underline his argument by presenting Modi’s stance in contrast to the lived experiences of those who benefit from free bus rides. It suggests that while the central government focuses on economic viability, the state government prioritizes accessibility and equality.

As the political discourse continues, Kejriwal’s statements are likely to resonate with those who directly benefit from the scheme and those advocating for more inclusive public policies. The discussion surrounding free bus rides for women is poised to remain a significant issue in the broader debate over public transportation and social equity in India.

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International Relations

Jaishankar seeks ‘more than business-as-usual’ to tackle global challenges



Minister of External Affairs, S. Jaishankar, on Friday set out India’s strategy to mitigate the impact of some of the geopolitical realities that the world is faced with today – including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, an escalation of the Iran-Israel conflict that can potentially spread to the Middle East, and the three crises of fuel, food, and fertilizer — while continuing to stabilize the world. While India’s export promotion efforts would continue along with strong partnership building, Jaishankar suggested that the current times call for something more than business-as-usual where ‘trust’ and ‘reliability’ will become critical factors.

“These would be particularly important in the areas of de-risking supply sources and enhancing collaboration in sensitive, critical, and emerging technologies. We firmly believe that India will develop all the requisite national strengths that will make it a leading power in the times to come,” the EAM stated during his address at the CII summit. “The continued focus on reforms requires the support of industry,” Jaishankar added.

Speaking on the many global challenges faced by India and the world since the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Jaishankar stated that India has seen robust growth with the help of sweeping reforms and a sharp focus on capital spending with a focus on infrastructure development. This included a combination of making India self-reliant, ease of doing business reforms, large-scale socio-economic programs, a conducive environment for business growth and startup culture, among others, he added.

Even then, Jaishankar calls for addressing three critical challenges that India faces given the current challenging global environment: employment, especially those faced by the MSMEs, technology, and national security. The Minister stressed the crucial need to align India’s economic priorities with strategic interests whether in terms of access to new markets, technology, investments, education, and tourism.

He also emphasized the importance of creating logistical corridors for India as new production and consumption centers emerge across the world along with the need for expanding the scale and quality of skilling at home, as a new global workforce emerges. He added that policies and initiatives such as the Production Linked Incentive Schemes, financial support for MSMEs, removal of regulatory impediments, the creation of a conducive environment for businesses, and a commitment to promote manufacturing, have been continuously undertaken by the Government, which will help India leapfrog to a ‘Viksit Bharat’ or a developed nation status by 2047.

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Sitharaman calls for proactive govt-industry alliances towards developed India



Finance Minister highlights policy stability, facilitative policies as key attractions for investors looking to India.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday asked industry to leverage opportunities at national and global levels through government-industry partnerships as the country gears up to realize the goal of emerging as a developed country by 2047, drawing attention to India’s policy stability, corruption-free decision-making, facilitative government policies, and robust legal framework which in consonance make India an attractive destination for business. “There is a big role for the private sector for making this happen and the government would be a facilitator and enabler in the process,” Sitharaman said speaking on “co-creating the future responsibly: role of business,” at the annual business summit 2024 of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Articulating the vision for new India, the Finance Minister outlined four key opportunities for growth in India which extends to all segments of the economy. The first, she highlighted, was the compelling India growth story which is expected to contribute significantly to global growth, as recognized and affirmed by global agencies such as the IMF and S&P. The large consumer market which is expected to double by 2031, a rise in consumption spending, and a secular rise in spending on financial services are the other triggers which would ensure that the country would continue to remain the fastest growing economy in the future, Sitharaman said.

Elaborating further on the subject, the Finance Minister noted that according to the RBI and the Economic Survey, India has graduated from the twin balance sheet problem of the past to the twin balance sheet advantage which has led to vibrancy in the market thereby propelling investment expansion by corporates on one hand and willingness and capacity of banks to lend. Secondly, the demographic dividend would be with the country for the next 30 years and dependency level is at a historic low and when complemented with skill development, through public-private partnership, inclusive of areas such as artificial intelligence, big data etc., this is a sure shot measure to bring prosperity and raise consumer demand, Sitharaman observed.

The Finance Minister also highlighted India’s transition towards green energy and a sustainable future as other drivers of new markets and new demand. “The solar push by the government as well as an impetus towards green hydrogen and green ammonia would also provide significant job opportunities to the youth,” she maintained. Alluding to the pressing need to increase manufacturing competitiveness, Sitharaman called for greater sophistication and improved productivity. The government would provide supportive policies for India to be a part of the global value chain.

Sitharaman underlined India’s advantage of figuring among the top investment destinations which pitched the country in a position to take advantage of global investors who are attempting to derisk their operations as a result of the China plus one policy. This would also help the country to become self-reliant. She also referred to the PLI scheme which has contributed significantly towards transforming the mobile and electronic sectors and creating value addition in smartphones. Noting India’s role as a preferred destination with over 50 percent of global capability centers having based their operations in the country.

The industry body has also worked with the government on a range of issues such as the reduction of corporate tax rates, extending GST compliance dates during the Covid period, and adopting a capex-led growth strategy, said CII President R. Dinesh and complimented the finance minister for reining in the fiscal deficit with a laser focus. Former Chairman, ICICI and chairman, National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development KV Kamath, was conferred with the CII President’s award for 2024 for his exemplary contribution to industry and society.

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YouTube blocks Hong Kong protest song videos after court ruling



YouTube has announced its decision to restrict access to videos featuring performances of the banned protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” in Hong Kong.

Following a ruling by Hong Kong’s Court of Appeal deeming the protest song “Glory to Hong Kong” illegal, YouTube has announced plans to block access to videos featuring performances of the song in the city. Voice of America reported that the court characterized the song as a “weapon,” leading to its ban. YouTube expressed disappointment with the ruling but confirmed compliance with the removal order. The online platform also voiced concerns about the impact on free speech online and mentioned exploring options for appeal.

YouTube plans to block access to 32 videos of the song in Hong Kong, which were deemed “prohibited content” by the court. A search for the banned videos on YouTube in Hong Kong now yields a message stating that they are “not available on this country domain due to a court order,” as reported by Voice of America.

The ban covers any broadcast or distribution of the song intended to promote Hong Kong’s independence or misrepresent it as the city’s official anthem. Despite being a semi-autonomous city, Hong Kong does not have its own anthem and uses mainland China’s official anthem, “March of the Volunteers.”

The Court of Appeal’s ruling overturns a previous decision by the High Court, which had cited concerns about free speech. The government pursued legal action last year to have the song banned after Google and other internet service providers refused to remove it from their search results. Both YouTube and Google are owned by California-based Alphabet.

This latest ban adds to a series of measures taken by the government to suppress dissenting voices since Beijing imposed a sweeping security law for Hong Kong in 2020 in response to the 2019 protests. The security law criminalizes acts of terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power, or collusion with foreign forces. Since its enactment, hundreds of pro-democracy advocates have been arrested, tried, and jailed, leading to a stifling of the once-vibrant civil society in the city.

George Chen, co-chair of digital practice at the Washington-based consultancy Asia Group, expressed concerns that daily pressure from officials to remove online content could damage Hong Kong’s reputation as a global financial hub. Such actions may raise questions about the city’s commitment to allowing the free flow of information, Voice of America reported.

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International Relations

China Vows firm response to US tariff hike



Voice of America (VOA) reported that in response to the US’s decision to raise tariffs on imports from China, Chinese officials have strongly vowed to retaliate, emphasizing that this action will significantly impact bilateral cooperation with the US. The White House stated on Tuesday that President Joe Biden has instructed his Trade Representative to elevate tariffs on $18 billion worth of imports from China, encompassing semiconductors, solar cells, batteries, and crucial minerals, with the aim of safeguarding American workers and businesses.

China’s Ministry of Commerce, in a reply to the US’s move, stated, “This will seriously affect the atmosphere of bilateral cooperation. The United States should immediately correct its wrongdoing and cancel the additional tariffs imposed on China. China will take resolute measures to defend its rights and interests.”

The White House announcement on Tuesday came at the conclusion of a statutory review of tariffs, which occurs every four years.

It further stated that the decision has come in response to China’s ‘unfair trade practices’ and to counteract the resulting harms. “China’s unfair trade practices concerning technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation are threatening American businesses and workers. China is also flooding global markets with artificially low-priced exports. In response to China’s unfair trade practices and to counteract the resulting harms, today, President Biden is directing his Trade Representative to increase tariffs under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 on USD 18 billion of imports from China to protect American workers and businesses,” the White House statement read.

The statement on hiked tariffs on imports from China also noted that the Chinese government has used unfair and non-market practices for too long now. Moreover, US President Biden accused the Chinese government of “cheating” when it competes with other nations in international trade. “For years, the Chinese government has poured state money into Chinese companies across a whole range of industries: steel and aluminium, semiconductors, electric vehicles, solar panels – the industries of the future–and even critical health equipment, like gloves and masks,” he said. “China heavily subsidised all these products, pushing Chinese companies to produce far more than the rest of the world can absorb,” Biden said. “And then dumping the excess products onto the market at unfairly low prices, driving other manufacturers around the world out of business.”

Additionally, Biden said that the existing tariffs, many of which were put in place during the administration of former President Donald Trump, would remain in place and that the additional tariffs would target specific products and industries.

Moreover, along with the 100 per cent tariff on electric vehicles, the administration is also planning new levies on electric vehicle batteries, certain kinds of semiconductors, solar cells, and equipment used in the health care industry, including face masks, medical gloves, syringes and needles.

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