Biden Campaign Slams Trump’s Last-Place Ranking in Presidential Greatness Survey

President Biden’s reelection campaign strongly criticized former President Trump on Monday for his bottom-ranking performance in a recent survey evaluating presidential greatness.

Trump, widely expected to be Biden’s adversary in the upcoming November election, found himself occupying the lowest position on the list, while Biden was recognized as the 14th-best president in the 2024 Presidential Greatness Project Expert Survey. The survey, conducted by a panel of experts specializing in the American presidency from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31, placed Trump at the very bottom.

In a statement titled “Happy Presidents’ Day! … Unless You’re Donald Trump,” the Biden campaign expressed no qualms in emphasizing Trump’s last-place standing.

“It takes a lot to be known as the absolute worst in your profession in the history of your country. But Donald Trump managed to do it, and it’s pretty clear why. Donald Trump spent his four years in office working for one thing only: himself,” remarked Kevin Munoz, spokesperson for the Biden campaign.

Highlighting Trump’s position relative to historical figures, the campaign pointed out that he fared worse than President James Buchanan, responsible for leading the U.S. into the Civil War, and President Herbert Hoover, who was in office during the Great Depression.

Munoz emphasized the contrasting approaches of Biden and Trump, portraying Biden as a president dedicated to the well-being of the American populace.

“President Biden wakes up every day fighting for the American people, helping to create more jobs in three years than any president has created in four, and investing in America at record levels,” Munoz stated. “The choice in this election is clear: a president who has consistently delivered for the American people or Donald Trump who experts agree might be the worst to ever do it.”

The survey, conducted by experts in the field, crowned Abraham Lincoln as America’s greatest president. Biden’s ranking placed him ahead of Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and Ulysses S. Grant.

Interestingly, former President Obama experienced a notable rise in the rankings, securing the seventh position, eight places higher than in the previous year’s survey.

India’s Global Temple Diplomacy: Strengthening Cultural Bonds Across Borders

India’s endeavors in constructing, inaugurating, and restoring its temples worldwide stand as a testament to its efforts in strengthening connections with its extensive diaspora of over 32 million and the estimated 1.2 billion Hindus globally.

Long before the colonial era and continuing long after, Hindus have migrated across the globe for various reasons, contributing significantly to the establishment of numerous temples in their adopted countries.

The global count of Hindu temples is estimated at around two million, with notable examples including Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, Indonesia’s Prambanan temple, Nepal’s Pashupatinath Temple, and Australia’s Shiva Vishnu Temple.

The tradition of Hindu temple construction dates back centuries, with Thailand witnessing the beginning in the third and fourth centuries AD, evidenced by early depictions of Lord Vishnu, while Vietnam’s Cham people erected several Hindu temples.

Reflecting on this dispersed cultural heritage, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar remarked during a visit to Cambodia in 2022, “There are temples not only in India and the Indian subcontinent but in many regions beyond.” He emphasized the significance of temple construction and restoration as a means to uphold the continuity of civilization beyond national borders.

For Hindus, these temples serve as vital centers for maintaining cultural identity, values, and traditions across generations. Kajal Dhadwal, a resident of Tanzania for over 14 years, finds solace and strength in temples like the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and the ISKON center in Arusha.

With the growing population of Hindus globally, there arises a greater demand for places of worship. According to data from the External Affairs Ministry, the number of Indians relocating abroad permanently was 2,25,620 in 2022 and 87,026 until June 2023.

In line with this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Abu Dhabi’s first Hindu temple, the BAPS Mandir, on February 14, underscoring the UAE’s significant role in fostering communal harmony. The UAE already hosts three other Hindu temples in Dubai, showcasing its commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

This event followed closely after Modi’s participation in the consecration ceremony of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, highlighting the significance of temple construction both domestically and internationally.

Further expanding the global footprint of Hindu temples, the BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham, the world’s largest Hindu temple outside India, was inaugurated in New Jersey’s Robbinsville Township in October of the previous year.

In a bid to preserve heritage and promote cultural exchange, Modi initiated a multi-million-dollar renovation project for Bahrain’s 200-year-old Shrinathji Temple in Manama in 2019.

The demand for temples abroad extends beyond providing places of worship; they also serve as showcases of Indian art and architecture, garnering international recognition and contributing to the cultural landscape of their host countries.

Recognizing the soft power potential, countries view the construction of Hindu temples as a means to bolster their economies, promote tourism, and enhance bilateral relations through increased people-to-people interactions.

India Showcases Wedding Destination Diversity: Consulate General in New York Hosts Webinar

The Indian Consulate General in New York recently organized a webinar titled ‘Wedding Destinations in India’ on February 17. The purpose of the session was to introduce various locations across India that offer a rich blend of music, local customs, culture, and a diverse range of settings including desert, forest, mountain, beach, palace, and spiritual locales, along with options for meditational retreats.

The event was graced by the presence of Consul General of India in New York, Binaya Srikanta Pradhan, Deputy Consul General of India, New York, Dr. Varun Jeph, and Parthip Thyagarajan, the CEO of WeddingSutra, a company specializing in providing comprehensive wedding information and inspiration to couples.

Dr. Jeph referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative, “Wed in India,” which encourages affluent families, both within the country and abroad, to choose India as the venue for their family weddings.

CGI Pradhan emphasized India’s status as an ideal wedding tourism destination, stating, “When it comes to wedding tourism, I would say, India probably is the ideal destination.” He highlighted India’s diverse offerings suitable for weddings of all religions and budgets, ranging from the Himalayas and Kerala’s backwaters to Rajasthan’s forts and Orissa’s lakes, as well as the emerging tourism sector in the North East.

Thyagarajan outlined several popular wedding destinations and properties across India. He particularly emphasized the appeal of spiritual sites among Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), such as the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram. Thyagarajan also discussed the popularity of temple towns like Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and Guruvayur in Kerala for weddings on auspicious days, noting that while they offer budget-friendly options, they come with challenges like limited room availability and dining choices.

Additionally, Thyagarajan highlighted Bengaluru’s growing popularity as an ideal wedding destination due to its favorable weather year-round and the availability of quality properties within a short distance from the airport, making it convenient for guests who prefer shorter travel times.

According to a report by WedMeGood, the wedding tourism industry surpassed the $75 billion mark during the 2023-2024 period. In 2023, the Ministry of Tourism launched a wedding tourism campaign aimed at promoting India as a preferred wedding destination and boosting tourism in the country.

India’s Henley Passport Index Ranking Slips to 85th Position in 2024 Despite Increased Visa-Free Access

India’s position on the Henley Passport Index for 2024 has experienced a slight decline, slipping to 85th place compared to the previous year’s 84th position. Despite this, Indian passport holders still enjoy visa-free access to 62 countries, a slight increase from the 60 countries in 2023. This includes nations such as Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Fiji, among others (“India slips to 85th position on Henley Passport Index for 2024”).

This drop marks a continuation of a trend, as India had previously climbed to the 81st ranking in 2018 before experiencing a consistent decline thereafter. The current standings on the index see France leading the list, offering its citizens access to 194 visa-free destinations. Other top-ranking countries include Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, and Spain (“India slips to 85th position on Henley Passport Index for 2024”).

In sixth place, countries like the USA, Canada, Czechia, and Poland provide their citizens with visa-free access to 189 countries. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, Austria, Denmark, and Luxembourg share the third rank, enabling their citizens to travel visa-free to 192 destinations. Notably, Maldives has secured the 58th position, with access to 96 visa-free destinations, while China maintains its position at 64th place (“India slips to 85th position on Henley Passport Index for 2024”).

The Henley Passport Index, which compares the visa-free access of 199 different passports to 227 travel destinations, relies on exclusive data from the International Air Transport Authority (IATA), spanning 19 years. This data is updated monthly, making the index a standard reference tool for global citizens and sovereign states alike when evaluating the global mobility spectrum (“India slips to 85th position on Henley Passport Index for 2024”).

Indian Table Tennis Sensations Stun Chinese Powerhouses at World Championships

In the realm of table tennis, the Chinese dominance is a well-established narrative. They typically steamroll through competitions, leaving little room for doubt. The 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships exemplified this trend as the Chinese women’s team clinched the gold medal without dropping a single match. Sun Yingsha, in particular, boasted an impeccable record, having never been defeated in such events, triumphing in all her 26 singles matches in international team tournaments.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula emerged as the unlikely protagonists, scripting their own narratives of success. Their performances on Friday were nothing short of remarkable, marked by monumental victories in their singles careers.

The duo caused quite the stir by stunning the world’s top-ranked players. Ayhika Mukherjee overcame World No. 1 Sun Yingsha, while Sreeja Akula outplayed No. 2 Wang Yidi. Their stellar performances propelled India to a surprising 2-1 lead against China in the opening encounter of the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Busan. Although the Chinese powerhouses eventually managed to restore order and secure a 3-2 victory, their dominance was notably challenged, shaking them unlike in recent memory.

Remarkably, this wasn’t the first time Indian women had outshone their Chinese counterparts. Less than six months prior, Ayhika Mukherjee and Sutirtha Mukherjee had triumphed over Wang and Cheng Meng, securing the Asian Games doubles bronze—a feat previously deemednearly improbable in women’s table tennis.

Ayhika Mukherjee’s distinctive playing style, featuring the Dr. Neubauer Gorilla backhand rubber, played a pivotal role in unsettling the formidable Sun Yingsha. Her 3-1 victory (12-10, 2-11, 13-11, 11-6) provided India with a crucial early lead. However, India’s top-ranked player, Manika Batra, faltered against world No. 4 Wang Manyu, losing 1-3 (3-11, 8-11, 15-13, 6-11). It was then up to Sreeja Akula, newly ranked in the top 50, to elevate the team with a clinical 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 13-11) triumph over No. 2 Wang Yidi. Although Manika Batra managed to claim a game in her match against Sun Yingsha, she ultimately succumbed to a 1-3 defeat (3-11, 6-11, 13-11, 9-11). Meanwhile, Wang Manyu proved too formidable for Ayhika Mukherjee in the decider, securing a 3-0 victory (11-9, 13-11, 11-6).

While the defeat may have pinched India, especially considering the promising position they found themselves in, it also injected a renewed sense of belief for their upcoming group matches. Their next challenge against Hungary holds the potential to secure a quarter-final finish and possibly secure a Paris Olympics quota from the event.

Ayhika Mukherjee’s unorthodox playing style, coupled with her change of pace from the anti-spin backhand rubber, kept the top-ranked player, Sun Yingsha, on the back foot. Despite trailing in every game, Ayhikashowcased resilience, consistently finding a way to surge ahead. Notably, in the opening game, she fought back from deficits of 3-5 and 7-10, saving three game points and clinching victory with a rally dominated by her backhand strokes.

Sreeja Akula, on the other hand, relied on her formidable forehand to unsettle the world No. 2, Wang Yidi. Asserting dominance from the outset, Sreeja demonstrated her prowess with big forehands, seizing control of crucial points. Her composed demeanor and strategic use of backhand slices paved the way for a straight-game victory, a rare sight against a Chinese opponent.

Reflecting on her triumph, Ayhika Mukherjee expressed her elation, stating, “I really feel great beating Sun Yingsha. Today was my day… I was confident and I just told myself that I should enjoy the match.”

Indeed, the unexpected victories of Ayhika Mukherjee and Sreeja Akula have not only challenged the established order but have also sparked hope and excitement for the future of Indian table tennis on the international stage.

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