AFP, AP, CNN, NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, NEWS 9, REUTERS (U.S.)
MOORE - The death toll from Monday’s mile-wide tornado in Oklahoma has risen to 91 people and is expected to keep rising. The deadly twister tore across Oklahoma City and its suburbs flattening houses, offices and elementary schools.
According to Reuters, the town of Moore had just 16 minutes of warning before it hit.
Spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City medical examiner Amy Elliott said the death toll includes 20 children, the AFP reports. Hospitals reported at least 145 people injured, 70 of them children. Oklahoma’s News 9 reports that there are still children trapped inside the debris of one of the elementary schools, with rescue crews working through the night to free them.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin deployed 80 National Guard members to assist with rescue operations and activated extra highway patrol officers, according to the AP.
President Barack Obama declared a major disaster area in Oklahoma, ordering federal aid to the area to supplement local efforts.
The National Weather Service initially classified the storm as an EF4, the second-strongest type, with winds of 260-320 kilometers per hour. This tornado appears to be the deadliest since the one that struck Joplin, Missouri, in 2011, killing 158.
A combination of factors -- including strong winds and warm, moist air banging against dry air -- creates the thunderstorms that lead to tornadoes.
"It’s several severe thunderstorms," meteorologist at the University of Newcastle, Martin Babakhan says. "A tornado forms with the rotation of these thunderstorms. The rotations develop a tornado within the strong updraft rising air within the storm. This makes the cloud look even darker when you see it from a distance."
CNN reports that severe weather could continue sweeping across a wide swath of the United States for the coming days.
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'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.
BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.
Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."
Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!
Communist curriculum replaces global subjects
This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.
Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.
But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?
The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.
Targeting pop culture
The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.
What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.
A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.
Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.
Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.
"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."
Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.
Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.
From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."
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