Sierra Leone mudslides sweep away school

Days after Sierra Leone was hit by tragic mudslides and floods, it is a large scar of rubble that now defines a neighborhood located below a hill, in the capital.

Ann-Marie Caulker, the director of a school on the heights of Freetown, cannot help but cry over her fifty students who went missing in the terrible floods on the nights of August 13 to 14.

“All of these rocks were not there, they came with mud, there were houses everywhere before, so many people died”, she said.

Two of her 16 teachers are among the dead and two are missing. And many survivors of this small community “always sleep outside,” she says, while the rainy season is far from over. The summer courses had to be interrupted.

“We had a lot of chairs and benches, they stole everything in the aftermath of the disaster, there are people who loot and steal”, adds Ann-Marie Caulker.

For school teachers like Felix Mansaray who have lost at least six pupils, they have lost heart.

“We are discouraged, we educate children so that they have a better future and then they die”.

Every Sunday, the school organizes a mass for people in the community, this is an opportunity to talk about their traumas and support each other.

“The pastor told us to be patient, to love one another, that hope had not disappeared, at least some of us are still alive, there is hope”, concludes the director.

Royal Kings International School was founded about ten years ago to accommodate disadvantaged children in the neighborhood.

To find solace, the inhabitants turn to the priest of the local parish, who had to organize his office in the premises of the school.

Floods and landslides caused 499 deaths, including 156 children, according to a still provisional balance sheet established on Sunday.

Angolan election candidates cast their ballots before noon in Luanda [Videos]

Angolan presidential candidates cast their ballots before noon at various polling stations across the country.

The candidate for the ruling MPLA, Joao Lourenco, voted after 9am local time at the Law Faculty of Agostinho Neto University in the capital Luanda. His Vice Presidential candidate, Bornito de Sousa also voted at the same polling station.

#AngolaDecides Ruling MPLA presidential candidate João Lourenço has just arrived at the Law Faculty of Agostinho Neto University to vote.— LeannedeBassompierre (@leannedb01) August 23, 2017

Vota lá!!!! Vota CERTO, vota no 4!!! Para o melhor futuro de Angola!!! Viva Cda João Lourenço!!! #votano4 #mpla #mplacomopovo #JoãoLourenço!— Angola Confidencial (@angolaconfident) August 23, 2017

The CASA-CE coalition party candidate, Abel Chivukuvuku also voted at a primary school in the Alvalade district dressed in an all-white suit.

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The UNITA party candidate, Isaías Samakuva, voted at the polling station installed at Óscar Ribas University, in the Talatona district. His Vice Presidential candidate, Raul Danda voted at the Semente do Saber College, behind the Hotel Alameda.

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Benedito Daniel of the PRS party voted at a school in the Grafanil neighborhood, in Viana while the APN candidate Quintino Moreira voted at the Casa da Juventude in the same district of Viana in the capital Luanda.

Two of the 6 candidates already voted Benedito Daniel and Isaias Samakuva #AngolaElections— Cutaia (@Cutaia1) August 23, 2017

The FNLA candidate Lucas Ngonda, voted at a school in Nova Vida, also in Luanda.

President José Eduardo dos Santos voted earlier at the São José de Cluny School in Kinaxixe, while the Vice President Manuel Vicente voted later at the São José School in Kinanga.

Dever cumprido!! #mpla— Angola Confidencial (@angolaconfident) August 23, 2017

The president of the National Assembly, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, voted at a school close to the National Housing Board in Luanda.

Polls opened at 7am local time on Wednesday and 9.3 million people are expected to vote by the close of polls at 6pm local time.

Click here for all the election news on our Africa Elections page

Ridley, former US Amateur champ, to take over at Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Fred Ridley first came to Augusta National to compete in the 1976 Masters as the U.S. Amateur champion, and he played the opening round in the traditional pairing with the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

He will have a new role in his next round at Augusta National — the seventh chairman in the 86-year history of the club.

Billy Payne announced Wednesday that he is retiring on Oct. 16 when the club opens for a new season, and he chose Ridley to succeed him.

“If he’s not better than me, then I failed,” Payne said. “And I fully expect him to be. I’ve seen his passion and his love for our club. I know the way the members respect him, and in many cases, love him. He is going to be a natural fit. And he will lead us in a different way because everybody is different. But it’s going to be a better way. This is a great move for Augusta National.”

Ridley, a 65-year-old business lawyer from Tampa, Florida, is the last U.S. Amateur champion who never turned pro. He played in the 1977 Walker Cup, was twice a Walker Cup captain, served on the USGA executive committee for 11 years and was president of the USGA in 2004 and 2005.

He also is the reason Payne chose to retire.

“Once I finally decided that Fred was the right person, then I had the sense I had completed my most important job,” Payne said. “To make that orderly transition, I needed to get going.”

Ridley was not made available for comment. The club said he would not speak about the role until he took over in October.

Payne became chairman in 2006 and said Hootie Johnson, his predecessor, told him that his most critical task would be finding a replacement. After taking a year to get settled, he began studying who would be the best candidate.

“I started thinking and looking and, through time, eliminating,” Payne said. “As I became aware of the qualifications that it required, it became obvious to me, fairly soon, that Fred was emerging as an unbelievable talent, a man who loved, as I do, Augusta National and all it stands for. At the end, it was an easy decision.”

Ridley had been at Payne’s side as chairman of the Masters championship committee, though it wasn’t always smooth sailing. He was at the center of a rules controversy involving Tiger Woods in 2013.

Woods hit a shot into the 15th hole that struck the pin and bounced back into the water in the second round. He dropped from an incorrect spot, which was spotted by a television viewer — David Eger, a former USGA and PGA Tour rules official. When word got to Ridley, he said he viewed the drop and did not see a violation.

Only after more questions were raised — Woods told the media he purposely dropped the ball a few yards farther away from the original spot — did the rules committee realize he should been penalized. Woods was given a two-shot penalty but spared disqualification for signing an incorrect card because Ridley said officials made a mistake by not speaking to Woods.

Ridley is the first chairman to have played in the Masters, missing the cut all three times. He also played in the U.S. Open and British Open.

“If the game is poised to take some dramatic steps, I think having Fred as chairman of Augusta National is a very good thing,” said David Fay, the executive director of the USGA during Ridley’s two years as president.

While Payne was the first chairman who had never met co-founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, Ridley met Roberts when he played in the Masters.

Fay also was intrigued by the links to Jones.

“If you were to look for common denominators, he has more with Bobby Jones than just about any of the subsequent chairs,” Fay said. “Both were U.S. Amateur champions, both were lawyers and both remained amateurs. I’m delighted for Fred. He’ll be innovative. With Fred, the tenor and flavor of the club will be comfortable.”

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Nobody died of strange disease in LUTH – CMD

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Baylor settlements could signal trend of more to come

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Baylor University’s recent settlement of a high-profile federal lawsuit suggests the nation’s largest Baptist school may be willing to reach more deals to help move past its sexual assault scandal.

Federal lawsuits have piled up over the last year as the scandal mounted with allegations of a football program that acted above the rules and mishandling of sexual assault claims across the university.

Baylor has settled two of the most high-profile cases within the last two months just as evidence-gathering has started to heat up. Terms have not been released.

A Baylor spokeswoman says the school would consider settling more cases if appropriate.

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Egypt’s first baby swimming program excites parents

In Egypt’s capital Cairo, parents arrive with their babies for novel classes in swimming.

The classes are aimed to promote physical education for babies while teaching parents how to handle their children in water.

This initiative was started in July by instructor Mohamed Abdelmaksoud who spoke about other benefits of the program.

“If we hold the babies’ arms using the wrong method he or she might develop a chronic health condition which might cause the baby to suffer for the rest of his or her life. Our training also helps remove any of the physical side-effects the babies might experience shortly after birth.”

Training can begin for babies as young as two months old, who are initially put into a swimming pool to familiarise them with water. The exercises help improve overall fitness and quality of sleep.

Speaking after taking her child through the day’s lesson, Heba Helal said: “Honestly, it has helped tone his muscles. At the beginning his body was very stiff and his legs were always close to his torso, but now he has no trouble stretching his legs and he is no longer afraid of the water.

“At the beginning, when we first took him swimming, before we started attending this course, he would constantly cry until we would take him out of the pool.”

Another parent, Ahmed Halil shared his views: “I feel reassured because I know that she has only completed the initial phase. I’m still required to keep attending for an extended and more frequent period.

“But now if God forbid she fell into the water, she can hold her breath underwater for around 6 or 7 seconds and she can roughly navigate,” he added.

According to experts baby swimming is an exciting, enriching experience for everyone involved. Not only does it teach vital life skills, but it also enhances the way babies and toddlers learn other skills, too.


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U.S. new home sales hit seven-month low as prices soar

By Lucia Mutikani

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – New U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly fell in July, dropping to their lowest in seven months amid a surge in prices, raising concerns of a slowdown in the housing market recovery.

Coming on the heels of data this month showing a tumble in home building and permits in July, the weak sales pace suggests that housing could remain a drag on economic growth in the third quarter.

“The third-quarter sales data are starting out significantly below the second-quarter average, and many other housing reports have also shown some recent weakening in their respective trends,” said Daniel Silver, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “Today’s report strengthens our conviction that real residential investment will decline in the third quarter.”

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday new home sales declined 9.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 571,000 units last month, the lowest level since December 2016. The percentage drop was the largest since August 2016 and confounded economists’ expectations for a 0.3 percent gain.

June’s sales pace was revised up to 630,000 units from the previously reported 610,000 units. Home sales in May also were not as weak as previously reported, taking some of the sting from July’s report.

New home sales, which account for 9.4 percent of overall housing sales, are volatile month-to-month and are drawn from building permits. Still, sales declined 8.9 percent on a year-on-year basis, the first annual drop since February 2016.

July’s sales pace was below the second-quarter average of 613,000 units. Sales fell in the Northeast, South and West, but rose in the Midwest. In a separate report on Wednesday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said applications for loans to buy a house decreased last week to a six-month low.

A survey last month by Fannie Mae, the largest U.S. mortgage guarantor, showed a drop in the share of respondents saying now is a good time to buy a home as well as a surge in the number of those who believe this is a bad time to buy.

Housing subtracted nearly three-tenths of a percentage point from gross domestic product in the second quarter.


U.S. financial markets were little moved by the data as investors worried over comments by President Donald Trump threatening a government shutdown to secure funding for a border wall with Mexico, raising the specter of a tough budget battle.

Trump also said late on Tuesday he might terminate the NAFTA trade treaty with Mexico and Canada after three-way talks failed to bridge deep differences.

The PHLX index of housing stocks <.HGX> fell in line with a broadly weaker U.S. stock market. Shares in the nation’s largest homebuilder, D.R. Horton <DHI.N>, slipped 0.22 percent and Lennar Corp <LEN.N> fell 0.28 percent.

Pultegroup <PHM.N> stock declined 0.43 percent. The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, while prices for U.S. Treasuries rose.

Despite the drop in new home sales, the housing market remains underpinned by a strong labor market, which is near full employment. But it is being hampered by a shortage of homes, which is driving up prices.

Contributing to the dearth of homes on the market, some homeowners are remodeling their houses rather than trading up.

Those renovations are boosting business for home improvement retailers like Lowe’s Companies <LOW.N>, which on Wednesday reported a 6.8 percent increase in net sales in the quarter ended Aug. 4.

The median price of a new home increased 6.3 percent in July from a year ago to $313,700. In contrast, annual wage growth has struggled to break above 2.5 percent.

Despite the acute housing shortage, builders are struggling to fill the void, citing supply constraints, including labor, land and finance. Last month, 70 percent of the new single family homes sold were either yet to be built or under construction in July.

“New home sales are still concentrated in the higher end of the market,” said Matthew Pointon, an economist at Capital Economics in New York. “Until builders switch their efforts to cheaper starter homes that will limit to degree to which sales can grow.”

The inventory of new homes on the market rose 1.5 percent to 276,000 units last month, the highest level since June 2009. Still, new housing stock is less than half of what it was at its zenith during the housing bubble.

At July’s sales pace it would take 5.8 months to clear the

supply of houses on the market, almost a two-year high and up from 5.2 months in June.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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