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The view of a dirty river | USA



The listing talks up the view – rich farmland, snaking river and distant picturesque mountains – but avoids mention of the busy road. The house is vacant now with only a few remnants of the last tenants. This unremarkable facade of a 1950s Cape Cod, and one that was never a beauty, clings to a road that spews an endless tide of traffic, shaking the windows and depositing grime onto the sills. For months the owner has been trying to sell, but only when the price dropped dramatically did I pass it along to one of my investor clients. “It’s just business,” I told myself.

It would have been remiss not to tell them about a good deal.

I have trod the slanted steps and assessed the sagging roofs of sadder houses. After a while all the decrepitude blurs – all those cock-eyed porches, the smell of closed rooms and moldy basements. I have been in houses where the bodies were just removed and ones where the owners left with pots still on the stove and plates in the sink. There were others where in the frenzy of leaving, school books, prescriptions, and wedding portraits fell to the wayside. It is part of the business of real estate to enter properties where things have gone awry.

Selling a house may represent a step up – or the loss of a dream. And you can diagnose the dying dreams through a kind of forensic analysis: too much money spent on that granite countertop and not enough on securing the roof. Prescription bottles, bills piled high, beer cans under the sink, one side of the closet emptied while the other half still bursts with clothing. You can keep these things at a distance, unless you happen to know the story more intimately. Most house showings are impromptu performances where you venture into a new space and put the pieces together, but I know this place and its story isn’t an unfamiliar narrative.

Having made the appointment, I suddenly became tired – the kind of tired that is too heavy and too sudden to really be about fatigue. And in the hours between making the plan and arriving at the door, I run through all the times I have driven by this house in the last two years and how each time it bothered me to see those empty windows and the blank vinyl visage. How I saw that dumpster outside for weeks packed full of possessions that no one cared to sort through. And how the rain rained on it all. And then the snow blanketed it, until one day the dumpster was gone. 

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

This is the house where Rat lived. One day three summers ago, Rat swaggered out from behind a tree as I sat with my dog watching the ripples of the river. He introduced himself to me as “Nick”, but in time I learned that his relatives and the authorities called him by his given name, “Nacom”, which designates the Mayan priests of blood sacrifice. I suspect his parents did not know that when they named him. I called him a sweeter name because he made me think of the book The Wind in the Willows, and like Rat and Mole, we were river friends. He was a river rat and I was a more homebound creature.

“I’m a pirate,” he boasted that first day. And with his unsteady gait that made one feel like the sea was moving under him and his dark skin and swashbuckling air, it did seem possible he could climb a mast with a dagger between his teeth. “I’m retired,” he said later, popping open another Coors. But it was clear that things might be a bit more precarious than that: pirates don’t get 401(k)s, and our river is pretty far from the sea.

In truth, he was fighting his second DWI charge. “Entrapment,” he insisted. He did not want to cop a plea to a felony, but most of all, he did not want to go to jail. So he had a summer of limbo to watch the river as he listened to songs about not growing up to be cowboys and turning 21 in prison, all the while rolling cigarettes and running up his credit card bills as the slow wheels of justice decided his fate. 

When we first met, we talked for three days straight. Rat’s charms and quick wit could only be appreciated if you did not take him seriously. He wanted to find out my weakness and he wanted to play with it. His method was to ask lots of pointed questions and then to look for the holes in the story or to take pieces of your narrative and misconstrue them. It wasn’t meanness on his part, although enough liquor could make it so, like when he told me he hated me, but loved my dogs. Mostly he looked at people as if he were an alien trying to figure out how the parts fit together. And having lived through a thousand years of therapy to render me immune to questions and living in a new place with not that many friends, I had no problem providing him with puzzle pieces to play with.

View from a dirty river - Deirdre Day

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

At the time when I am scheduled, I pull into the driveway in front of the house. Most of the time I spent at Rat’s place was spent waiting for him right here. I would pick him up and drop him off, but mostly he stayed at my house.

First he occupied my guest room, and later my much less comfortable unfinished attic. Retreating gradually from being a part of the main business of my life, he seemed to have realised that by making his footprint smaller he would be able to stay longer.

Once I dropped him here after running out of patience and he said, “Your shift is done.”

The trees Rat planted between the house and the road during our second summer as friends, the summer of his sobriety, are gone now.

During that first spate of energy after giving up the demon alcohol, he also installed some motion sensor lights that he claimed the bats were deliberately tripping. He made me watch with him. I wasn’t certain the bats had figured out that the lights would draw insects, but he believed they had, and he delighted in watching them trick the system. 

View from a dirty river - Deirdre Day

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

You can’t really talk about Rat without talking about the drinking, even though for the second half of our friendship he didn’t drink at all. But during that first summer that we spent by the river, not the slow dying river near his house but a quicker cleaner one near my mine, he drank prodigiously.

He would bike a few miles from his house on the busy road and stop off at the Citgo where he would engage in cheerful jousting with store owners (usually accusing them of having shorted him on beer the day before).

He had a particular method for packing many tallboy Coors beers (12) into one normal-sized backpack, after which he would bike up another hill on the winding road that traces the curves of my river on one side and on the other passes by the defunct cement mines with their gaping mouths all open and black, their breath always the same temperature – a chill in summer and a warm spot in winter.

As I enter that living room, I can see no evidence left of the enormous pile of shoes and boots. Rat liked stuff. He liked climbing equipment and hiking equipment, kayaks, cameras, knives, guns, and all manner of tools of unknown purpose. But none of that has remained – not even the coffee table on which sat his suicide notes (there were two because he made mistakes in the first draft and so rewrote it). I realise that I never saw any living going on in this room. It was more like a drab waiting room, stocked only with conspiracy magazines and tool catalogues.

And I was the only person who ever waited there.

The view of a dirty river - correction

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

It has been 18 months since I set foot in this house.

I hadn’t spoken to Rat since the beginning of December, and at the end of January, his sister called to ask me if I knew where he was. It was just darkening on a cold night and I drove straight to this place. The heat was off and there was a chill deep in every room that I walked through to get to his room. I didn’t see the envelope that had already been lying untouched on the coffee table for six weeks. And once I got upstairs I found a room colder still than the rest of the house. Like the centre of a tomb. 

Nestled behind the living room is the room that had he rented out to students until his father got kicked out of the nursing home for some crazy misdeed, and Rat let him take that space. The carpets are pulled up now and there are empty paint cans and half-used construction materials as if someone tried to make it comfortable and just gave up.

After his father came, replete with his turquoise jewellery and faux Native American belt buckles – like he shopped at the cut-rate version of Visionary Wannabes R Us – the other two bedrooms stayed empty. “I can’t subject anyone to him,” Rat said.

His father didn’t notice Rat was gone until he woke up one morning to find the oil was gone.

It was the police who found the notes and the detailed instructions on how to take care of the utility bills and money to pay them. Rat’s mistake was thinking that his absence would be noticed and that his words would be read.

He was sitting here in this room when he made that last call. Maybe he was smoking a cigarette on the deck and looking out towards the river. The leaves were off the trees by then and perhaps he could have glimpsed the setting sun reflecting on the dirty river.

Maybe he saw that as he told me about how the mandatory drugs test, a condition of probation, had come back dirty. Maybe he already knew what he was going to do when I told him he had to fight it. But he didn’t want to fight anymore; he had resigned himself to the ending he had probably expected all along.

I would say he’d fought the law and the law won, but he had stopped fighting. He was just trying to comply.  Freaking out when they came with their hands on their guns to check up on him. Afraid that sesame seeds in Chinese food might trigger a false positive. The law had come to occupy every room of his brain. It was more like the law fought him and the law won.

View from a dirty river - Deirdre Day

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

Outside, on the back patio, is where he put the guns. He wasn’t supposed to have guns and some of them he told me weren’t legal anyway. I watched him swaddle them carefully and place them in a locked container that is still right here.

He gave me the only ones I could take – the .22 rifles and air guns – and retained the AR-15s and other heavy artillery. He was a country boy and he owned many, many guns. His brother made guns. He had mocked me for not knowing about firearms and had taken me north to the farm his mother had owned before she died. There, he taught me how to hit a target with a small rifle.

It is a mystery now what happened to those guns because other than the empty case for the handgun he took, there is no trace of any others. 

View from a dirty river - Deirdre Day

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

The river he might have looked out over when we last spoke is a dirty river known for its dirtiness. That is why he always came to my cleaner river. Rivers are by nature always a little suspect; they travel through the country picking up impurities along the way. Agricultural waste or chemicals or sewage runoff – his river had it all and so we rarely went there.

One of the times we did was when I was angry about something he had done (I believe it was the time he drunkenly and outrageously insulted a friend of mine from college and her boyfriend). To distract me from my anger or because he didn’t really understand it or care, he pronounced, “I would have been a great dad.”

This being one of the most absurd things he had ever said, I disagreed and while he went into a soliloquy about his hypothetical parenting skills, I drifted off into river-induced reverie. I saw, in my mind’s eye, a deer skull. As he spoke, I dropped my gaze to the dirt at my feet and glimpsed a little patch of white showing through the dirt. When I touched it and the dirt fell away, it was a deer skull. Just like the one I had been thinking of, dirty Wallkill running lazily by.

Periodically I, being the one who reported him missing, am summoned by the police. There have been three detectives so far assigned to the case and the manila folders they diligently fill with their evidence grow fatter each time I go to that little room to discuss developments.

There are no developments and still no body.

As one detective said, “You are the only one who seems to know anything.”

I have told them that I am positive that Rat walked from his house to the caves behind mine. My neighbour saw him that last day with a backpack and a crazy smile. These cavernous and disused borings from mines haven’t operated in decades, but there are hundreds of acres of them like an enormous ant farm, with about 25 percent of them now underwater. I believe that is where he was headed with his gun. And I believe he achieved something next to impossible for the less crafty – he managed to pass into death without witnesses to any of it. 

The cops ask me questions. “Did he have enemies?” they ask. “Were there people who might want to cause him harm?” They show me their enormous pile of manila folders, and they seem desperate for a lead. But there aren’t any. 

The view of a dirty river - correction

[Jawahir Al-Naimi/Al Jazeera]

As I drive away, I think I will probably never be here again. And I go home to my comfortable house perched over the other less toxic river. It has been nearly two years and I can go sit and watch the ripples now without feeling each eddy as a loss. And I can go past the caverns without thinking of his body in their depths. Sadness, like rivers, takes an ever-changing path. 

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Year of the Overcomer-Prophet Elvis Mbonye



The eagerly awaited first fellowship of controversial Prophet Elvis Mbonye left viewers shocked as he declined to issue his now famous prophecies citing a refusal to settle for the new normal. In an on online service watched by thousands, the Prophet said him prophesying would “ be a concession to gathering online, rather than physically” further stating that it is not the will of God that church should meet online!

The Covid-19 SOPs given by the government and Ministry of Health have heavily impacted gatherings and as a result, ministries with large congregations have resorted to online services. The prophet however insists that this is a ploy to diminish the influence of the Kingdom of God.

He however proceeded to give the Prophetic Word of the year , saying “This is the year of the Overcomers” amidst cheers from those present. He also stated that this would not be a “gloomy” year, probably meaning that this would be a good year. Given that many of his prophecies have actually come to pass, should we pay more attention to him? We eagerly await the prophecies this year.

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Kabuleta blasts Media over “COFIT” reporting in new rant.



Presidential hopeful Joseph Kiiza Kabuleta has expressed dissatisfaction with the media over what he says was”alarmist reporting” over the Covid-19 pandemic which he calls “COFIT” a term we believe is a wordplay between covid and profit, a view held by many that claims that the disease was exaggerated to maximize funding and corruption. Kabuleta has come to be known for his straight shooting style and admirable command of facts and policy, even being touted as the “smartest candidate” in the is the full statement:


By Joseph Kabuleta

“Don’t look at where you fell, but where you slipped”

We know where the media fell. They fell when they were caught in the crossfire between opposition politicians and trigger-happy security hitmen; when they were unfairly targeted as they went about their noble duty of covering this explosive elective season. Sadly, some journalists are nursing wounds; others weren’t so lucky.
But it’s important for us to understand where they slipped.

If someone is sitting by the roadside sipping on his brew and he sees a gang of people sprinting past him, as if for their lives, it’s understandable if he impulsively joins without asking questions. But if after nine months he is still sprinting, and has still not asked any questions, then there’s something terribly wrong with him.

When we first went into lockdown in March, it was probably the best course of action because we didn’t know the full extent of the Cofit threat. But in the first 90 days, it was clear to all and sundry that it was never going to rank among Uganda’s top health challenges. And that’s not my opinion.

The Daily Monitor on July 15th quoted Dr Baterana Byarugaba, the Mulago Hospital Executive Director, describing the Cofit strain in the country as a mild form of flu which does not require hospital admission since it can be treated at home or in lower health facilities.
“l told Ugandans right from the beginning that the type of coronavirus we expect in Uganda is the mild one. It can be treated at health centre II, III, IV or the district hospital,” the top Medic said.

I read the story with glorious delight supposing that finally common sense, (or should I say science sense) would inform our decisions as a nation. But it’s difficult to know where science stops and politics starts. It’s become clear over the months that Cofit is not just a virus that causes respiratory problems, it’s a lot more than that; it’s a weapon in the hands of politicians that gives them power beyond their wildest dreams. In America, for instance, Democrat Congressman Jim Clyburn said Cofit is a “tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our (leftist) vision” while actress and activist Jane Fonda said that Cofit was “God’s gift to the left.”

Our media could have taken the side of poor Ugandans by showing the immense suffering and death from preventable sicknesses that resulted from the harsh Cofit measures; they could have highlighted the plight of businesses permanently closed and workers rendered redundant and sent back to villages. They could have wondered why truck drivers were testing negative in Kenya and positive in Uganda, or wondered why Cofit deaths only started after Prophet Museveni showed us a macabre lineup of coffins in his address, or why every celebrity who dies since then is ruled as Cofit (no autopsy required)

They could have told us that according to Worldometer, Cofit has a 0.28% mortality rate (or a 99.72 survival rate) and that it doesn’t rank anywhere in the Top 10 of Uganda’s health challenges; they could have told us that a child dies of malaria every two minutes (and Uganda accounts for 3% of the world’s malaria fatalities), which means that more Ugandans die from mosquitoes in ten days than Cofit has (allegedly) killed in the nine months it’s been on our lips.

Ugandans (especially of my age) have lived through real pandemics. As a young man growing up in the early 90s, nobody had to remind me that AIDS was real. Goodness me, I knew it was! And I didn’t need police to force me to wear protection, I knew the consequences. The fact that we are constantly being reminded that ‘Cofit is real’ tells a story of its own.

The media could have asked why Uganda, with one of the lowest Cofit cases or deaths, still holds on to a 9:00pm curfew when Kenya moved to 11:00pm in September, as did South Africa and several countries. The media could have told us that Malawi, Burundi, Tanzania and, recently, Ghana all held successful elections with full blown campaigns in 2020, and we aren’t hearing people dropping dead from Cofit in any of those countries. May be they should have tried to find out if people are dropping dead in Tanzania which altogether ignored all Cofit measures and went on to acquire middle-income status while Ugandans were still in lockdown.

They could have told us about the asymptomatic Cofit patients who were filmed dancing the night away in hospital wards, or of people suffering from other diseases who dare not go to hospital because they fear to be given a fake Cofit label and held for two weeks against their will.

The media could have told us that Cofit deaths across the world have been grossly inflated. Minnesota lawmakers say Cofit deaths could have been inflated by 40% after examining death certificates (according to The Washington Examiner) while Fox News reported that in Colorado 45% of Cofit corpses “were also found to have bullet wounds”.

They could have told us that 22 European countries, all of which had tens of thousands of Cofit deaths, opened their schools in the fall, and there has not been any reported spikes in cases as a result. They could have told us that more people have been killed by security men enforcing Cofit measures than by the virus itself.

Well, they could have…but they didn’t. And that’s where they slipped.

Instead they chose to go down the path of alarmist reporting and in so doing became, inadvertently or otherwise, enablers of Uganda’s trillion-shilling Cofit enterprise. Like Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the media used flowery language to drum up fear by keeping people’s eyes transfixed on swelling numbers while the thieves carried their loot and stashed it away, and loan money was distributed among family members or used in regime prolongation.

The recent joint television news bulletin, and the adverts that followed, were the peak of hysterical reporting. “Zuukuka Tusaanawo” (wake up, we are perishing) screamed an advert featuring top media personalities. What a load of……(fill in appropriate word).

Remember, all the tyranny we have witnessed in this season has been done in the name of Cofit, and such sensationalist reporting justifies it; it gives dictators like Museveni the perfect pseudo-moralistic cover to unleash their most despotic fantasies while actually pretending that it’s for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the terror has now spread to the very media people whose hyperbole enabled it in the first place. There is such a thing as the law of cause and consequence, after all.

Instead of the media walking out of pressers and threatening to boycott government functions, let them threaten to stop all Cofit reporting. Museveni himself would come running with chocolate in hand.

If the president extended curfew by just two hours, for instance, he will have put as many as 200,000 Ugandans back to work especially in the hotel, restaurant and entertainment industries; but he doesn’t care, and sadly neither do many middleclass Ugandans who suppose that it’s their moral obligation as responsible citizens of the Global Village to fret over Cofit just because their ‘fellow citizens’ in Europe and America are doing so. Of course they can afford to do that because their corporate jobs have, for the most part, insulated them from the devastation of the government-instituted Cofit measures. They can enjoy working at home, beer in hand, as they listen to CNN and BBC and still expect the full complement of their salaries at the month end, and that makes them feel every bit like ‘their brothers’ overseas.

Such aspirational conformists are more likely to be offended by my stance on Cofit because they haven’t traversed crook and creek of this country and seen the damage reigned on this fragile society; not by the virus, but by the measures supposedly instituted to mitigate it.

You see, perhaps the most enduring damage this regime has done to our society is creating a three-part hierarchy of class and needs. At the zenith are a handful of connected ‘1986 generation’ and their families who feel entitled to all power and wealth. Beneath is a small (and shrinking) middleclass, and at the bottom of the pyramid is a mass of peasants. Every society, to various degrees, is ordered in the same fashion, but what makes Uganda unique is that the megalomaniacs at the top don’t give a nickel about the plight of the middleclass and the middleclass in turn don’t care a bit about the quandary of the peasant. The charlatans at the top will impose punitive taxes on the middleclass, then dip into NSSF coffers at a whim to share out their savings, and no one can stop them.

And the middleclass Ugandan, armed with his medical insurance, and safe in the knowledge that his wife is unlikely to die in child birth (20 Ugandans do EVERY DAY), and his children are very unlikely to die of malaria (20 do EVERY DAY), or from malnutrition (thousands do every year), will go around trumpeting Cofit because it’s more relevant to his status than malnutrition or malaria.

I could just as easily go down that path. I could also close my eyes to mothers failing to get breast milk because they can only afford half a meal a day (black tea with a piece of cassava), and the malnourished babies that emerge as a result; I could close my eyes to the teenage girls that were given out in marriage because schools closed, or those given out to meet family needs; I could ignore the fact that our president is opening 5-star markets in cities which have 1-star referral hospitals; I could also choose to look the other way and enjoy my middleclass lifestyle, but as an aspiring leader, I cannot.

As a leader, my aspiration is to remove the privileged/entitled class, to expand the middleclass (and their income), and to shrink the peasantry; but mostly to blur the lines that separate each category.
It doesn’t bode well for our country if the average Corporate Ugandan knows more about racism in America than about extreme poverty in Teso or Busoga because that disqualifies him/her from the solution to those local problems.

And finally, I have come to the realization that the biggest pandemic afflicting our country is poverty and the virus that causes it is called M7-1986. Vaccination against it is January 14

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Muntu Blocked in Kamwenge



Alliance for National Transformation presidential candidate Gen. Mugisha Muntu has been blocked from campaigning in Kamwenge according to a statement he released earlier today.Below is the full statement:

Today in Kamwenge, as we have done since the start of the campaign season, we headed out to speak with the people. We had earlier in the week agreed on the venue with security agencies. No one had anticipated that it would rain as much as it did, making it impossible for us or the people to access.

After identifying an alternative place only 100m away from the original venue, negotiating with the owner and communicating the same to the public, we headed to the second venue only to be stopped by police.

Our policy has always been to do all we can to be reasonable, even in the face of unreasonable action on the part of the state. We engaged the police leadership in a civilized, respectable manner well knowing that they intended to not only frustrate us, but cause us to act in ways that would give them an excuse to cause chaos. This was on top of their intimidating the radio we had booked and duly paid to appear on.

While we are confident that we are on the right side of both the law and reason, we have chosen not to endanger the lives of our supporters or the general public by escalating the situation. We will do everything humanly possible to avoid a single life being lost or blood being shed on account of our campaign.

And yet this truth remains: the regime’s days are numbered.



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