WTF Friday, 1/24/2014

What do you get when you combine an uninformed TV actress on her first trip to Africa, a Christian relief organization whose PR department are all asleep on the job, and a reporter who apparently thinks foreign aid is for chumps?

The WTF Friday that keeps on giving.

We’ll have a more detailed piece out next week about Elizabeth McGovern’s magical trip to Sierra Leone as a “charity ambassador” for World Vision, but for now, the highlight reel:

Elizabeth McGovern didn’t know that World Vision was a Christian charity, but she did know that it paid her £28,000:

“I was stupid not to realise it … I think the people at World Vision assumed it would be obvious.” McGovern has not withdrawn from World Vision, as “on balance, it is an organisation that does a lot of good for many people.” In addition, World Vision has paid her band £28,000 to fund the recording of their latest album and a UK tour, in return for which they have agreed to promote the charity. Without this money, McGovern says, her band would “never survive”. She recently turned to a crowdfunding website for donations towards her next album, with a portion of the money going to World Vision.

Elizabeth McGovern sure seemed to have a lot of questions about how hard it would be to take her “sponsored” child, Jestina, home with her:

The conversation then turns to Jestina. “Is there a problem that some celebrities and rich people try to take one of the children home?” asks McGovern. “I imagine some big-time celebrities can be more of a hindrance than a help.”

“It’s not so easy to take a child across borders,” says Wilson. “And World Vision is very big on child protection.”

“Do Jestina’s parents live together?”

Elizabeth McGovern on Sex:

“I get the impression that in Africa people have sex far more freely than we do back home,” reflects McGovern. “You see certain cultures where there’s just endemic cruelty to women. I wonder if World Vision would take on the problem of women wearing the burka? And that clitoris thing is awful.”

World Vision, on being super good about not proselytizing:

I ask the driver, a Sierra Leonean who has worked for World Vision for more than 10 years, about the extent to which Christianity drives the charity’s actions. Does World Vision ever try to convert people?

“Christianity is our goal,” he says. “In some Muslim areas they are suspicious of us. So we put our effort into setting up clinics, permanent schools, and establish a society. Gradually they see we are good people. Then we pay professional pastors to preach to them. That is our final goal.”

“But you don’t try to convert non-Christians,” interrupts Wilson from the back. “World Vision never tries to proselytise.” The man laughs wryly and shrugs. McGovern says nothing.

World Vision, on aid efficiency:

“Before I do interviews, I need to know what distinguishes World Vision from its competitors,” McGovern says. “Is it less well-known because it spends less on promotion?”

“I don’t know about that,” says Wilson. “World Vision paid for this trip, and that’s not cheap.”

Elizabeth McGovern, on the lasting tragedy she experienced in Sierra Leone:

On the final morning, in a guesthouse in a very poor area, McGovern emerges from her room as white as a sheet.

“My iPhone,” she says. “I dropped it in the toilet.” Somebody cites the urban myth that the phone should be covered with rice. McGovern asks our hostess if that would be possible. She nods and brings a sack of rice out of her storeroom. McGovern places her iPhone in a plastic bag and pours a generous helping of rice on top of it. It stays like this all the way home, but the iPhone never recovers.

Activist of the Week: Alaa Abd Al-Fattah

Happy Martin Luther King week! (Yes, it’s a week. I make the rules ’round these parts. Shush your face.)

Rather than focus on King himself, though, it seems more relevant for this blog to honor his legacy by recognizing the sacrifices being made by activists around the world today. Like King, they have suffered physical danger, imprisonment, and separation from their families in service of their goal. Unlike him, however, they are still struggling, still in danger, and still in a position to benefit from our support and attention.

So, this post is the first in an ongoing series highlighting the work and sacrifices of individual activists. (And not in a “I sacrificed my summer vacation to work with poor brown children” kind of way – whites in shining armor need not apply.) Enjoy.

This week’s activist is Egypt’s Alaa Abd El Fattah.
Photo of Alaa Using His Laptop
Congratulations, Alaa! I would send you some Lucky Charms or a certificate suitable for framing, but we’re pretty sure that it would be confiscated by your jailers.

Nature of Activism: Support for political freedom and civil rights in Egypt.

Activism Highlights: Contributed to freedom of expression in Egypt by founding the Omraneya blog aggregator. Participated in protests against all Egyptian governments that have been in power during his lifetime: the Mubarak regime, (most notably during the climactic Tahrir protests in February 2011), the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (“SCAF”) which replaced Mubarak, the elected Muslim Brotherhood-led government which succeeded SCAF, and the current military regime which took power last summer.

Notable Sacrifices: He has been arrested and imprisoned three times: by Mubarak in 2006, (45 days in jail); by SCAF in 2011 (56 days in jail, during which he missed the birth of his son), and by the current military government (55 days and counting, he is still in prison).

Degree of Success Thus Far: Mixed. On the one hand, the Mubarak regime was overthrown, and eventually replaced by a democratically-elected government. On the other hand, that elected government proved somewhat less than awesome, and was itself overthrown by a popular uprising. The military-led government that replaced it has not exactly embraced democratic ideals.

Alaa’s friends on his work, and its value:

From Jillian York:

“I’ve said it to reporters so many times that it’s almost lost its meaning, but I’ll say it again: Alaa is in prison not because he committed a crime, not because he said too much, but because his very existence poses a threat to the state. Those who are bold, those who do not relent, will always threaten the terrified and ultimately weak state which must, to survive, squash its opponents like flies. But Alaa will not allow himself to be crushed like that, I know.

There is little more I can say that hasn’t been or wouldn’t be better said by Egyptians, those who fought these battles on the street while I merely watched, an observer with a few good friends on the ground. But the one thing I know is that we must not give up. Alaa hasn’t, and we cannot.”

From Alia Mossalam:

“Alaa is in jail because he openly speaks against injustice. He is as open in his opposition to the failures of the Muslim Brotherhood as he was of the crimes of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, as he is with the new regime. As a result he has been tried by every regime, from Mubarak to the current military state.

[…]

There is no bigger threat to despotism than hope. And Alaa inspires hope wherever he goes, because he believes justice is an achievable reality, and because he believes in the rule of law, despite those who oppress us in its name. Alaa is dangerous because his ideas and enthusiasm are contagious. Where would we be if we all had hope? How could a system that breads futility, survive us?

In an article he wrote months ago, Alaa described the excessive arming of civilians (in popular committees) as well as security forces as “khan’ misahit hub al-hayah” (a stifling of the capacity to love life). The term has stuck with me since, because somehow, in the ugliness of battle, we tend to forget that the root of this struggle is the love of life.
If I were to articulate why it is that Alaa would risk so much, what it is he is resisting with all his might, it would be exactly that — he is resisting the stifling of our scope to love and to live.”

More thoughts on Alaa from his friends can be found here, here, and here – all are well worth a read.

Mass Atrocity Monday, 1/20/2014

Welcome to Mass Atrocity Monday, your biweekly bulletin on lesser-known episodes of mass slaughter, systematic rape, and ethnic cleansing. No Holocaust, Rwandan Genocide, or Khmer Rouge here, folks. It’s going to be all Palmyra Prison, Khojaly, and She’ib massacres, all the time.

Today’s entry comes to us from Afghanistan. The year is 1978. The ominously-named government agency: The Department for Safeguarding the Interests of Afghanistan (AGSA). The victims: tens of thousands of Afghan citizens, accused of dissident activity and murdered by their own government.

Here’s what happened:

Following the April 1978 coup that brought them into power, the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) began a brutal (and ultimately unsuccessful) campaign to secure its hold on the country. As was fashionable among communist revolutionaries at the time, the regime rounded up professionals, intellectuals, and civic leaders.

Over the next 20 months, thousands of Afghan civilians were abducted, tortured, and in many cases extrajudicially executed. (The unpublished UN mapping report estimates that as many as 100,000 people may have been disappeared during this period.) For decades the families of these individuals have waited; first for their loved ones to come home, then for information about their fate. But as Afghanistan has reeled from one crisis to the next, no official acknowledgment or justice process has been forthcoming.

Screen shot 2014-01-20 at 3.49.10 PM

Screen shot 2014-01-20 at 3.47.32 PMRecently, however, a partial list of victims was made public by an unlikely source: the Dutch government. In 1993, a man called Amanullah Osman applied for asylum in the Netherlands. At his interview, he identified himself as the former head of AGSA’s interrogation unit and admitted to having been responsible for torture and executions. Unsurprisingly, the Dutch did not grant him asylum. What they did do was open a criminal investigation.

Over the course of their investigation, the Dutch police obtained from witnesses a set of Transfer Orders, documenting the movement of political prisoners between detention centers, and a list of 4,785 people detained and killed during the purges. In fact, the “death list” is one of a series “released in 1979 and 1980 by leaders who sought to tarnish the reputation of their predecessors.”

These lists did not make their way into the hands of the families of the disappeared, many of whom have continued searching for closure for 35 years. The Dutch authorities therefore decided to make publicly searchable both the death list and the transfer orders. With the release of this information, a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of victims of Afghanistan’s decades of violence may finally know peace of mind. But so far, no one has received justice.

 

*For more information, check out the aforementioned UN Mapping Report, the work of the Afghanistan Justice Project, and this old-timey Amnesty International report (from 1979!).

WTF Friday, 1/17/2014

OMG you guys, stop the presses. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has FIGURED OUT WHAT CAUSES GAYNESS.

M7Yes, that’s right. One of the great mysteries of our time has been solved by the same scientific genius who brought us tear gas as sedative.

Per M7, “random breeding” in degenerate Western societies has produced the “abnormality” of homosexuality. For men, anyway. Lesbianism is obviously explained by “sexual starvation”. (Vitamin D deficiency, amirite?)

Somehow, this breathtaking exercise of logic led him to refuse to sign the draconian anti-gay law. So… yay?

 

*Photo of the man himself, probably hard at work developing cold fusion, from the Wiki.

Additional Reading for Extra Credit

I’ve got a new piece up today at Beacon about efforts to use the courts in Argentina, Spain, and the U.S. to provide accountability for long-ago-and-far-away human rights violations: Who’s Afraid of Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction?

And, in case that $5/month price tag is too steep (hey, I get it, we’ve all been there), a bunch of my earlier posts are now un-gated. Check them out:

  1. A Domestic Trial for Gaddafi’s Spymaster
  2. Why Is an American Pastor Being Sued over Uganda’s Mistreatment of Gays?
  3. The International Criminal Court’s Worsening Africa Problem
  4. An Unwelcome Visitor: Omar Bashir Plans a Trip to New York
  5. Will Assad Face Prosecution for War Crimes?

Get It While It’s Hot: War Don Don Now Available Online

Exciting news for all fans of thoughtful media about mass atrocity prosecutions: War Don Don is now available on VOD! Find it here. (Currently it’s only available on iTunes, but director Rebecca Richman Cohen tells me that it will soon be on Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, and X-Box as well.)

The film will also play on PBS on January 27th, as part of the AfroPoP series.

My original review of War Don Don from 2010 is re-posted below. Since writing it, I’ve used the film as part of my human rights classes at Fordham, and it never failed to prompt an extremely interesting classroom debate about the interaction between our ideals of justice, and the institutions we expect to make those ideals a reality. Highly recommended for classroom use.

Original June 2010 Review:

Things I Liked Quite a Bit: War Don Don
If you’re in New York this week, or DC next week, I highly recommend checking out War Don Don, a new documentary about former RUF leader Issa Sesay’s trial in the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Director Rebecca Richman Cohen has a J.D. from Harvard law school, and she puts her legal knowledge to good use in this film. Rather than pushing a particular narrative, or view of the international justice system, War Don Don allows the individuals at the heart of the trial to speak for themselves. This leads to some unintentionally funny results at times – at one point prosecutor David Crane (who has since further distinguished himself by becoming an advisor to that ridiculous “to catch a war criminal” show) looks into the camera and says, in an ominous tone, that Sesay’s trial was “the first time I looked into the eyes of a human being and realized that he had no soul.” By contrast, defense attorney Wayne Jordash is prone to wistful sighs about how nice a guy Sesay is, and how he wishes that he weren’t in prison so that they could hang out more.

Amidst the amusing soundbites, however, War Don Don manages to highlight some serious issues with the way the tribunal has administered justice. For instance, although both sides offered payments to witnesses to cover the costs associated with their testimony, the prosecution was able to pay far more than the defense, as well as to offer perks like resettlement in a wealthy country. More troubling still, Sesay receives little credit for his efforts at resolving the war: he was the RUF commander who presided over the disarmament process, a task which he undertook over the objections of much of the RUF’s senior leadership. In a statement delivered to the court during the sentencing phase of his trial, Sesay pointed out that rebels who had refused to disarm were being courted by the UN, while he – who had actively participated in the peace process years earlier – was now in the dock.

To the film’s credit, it doesn’t feel forced to answer the questions it raises. War Don Don is a way to start a broader conversation about international justice, not to end one.

In sum: go, and take your interns with you! War Don Don is showing today at 2 PM and Wednesday the 16th at 4 PM here in New York, as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, and then on June 22nd and 26th in Silver Spring, as part of the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival.

The Recently-Discovered Secret Diary of Kim Jong Un’s Ski Instructor, Alex

[For background, see here, here, here, and here]

Day 1:
“Ski instructor” is the best job in entire world. Today, sky was clear, powder was perfect … and yours truly was hired by group of NBA stars! Dennis Rodman! And other less famous NBA players whom I did not recognize! All v. exciting.

(Philosophical question: why is satisfaction of being excellent ski instructor less than satisfaction of being more awesome at skiing than “The Worm”?)

Day 2:
Love job! Best job job eversss. More Rodman skiings then brilliant night at bar with brilliant new friends Rodman and other new Korean friends. Me and Rodman going to start cover band singing Backstreet Boys songs, thing will be a big hit.

Tried to get Koreans to sing with us but they refused. Kept asking Rodman “are you sure he is the right one?” and showing him photos of something. Ridiculous questions, obviously am right one, was born to sing Backstreet’s Back. Koreans nice later though, bought me special drinks just for me. Serenaded my thanks: “I want it that way.”

Idea: other less-famous NBA players can be backup singers instead! Backstreet Backups hahahahaha.

Day 3:
Woke up. Splitting headache. Room unfamiliar.

Rodman came in with coffee and a bowl of rice. Coffee + rice quite good hangover remedy, as it turns out. (Suppose is not surprising that Rodman would know that.)

Asked Rodman where I am. He said “Still the Alps, man! Definitely still the Alps! Really.” Then laughed uproariously, left room.

Am not sure what was so funny re: Alps.

Day 4:
Peculiar day.

Went skiing with NBA friends again. To my great surprise, who should join our lesson but my former student Un-Pak! Taught Un-Pak years ago when he was just a chubby teen. Hadn’t seen him for years – one day he called to say that he couldn’t make it to ski lesson because he had to go home to Korea to run his family business. Asked him how Korea is. He said “you tell me!” and then giggled with Rodman. (????)

Strange thing, though: ski runs this afternoon v unfamiliar. And strangely empty. Didn’t see any other skiers all day. Views don’t look right either. Tried to find the Matterhorn, in order to orient self, but couldn’t. Rodman pointed at peak in the distance, and said “there it is, man, now will you stop asking so many questions?” but shape of that mountain appeared quite different from Matterhorn.

Also! Noticed that the signs that say “You are Totally in the Alps” and “Matterhorn This Way –>” were just posters taped over other signs, which were in Korean. When asked Un-Pak about this, he started shouting that this was a real ski resort, and pointing to all the “European” lift chairs and other equipment. Something about human rights, too.

So, to recap situation: woke up in unfamiliar room after long night of hard drinking with NBA stars and unknown Koreans. Head v. painful. Resort empty. Ski runs unfamiliar. Matterhorn wrong shape.

Pretty sure have figured out what is going on here.

Clearly, Rodman & Un-Pak have built a ski resort on newly-discovered Alp, and want self to join as partner, due to excellent ski-instructing prowess! Probably are waiting for right moment for big “reveal” of new resort catering to Korean tourists!

Will say nothing, so as not to spoil surprise.

Day 5:
Today Un-Pak brought more Koreans skiing with us, presumably investors in the resort. Bit of an odd day.

Other Koreans seemed quite unclear on “skiing” concept. Put on their skis, but just stood at top of the run, observing us. They applauded Un-Pak constantly, even when he fell down. (He clearly hasn’t skied much lately.) When I tried to explain to them, for educational purposes, that remaining upright is a key element of good skiing, they began to shout at me that I was violating their human rights.

Am not a lawyer, but if there was a human right to fall down while skiing, imagine I would have encountered it previously.

Tried to make conversation with them, but found it a struggle.  They kept bringing up strange hypotheticals, such as:

“Which do you think is better, having enough food to eat, or starving to death but knowing there is a world-class ski resort in your country?”

“Which would be worse, being executed by firing squad or by being devoured by hungry dogs?  What if you really like dogs, and wouldn’t want them to be hungry?”

“Which is a more important human right, access to imported ski lift equipment, or access to nuclear weapons?”

Perhaps they have downloaded a new version of Cards Against Humanity.  Must remember to check that out next time am online.

Day 6:
Worried may have upset Un-Pak and Korean investors. While on ski lift this morning, attempted to demonstrate ease with Korean culture by casually mentioning that several previous ski-instruction clients live in Seoul, and suggesting we all visit them there.

Response was not as hoped. Perhaps “I hear Seoul is lovely this time of year” sounds similar to a mortal insult in Korean? Investors recoiled, and began to look around frantically to see if anyone else had heard.

Confusion only increased throughout day. Later, one of the investors who initially seemed insulted by Seoul comment (think is named Tong?) sidled up and said quietly “yes Seoul is lovely in winter, I too have many friends there.” If that is true, why initial horrified reaction?

Still, was happy to be building alliance with Tong. Is my understanding, from watching The Apprentice, that alliances are v. important in business.

At lunch, attempted to extend new alliance with Tong to other investors. Turned to others at table, and said “Tong and I are making plans to visit some clients of mine in Seoul this winter. Why don’t you all come along?”

Tong must have wanted me all to himself, because when I made my offer to others, he got a funny expression on his face. Left table without a word! Other investors began talking amongst selves in low voices, in Korean. Rude, if you ask me.

Attempting to stay cheery by keeping mind on ski-resort opportunity. Rudeness of investors unimportant in face of potential career success. Shall be resort mogul! Perhaps own branded ski-wear line for Korean market? (Un-Pak and investors inexplicably all wear full-length wool coats on the slopes. Market for parkas must be wide open.)

Day 7:
Growing annoyed by investors’ behavior. This morning, realized had not checked in with boss in days, and asked to borrow investor’s phone. Rudely denied, told that boss already has “all necessary information”!

Find that hard to believe. Surely, would not have wanted boss to know that they are planning to poach me for new resort?

Worrying thought: perhaps they took new-resort idea to boss first, and he declined? What does he know that I don’t know?

Skied in afternoon, but heart not in it. Un-Pak and Rodman did ski runs together, made great show of being good friends. Felt bit left out, if am being honest. Who taught them to ski, anyway?

Absurdly cold out. Have never known it to be so cold in Alps before. Perhaps is just my bad mood, making weather seem worse than really is.

Very, very cold though.

No sign of Tong.

Day 8:
Seriously annoyed now. Tong failed to show up, yet again. Does he think our Seoul trip is going to plan itself?

Rodman noticed my foul mood, attempted to placate me with promise of one-on-one basketball game and signed jersey. Informed him that being beaten at basketball by geriatric ex-NBA player was unlikely to make me feel better.

Rodman said he was shocked that his “basketball diplomacy” offer was rejected. Informed him that “basketball diplomacy” is not a thing.

Un-Pak wanted Rodman to play with him instead. Made us all watch as Rodman played comically badly in order to let him win. (He must really want in on this resort deal.) Other investors acted like it was a real game, heaped ridiculous praise on Un-Pak. Noticed that they keep calling him “Jong-Un” – some sort of nickname?

Could not stop myself, loudly asked Rodman why he let Un-Pak win. Rodman claimed had done no such thing, but Un-Pak became enraged. Threw both his sneakers at my head, and said never wanted to see me again.

Assume this means ski lessons this afternoon are off.

Feeling regretful of outburst now. Hope have not lost chance at resort opportunity. Apparently whole group going drinking this evening, perhaps can patch things up then.

Day 9:
Another splitting headache. Last thing I remember was doing shots while Rodman held me upside down by ankles over a snowdrift.

Awoke in own bed, in own apartment, though. Unsure how I got here, but am impressed with own resourcefulness while drunk!

Signed NBA basketball next to me. Inscription from Rodman: “great hangin’ with you, man.” Inscription from someone else: “You are being watched. Say nothing or Tong’s fate will be your own.” Not sure what that’s supposed to mean – is Tong off the resort deal?

Day 10:
Shocking day.

Police showed up at apartment, questioned self for nearly 6 hours. Wanted to know where I had been. For some reason seemed reluctant to believe story of new Korean-only resort on untouched Alp. Reshaping of Matterhorn seemed to be particular sticking point.

Police claimed that my pal “Un-Pak” is really despotic leader of North Korea. Showed me photos from North Korean government sources. Supposedly is common knowledge, but as I pointed out, can’t be that common if I didn’t know.

Is true that it did look like him.

But is just too hard to believe.

… right?

Rodman is going to be so surprised when I tell him.

Ski-slope photo credit: nonanet on Flickr, under a creative commons license. The use of the photograph in this post should not be taken as a sign that the photographer endorses this post, the North Korean regime, or the services of Alex the fictional ski instructor.

New Feature: Mass Atrocity Monday

Amanda seems to have a handle on the desserts and ridiculousness side of things, so I’m going to focus on injecting a little more atrocity into this atrocity humor blog.

As some of you know, I’m mid-way through writing a dissertation on criminal accountability for acts of mass atrocity. That means I spend a good whack of my time cataloguing and typologizing the horrors of the last half-century. (And you thought political scientists never have any fun.)

The project has yielded all sorts of fascinating trivia, which I’ve decided to share with / inflict on you. So, at the start of every other week in 2014, brace yourselves for Mass Atrocity Monday, because that’s happening.

WTF Friday, 1/10/2014

Today in “things you didn’t know you could get arrested for”: Opposition politician Frank Bwalya has been arrested and charged with defamation for calling Zambian president Michael Sata a potato. Specifically, a chumbu mushololwa, which is, apparently, a “sweet potato that breaks when it is bent”. He faces up to five years of prison time if convicted of this heinous offense.

In an interview with Voice of America, Bwalya claimed that his remarks were misinterpreted:

I called him a crooked sweet potato that cannot be straightened. It is a commonly used phrase which is not insulting. It is to explain the attitude of a person who doesn’t want to be advised who doesn’t want to be counseled.

So there you go. He meant potato in the sense of being a bad leader who won’t take advice, not in the more insulting sense of being a starchy tuber that tastes delicious with steak.

In either case, it hardly seems to qualify as “abusive language” aimed at “intentionally undermining the constitution”. So maybe dial it back a notch with your insane defamation statute, Zambia?

H/T: Ben in Lusaka

Starting As I Mean to Go On: Resolutions for 2014

Hello, 2014, I’m so happy to see you!  

So, so happy. Happy … and a little surprised?

Not that I didn’t think you’d show up, but the highlights of my 2013 included “not getting blown up by that bomb that time,” and “all those great funerals,” so at times it felt like my luck was running out. Guess not, though!

To honor my unexpected success in making it out of 2013 with only some light singeing around my edges, I’ve made some resolutions. As I’m sure will surprise no one who knows me, I don’t believe in resolutions to do more things that I don’t want to do, but seem prudent. Rather, I only resolve to do more things that I do want to do, and might be tempted to deny myself in the name of prudence. And so:

The 2014 Resolutions of A. Taub:

1. Make and eat more desserts and other delicious foods. Self-explanatory. Delicious food is awesome, and shifting the balance between delicious food/just okay food towards the former seems like a clear win. In fact, because I am working from home today on account of Polar Vortex, I shall start right now, and make the Peanut-Butter Brown-Butter Rice Krispie Treats that are described in the recipe at the end of this post, after the jump. (If you have suggestions for the leftovers, you should email me.)

2. Watch more TV. I love TV, it is the best! And yet sometimes there is TV out there that I want to watch, and don’t, because I think I could use the time more productively by doing something else. That is clearly fear talking, and in 2014 I am going to face the fear and do it anyway. And by “do it,” I mean “watch television like a boss.” A boss of television watching.

3. Go to more of my favorite absurdly expensive exercise classes. I discovered Refine midway through 2013, and found that it offers exactly what I look for in a physical activity. Namely: a supervised, encouraging environment with good lighting in which to absolutely fucking destroy myself until all that remains is a damp little heap of Amanda-scraps bathed in endorphins.

I don’t care that it costs a gajillion dollars a class, I need more of that in my life. (That sentence was lies, in fact I do care, I wish they weren’t priced so decadently, but these resolutions are about finding a way to go anyway.)

4. Write more ridiculous blog posts.  From the beginning, this blog has been primarily a humorous site about atrocities, so we have never made any claims to seriousness, but I feel that perhaps I have not done a good enough job of plumbing the depths of my own un-seriousness in the last year. So, in 2014, whenever I have an idea to which my initial response is “I think that’s hilarious, but no one else would ever want to read my New Year’s resolutions/brief imagined memoirs of Kim Jong Un’s first ski instructor/travel skin-care advice for places with limited running water,” I resolve to write it and post it anyway, for the non-enjoyment of you, our long-suffering readers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

(Obviously, with this post, I am starting as I mean to go on.)

Salted Peanut-Butter Brown-Butter Rice Krispie Treats

A perfect choice to brighten up those dreary winter days when you’re inside hiding from the Polar Vortex, South Sudan’s peace talks seem shaky, and Rwandan government officials are being astonishingly dickish – even for them – about a murdered opposition figure.

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