New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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An Alternate Universe Delights In Complex, Perplexing 'Duplex'

Sep 3, 2013
Originally published on September 3, 2013 5:04 pm

You're walking your dog in a suburb that may or may not exist in this dimension. The dog whines. You ignore him. Anyway, you're too busy looking out for that sexy, evil sorcerer. Suddenly, a gray rabbit appears, and you realize: the world is ending.

That is not a direct quote from Duplex, the latest novel from Kathryn Davis. Her sentences need a bit too much explanation. But there are plenty of passages I could cite that are equally bewildering. Really, I can't remember the last time I read a book so disorienting. Half the time I didn't know what was happening. Who was speaking. Whether or not they actually existed. But I can tell you, reading this book is a blast.

Duplex is a traditional love story tucked inside an adult fairy tale, wrapped in science fiction. I think there are two planets in the novel. Possibly they're the same world. Possibly they're neighbors. In the end, it doesn't really matter.

World number one is like a 1950s suburb. Kids play in the street. Neighbors gossip. Teenagers find sex confusing. So far, so good. However, there are also robots, but they're mostly like everybody else: discontented. Also, there's a playboy sorcerer, who will make your dreams come true for the measly price of your soul. And the suburb, as far as I can tell, operates in space and time like Brigadoon.

World number two: it appears to be our own. There, we track a group of schoolgirls at different stages of life. The head girl, Janice, is a bossy know-it-all. She's that older girl on the playground who keeps the little ones enthralled with dubious wisdom. But the stories Janice tells actually hearken back to that first world I mentioned — in fact, the two worlds may exist on top of one another, hence the novel's title. As you read, you realize it might even be possible to pass from one world to the next.

Thankfully, the laws of quantum mechanics do not power Duplex's magnetism. Instead, it is Davis's beautiful prose, her psychological awareness. She writes, about one of her robot characters, "The act of pretending to get older had managed to confer a kind of dignity on the robot, making it hard to remember that in actuality it was the size and shape of a needle."

Speed-readers, skip sentences at your peril — if only because something will happen that won't make sense for fifty pages, then turn out to be an essential narrative hinge. Halfway through, I put the book down for two days. When I picked it up again, I had to start all over just to understand what the hell was going on. Still, I wouldn't take back one minute of reading. Sometimes really good company, the interesting, mind-expanding kind, leaves you scratching your head.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.