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.

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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.

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Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

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Editor's note: This report contains accounts of rape, violence and other disturbing events.

Sex trafficking wasn't a major concern in the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. If you were a prostitute, the thinking went, it was your choice.

Jacobs thought that too, right up until she came to, on the lot of a dark truck stop one night. She says she had asked a friendly-seeming man for a ride home that afternoon.

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Budget Woes Mean Big Delays For Small Claims Courts

May 15, 2013
Originally published on May 17, 2013 5:14 am

Across the country, cash-strapped state and local governments are not just cutting services — they're also cutting access to courts. The tip of the iceberg may be small claims courts.

These courts, dealing with disputes involving small sums of money, are the workhorses of the judicial system. There are thousands of such courts across the country, but perhaps nowhere are they being cut more dramatically than in California.

Small claims courts were created in the mid-20th century to allow people to resolve monetary disputes that are small in the greater scheme of things but huge to people of limited means.

And they're unique in how efficient they are. Defendants and plaintiffs don't need a lawyer and judges usually make their rulings on the spot, often in 30 minutes or less. They're meant for people like Mark Delnero, the owner of a charter fishing boat company.

In December, Delnero drove to the San Joaquin County Courthouse, plunked down a $30 fee and asked the small claims court to give him justice. He claimed a customer stiffed him with a bad check for $740. Then, he says, the court let him down, too. "Nothing like being shafted twice," Delnero says. "Once by the bad-check bouncer and then by the Stockton court."

'Your Case Sits And Goes Nowhere'

The court told him he would receive notice of a hearing in 90 days, Delnero says, but he never heard anything. So he called the small claims courts after 90 days and then again after 120 days.

Both times, he says, the court told him his case still wasn't scheduled. "I don't have faith in how the courts work," Delnero says. "I'm just in awe. I don't know what to think."

More than 800 other people in San Joaquin County are facing the same situation. The Stockton court hasn't set a trial date for any small claims cases filed since September and officials say they don't know when they'll start setting dates.

"In our county, if you file a small claims case it simply sits in the proverbial box waiting to get a trial date. Your case sits and goes nowhere," says the court's presiding judge, David Warner. "It's not right, but you have to have sufficient resources to get those cases done and we don't have those resources."

Other courts are implementing similar cost-saving measures. Los Angeles County Superior Court will soon reduce the number of courthouses at which it hears small claims cases from 27 to just six. The county also plans to close down eight courthouses entirely.

'A Practical Versus A Real Right'

The cuts have led community groups to file to a lawsuit claiming the reduction in services disproportionately affects minorities and low-income people.

Poor people have the same right to go to the court as the wealthy, says Ken Theisen, an advocate with Bay Area Legal Aid. "But ... if you don't have an attorney, if you don't have the means to go to court, if you don't have the time to spend hours and hours waiting in line, the reality is you are denied access to justice. It's a practical right versus a real right."

That real right for his day in court is something Delnero is still waiting for — and he's losing hope. "It's not going to ever happen, is it?" he asks. "Because I could use the money now. I'm struggling to pay rent.

"Rent is due today, as a matter of fact," he adds.

As state court systems grapple with reduced budgets, a "new normal" has emerged — one that involves limited clerks hours, longer wait times to go to trial, fewer court reporters, and higher fees just to try to get justice. Even though you might end up waiting a very long time.

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