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.

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Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

1 hour ago
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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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Comp Time Or Cold Cash. Which Would You Pick?

May 13, 2013
Originally published on May 13, 2013 1:19 pm

Overtime or comp time? Which one suits you best?

Both you and your boss may agree it would be best for you to work a sixth day when a big project is due in March, and then take off for a long weekend in June. No big deal.

But under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, private employers must pay time and a half to workers who put in more than 40 hours on the job in any one week.

In most cases, workers are eager to get that overtime pay. But some might want more flexibility about how they get compensated for extra hours.

Republican lawmakers want to write compensatory time into law. Last week, the GOP-led House voted 223-204 along party lines to approve the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, which would allow workers to stockpile their comp time — up to 160 hours.

The idea of working longer hours in winter in exchange for an extended summer vacation might sound like a simple and popular change. But critics say the bill is fraught with risks for workers who would have no legal right to decide when to use their comp time, even if a family emergency occurs. They fear that employers would use the measure as a way to pressure employees into working erratic schedules for less cash pay.

Senate Democrats are likely to block the bill, but Republicans plan to keep pushing the idea, which they say is especially popular with many working mothers.

So what are the arguments — for and against — changing the law, and what do economists say? Here's an overview.

The Working Families Flexibility Act Of 2013

The GOP-backed bill would allow employees to choose between taking cash wages or getting comp time, accrued at the same time-and-a-half rate as overtime pay. The employer could not force a worker to take comp time but would permit stockpiling up to 160 hours. At the end of the year, the worker could convert any unused comp time for cash wages at that point.

At a House hearing last month, Karen DeLoach, a bookkeeper from Alabama, testified for the bill. "Certain times of the year, such as the quarterly payroll tax return months, are much busier than other times of the year," she said. "If I work overtime in April, for example, I would like to have the option of ... taking leave without pay in June or July."

The Democratic Pushback

Last week, the White House said President Obama would veto any legislation that "undermines the existing right to hard-earned overtime pay, on which many working families rely to make ends meet."

The administration says it objects to the Republican legislation because it lacks "protections for employees who may not want to receive compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay," and fails to "guarantee that workers would be able to use the time they have earned when they choose."

The White House also points out that the bill would allow a worker to accrue as many as 160 hours of comp time — or 20 full days — but provides no protections if the employer were to shut down or declare bankruptcy before employees' free time could be used.

The Economist's View

Nariman Behravesh, chief economist for IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm, said that in terms of the broad economy, the legislation would not have much of an impact because employers have figured out ways to cope with peak and slack periods without relying heavily on overtime. He noted that Labor Department statistics show no increase in overtime hours in the past year because companies routinely turn to temps and part-time workers to cover seasonal rushes of business.

While comp time and overtime pay might be issues that matter to individual workers, "this is definitely not something we hear about" when meeting with business owners, he said. "Not being able to hire skilled workers is a much bigger issue."

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