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

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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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Court Prepares To Write New Chapters In Civil Rights History

Jun 1, 2013
Originally published on June 1, 2013 4:42 pm

It's not unusual for the Supreme Court to find itself at the center of roiling national debates.

But this month, justices are poised to deliver blockbuster opinions involving three of the most divisive issues in the public arena. And in doing so, they will write new and potentially groundbreaking chapters in America's civil rights story.

Affirmative action. Voting rights law. Same-sex marriage.

By June's end, Americans will know if and how public colleges and universities may administer programs designed to enroll more minority students.

Whether a key 1965 Voting Rights Act provision will survive, and with it federal monitoring of places with histories of discriminatory voting practices.

And if congressional action barring federal recognition of same-sex marriage is constitutional, and similar state restrictions enforceable.

"It is fascinating to see the court right smack in the middle of the hottest political controversies in the country," says Stephen Wermiel, a court and constitutional law expert, "albeit deciding their legal dimension, but with extraordinary societal ramifications."

Indeed, the court will weigh in at a time when national sentiment is in transition. The public is increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage. African-Americans are voting in percentages that rival their white counterparts. And race-based admission programs are continuing to fall out of public favor.

"These [cases] really go to the heart of who we are as a country, and the things that divide us as a country," says Wermiel, law school professor at American University and biographer of the late Justice William Brennan.

"As de Tocqueville wrote," he says, referring to the 19th century French thinker and author of Democracy in America, "every political issue in America ends up as a legal issue."

Who Are We?

Predicting how justices will rule is a dicey business (think Obamacare, upheld by a divided court just a year ago, and Chief Justice John Roberts' deciding vote to uphold). Conventional wisdom has coalesced around most-expected scenarios, given the court's makeup and the tenor of questions justices posed during arguments earlier this year.

There is speculation that the conservative court, typically divided 5-4 along ideological lines, will diminish the ability of public colleges and universities to use race as a favoring factor in enrollment. And that it will hem in the federal government's ability to monitor voting practices in specific jurisdictions — mostly in the South.

But while the court may be poised to curtail those programs, born of the civil rights movement and efforts to mitigate the cultural ravages of slavery and discrimination, it also seems ready to expand federal, if not state, marriage recognition to same-sex couples.

"This would confirm the court's willingness to play a central role in American life," says Jeffrey Rosen, law school professor at George Washington University and new head of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

The court, Rosen says, has never before confronted marriage equality so squarely, while at the same time contemplating the prospect of what he characterized as "truly restrictive" action on affirmative action and voting rights.

That expected — emphasis on "expected" — outcome, he says, would underscore the influence of Justice Anthony Kennedy, part of the court's conservative majority but a past swing vote on decisions that advanced the rights of gay Americans.

"The decisions under this scenario would reaffirm the Kennedy court, rather than the Roberts court, as the central dynamic among the justices," Rosen says.

If the court does strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, the legislation banning federal recognition of gay marriage, gay couples married in the dozen states where it's legal would have the same federal rights as heterosexual couples.

The Progressive Court Recedes

Linda Greenhouse, a Yale Law School lecturer and former New York Times Supreme Court reporter, views the changes expected out of this month's decisions as part of a decades-long move away from the progressivism embodied by the late Justices Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, both of whom retired in the early 1990s.

They were "the last true liberals on the Supreme Court," she said recently during a speech at Harvard, "the last who sought to harness the Constitution as an engine of social progress."

Greenhouse said that the question now is whether that liberal progressivism and its ideals will persevere or be seen as a "fading historic moment."

"Which," she asks, "is the true American story?"

It's likely that the court will end up issuing a complicated, nuanced answer to that question, not a single, central-themed message about civil rights.

"They may thoughtfully, carefully decide what's outlived its usefulness," says Wermeil, the Brennan biographer, "and what is just beginning a new life."

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