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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Do Dogs Think?

Jul 10, 2013
Originally published on July 10, 2013 11:21 pm

I post regularly here at 13.7 about animal cognition, crediting a variety of animals — including some of our daily companions — with the ability to think. So I'd forgive anyone for wondering if my headline today is of the straw-man (or straw-dog) category.

Do dogs think? Of course they do!

Doing a radio interview recently, though, I was reminded that some dog owners are still convinced that dogs don't think, but instead act on instinct and live tethered to the present, in a moment-to-moment way.

That's what my debate partner, Globe and Mail columnist Sarah Hampson, declared when we participated in an episode of the CBC radio program Tooth and Claw. Our primary task was to engage with one question: Do we love some animals too much? Hampson took the "yes" side and I the "no" position.

Along the way, as we delved into animal thinking and emotion, Hampson said this (though it was cut from the segment that aired):

I would take issue with Barbara's point that [dogs] are thinking animals. This is where I sort of agree with Cesar Millan [the Dog Whisperer]. He actually talks about how they are an instinctual animal and what we love about them is their instinctual way of being. In other words they react to things that are right in front of them. And I think we all love that about animals. But I find it worrisome when we start saying that they are "thinking." I just think that they are "being" and that is partly what we love about them. That they don't think as much as we do.

Now, there at the end, Sarah takes a hard turn and retreats into saying dogs don't think as much as we do. I'm not anyone would claim dogs think as much as we do! But is she right to worry about a view of dogs as thinking beings?

Have a look at this dog. At first the dog, in swinging from the tree branch, might seem only to be playing, while cheered on by humans. Watch to the end, though, and you'll see this animal had a goal firmly in mind all along.

Next, see this clip of a dog escaping an enclosure. Isn't this dog thinking?

Each dog planned ahead to solve a problem, step-by-step. (Skeptics, I know, will seek simpler explanations that relate to conditioning rather than thinking. But the dogs' persistence doesn't support that view.)

There are some good reasons to put the brakes on truly runaway claims of dog thinking, though. Dogs may not think in every single situation (and who among us does?). On this point, I consulted Christy Hoffman, assistant professor of animal behavior, ecology and conservation at Canisius College. A former student of mine at the College of William and Mary, Hoffman sounded this note of caution:

We sometimes give dogs too much credit for thinking through their actions, and this can harm the human-dog relationship. For example, if you assume your dog premeditated his attack on your sofa cushions because you skipped his morning walk, you may be tempted to scold him more harshly than you would if you realize he may have shredded the cushions out of boredom and does not know associate the punishment with disemboweling the couch three hours prior. Clever experiments conducted by Alexandra Horowitz, Julie Hecht and others have indicated the dog's "guilty look" does not mean the dog necessarily has a sense of guilt.

Hoffman notes that dogs' sensory worlds differ significantly from ours — dogs rely more on their nose and ears than on the eyes as we primates do — and this can make it hard for us to assess their thinking.

Hoffman definitely doesn't deny thinking to dogs. Some dogs, she says, clearly show us what's on their minds:

One thing we do know from dogs like Rico and Chaser, however, is that at least some dogs are capable of learning to identify 1000+ objects by name and can even categorize objects (e.g., a tennis ball and a golf ball are both categorized as balls). When presented with a word they had never heard, these dogs would select out of a pile of objects the one that had not yet been assigned a name. That's a pretty neat example of dogs' problem solving abilities.

Do dogs think? Of course they do.


Barbara's new book is How Animals Grieve. You can up with what she is thinking on Twitter.

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