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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That Employee Who Smokes Costs The Boss $5,800 A Year

Jun 4, 2013
Originally published on June 5, 2013 8:42 am

Smoking is expensive, and not just for the person buying the cigs. Employers are taking hard looks at the cost of employing smokers as they try to cut health insurance costs, with some refusing to hire people who say they smoke.

But figures on the cost of smoking have been rough estimates at best, with a very general estimate of $193 billion a year nationwide.

Researchers now say they're got much tighter focus on the number: $5,800 per smoker per year.

And the biggest chunk of that comes not in health care costs, but in work lost during all those smoke breaks. That came in at $3,077, based on an estimate of five smoke breaks during the work day.

"The smoking breaks added up to a lot more than we expected," says Micah Berman, an incoming assistant professor of law and public policy at Ohio State University, who led the study, which was published in Tobacco Control.

The researchers tried to be conservative in estimating the number of smoke breaks, figuring on five 15-minute breaks in an eight-hour workday, three of which took place during sanctioned break times. So the cost could well be higher.

Other costs include more sick days due to health problems, at $517 per smoker, and $462 a year for lower productivity while working because of withdrawal symptoms, which kick in within 30 minutes of that last drag.

In recent years, some hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic, have decided to no longer hire smokers. But more than half of states make it illegal to discriminate against smokers in the hiring process.

Some employers charge higher health insurance premiums to employees who smoke. But that could keep smokers from getting much needed medical care and smoking cessation programs, critics argue. A small number of states have passed laws protecting smokers against a provision in the Federal Affordable Care Act that lets smokers be charged more.

"I'm not sure what impact that is going to have on people making decisions starting to smoke or quitting," Berman says of efforts to put the financial hurt on smokers. "Most people start to smoke when they're minors" — not a time when they're thinking about future health insurance premiums. Quitting, he tells Shots, "is extremely difficult and usually takes a lot of attempts to be successful."

But could smokers turn out to be cheaper hires because they don't live as long, avoiding the need for years of health care and retirement benefits? Not so, Berman says. There's a potential cost savings only if the employer has a defined benefit plan that gives retirees a guaranteed pension, Berman and his colleagues say. Those kinds of retirement plans are increasingly rare.

But if a company has one, they can save $296 a year in pension costs by hiring a smoker, the researchers say. Still, that's far outweighed by the cost of all those smoke breaks.

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