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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Farm Free Or Die! Maine Towns Rebel Against Food Rules

Jun 21, 2013
Originally published on June 24, 2013 5:18 pm

New Englanders have never been shy about revolting against what they see as unfair food regulations. Remember that whole Boston Tea Party thing?

So perhaps it's not so surprising that in Maine, towns have been staging another revolution: They've declared independence from state and federal regulations on locally produced foods.

In May, the tiny Isle of Haut became the 10th town in the state to pass what's known as a food sovereignty ordinance. Essentially, these resolutions claim that small local food producers don't have to abide by state or federal licensing and inspection regulations if they are selling directly to consumers.

The idea is to spare farmers from burdensome regulations that are "squeezing the smallest of the small," says Bob St. Peter of the advocacy group Food For Maine's Future.

St. Peter helped draft one of the first local food sovereignty resolutions, passed in Blue Hill, Maine, back in 2011. That declaration of independence, he tells The Salt, was inspired in part by bureaucratic bumbling over chickens.

Maine had passed a law that allowed small-scale poultry producers — those selling less than $1,000 worth per year — to slaughter the birds on their farms instead of at a slaughterhouse. The goal was to help more farmers get into the poultry game, but when state regulators wrote up rules for how the home slaughtering would work, they came up with a scheme that would cost a poultry farmer some $30,000 to $40,000 to implement, he says.

"They took this exemption and made it worthless, basically," says St. Peter.

So Blue Hill and other towns revolted, passing laws that claimed local food sovereignty rights — rights that contradicted state rules. And the idea spread. The revolutionary fervor has now reached the statehouse.

In the past two weeks, state lawmakers have acted on several bills designed to exempt small local food producers from the reach of state regulators. Some of these bills — including ones designed to fix that small-scale poultry slaughter conundrum — have already been enacted into law.

One measure that failed to pass would have made local food sovereignty the law of the state. Some state lawmakers had raised fears that if Maine relaxed its food regulations in this way, federal food-safety authorities might step up their scrutiny.

St. Peter argues that he and other local food activists don't want to eliminate regulation; they just want to self-regulate at the community level among people who know and trust each other.

"At the scale we are talking about," St. Peter says, "where you are literally giving the food to the people who will eat it in their homes ... if you're producing bad food, people are going to know about it."

But just because you know your farmer doesn't mean your farmer knows food safety, says Kevin Poland, who runs a family farm in Brooklin, Maine. He's been a vocal opponent of the local food ordinances. Maine's food regulations, he says, are pretty lax already.

"It has nothing to do with encouraging local farming," Poland tells The Salt. "There's plenty of that here. What there should be more encouragement of is food safety. The state of Maine has laws that work." And the laws that are in place are there to keep consumers safe, he says.

That's what state agricultural officials argued when they brought down the law on Dan Brown, a Blue Hill dairy farmer who operates on a very small scale: just one cow. This week, Brown was ordered to pay more than $1,000 in fines and fees for selling raw milk without a license and without proper labeling.

Raw milk sales are legal in Maine, but there are some rules about how to go about it. Brown's case has been seen widely as a test of the legality of Maine's local food sovereignty revolution: Brown had claimed that Blue Hill's local food ordinance exempted him from state licensing and labeling regulations. The state disagreed, and so did the judge.

Ironically, one measure that has cleared a major hurdle in the statehouse would make it legal for small farmers like Brown to sell up to 20 gallons of raw milk a day without a license.

Even if it becomes law, it would come too late to save Brown, but the revolution marches on. (Cue the music.)

P.S.: Interestingly, the concept of food sovereignty originated not with farmers in Maine but with peasants in developing nations facing globalization. And it has spread to Europe, including farmers in Britain, as The Guardian reported this week.

P.P.S.: Yes, we know that Live Free or Die is New Hampshire's state motto, not Maine's.

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