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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Greta Gerwig, Blithely Spirited As 'Frances Ha'

May 16, 2013
Originally published on May 17, 2013 1:14 pm

Long a darling of the New York indie scene, Noah Baumbach came to filmmaking with a solid pedigree: His father is a film theorist and his mother was a movie critic at the Village Voice (where I've contributed myself).

But after his first hit comedy, Kicking and Screaming, the writer-director developed a habit not uncommon among novice filmmakers: He mistook clever disdain for insight. The Squid and the Whale, a thinly veiled takedown of his own parents, reeked of mean spirits marinated in ironic detachment, and the murky Margot at the Wedding was close to unwatchable on several fronts.

Greenberg, starring Ben Stiller as a bitter New Yorker who moves to Los Angeles and learns how to be a decent person rather than a sulky failed star, brought out a more merciful spirit in Baumbach — in large measure because of Greta Gerwig's vivacious turn as a gawky, eternally optimistic aspiring singer who awakens the title character to the possibilities of everyday devotion.

Gerwig, the smart blond bombshell who found her way from mumblecore into the indie mainstream via Woody Allen's To Rome With Love and Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress, has been good for Baumbach. After Greenberg, the two became partners in life and work; now, together, they've written a new character, building on the dreamer Gerwig played in Greenberg. They moved her back to Manhattan, and made Frances Ha Baumbach's best film yet.

Gerwig plays Frances, an aspiring modern dancer whom we meet clinging for dear life to an apprenticeship with a choreographer who drops broad hints that Frances has no future with her company. She breaks up with her boyfriend millennial-style — "Sorry!" "Me too!" — and declares herself happy to continue living with her best friend, Sophie (a very good Mickey Sumner), "like an old lesbian couple that doesn't have sex anymore."

When the more goal-oriented Sophie moves on with life and love, Frances is left bereft of much more than the easy rapport with her friend that she assumed would go on forever. She reacts, mostly not well. Life blares change at her, but Frances turns deaf as a post.

This is Girls territory, but Baumbach's Truffaut-inflected New York, shot in black and white with a groovy score featuring Georges Delerue (veteran composer of the French New Wave) is a more elegant if less upscale place in which to have your fantasies demolished.

The movie's episodic, loosely associative rhythms mirror Frances' strenuous efforts to stem the tide and keep her dream intact. A ball of impulses, she revs into a tornado of motion, rushing off to her loving parents (played by Gerwig's own parental units) in Sacramento, to an empty apartment in Paris, to a college reunion in Poughkeepsie, to unsavory sublets in New York — anything to avoid moving forward with her life rather than dancing around it.

As in Greenberg, Gerwig uses her beguilingly klutzy physicality to signal the awkwardness of a perennial square peg. Yet Frances is far from pathetic. As ingenues go, she's actually fairly likable, an unquenchable flame burning in a world that disappoints her at best and threatens to crush her at worst. There's a touch of Gracie Allen in Frances, an indomitable blithe spirit who lives happily within a bubble-world of her own construction.

Don't mistake Frances Ha for an inspirational, how-I-found-maturity movie in any simple sense. Frances has no George Burns, no trust fund, no unearned movie-luck to protect her. She does find something to do, but whether you think she's been robbed, or rescued from the jail of unattainable ambition, may be an existential question.

Life can be rough, and for most of us it can take half a lifetime to acquire the astonishingly simple insight that it's worth being cheerful just because — or just despite. Running through the streets of New York for the sheer hell of it, Frances has the gift of joy to her very marrow. As for Greta Gerwig, I get the feeling she's just gearing up. (Recommended)

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