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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Heavy Metal In Kabul? It's The Music, Not The Munitions

May 15, 2013
Originally published on May 16, 2013 9:35 am

When 23-year-old Solomon "Sully" Omar felt the music scene in his native Denver wasn't giving him what he was looking for, he made a radical move. He headed for Kabul, capital of the war-torn country his parents had fled decades ago.

"I came here to continue my education and at the same time see what's in the music scene here and bring some of the skills and abilities that I have to the music scene," says Omar.

Omar is a member of District Unknown, a full-on metal band whose performance was one of the highlights of the recent Sound Central Festival of alternative music and arts in Kabul. More than 30 bands performed over four days during the third annual event.

And if you can imagine it, District Unknown's sweat-inducing set had the hundreds of Afghan spectators on their feet.

Omar says he was pleasantly surprised to find an actual music scene when he arrived in Kabul.

"I was expecting to find" — he pauses — "nothing."

"I didn't know there was like crazy metal and dub step," Omar says. "I really wasn't expecting music to be alive and breathing and well and healthy here in Afghanistan."

The Family Returns To Afghanistan

Omar's roots are Afghan. He was born and raised in Colorado, where his parents ultimately settled after leaving Afghanistan in the wake of the 1979 Soviet invasion.

After the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, Omar's father started traveling back to Afghanistan, where he now works for the University of Massachusetts' Higher Education Project in Kabul. His mother works in Kabul advising female entrepreneurs.

His brother and sister both moved to Afghanistan, and Omar was the last of the family to resettle in Kabul.

He arrived last August and became the keyboard player, second guitarist and backing vocalist in District Unknown after initially helping them produce some songs.

Omar's parents attended the Sound Central Festival, and it was life coming full circle for the family. Omar's father — whom he describes as an artist and former hippie — performed on the very same stage of the French Cultural Center back in the '70s.

"My dad is a staunch supporter of my music career," says Omar. "He does want me to finish my school as a first priority."

Omar is doing just that. Currently a student at the American University in Kabul, he hopes eventually to study electronic music production at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Omar says it's a different experience performing in front of an Afghan audience.

"It's a mix of people who are both huge fans of alternative music and arts, and people who are completely new to it, and I think it makes for a great mix," he says.

While he has fans across Kabul who appreciate District Unknown and his DJ work, he does get strange looks from people when he tells his story.

"Most people that I tell that I came here, Afghans, they look at me like, 'What? Why?' " he says.

But, at least musically speaking, Omar was able to find what he was looking for.

"I'm happy here. There is here what I was longing for in the States as a musician — to find a thriving, kind of virgin music scene. That's the most awesome thing I could have wanted," Omar says. "It's not in the perfect circumstances, but I'll take it."

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