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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In More Cities, A Camera On Every Corner, Park And Sidewalk

Jun 20, 2013
Originally published on June 20, 2013 7:07 am

This report is part of the series NPR Cities: Urban Life In The 21st Century.

Surveillance cameras, and the sophisticated software packages that go with them, have become big business. Many small- and medium-sized cities across American are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on cameras and software to watch their residents.

These systems use some of the same kinds of technology the New York Police Department has deployed in lower Manhattan to catch terrorists. But many cities are now using the technology for policing as mundane as preventing vandalism at parks.

A case in point: Elk Grove, Calif. Elk Grove is a sleepy suburb of Sacramento with a modest crime rate. It's bordered to the south and west by wide-open ranch land. Last week I found myself sitting on a swing in Miwok Park, watching toddlers, kids and dog walkers. It couldn't have been a sleepier scene.

Nonetheless, I was being watched. There was a camera right above my head.

"I didn't even know that one was there," said Chelsea Yokkum, who was playing with her son.

Nearby, a couple was lying on a picnic blanket, snuggling. When I walked up, interrupting, they packed up to go. They said they knew there was a camera above their head, but that they had no idea what happened to the video feed.

It turns out it's sent directly to the Elk Grove Police Department.

"That is kind of scary in a sense," said the man, who declined to give his name. "Knowing that people are watching, no matter what." He's not alone. Many folks in Elk Grove who told me they are apprehensive about these cameras didn't want to speak on the record and didn't want to be identified.

Laura Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor who studies surveillance technology, says that kind of reaction to surveillance is common. She says proponents of cameras often argue that people with nothing to hide have nothing to fear.

The mindset, she says, is, "If you are not willing to submit to this, you must somehow be doing something that is illegal."

She adds: "I think this is simply false."

Elk Grove has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on surveillance, and it plans to spend more.

Lawrence Park playground burned to the ground in April, the result of a suspected arson. "I'd love to add a camera to this park if we can find the budget for it," says Bob Roessler, the administrator of the parks and recreation department.

Roessler says the department has already installed more than 30 cameras in parks across the city at a cost per camera of roughly $10,000. While the parks officials install, pay for and maintain these cameras, the video is shipped directly to the police department.

Across town, Chris Hill, IT manager for the Elk Grove Police Department, is the man in charge of building this network. When I visited, he showed me how video is accessible to dispatchers and showed off a rack of servers — all devoted to collecting more than 100 video feeds from all over the city.

Hill has built a system that's flexible and scalable. More than 100 feeds are viewable and searchable from his desk. "You can get camera feeds, you can make any screens you want, you can search any video," he says.

We lean over and watch men and women streaming in and out of a gym more than two miles away. "This was a known spot in the city of Elk Grove that had a high rate of car burglaries," Hill says.

We watch a woman open up her minivan door. Hill tracks her as she gets in and drives out of the lot. Then he zooms in to read her license plate.

It would take a single officer more than four days to watch all the video recorded by the Elk Grove police in an hour — but Hill would like to get even more.

"We actually have a pilot project coming up — hopefully shortly — with a local retailer that will be giving us access to their parking lot cameras," he says. Eventually he'd also like to work with local banks to get ATM camera feeds.

But Hill doesn't want Elk Grove's officers spending time watching parking lots and writing down plate numbers. Instead, there's software that can do that for them. To see how, I traveled to the offices of 3VR in San Francisco. The company makes the software that Elk Grove uses to sift through its recordings.

"Most people don't understand that putting more cameras [up] doesn't necessarily yield more information," says Al Shipp, 3VR's CEO. The company offers facial recognition, license plate readers and object-based searches. Elk Grove doesn't use all of these services yet, but it could add new ones at any time.

"Instead of watching hours, and maybe days, of video, you can ask questions like, 'Show me all red cars going east,' " Shipp says. "Or, 'Show me all red cars going east — fast.' Or, 'All red cars going east, fast, with a partial plate of A-B.'

"Those are search arguments you can do with our technology and literally sort through weeks of video in a few seconds," he says.

Software like this can alert the police when someone enters a park after dark. Or it can search for a face.

Diego Simkin, a technician at 3VR, shows me a search for a suspect in a possible bank fraud. He clicks and, within seconds, there are pictures of the same man walking into multiple banks on different days up on the screen.

"I have the ability to ... search against multiple cameras on that system or multiple systems," Simkin says. 3VR's corporate clients are already using these kinds of searches.

These technologies are a major draw for police in Elk Grove and departments across the country. The video analytics industry is growing by 30 percent per year and the software alone is poised to become a billion-dollar business.

"The idea that all of this information will be fed into one place, I think is a game-changer in terms of how we look at our world," says Donohue. She says that while it's reasonable to expect someone will see you lying in a public park, "you do have a reasonable expectation that nobody is going to be following you around 24 hours a day, seven days a week, everywhere you go."

Donohue worries that that's where these systems seem to be headed.

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