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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Online College Courses Get A Big Boost, But Doubts Persist

May 30, 2013
Originally published on May 30, 2013 6:01 pm

From New Mexico to New York, 10 state university systems have announced they are joining the ranks of elite institutions embracing the massive open online course, or MOOC, system.

On Thursday, they unveiled a landmark partnership with Coursera, a for-profit tech company with 3.5 million registered students. It's the biggest effort to catapult degree-granting institutions into the world of global education.

The state universities of Tennessee, Georgia, Colorado, Kentucky, Nebraska, New Mexico, West Virginia and New York and the Houston University System are taking the plunge to offer online courses to students across the globe for free.

Most of them already offer a catalog of courses online, which Coursera will format into modules for a fee of $3,000 to $5,000 each. That breaks down to between $30 and $60 per student, a fraction of what it costs to develop and deliver a traditional course.

For schools responding to tight budgets, it is an opportunity to save money and cut costs. Rich Rhoda, the executive director of Tennessee's Higher Education Commission, says this experiment stems from the economic realities of higher education, but brick-and-mortar campuses are here to stay.

"This is going to transform the way that we teach on college campuses; it is not going to substitute for it," says Daphne Koller, Coursera's co-founder and a computer science professor at Stanford University.

If the experiment works, students could earn a degree more quickly and more cheaply either entirely online or as part of a regular course of study. Institutions will be able to showcase their top professors and connect students to professors at other schools.

Critics of the online courses aren't sure MOOCs can do what their backers hope.

"Whether it costs a little less or a little more, I would not want my child's education to be an experiment," says Eileen Landy, a sociology professor at the State University of New York, Old Westbury. She is with the union that represents the 35,000 faculty members in the SUNY system.

"We know MOOCs have about an average of 10 percent completion rate and that's among very highly motivated students," Landy says. "If you target MOOCs for incoming students, students who need remediation, the chances are we'll lose them."

Faculty at a growing number of institutions have raised similar concerns, but Nancy Zimpher, the chancellor of the SUNY system, says the goal is to help students across the system's 64 campuses complete their degrees. "Since we have so many people who need what we offer, why not enhance access and completion through this vehicle as well?"

Koller says the deal marks the changing landscape of higher education. She hopes it will serve as a model for what she calls Coursera's social mission, working with countries around the world where people have no access to higher education. "You can basically change lives by giving people an opportunity that they never had before," Koller says.

Houston Davis is chief academic officer and vice chancellor with the university system of Georgia, one of the organizations included in the deal. He says Georgia's 31 state colleges and universities will be working with Coursera to improve quality and access, while raising college competition rates.

"I don't think anyone should see it as a magic pill," Davis says. "This has to be about high-quality teaching and learning opportunities at an affordable price for students."

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