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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Please Text And Tweet During This Theater Performance

Jun 28, 2013
Originally published on June 28, 2013 11:14 am

See if this sounds familiar: You're seated in a movie theater, watching the latest IMAX disaster flick when someone slides their iPhone out of their pocket and starts texting their significant other. The glow from the phone lights up their face like the man in the moon and somehow — despite the $75 million used on the pyrotechnic budget alone — that blue-white glow at the edge of your vision triggers instincts honed over millions of years of evolution, and you find yourself incapable of focusing on the movie.

Now imagine that was happening in a live theater, with flesh-and-blood performers vying for your attention. It would be the height of rudeness, right?

Some theatrical producers see it as an opportunity for marketing their shows and creating a more familiar, immersive experience for a generation that has come of age constantly fidgeting with social media apps.

As Twitter and Facebook have become ubiquitous parts of our lives, there have been numerous experiments over the past few years. This past weekend, I finally had a chance to attend a show that encouraged audience members to actively use social media while they watched.

The production was part of the fourth annual Hollywood Fringe Festival, a noncurated theater and arts festival that has been growing steadily since its inception in 2010. The show in question was the cleverly named #Hashtag, put on by a group called The Mechanical Heart Theater Co. A sample tweet from a night during the show's run:

@theatrehashtag tweeting you from your own audience #hashtag #breakaleg #excited #yay #bye

— Rati Gupta (@theRati) June 26, 2013

I wish I could say that it converted me from a "tweet seat" naysayer into a social-media-in-the-theater enthusiast. All it really did was give me a chance to check my email during the show.

The Mechanical Heart Theater Co. is clearly a young outfit, and #Hashtag is an experiment driven by what director Jeffrey Wienckowski refers to as the "title and a vague idea" formed shortly before the performance. Six weeks of improv isn't enough time to judge a work on little more than the core ideas.

The central problem is that workshop-level productions can be rough enough going without the added temptation of Twitter.

Yet by inviting the audience to engage with the social media that is sitting in our pockets, the conceit of #Hashtag puts itself in competition with the production on stage.

After firing off a tweet related to the show, I received a response from a member of the Fringe community. What she had to say — only tangentially related to the show — was more interesting to me than the action on stage at that very moment. So I checked out. It wasn't fair to the show, but honestly, I felt like they started it.

#Hashtag feels much like its namesake: an indication that a conversation is taking place. What's missing is much of the meat of that conversation. Instead of using social media itself to directly reckon with the issues at hand, the audience is merely co-opted into becoming part of #Hashtag's marketing team.

To be fair, there were moments that cleverly theatricalize the kind of present shock-inducing trauma that our ever-buzzing, always demanding digital tethers create. A sequence involving OK Cupid notifications is particularly clever. Two actors play out a dinner scene while a third interrupts, thrusting the dating app's logo between the other two with manic comic energy.

There are rich veins of irony to be mined in an experiment like this. Social media ostensibly reveal the connections between us and encourage "authentic" communication. Those quotation marks matter — the public personas we adopt online are performance pieces whether we are conscious of them or not.

Alternatively, a social media experience could be crafted for a show that might reveal greater truths than what is being said onstage. A theater company could re-create the experience of being on the "back channel" of a public event, like all the snarky one-liners traded at conferences like South by Southwest — one of the great joys of social media.

What makes this noteworthy at all is the attempt to bring our buzzing friends into the sacred space of the theater. It seems to me that there is no point in inviting the little mechanical beasts in if they are not going to be used to reveal layers of the play's reality that drama alone cannot disclose.

Noah Nelson is a journalist at Turnstyle, a Bay Area-based tech news and culture site.

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