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.

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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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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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Political Takeaways: Headaches For The White House

May 19, 2013
Originally published on May 19, 2013 2:11 pm

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. President Obama will give a speech this week outlining his plans to make his counterterrorism policies more transparent. The address comes after a week that the Obama White House spent on the defensive trying to contain political fallout from multiple controversies. The IRS has been targeting conservative and Tea Party groups that applied for tax-exempt status, and the Associated Press revealed that the Justice Department had secretly obtained the phone records of its journalists. That's all while the White House was already dealing with concerns over its handling of the Benghazi embassy attack and its aftermath. In a moment, we'll dig a little deeper into the IRS controversy. But first, we're joined by NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: Is this speech that the president is expected to give at the National Defense University simply a way to shift attention after what was really a tough week for the White House?

LIASSON: I think it's more than that. He's been talking about this for some time. Last month, he said that he was going to try again to close Guantanamo, despite a law that Congress has passed that makes it almost impossible to do that. He's also been talking about trying to put Guantanamo and his drone policy inside a legal framework that balances the national security interest of the United States with civil liberties. He in the State of the Union said he wanted to make sure that our detention and prosecution of terrorists were consistent with the law. So, this is something he's been thinking about for some time, but it definitely ties in to the controversy over the Justice Department's effort to obtain those phone records of Associated Press journalists. This has made the civil liberties base of the Democratic Party angry and I think this speech could be a way to address some of their concerns.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk a little more about those scandals that have preoccupied the White House. The IRS controversy plays directly into Republican suspicions of the Obama administration. Mara, what are some of the takeaways from the week, particularly Friday's congressional hearing?

LIASSON: Well, I think the big takeaway from the congressional hearing is that the number one question that is still unanswered is whether this effort was politically motivated, because Democrats and the president don't like groups that hide behind the tax code to engage in political activity. This is the charge that Republicans make, of course. Or was it sheer incompetence, sloppy work? We heard at the hearings the former acting commissioner of the IRS, Steven Miller, say that he gave horrible customer service and made a lot of foolish mistakes. So, that's the big question that subsequent hearings will try to answer. The other question, of course, is what were Treasury officials told about this investigation when they were informed in the spring that it was going on? I do think the biggest problem that came out of the hearings is that Congress gets very angry when they are not told about problems or feel they were lied to or misled. And Republicans in Congress - and some Democrats - feel that the IRS leadership did not inform them fully about this investigation.

MARTIN: Just briefly, Mara, the two other controversies - the Justice Department subpoena of AP phone records, Benghazi. Any lasting political damage for the president?

LIASSON: Well, I think there's been damage. He's been distracted for sure and the Republicans have been given a tremendous political tool to energize their base in the 2014 midterm elections. It's too soon to say if it's lasting. I think the criteria for that will be if these scandals derail the president's effort to pass immigration reform or get a budget deal and we just don't know that yet.

MARTIN: NPR's Mara Liasson. Thanks so much, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.