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

2 hours ago
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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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Rhetoric Drowns Out The Thrills In Huston's 'Skinner'

Jul 10, 2013

Charlie Huston's 2010 novel, Sleepless, bowled me over. What a powerful combination of combustible plot and fiery language! At the center of that book, an insomnia plague spreads across Southern California (and the rest of the country). The illness keeps you awake all night, quite fuzzy-minded during the day, and then after a couple of months it kills you. The only thing approaching an antidote is a drug called Dreamer, which makes a little sleep possible before you die.

So here's Charlie Huston's new novel, called Skinner, a book I've been looking forward to after the pleasures of reading Sleepless. Sorry to say, this new one is a huge letdown. The titular Skinner is a high-level international bodyguard. He's made a career in what his customers call "asset protection." Skinner acquired his nickname because his rather sociopathic scientist parents raised him as a grand experiment, in one of the hermetically sealed environments made famous by the behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. Reward good behavior, punish bad behavior, and you'll make a great child. That's the theory, anyway. Unfortunately for Skinner, his early life has made him into a great killer as an adult. He abides by a maxim: "The only way to secure an asset is to make the cost of acquiring it greater than its value."

As the book opens, Skinner's been exiled by national security suits who are — rightly — afraid of him. When a threat appears — a Stuxnet-like computer plot to destroy a large part of America's infrastructure — upper echelon managers in the CIA hire a dreamy roboticist named Jae to trace it to the source. They bring Skinner out of exile to protect her, and protect her he does. Guns go off. Knives come out. Bodies bleed and fall. And happily for him, this lonely boy of the box falls in love with the roboticist even as Western civil society seems to be tumbling down around their ears.

The action scenes work beautifully, taking on vivid and stark reality on the page, as when Skinner ambushes two men arriving in an apartment to kidnap Jae: "Skinner shoves several fingers into the man's mouth, hooking them into his upper palate and pulling. His other hand is already at the left side of the man's neck, shoving the curved #28 blade of the X-ACTO into his jugular and pulling it across his throat." Things are a little more confused and less effective when Jae herself, under Skinner's direction, takes part in her own protection. Ambushed in a European train station, she shoots at a woman who has been gunning for her, aiming for her torso: "Impossible shot, bringing from between their bodies the pistol Skinner pressed into her hands ... firing from the hip, Skinner's hip." Jae misses her shot, but Huston describes the action no less balletically than the deadlier moments as "Skinner shoves her and she starts to fall against the steps ... then she hits the steps hard and the gun is ... bouncing down the steps toward the tile floor of the tunnel ..."

If only Huston had kept to these meticulously drawn action sequences, which punctuate the narrative with a forward-moving drive. But the action comes bracketed with a load of rhetoric, page after page tricked out in a blinding avalanche of lists of 21st century mishaps and mayhem that sounds like a blend of William Gibsonish future patter and Thomas Pynchonesque conspiracy mash. Take this description of material from a cache of maps that Jae finds in a file box, once the property of a murdered high-level CIA boss. "Brazil highlighted, undersea telecom cable landings and several mineral resources. Battery grade manganese, niobium, etc. India. Chromite mines. Pharmaceuticals manufacturing, chemotherapy agents," and then an info-dump of TOP SECRET CIA files. "War. Inlet. Penultimate. Cause. Contraction. Tides. Resources ... Bio-disaster event horizon. Liquid metal fast breeder reactor. Orbital mirror array. Al Qaeda franchise structure. Black start. Neutron poison ..." This keeps on pouring from the page, eventually overwhelming the physical action itself.

"What has happened before," Huston writes, "are any number of things that feel similar. 9/11. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. London subway bombings. Bombay attack. Madrid bombings. Asian Tsunami. European heat wave. Darfur. Somali pirates" and so on — and on — into a novel I couldn't wait to read and ultimately found terribly disappointing. Alas, like that drug Dreamer from Huston's previous work, it put me to sleep.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.