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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'Rock Crystal' Tells Of Catastrophe's Quiet Avoidance

Jul 7, 2013

Susan Choi's latest book is My Education.

Long, long ago — maybe some time in the 17th century — and far, far away — but almost certainly somewhere in the Alps — two valleys lay next to each other, ringed by high mountains and linked by a sole, lonely path. One unusually warm Christmas Eve two children set out on the path from the northward valley, through pine forest and over the pass, to visit their grandmother in the valley to the south.

Conrad and little Sanna set out early, arrive in time for lunch, and are kissed and showered with gifts by their adoring grandmother. But she insists that they start for home early. The temperature is dropping. Ice is forming on the puddles in the road. As Conrad and Sanna climb the path back toward home, a snowfall begins. It's a snowfall the villagers later call once in a century: "unprecedented unwearying" and "voracious." The children climb and climb, but their path never descends as it should; they never find their familiar landmarks.

So begins the all-but-forgotten Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter's 1845 novella Rock Crystal, every re-reading of which is, for me, exactly like the first time I read it: in a single sitting, with my heart in my mouth and my breath as frozen in my lungs as the mammoth glacier in the heart of which Conrad and Sanna soon find themselves.

Writing about Rock Crystal on the occasion of its superlative English translation by Elizabeth Mayer and Marianne Moore — yes, that Marianne Moore — no less than W.H. Auden noted that "to bring off, as Stifter does, a story of this kind, with its breathtaking risks of appalling banalities, is a great feat. What might so easily have been a tear-jerking melodrama becomes in his hands a quiet and beautiful parable about the relation of people to places, of man to nature."

Auden is particularly right to say "quiet": For all the excruciating detail with which Stifter impresses upon us the plight of the children, the true power of Rock Crystal arises not from catastrophe's noisy consummation, but catastrophe's quiet avoidance: from the series of small miracles by which the children survive.

Although the action takes place on Christmas Eve, or what Stifter's villagers call Holy Eve, and although the Christ-child and his kindness to children are duly mentioned, what really interests Stifter, and us, in this story is not divinity but humanity at its humblest and most resilient: the attentiveness of a big brother, who makes a little roof out of the shawl that his sister is wearing, to keep the snow off her face; or the loyalty of a sister, who maintains her brother's courage simply by how much she trusts him.

Stifter's own life failed to avoid catastrophe: He died by his own hand, at the age of 63. How much more grateful that makes me for this ageless and electrifying book, which, for all the ways in which it feels like a fairy tale, never fails to restore my faith in real-life human beings. With apologies to Auden, I do cry every time that I read it, but my tears don't feel appalling or banal. They feel celebratory.

You Must Read This is produced and edited by the team at NPR Books.

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