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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Arizona Hispanics Poised To Swing State Blue

2 hours ago
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Pages

Savory And Sweet: A Taste For Infertility

Jul 2, 2013

Humans have long relied on the sense of taste in the struggle to survive and multiply. A bitter taste alerts us to a plant that may be poisonous. A sweet taste tells us that a plant is likely high in calories and can help sustain us.

Our sense of taste may be even more closely linked to the propagation of the human race than we ever suspected. Some of the same genes that allow us to sense sweet and umami flavors are also active in a man's testes and sperm. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Tuesday, suppressing these genes may affect not only his ability to taste but also his ability to reproduce.

When food touches our tongue it activates taste receptors which deploy proteins into our nervous system and alert our brain to the flavors. "The taste receptor is like a microphone, and the protein is the microphone cable," says geneticist Bedrich Mosinger, who specializes in the science of taste. "Experiencing a taste is like hearing a sound through an amp," he tells Shots. "If you lose either the mic or the cable, it won't work."

In this case, the microphone is the taste receptor controlled by the gene TAS1R, and the cable is a protein called gustducin that is expressed by the gene GNAT3.

Mosinger and his team at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia were exploring the specific role of these genes when they discovered something unusual. Curious to see what would happen if the genetic microphone and cable were both removed, they inactivated the genes in some mice. Then they let them mate.

Nothing happened. It turned out the male mice were sterile. The result surprised Mosinger. "We wanted an animal with both genes inactivated," he says. "We didn't expect to find much, and we certainly didn't expect these genes to have such a fundamental role in male reproduction."

Too bad for the mice. But what does the finding mean for humans?

"There is a worldwide decline in male fertility," Mosinger says. "Sperm count and sperm function are going down, and getting progressively worse. We speculate that there is something in the environment causing this."

In support of this hypothesis, Mosinger points to a class of drugs called fibrates, used to treat high cholesterol, which are known to block expression of the gene TAS1R. Also, some herbicides are known to have the same effect.

If a man who was already dusting his crops with phenoxy herbicides were to become exposed to a substance that inhibits the GNAT3 gene, it could be bad news for his sperm.

How likely is that? Shots called human geneticist Dennis Drayna of the National Institutes of Health to find out. "We don't know of any environmental things that contribute to the function of gustducin or GNAT3," he says. "We don't even know if there is any evidence for the existence of such things."

So it's not clear if the findings will help us understand male infertility. "The real power of science is surprises like this," Drayna says. "This is another example of how basic biomedical research produces surprises that open our eyes to new and interesting areas of biology that were previously completely unrecognized."

Monell's Mosinger pointed out a provocative possibility raised by the findings. "The inhibitors that we found are specific to humans, but with a little more work we could find rodent specific inhibitors for these genes," he says. With still more work, he says, the inhibitors might find use as a better mousetrap: rodent birth control.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.