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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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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Teaching The Rules Of War In Syria's Vicious Conflict

May 15, 2013
Originally published on May 15, 2013 3:02 pm

A new video from Syria is shocking even by the standards of a war that keeps setting new standards for brutality.

In the video, a rebel fighter identified as Khalid al-Hamad is shown cutting out and eating the organs of a dead government soldier.

This appeared shortly after a pro-regime militia filmed the aftermath of a massacre of Sunni villagers in the coastal town of Banias, in which at least 62 people, including babies, were stabbed or shot to death.

War crimes are increasingly defining the Syrian conflict, where cellphone cameras are as prevalent on the battlefield as weapons and competing images of savage events are uploaded to the Internet to spread hatred and fear.

A Swiss-based group, Geneva Call, is hoping that a course in international humanitarian law can mitigate some of the offenses. A recent workshop in Gaziantep, in southern Turkey, introduced Syrian opposition fighters to the international laws of warfare.

Osama Abu Zaid, a Syrian activist, organized the workshop on behalf of Geneva Call.

"They are hungry and eager for knowledge," Zaid says of the rebels, whose ranks include government military officers who defected. Some of the opposition fighters left the battlefield in Syria for the workshop in a Turkish hotel.

"They now realize they have done some things wrong," he says.

"Fighters Not Killers" is the name of the two-day course that focuses on 15 principles of the Geneva Conventions that codify the rules of war.

Working On Case Studies

The participants work on case studies that encourage them to link classroom exercise to their experiences in the Syrian civil war.

"They are learning the rules," Zaid says as small groups go through the exercises. "For example, when the enemy is surrounded, they don't have the right to shoot him, but must arrest him."

Zakaria Haj Hussein is a police officer from Latakia who defected and joined the rebels.

"We came here to know international law and not to make the mistake of a war crime," he says.

Hussein says he never had this training in Syria. As a policeman, he explains, the law says that officers are to protect civilians. But Syrian officials made clear, he says, that "we could do whatever we wanted" when it came to arrests.

In a separate corner of the hotel, a group of rebels from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor is wrestling with another case study.

A rebel commander reads the exercise to his group: "The Red Cross guy responsible for medical aid comes to our headquarters to complain. He is worried that we are using an ambulance to transport weapons. Why is he worried?"

The young rebels offer different opinions.

"Because we are using it for military stuff," says one.

"Because he's afraid the enemy will hit it?" says another.

The group leader waits for discussion to wind down before he weighs in.

"This is a bad job, it's a war crime," he says and then adds, "if the enemy knows we use an ambulance to deliver weapons, then he will shoot at all the ambulances."

It is impossible to calculate the impact of a short course in the rules of war on a conflict that has brutalized Syria and become increasingly sectarian.

The trainer, a specialist in international law, asked that we not use his name. He has conducted workshops in other conflict zones and says "the knowledge" can make a difference.

"There is an impact on the ground. You see public statements change. You see the types of weapons change," he says.

He knows the training has changed attitudes on the battlefield when he gets complaints from commanders who say that when the orders come to launch a rocket, "his men want to know, where?" And when combatants start to carry maps and buy GPS devices to make sure they are hitting enemy soldiers not civilians, he knows the training has taken hold.

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