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
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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/.

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Test-Driving The Obamacare Software

Jun 27, 2013

All the outreach in the world won't count for much if the Obamacare ticket counter doesn't work.

Behind the campaign to educate the uninsured about the Affordable Care Act is the assumption that software to sell the plans will be ready and user-friendly by Oct. 1, when enrollment is supposed to start. That assumption isn't universally shared. Some wonder if systems will be tested and finished on time. Others worry the programs will lead consumers to make dumb insurance choices.

Kaiser Health News got an early look at the exchange software that will be used in Minnesota, Maryland and the District of Columbia. A company called Connecture is developing the Web interface for consumers under 65 who don't have employer-based health coverage to shop and sign up for a plan in those states.

Connecture isn't handling the software that qualifies you to buy under the health act or verifies your eligibility for subsidies. Other companies are taking care of those. Connecture's piece is the point-of-sale program, the one that steers you through insurance choices and closes the deal.

That process is complex enough by itself. How much coverage do you want? What deductible? Are family members on the plan? Do you need an asthma program? Do you want to keep your current doctor? What about dental?

Proponents of the health law liken the sign-up software to Expedia or Travelocity, where travelers can book flights and hotels. It may be more like TurboTax, escorting you through requirements and choices much more complex than whether you want a flight in the afternoon or the morning.

Like other filtering software, Connecture's program is a multistep search engine, screening out inappropriate options (based on what you tell it) to deliver a manageable menu. After getting past the basics (Stripped-down "bronze" plan or high-benefit "platinum"? High deductible or low?), the program asks if it's important to keep your current doctor.

"Based on our research, the choice of doctor was probably the No. 1 and No. 2 [features] of what people are looking for in a plan," said Christopher Neuharth, Connecture's director of user experience.

To try to reduce sticker shock, Connecture shows your net premium price — after the tax credits are applied — early in the shopping process. But perhaps the most important feature is the one estimating the total cost of coverage, including deductibles and co-pays, based on your reported health status.

Without that information somebody with a chronic condition requiring lots of care could choose a plan based only on a low premium, not realizing the total expense could be substantially reduced by paying a larger premium up front.

"There's all sorts of wild ways that carriers can design benefits to meet the actuarial value" required by the health law, Neuharth said. "You have to show the total cost of ownership."

It's just three months until the exchanges open, but the software isn't finished. Connecture awaits tryouts by Minnesota, Maryland and the District of Columbia and more details on specific demographic groups expected to apply for coverage. It could tweak the software based on the responses, Neuharth said.

In any event, your exchange experience may vary. Connecture had a head start compared to some, launching work on the code shortly after the health law passed in 2010. At the same time, the best shopping site in the world won't delight consumers if products are sparse or subpar.

Thanks to the narrow networks of doctors and hospitals that many insurers are expected to offer, your preferred doctor may not show up in any of the plans on offer. On the other hand, these narrow networks are expected to be less expensive because they seek discounts from select doctors and hospitals in return for patient volume. Sorting out such pluses and minuses to help consumers make informed choices is the software's job.

Copyright 2013 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.