New British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her Cabinet Wednesday.

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/.

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

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

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

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There's Nothing To Do Here, And It's Perfect

Aug 31, 2013
Originally published on August 31, 2013 7:05 am

The elements of Robert Irwin's installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art — the show ends today — are named in the work's title: Scrim Veil--Black rectangle—Natural Light. There's no mystery. No magical ingredient.

It's a large rectangular room with a black floor divided lengthwise by a taut curtain of thin fabric hanging down to about head height; the fabric is translucent, from some angles invisibly transparent, from others impossible to see through; the fabric has a thick black border (another rectangle); there is a thick black line (rectangle) painted on the walls, bisecting them horizontally; light coming through a single large window at the end of the room.

And yet you could practically hear people gasp as they entered the room on the Whitney's fourth floor. Somehow the combined effect of the elements was not only gorgeous, but astonishing.

Yes, there was an optical trick. You could not always quite see the scrim. And because of the black bar of its border, and the similar bar on the wall behind, you had a sense that the two bars were one. You lost a sense of their location in space.

But the fascination of the piece doesn't come down to mere optical play.

I wish I understood what it does come down to.

One remarkable feature of the installation is that it has no focus. You're in it, for one thing, so you can't look at it. There isn't any one thing for you to contemplate. Or rather, everything — the window, the scrim, its border, the floor, the wall, the other people in the gallery — command attention equally.

Compare this with James Turrell's thematically kindred exhibition now at the Guggenheim just uptown. With Turrell you know just what to look at; there is something to inspect.

Or compare it with the installations of Richard Serra, which I've discussed here in the past. Serra's work disorients you and compels exploration. You can't just stand there. You need to do something.

But not so with Irwin. There is nothing to do here. Or, I suppose, there is everything to do. The installation is just a place. A place to be. It is a pure place. Space. And light. Could this be why it feels so good to be there?


You can keep up with more of what Alva Noë is thinking on Facebook and on Twitter: @alvanoe

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