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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Why Slave Labor Still Plagues The Global Food System

Jun 20, 2013
Originally published on June 21, 2013 10:01 am

When the State Department released its annual report on human trafficking Wednesday, we got a chilling reminder that even in 2013, slave labor is still embedded in the global food system.

As many as 27 million men, women and children are estimated to be trafficking victims at any given time, according to the report. And some of those victims, the State Department says, are later forced to work in agriculture and food processing (though no one has a good idea how many).

The agriculture sector has an ugly track record when it comes to labor abuses, of course. Sugar production fueled the slave trade that brought millions of Africans to the Americas. As the Polaris Project, an anti-slavery organization, notes, agricultural work today is often isolated and transient, with peaks and lulls in employment due to changing harvest seasons. These conditions leave workers vulnerable, creating opportunities that farmers and food factory owners continue to exploit.

The new State Department report has many references to farm work: Malian children transported to Ivory Coast for forced labor on cocoa farms, and ethnic Indian families forced to work in the Bangladesh tea industry, to name a couple. Some of these offending farms and factories serve only the local economy. But some are selling food products on the international market.

As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, the State Department hopes that this year's report will hit home with Americans. And so an official reminds us that as consumers, we are at one end of a food supply chain that sometimes leads back to slavery.

Luis CdeBaca, the official in charge of the office that monitors and fights trafficking, told Michele:

"This year's report looks at things like the fishing industry — and actually raises a question that I think all of us should be asking, which is: How much of my life is impacting modern-day slavery? Do I know where the shrimp is being caught or processed that is on my plate?"

CdeBaca's comment was a lightly veiled reference to shrimp farms and processing plants in Thailand, which labor groups claim are heavily reliant on migrant workers from Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Because of ongoing issues on shrimp farms and elsewhere, for the fourth year in a row the State Department put Thailand on the "Tier 2 Watch List" for failing to increase efforts to address human trafficking, compared with the previous year.

Thailand is the source of one-third of all shrimp imported by the United States. American retailers (and consumers) like it in part because it is cheap. Labor abuses at Thai shrimp factories and farms that export are well-documented. As PBS reported last year, Thai labor activists have documented abuses of Myanmarese migrant workers who work in the shrimp-peeling sheds that supply shrimp to larger factories for export to the U.S.

A recent briefing paper by the International Labor Rights Forum and the Warehouse Workers United noted labor abuses at Thai shrimp producer Narong Seafood, which has been a major supplier to Walmart and a leading shrimp processor for the U.S. market. But despite the prevalence of abuse, the paper recommends that Walmart not drop Narong as a supplier but instead "work with labor and human rights activists in Thailand to ensure the rights of the workers who produce shrimp for Walmart in Thailand are respected."

Forced labor, including debt bondage, also continues to sustain palm oil plantations in Malaysia, also on the Tier 2 Watch List, and Indonesia. (Palm oil is used in lots of processed foods, from Dunkin' Donuts to Girl Scout cookies.) Cargill, the largest importer of palm oil and trader of 25 percent of the world's palm oil supply, says it has a policy of not using any slave or child labor. But the Rainforest Action Network has alleged that one of Cargill's palm oil suppliers used slave labor on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.

Even in the U.S., food workers aren't exempt from abuse and even slavery. As our NPR colleague Yuki Noguchi reported last month, men with intellectual disabilities who worked at an Iowa turkey-processing plant suffered severe verbal and physical abuse for over 20 years. A jury eventually awarded the men approximately $3,000,000, the largest jury verdict in the history of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And we here at The Salt have previously told you about labor groups that have documented cases of enslaved migrants working in Florida's tomato industry.

To get a rough idea of how your consumption habits may lead back to slave labor, use the calculator at SlaveryFootprint.org.

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