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Workers hold tight to Kenya's bygone 'Lunatic Express' railroad

VIDEO: With the railroad's Chinese-backed replacement in the works, employees share stories of their tough jobs.

MOMBASA, Kenya – In its heyday, the Nairobi railway employed some 24,000 people. Day and night, they worked to keep freight and passenger trains running between what is now Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, and the Indian Ocean at the port of Mombasa.

Nicknamed the "Lunatic Line” and the "Lunatic Express" the railway itself has changed little in more than a century since it was built by the Britishimperial power. Trains still bobble up and down, side to side as they roll along outdated, narrow tracks. Train traffic, derailment and other delays strand cars for hours in the middle of a national park.

But the railway’s workforce has shrunken immensely: Today, the Rift Valley Railways Consortium employs only 3,000 people. They include the usual conductors, engineers, janitors and ticketing booth clerks like Roselyn Mwende.

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Generation TBD: War drives more than half of Syria's students from school, into 'black hole'

Hopelessness creeps in amid a range of peril including bombing, gunfire, arrest, torture, execution, military conscription and a growing national economic crisis.
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A Syrian refugee in the Kucukpazar area of Istanbul, on March 4, 2014. Syrian government forces are waging a campaign of siege warfare and starvation against civilians as part of its military strategy, a UN-mandated probe said on March 5. Syria's war has since March 2011 killed more than 140,000 people and forced millions more to flee. (Gurcan Ozturk/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's note: This story is part of a GroundTruth project we call "Generation TBD," a year-long effort that brings together media, technology, education and humanitarian partners for an authoritative, global exploration of the youth unemployment crisis.

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By invading Crimea, Putin united Ukraine instead of Russia

Commentary: Putin has brought out an unparalleled strength against corruption within the Ukrainian nation. Ironically, the very same national strength he desperately seeks to foster within Russia.
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A Ukrainian student shouts slogans during a nationalist and pro-unity rally in the eastern city of Lugansk on April 17, 2014. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today announced a deal had been reached with Ukraine, the US and the EU to "de-escalate" dangerously high tensions in the former Soviet republic. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON — Vladimir Putin has been described as many things: tyrant, autocrat, villain, gangster. Few would call him a unifier. But by annexing Crimea that is exactly the role he has played in Ukraine.

Putin invaded Ukraine in part to embolden Russian national sentiment. The Russian president has suppressed any remnants of an independent press, revved up the state-sponsored PR machine, which churns out vicious propaganda in support of increasingly irredentist foreign policy.

He has justified the forced annexation of Crimea as a move to protect ethnic Russians, portraying the Euromaidan, the wave of demonstrations, civil unrest and revolution in Ukraine, as radical fascists sponsored by the United States government. But rather than expose the duplicity of Kyiv, his lies have revealed the truth about Ukraine.

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Generation TBD: An America full of Detroits

Dismal times for many young people seeking opportunities in post-industrial cities.

Editor's note: This story is part of a GroundTruth project we call "Generation TBD," a year-long effort that brings together media, technology, education and humanitarian partners for an authoritative, global exploration of the youth unemployment crisis. GroundTruth reporting fellows Eleanor Stanford and Saila Huusko, a Brit and a Finn, are traveling the American East.

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US and Saudi Arabia drift apart

Analysis: Syria, Iran, Egypt and oil are pushing the two countries apart, as President Obama's recent trip to the kingdom showed.
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US President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One prior to his departure from Rome to Riyadh on March 28, 2014. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

RIYADH — President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia was low-key, business-like and bereft of scenes that would indicate the country’s almost 70-year-old special relationship with Washington is back on an even keel.

Obama was not received at the airport by a senior prince. The president and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz were not seen in unscripted moments such as the hand-in-hand walk that then-Crown Prince Abdullah once took with former US President George W. Bush. 

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How poetry saved two young women's lives — one in Peru, one in Los Angeles

Two teenagers from opposite sides of the world began writing poetry to cope with difficult situations in their lives. That poetry brought them together.
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Senna, in production of "Girl Rising" (10x10act/YouTube)

NEW YORK — Poetry changed Senna’s life.

She wrote her first poem at age 10, she said, because “I could tell my notebook what I wanted to say. … I imagined that my book and my notebook told me, ‘You can do it! You can do it!’”

Unbenounced to her, halfway across the world, someone else was writing poetry for the same reason. 

“I started to write because the paper was the only person I could talk to,” said Marquesha Babers, 18, from Los Angeles. “Poetry has actually saved my life.”

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Generation TBD: Tunisia's revolutionary rappers

In post-revolution Tunisia, a generation of young people facing an unemployment rate above 30 percent are expressing their frustrations through hip hop.
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(Natalie Keyssar/GlobalPost)

Editor's note: This story is part of a GroundTruth project we call "Generation TBD," a year-long effort that brings together media, technology, education and humanitarian partners for an authoritative, global exploration of the youth unemployment crisis.

TUNIS, Tunisia — Hamzaoui Med Amine’s home neighborhood of Ariana, a roughshod working-class district near the Tunis airport, is the setting for the music video of the now nationally ubiquitous song Houmani, performed by Amine and his vocalist partner Kafon.

The video depicts Tunisia’s urban poor, picking through used clothing stands, sipping espresso and smoking cigarettes. Leathery-skinned women wrapped in black headscarves smile into the camera, their crooked teeth and wandering eyes intimately displayed.

Houmani has racked up millions of views on YouTube, and the song’s relentless drum & bass track can be simultaneously heard blasting from cell phones, car stereos and corner store radios.

The song’s popularity owes to its frank illustration of life for Tunisia’s majority, with lyrics about the joblessness, dirty streets, cramped living conditions and worn infrastructure in working-class neighborhoods throughout the country.

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Expectations: A mother-to-be heads to Brazil to report

Deputy editor of global health Marissa Miley is reporting in Brazil to better understand how women experience pregnancy and childbirth.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – “How are you feeling?” is a question I get a lot these days.

It’s the first one my doctor asks when I sit down on the examination table. It’s often the first that friends and family ask as soon as we hug hello. And it’s certainly the first that anyone asks – a colleague in the elevator, a neighbor on the plane, a fellow guest at a party – when they confirm that I am, indeed, pregnant.

As a journalist covering health, this is an unfamiliar exchange. I’m usually the one asking others how they are feeling. But pregnancy has flipped many of my usual habits on their heads.

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Remembering Anja Niedringhaus, AP photographer and Nieman Fellow

Niedringhaus infused her Nieman class of 2006 with a joy of life after covering fighting for more than 20 years. On Friday she was murdered in Afghanistan.
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A Palestinian girl named Ayat, 10, the niece of Billal Nabham, reacts after he was found dead in the rubble of one of the houses destroyed during Israel's army operation in Gaza on January 19, 2009. This image is one of so many taken by photographer Anja Niedringhaus that depicts human suffering brought about by war and conflict. Niedringhaus was killed in Afghanistan on Friday, April 4, 2014. (Anja Niedringhaus/AFP/Getty Images)

There is a generation of war correspondents out there, and every fall a few of them arrive at Harvard University as part of the Nieman Foundation’s fellowship. They come from assignments in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere and many land with a sense of unease.

They are veterans of covering combat who typically use this special moment in their lives to sort out their experiences, dig for deeper understanding of the chaos they chronicle and struggle with personal decisions whether to return to far-flung conflicts, to once again bear witness to the tragedy of war.

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Millennials learn to answer the dreaded question: 'So... what do you do?'

Amidst rising youth unemployment around the globe, young people struggle to find where they fit in society.
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(Natalie Keyssar/GlobalPost)

Editor's note: This story is part of a GroundTruth project we call "Generation TBD," a year-long effort that brings together media, technology, education and humanitarian partners for an authoritative, global exploration of the youth unemployment crisis. Tik Root is a 2014 GroundTruth fellow working on this project. He will be reporting on youth unemployment in Spain this spring. 

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