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Generation TBD: Rome's unemployed youth gather for a May Day eve vigil

On eve of International Workers day, over 1,000 Italians came together for prayer over the 42 percent unemployment rate among youth. About 60,000 young people leave Italy every year in search of work.
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Pope Francis poses with participants at the end of a meeting with young people entitled "Throw your nets" in Largo Carlo Felice in Cagliari on September 22, 2013. (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/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.

ROME — Late Wednesday night, on the eve of May Day, an auditorium located outside Vatican City displayed a video recording of Pope Francis, with only standing room before it.

More than 1,000 Italians had come together for a prayer vigil as the recording showed the Pope denouncing “the idolatry of money” and “the tyranny of capitalism.” The vigil was held the night before International Workers Day in solidarity with those suffering from the country’s worsening labor crisis.

“Where there is no work, there is no dignity," Pope Francis said in a sermon from last year — one that still rings true for the hundreds of young people here, gazing upward at a man who in just one year has become the world’s most visible champion of economic equality in a way that his bejeweled predecessors never could have pulled off.


Egypt is just one example of how the West is not ready for a true Arab democracy

Panelists at USC-Annenberg called out US policymakers for failing to respect political Islamist groups that do not adhere to American liberal ideals.
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Egyptian men, one wearing a mask of Guy Fawkes, set fire to a US flag as protesters and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood take part in a march against the military in the capital Cairo on January 22, 2014. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES — The Arab Awakening offered the United States an opportunity to change its relationship with the Muslim world by allying with democratic movements instead of dictatorial regimes in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya.

But as several experts at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School argued Friday at a conference called “Religion, Democracy and the Arab Awakening,” the Obama administration couldn’t get comfortable with an essential element of Arab democracy: the reemergence of Islamist political organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.


Beyond the rubble: One year after Rana Plaza collapse, Bangladesh is still reeling

The shadow of the building collapse looms large over the country, its people and its garment industry.

Editor's Note: This is the first piece in a three-part series that goes inside Bangladesh's garment industry to explore how the Rana Plaza collapse served as a wake-up call to an entire global supply chain and how Bangladesh is working furiously to reform itself before another tragedy strikes.


Finding relief in the hip-hop underground of Tunisia's poorest neighborhoods

Four years after the Tunisian uprising, poor youth still live in the shadow of unemployment, poverty and police violence, using political rap as a means to be heard.

TUNIS, Tunisia — A diehard hip-hopper sporting dreadlocks, piercings and an African continent pendant on a necklace, Nakazaki Dali stands out among the crowd of Tunisian men in dark leather jackets and gelled-back hair.

Though 21-year-old Nakazaki doesn’t fit in to this business-as-usual crowd, he’s not alone. The young Tunisian rapper is just one in a generation of young counter-culturists rocking the political boat in Tunisia.

The 2010 uprising that erupted against the regime of former president Ben Ali was also an eruption in Tunisia’s hip-hop scene, and it changed everything for artists.


Lebanon's Syrian refugees: 'An entire generation is growing up with PTSD'

Commentary: The region cannot sustain an endless war in Syria.
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Syrian refugees queue up at a UNHCR registration center, one of many across Lebanon, in the northern port city of Tripoli on April 3, 2014. More than one million Syrians have registered as refugees in Lebanon. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

BERUIT — Refugees are everywhere on the streets of downtown Beirut.

Women and children in filthy clothes beg for money on nearly every street corner. Countless young boys tote shoeshine kits, persistently following foreigners and wealthy Lebanese who pass by. "Min Sooriya" they say, meaning “from Syria.”

As if there was any doubt.


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 British imperial 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.