FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
May 12, 2014

"Is it just me," said John Oliver on Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, "or between Conchita and Michael Sam, did the world — did the whole world feel like it became a better place to live in the last 24 hours?" If you are a supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, the answer is almost certainly yes. You probably already know about at least one of these four firsts (Oliver mentioned two), but together they make for a pretty great weekend for the LGBT camp:

1. The St. Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam, the first openly gay pro football player in the NFL, on Saturday. He celebrated by kissing boyfriend Vito Cammisano on camera.

2. A judge in Arkansas struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, and a Carroll County clerk performed the state's first same-sex marriages on Saturday.

3. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is open to reviewing the U.S. military's ban on transgender service members.

4. And finally, bearded Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest, very pointedly beating the Russian entrants and sending a not-so-veiled message to Russia regarding its anti-gay laws: "This night is dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are unity and we are unstoppable." Oliver explains the geopolitical importance of Wurst's win below. --Peter Weber

12:50 p.m. ET

On Monday, President Obama marked his last Memorial Day in office with a White House breakfast reception for veterans groups and families of service members killed in combat, followed by a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. At Arlington, Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, commemorating the members of the U.S. military who died in service of their country.

Obama spoke of the duty the rest of the country has to care for the loved ones of fallen soldiers and veterans. "We need to be there not just when we need them, but when they need us," Obama said. He noted that 20 service members have died in combat in the past year, a reminder that the U.S. is fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. You can watch Obama lay the wreath and hear the military band play the Star Spangled Banner in the video below. Peter Weber

12:02 p.m. ET

Mass bleaching caused by global warming and El Niño has killed 35 percent the coral in the northern and central parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef in just the past few months, scientists said Monday. The southern section of the 1,400-mile reef has seen only minor damage. Warming waters have been causing bleaching in reefs around the world for two years, but the damage in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia's east coast has occurred over just two months. Bleached coral that hasn't died can recover if the water temperature drops. You can learn more, including how the report is affecting Australian politics, in the Associated Press report below. Harold Mass

11:24 a.m. ET

Mexican police rescued international soccer star Alan Pulido hours after he was kidnapped in northeast Mexico. Pulido, 25, appeared at a brief news conference on Monday and told reporters he was "very well." He had a bandage on his right hand. Pulido, a striker who has played for Mexico's national team several times, was leaving a party with his girlfriend on Saturday night in Ciudad Victoria in Tamaulipas state when their car was surrounded by several trucks. Pulido was taken away, and his girlfriend was left unharmed. You can watch Pulido's news conference below. Harold Mass

10:35 a.m. ET
STR/Getty Images

An estimated 700 Libyan migrants died last week as their boats capsized in the Mediterranean during an attempted crossing to Italy, adding to a swelling death toll of more than 8,000 migrants to Europe since 2014. In September 2015, those deaths were encapsulated in a photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy whose drowned body washed up on the coast of Greece.

Another such photo came out of a rescue effort off the coast of Libya on Sunday organized by a German humanitarian organization called Sea-Watch. It shows a German rescue volunteer named Martin cradling a drowned baby who appears to be sleeping.

Seeing the child's body floating in the water, "I took hold of the forearm of the baby and pulled the light body protectively into my arms at once, as if it were still alive," Martin said. "I began to sing to comfort myself and to give some kind of expression to this incomprehensible, heart-rending moment. Just six hours ago this child was alive."

You can view the sad, unsettling photo here. Bonnie Kristian

10:26 a.m. ET

Last Week Tonight occasionally does a segment called "How Is This Still a Thing?" where a narrator pokes holes in a real thing that John Oliver and his writers think should disappear, like daylight savings and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. On Sunday night, "in the interest of innovation," Oliver posted a twist on this idea, proposing "non-things that should absolutely be thing-afied," as he explained. Some proposals, like an all-dog Blue Man Group and a universal key word to get out of awkward small-talk, are kind of silly. The search engine for parents, crying house key, and biodegradable home treadmill are all great ideas. And his biggest innovation? Well, you can decide for yourself: "Why do we not yet have bread pants — which are, of course, sweat pants made of bread?" If that sounds unsanitary, well, yes, but watch below to see if Oliver can sell you on the idea anyway. Peter Weber

10:13 a.m. ET
Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service" in exposing the agency's surveillance secrets, former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a CNN-produced podcast reported Monday.

"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did," Holder conceded, but maintained that Snowden made a positive move in "raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made."

That said, Holder is hardly jumping on the anti-NSA bandwagon. He argued that Snowden broke the law and "harmed American interests" by revealing classified government secrets, actions Holder suggested deserve jail time. He encouraged Snowden to return to the United States to cut a deal with the feds, something the former NSA contractor has said he is willing to do if he is guaranteed a fair trial. Still, Holder added, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." Bonnie Kristian

8:28 a.m. ET

Texas authorities have found six bodies of people killed in Memorial Day weekend flooding, and an 11-year-old boy washed away in a swollen creek is missing and presumed dead in Kansas, as heavy rains caused flash flooding around the U.S. Torrential rains in central and and southeastern Texas prompted several evacuations and rescues, along with the six confirmed deaths, and near Houston, prison officials evacuated some 2,600 inmates. Separately, Tropical Depression Bonnie has reached South Carolina and is expected to continue dousing North and South Carolina with rain and strong winds, according to the National Weather Service. You can see some of Bonnie's impact on South Carolina in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads