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April 23, 2014
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One year after the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,129 workers, Western retailers and apparel brands are divided into two factions, both trying to improve conditions but disagreeing about everything from inspection processes to how to best help garment workers, The New York Times reports.

The Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety has more than 150 members, including the European brands H&M and Mango. The Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety counts as members 26 American and Canadian companies, including Target, Walmart, and Gap. The predominantly American alliance points out that they have done more inspections at factories than the Europe-led accord, while members of the accord argue that the alliance has lower standards. Alliance members have also said that the accord should pay wages to workers at a factory that was closed for safety reasons in March.

The rivalry is being downplayed by leaders. "This is really not a competition between the alliance and the accord," says Ellen Tauscher, chairwoman of the alliance's board. "This is about working together to change the lives of workers in Bangladesh."

Both sides do agree that conditions in many of the factories are grim; inspectors have discovered buildings so crowded with people and equipment that the columns have cracks, and fire stairways that lead to indoor work areas, not outside. It's not cheap to fix these problems; a new sprinkler system, for example, costs more than $250,000.

Dara O'Rourke, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and an expert on workplace monitoring, says he hopes that ultimately the Bangladeshi workers end up on top. "There's one good aspect about the competition," he tells The Times. "It's pushing both sides to raise the bar on what they're doing to improve safety." Catherine Garcia

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
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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
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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

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