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H&M in talks to support Bangladesh workers as lockdowns hit livelihoods



Fashion giant H&M said on Tuesday it is working with other companies to support garment workers in Bangladesh, where more than 2 million have been hit by factory closures as coronavirus lockdowns hit orders.


Millions of people in impoverished Bangladesh rely on the garment industry to feed their families and the cancellation of an estimated $3 billion in orders is hitting them hard.

Union leaders said most of the workers they had spoken to had been temporarily laid off or sent on paid leave, although official numbers are not yet available.

Swedish fashion retailer H&M, the largest buyer of Bangladeshi apparel, said it was in talks to find a solution after rival Primark pledged to keep paying workers affected by its decision to cancel orders.

“We are well aware that the suppliers, and their employees, are extremely vulnerable in this situation,” the company told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

“We are at this instance intensively investigating how we can support countries, societies and individuals from a health and financial perspective.”

Bangladesh is one of the world’s top suppliers of clothes to Western countries, with some 4,000 factories employing about 4 million people, mostly women.

With Western economies struggling due to the crisis and retailers in many countries closed, brands have begun cancelling orders, though some – including H&M – have pledged to take delivery of garments already made or in production.

Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, praised H&M for standing by its suppliers and urged others to follow suit.
“A few (brands) have agreed to accept both ready goods and stocks in progress, (but) we are yet to have any acceptable terms of releasing such orders,” said Huq.

“With exception of a few, most of the brands have cancelled their orders and distanced from the contracts they have entered with suppliers.”

Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labour and Employment has asked garment factory owners not to sack workers, but with orders cancelled and a shutdown imposed by the government until mid-April, most plants have had to close.

Although Bangladesh has fewer than 200 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, there are fears it could spread rapidly through the densely-populated country, whose weak healthcare systems risk quickly becoming overwhelmed.

But the impact on the economy is also causing concern in a country where many live from hand to mouth and both Unions and human rights groups have asked major Western buyers to provide financial support.

On Tuesday, British retailer Tesco said its orders would carry on. “We will continue to source from our suppliers on their current payment terms. We are committed to ensuring workers are treated fairly,” it said in a statement.

Bestseller, which produces fashion brand Jack & Jones, also said it would take delivery of garments already made and those in production.

The IndustriAll Global Union last week said that it was working with major Western buyers to support Bangladesh’s garment workers financially.

© Thomson Reuters 2020 All rights reserved.


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Meet Your Meme Lords – The New York Times



Future researchers can rest easy: Know Your Meme, Urban Dictionary, Creepypasta and Cute Overload have all been preserved by the Library of Congress. So has the band website for They Might Be Giants and the entire published output of The Toast, the humor site that shut down in 2016.

And while the Library of Congress owns a rare print copy of the Gutenberg Bible, the web archive features the LOLCat Bible Translation Project, which rendered the bible in LOLspeak.

For the past 20 years, a small team of archivists at the Library of Congress has been collecting the web, quietly and dutifully in its way. The initiative was born out of a desire to collect and preserve open-access materials from the web, especially U.S. government content around elections, which makes this the team’s busy season.

But the project has turned into a sweeping catalog of internet culture, defunct blogs, digital chat rooms, web comics, tweets and most other aspects of online life.

“Suddenly, these new technologies and social media platforms come in, and these new types of ways people were communicating or sharing data online,” said Abbie Grotke, who leads the archiving team and has worked for the program since 2002, two years after its founding. “And we had to keep up with it all. There’s always something new the web is throwing at us.”

March turned out to be particularly chaotic. With an entire team working from home, the web archivists are participating in an international project to collect content around the coronavirus, as well as adding to the library’s own collections about the pandemic. And, of course, it’s still technically campaign season.

“We do an all-hands-on-deck,” Ms. Grotke said.“And we don’t delete anything. We’re digital hoarders.”

“In the vastness of the web, what is the sampling of stuff that we can pull together that demonstrates what’s going on now?” said John Fenn, the head of research and programs at the American Folklife Center. He is also one of about 80 recommending officers, who make suggestions for the library’s archive — in Mr. Fenn’s case, for the Web Cultures collection. (It is one of several thematic groupings in the archive, along with the Webcomics collection, American Music Creators and dozens more.)

“It’s like whack-a-mole,” said Gina Jones, a digital projects coordinator on the team.

The criteria for selection typically used by print archivists — value to future scholars, uniqueness of the material — still apply to the web archivists, though the high extinction rate of digital matter factors into decision making. One of the most recent acquisitions is the recently defunct Design Sponge, an interior decorating website that ran for 15 years. (Though it will cease to exist as a website, every single blog post will be fully accessible through the Library’s web archive.)

The earliest material in the archive dates to the 2000 elections, when the web archive was still a pilot program. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, when heart-rending memorials and fierce political debates played out online, the library recognized the need for an official digital record.

For years, collecting was keyed to major news events: the Iraq War, the 2004 elections. Then, around 2009, came a more continuing, expanded approach that sought to reflect the web in all its dizzying newness.


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