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Reporter finds Disney, Sears, and Wal-Mart products in wreckage of Bangladeshi factory

AP reporters sifted through the wreckage of the Tarzeen Fashions Ltd. factory in Bangladesh that burned to the ground last weekend killing 112 workers, and found merchandise from a number of popular western brands: 

Much of the clothing on the lower floors was incinerated. Nightgowns, children's shorts, pants, jackets and sweat shirts were strewn about, piled up in some places, boxed in others. Cartons of kids' hooded sweaters, off-white with red and black print, were marked "Disney Pixar."

Among the Disney garments was a gray sweatshirt emblazoned with the image of Lightning McQueen, the star of Pixar's `'Cars" movies.

A pair of blue ENYCE shorts was still on a sewing machine.

There were also at least four register books listing buyers including Wal-Mart, Disney, Sears and other companies. Also listed was Li & Fung, a Hong Kong-based buying house that is among the biggest suppliers of garment products from Bangladesh. Li & Fung issued a statement Monday saying it placed orders at the factory for just one company, Kids Headquarters, and that the value of those orders totaled just $111,000.

Wal-Mart claims that it stopped using the factory because of labor complaints last year but that a subcontractor had continued placing orders there. 

Three factory officials were arrested on Wednesday amid reports that workers trying to escape had been locked inside the factory. Authorities have not ruled out arson. According to the AP, more than 300 workers there have died in fires since 2006.

In recent years, the iconic case for labor rights in Asia has been China's now world-famous Foxconn electronics factories. While much of that attention was certainly warranted, the Tarzeen fire is a reminder that while Enyce shorts may not be as glamorous a product as the iPad, many of the worse abuses are happening in more out-of-the-way corners of the global supply chain. 

STR/AFP/Getty Images

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An island dispute of our own

It's not quite the Senkakus, but Stephen Kelly highlights a long-festering territorial dispute between the United States and Canada:

Machias Seal Island is a 20-acre, treeless lump that sits nearly equidistant from Maine and New Brunswick. It, and the even smaller North Rock, lie in what local lobstermen call the gray zone, a 277-square-mile area of overlapping American and Canadian maritime claims.

The disagreement dates back to the 1783 Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. The treaty assigned to the newly independent 13 colonies all islands within 20 leagues — about 70 miles — of the American shore. Since Machias Seal Island sits less than 10 miles from Maine, the American position has been that it is clearly United States soil.

But the treaty also excluded any island that had ever been part of Nova Scotia, and Canadians have pointed to a 17th-century British land grant they say proves the island was indeed part of that province, whose western portion became New Brunswick in the late 18th century.

Perhaps more important to the Canadian case, the British built a lighthouse on Machias Seal Island in 1832, which has been staffed ever since. Even today, two lighthouse keepers are regularly flown to the island by helicopter for 28-day shifts to operate a light — even though, like every other lighthouse in Canada, it is automated.

Kelly reasonably suspects that the lack of natural resources in the region have made both sides reluctant to rock the boat by submitting their claims to the International Court of Justice for arbitration, as they have with other disputes. There's simply nothing there worth the risk of losing the case and having to explain to voters why you "gave away" U.S. or Canadian territory. In any case, from the photos on Flickr it looks like the Canadian government has staked a pretty permanent claim to the island, so this one may be de facto settled.

Machias is the only U.S.-Canadian border conflict that involves land, but the sea border is disputed in a few places. Here's Wikipedia's list:

  • Strait of Juan de Fuca 48°17?58?N 124°02?58?W (Washington / British Columbia) The middle-water line is the boundary, but the governments of both Canada and British Columbia disagree and support two differing boundary definitions that would extend the line into the Pacific Ocean to provide a more definite Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) boundary.
  • Dixon Entrance 54°22?N 132°20?W (Alaska / British Columbia) is wholly administered by Canada as part of its territorial waters, but the US supports a middle-water line boundary, thereby providing the US more maritime waters. Canada claims that a 1903 treaty demarcation is the international maritime boundary, while the United States holds that the maritime boundary is an equidistant line between the islands that form the Dixon Entrance, extending as far east as the middle-water line with Hecate Strait to the south and Clarence Strait to the north.[2]
  • Yukon–Alaska dispute, Beaufort Sea 72°01?40?N 137°02?30?W (Alaska / Yukon) Canada supports an extension into the sea of the land boundary between Yukon and Alaska. The US does not, but instead supports an extended sea boundary into the Canadian portion of the Beaufort Sea. Such a demarcation means that a minor portion of Northwest Territories EEZ in the polar region is claimed by Alaska, because the EEZ boundary between Northwest Territories and Yukon follows a straight north-south line into the sea. US claims would create a triangular shaped EEZ for Yukon. This is mainly an Alaska-Yukon dispute.
  • Northwest Passage; Canada claims the passage as part of its "internal waters" belonging to Canada, while the United States regards it as an "international strait" (a strait accommodating open international traffic).

The last two might get a bit more controversial as resource competition in the rapidly melting Arctic heats up.

Flickr user ducksarefun