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Adidas Looks to Score in Brazil and Chokes

After an unusual complaint from the Brazilian government, sports goods manufacturer Adidas has agreed to ban the sale of two controversial T-shirts designed for the soccer World Cup in Brazil, which kicks off on June 12.

In what the designers thought to be a clever pun, one of the shirts reads "Looking to Score" and features a bikini-clad woman waiting with open arms -- presumably for a "striker" -- against a sunny Rio de Janeiro backdrop. The other shirt, modeled after the ubiquitous "I <3 NY" design, shows a heart that resembles an upside-down thong-clad female bottom. Adidas, it appears, would like to perpetuate the hypersexualized stereotype of Brazilian woman as bikini-clad sex pots.

The shirts elicited an outpouring of official responses from Brazilian authorities. The country's ministry of women's affairs said that the Adidas T-shirts were "all the more shocking" because of Dilma Rousseff's recent election as the country's first female president, which "brought greater respect for women and zero tolerance for any form of violence against them." The country's tourism board said in a statement that it "strongly repudiates the sale of products that link Brazil's image to sexual appeal."

The shirts belong to a limited-edition run to be sold only in the United States. The German company is one of the World Cup's chief sponsors and makes the tournament's official ball.

This is not the first time Adidas designers have exhibited what might be diplomatically described as insensitivity in its designs. In 2012 the company announced a "shackle" sneaker, which included colorful "handcuffs" attaching the shoe to the wearer's' ankles. After an outcry online, with multiple accusations of racism and arguments that the "cuffs" remained associated with slavery, the company scrapped the shoe.

In Brazil, the government's clear fury over the T-shirts isn't just political posturing. Both sex tourism and child prostitution remain serious problems in Brazil despite its image as a relaxed, sun-drenched paradise. In 2010, UNICEF estimated that there are some 250,000 child prostitutes in Brazil, many of them strolling the country's beaches in exactly the same type of revealing bikinis that Adidas saw as a clever marketing tool.

Photo: YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

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How Food Became Syria's Next Battlefield

BEIRUT — They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The one above -- showing residents of the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, located outside Damascus -- may be worth even more than that.

The photograph and corresponding video were taken by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has had intermittent access to the camp in the past two months. According to UNRWA spokesman Christopher Gunness, it shows Yarmouk residents gathering at the northern part of the camp, waiting for UNRWA workers to distribute food parcels.

"The distribution takes place in a ‘no man's land' defined by opposition sniper positions," Gunness said. "Gaunt, ragged figures of all ages fill the streets of the devastated camp for as far as the eye can see."

As shown by the numbers of people who took to the street, Yarmouk residents desperately need the aid UNRWA distributes. The camp has been besieged by Syrian regime forces since last summer, which has resulted in the starvation of dozens of residents -- and hard-to-watch videos showing the severe malnutrition of many more:

The photograph at the top of this post also shows that the aid reaching Yarmouk is not nearly enough. UNRWA says that over the course of the past month it has distributed to Yarmouk just over 7,000 food parcels, each of which feeds five to eight people for 10 days. But with 18,000 Palestinians and an unknown number of Syrians in the camp, simple math -- and the clear evidence of starvation emerging from Yarmouk -- shows that not enough food is getting into the camp to feed all its residents.

On Feb. 23, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution that for the first time calls on both the Syrian regime and the country's rebels to allow aid organizations access to suffering civilians across the country. UNRWA is hoping that this will allow them greater access to areas in need. But so far, plenty of hurdles remain.

On Tuesday, Gunness announced that aid workers were once again stopped from distributing assistance in Yarmouk. The halt came just one day after UNRWA released a statement saying Commissioner General Filippo Grandi was "encouraged by assurances given by the [Syrian] authorities that access will be maintained and expanded," following his recent three-day visit to Damascus.

"Following clear advice from concerned parties that distribution would not be possible, no UNRWA team was present," Gunness said, in explaining the reason for the halt in aid delivery. "We remain concerned about the situation facing thousands of civilians in the camp...They have suffered enough."

UNRWA