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WORLD Extremists charged, Virgin Mary controversy, Taiwan marriage bill
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Eight Islamist extremists from a banned group were charged by Bangladesh police for the 2016 murders of two prominent gay-rights activists, AFP reported. Dhaka police's counterterrorism unit filed the charge sheet against the eight men, saying they were members of Ansar al Islam. Ansar al Islam—also known as Ansarullah Bangla Team—has been blamed for a series of murders since 2013, including of atheist writers, publishers, members of religious minorities, social activists and foreign-aid workers.

In Poland, a woman has been arrested on suspicion of offending religious sentiment after posters bearing an image of the Virgin Mary with her halo painted in the colors of the rainbow flag appeared in the city of Płock, The Guardian reported. Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski tweeted that a person had been arrested for "carrying out a profanation of the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa." The "Black Madonna of Czestochowa" is a revered Byzantine icon that resides in the monastery of Jasna Gora—a UN world heritage site and Poland's holiest Catholic shrine.

Taiwan's lawmakers must back the government's draft same-sex law and make the self-ruled island the first place in Asia to allow such unions, LGBT+ campaigners said ahead of a key vote in parliament this week, Reuters reported. Taiwan has until May 24 to legalize same-sex marriage after a 2017 ruling by the island's top court. The court did not give specific guidance on how laws regulating such unions should be drawn.

Police in Chechnya have carried out a new round of detentions, beatings and humiliation of men they presume to be gay or bisexual, Human Rights Watch said on its website ( ). Human Rights Watch interviewed four men who were detained for between three and 20 days, between December 2018 and February 2019, at the Grozny Internal Affairs Department compound—and those men said officials beat them and even subjected them to electric shocks. The new abuses come after a large-scale anti-gay purge in spring 2017.

A veteran who was dismissed from Britain's Royal Navy because of his sexuality plans to sue the country's defense ministry for the return of his medals—which were cut from his chest when he was expelled in 1993, reported. Joe Ousalice, now 68, said he was "hounded out" of the navy and made to feel "disgusting" for being bisexual, after serving for almost 18 years.

Cuban police, on May 11, arrested several people during an unsanctioned LGBTI march in Havana, The Washington Blade reported. Independent LGBTI activists organized the march less that a week after the National Center for Sexual Education, a group directed by Mariela Castro, the daughter of former President Raul Castro, announced it had cancelled its annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia march in Havana that was to have taken place that same day.

On a related note, Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez agreed with criticism by colleague Vicente Feliu about the "absurd, shameful, dangerously evocative repression" of the LGTBI march, Havana Times noted. "With my eyes wide open, I subscribe to every word of what Vicente said on his Facebook," the artist wrote in the comments section of his blog, Segunda Cita. Hours before, Feliu had published on his Facebook page that "the absurd, embarrassing, dangerously evocative repression" of the gay march "is definitely indefensible."

In the United Kingdom, a 21-year-old bisexual Conservative staffer has been approved by the party to stand for them as a parliamentary candidate, Gay Star News noted. Elena Bunbury—a councilor in West Yorkshire, northeast England—was given the green light to stand for the blue-tie party.

French group SOS Homophobie said that assaults in France on LGBT people hit a new record high in 2018, Times Live reported. The non-profit association registered 231 physical attacks—up from the previous annual record of 188 anti-LGBT assaults back in 2013 linked to same-sex marriage legislation. SOS Homophobie's helpline, website and legal services collected 1,905 statements from witnesses of abuse of the gay community—15 percent more than the previous year.

The United States doesn't trust a Chinese company to own gay-dating app Grindr and will force it to sell by 2020, as tensions spike between Washington and Beijing over trade and national security, noted. Beijing Kunlun Tech acquired a 60-percent stake in Grindr in 2016. Kunlun said it had reached an agreement with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States to sell the app by June 30, 2020. Until then, the firm says Grindr will not transmit any sensitive information to China, though it is not clear how that will be enforced.

An Australian soccer star has become the first former A-league player to come out as gay, less than a year after breaking up with his girlfriend, according to Gay Star News. Former Newcastle Jets player Andy Brennan came out as gay on an Instagram post. Brennan said, in part, "It's taken me years to get comfortable saying this—I'm gay. I was scared it would affect my friendships, my teammates, and my family."

A controversial U.S. preacher has become the first person to be banned from Ireland under a 20-year-old law, reported. Steven Anderson, a pastor from Arizona, runs the Faithful Word Baptist Church and openly expresses anti-gay and anti-Semitic views. Anderson has previously called for the death of former U.S. President Barack Obama, and praised the gunman who killed 49 people in an attack at Orlando's Pulse Nightclub in 2016.

British singer/actress Tulisa Contostavlos' personal assistant, Gareth Varey, has apologized for claiming Simon Cowell is gay, the BBC noted. His original remarks were made in a video played as evidence during Contostavlos' drug-related trial. Varey had been speaking to undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood, who later made allegations about Contostavlos, prompting her arrest. Her trial collapsed after the judge said Mahmood had lied during his evidence.

On another Cowell-related note, he has apologized after being criticized for making a joke during an episode of the Xtra Factor that some have described as homophobic, The Irish Telegraph noted. During a segment of the X Factor spin-off show, hosts Rylan Clark-Neal and Matt Edmondson asked the judges to pick one of a number of doors in order select a caller who would then pose them a question. While introducing the feature, Clark-Neal said "I love a front door"—to which Simon replied: "I thought you liked a back door."

The Cannes Film Festival has just started, but it's already embroiled in controversy, Page Six noted. The festival has sparked outrage by choosing to honor French actor Alain Delon—who's been accused of domestic violence and who's come out against same-sex marriage—with its highest award. Despite calls to rescind Delon's award, including an online petition, Cannes boss Thierry Fremaux defended the fest's decision, saying, "We are not going to give Alain Delon the Nobel Peace Prize. We're giving him a Palme d'Or for his career as an actor."

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