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WORLD Iraqi death site, gay bar apologizes, Ghana attacks
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Authorities in Mosul began demolishing a onetime icon of modern Iraqi architecture used by the Islamic State group to throw men accused of being gay to their deaths, reported. Workers and bulldozers could be seen removing rubble and twisted metal from the gutted ruins of the National Insurance Company in the city's west. It was designed by celebrated Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji in the 1960s but became infamous under IS, which used the seven-story structure to kill young men it said had violated Islamic law by being gay. The building was then ravaged by the months-long fight to oust IS from Mosul, which ended in the summer of 2017.

Poof Doof—a Melbourne, Australia, gay bar—has apologized after a guidance sheet given to photographers there instructing them not to take pictures of skinny and overweight men, "boys with bad skin," "Indi boys" and women came to light, noted. The sheet, which found its way to Facebook, instructed photographers to focus on, "Boys with big muscles. Big ones. The kind of muscles that come about from spending at least 5 sessions a week at the gym." Poof Doof manager Susie Robinson told the Star Observer, "We're really devastated. A lot changes in eight years, and that brief isn't representative of who we are today."

People have continued their aggravated attacks on individuals they believe to be gay or lesbian in Ghana, Gay Star News noted. In early January, men were lured to Kasoa, a suburb of Accra ( Ghana's capital ), where they were allegedly robbed of their phones, money and other valuables; then, they were reportedly stripped naked, videotaped and photographed. Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, but the government is pushing to create even harsher anti-LGBTI laws.

Sergei Polunin—the Royal Ballet-trained dancer who revels in a "bad boy of ballet" reputation—has been dropped from a production in Paris after a series of homophobic and sexist social-media posts, The Guardian reported. Polunin had been invited to play Prince Siegfried in Paris Opera Ballet's February production of Swan Lake—but that the invitation was withdrawn. Ukraine-born Polunin is a fervent admirer of Russia President Vladimir Putin.

An Egyptian TV host was sentenced to one year of hard labor for interviewing a gay sex worker, ABC News reported. Mohamed El-Gheity—a well-known journalist in Egypt who has spoken out against homosexuality—was accused of promoting debauchery and insulting religions during an episode that aired last August on private satellite channel LTC. The guest said he was motivated to share his experience so other young Egyptians would not repeat his mistakes.

Gay hook-up app Grindr has abruptly stopped working for users in Lebanon, sparking fears of a government ban, PinkNews reported. LGBT+ organizations in the country raised the alarm after the app abruptly stopped working over Lebanese mobile internet services Jan. 18. Beirut Pride organizers hit out at the ban, warning users of the app about the issue.

Chinese gay dating app Blued halted new user registration for a week following media reports that underage users caught HIV after going on dates set up via the world's largest networking app for the LGBT community, Straits Times reported. Citing academic research, financial magazine Caixin said juveniles were heavily involved with the gay dating app, where some teenagers had even hosted livestreaming. It added that many gay teenagers had unprotected sex through the app and contracted HIV.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi—a tattooed transgender leader and a former reality TV star—has become an unlikely icon at India's Kumbh Mela, a huge religious festival being held on the banks of the Ganges river in the city of Prayagraj, Reuters noted. Her religious movement, the Kinnar Akhada, recently became the first transgender group to bathe at the confluence of the holy Ganges and the Yamuna rivers on the first day of the ancient festival—which is traditionally reserved for reclusive Hindu priests, almost all of whom are men. Up to 150 million people are expected to attend by the time the festival ends in March.

The Chilean Senate has once again begun to debate an equal marriage bill, The Washington Blade reported. Former President Michelle Bachelet introduced the bill in September 2017, but the debate ended when current President Sebastian Piñera's administration took office at La Moneda a few months later. However, a recent meeting took place that Movilh President Rolando Jimenez and Fundacion Iguales Executive President Juan Enrique Pi attended.

Actor Sir Ian McKellen will appear at National Student Pride in London on Feb. 23, according to Gay Star News. The Oscar-nominated actor, who is openly gay, will give an on-stage interview for the pride's #QueerAF podcast with BBC broadcaster Evan Davis at the event. National Student Pride will take place Feb. 22-24 at the University of Westminster, Marylebone campus.

The International Triathlon Union has rescinded its ban on rainbow flags, Gay Star News noted. LGBTI athletes had called on the rules banning displays relating to sexual orientation, such as a pride flag. The ITU said the new rule was a "misunderstanding" and has now changed its policy.

Brandon Truaxe, the former CEO and founder of skin-care company Deciem, has died at 40, Page Six noted. Hailed for his charisma and commitment to radical transparency, Truaxe founded the Toronto-based Deciem ( which he dubbed "The Abnormal Beauty Company" ) in 2013. A December report by Canada's Financial Post revealed that Truaxe had been hospitalized under suspicion of mental-health issues, added. Truaxe denied having been diagnosed with a mental illness but did admit to using various drugs.

Strictly Come Dancing pro AJ Pritchard has responded to fan speculation about his sexuality, according to PinkNews. The professional dancer, 24, has been a part of the UK show since 2016, and has attracted a large following among gay fans over his time on the dance competition. But the dancer, who has previously stripped for the gay-focused Attitude magazine, said he would be keeping his sexuality ambiguous, telling The Sun, "I don't think I should have to define it."

Ryan Reynolds canceled surgery on his arm to fly to China and greet Deadpool fans in Beijing ahead of the franchise's unexpected China theatrical debut, according to Page Six. Recently, Fox suddenly announced that a recut, PG-13 Deadpool 2 would hit Chinese theaters—marking the first time the notoriously blood-splattered and foul-mouthed series has passed the country's strict censorship standards.

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