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World news: Israel lifts blood ban, EU opinion, Billie Jean King
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

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Israel announced that it would be lifting a ban on gay and bisexual male blood donors—a change that has not been made in the United States, Newsweek reported. Israel's national emergency service devised a "double testing" system that allows blood banks to screen donations twice, allowing gay and bisexual men to make immediate donations, according to the The Times of Israel. Israel had previously shared the same policy seen in the United States, in which gay and bisexual men can only donate blood after a 12-month period of no sexual contact with another man.

One of the EU's most senior legal advisers has said that same-sex partners of EU citizens enjoy the same free movement rights as partners of a different gender, reported. Advocate General Melchior Wathelet at the Court of Justice of the European Union wrote in an opinion published Jan. 11 that Romania was wrong to deny a work and residence permit to the male spouse of a Romanian man. The case involves a Romanian male national who had married a man from the United States in Brussels in 2010.

Billie Jean King has called on the Margaret Court arena to be renamed in light of Court's continued homophobic and transphobic comments, according to PinkNews. Speaking three days before the tournament was set to stat at the Australian Open court, King said that if she were still in her prime days as a tennis player, she would refuse to play a match at the arena. When the arena was named after Court in 2003, King supported it; however, as Court expressed openly derogatory ideas in the lead up to Australia's same-sex marriage plebiscite, King dropped her support for her former fellow tennis player.

British biking champion Zack Leader has come out as gay, Gay Times Magazine noted. The 19-year-old—who's a two-time Junior British Gravity Bike champion and hopes to become the first ever out gay British Superbike champion—shared the news of his sexuality in a post on social media on New Year's Day. Leader explained some of the fears he faced before coming out, worrying over whether or not his fellow riders would accept him, before he decided to take a leap of faith and share the news with the world.

In India, same-sex acts are punishable by up to 10 years in prison—but the country's highest court announced it will re-examine the ban, reported. Enacted by the British 153 years ago in 1860, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code outlaws "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal" and also bans oral sex between man and woman, holding that only opposite-sex relations were not "against the order of nature." Following a petition filed by five Indians who said they are living in constant fear of being prosecuted, the Supreme Court said a larger group of judges would reconsider the constitutional validity of the law.

For a group of Australian trans and gender-nonconforming teens, the 40th annual Sydney Mardi Gras on Feb. 13 will be special for them because they're getting their own float for the very first time, according to . The New South Wales Trans Youth Alliance was launched by psychologist Kath Power last year, after she and her husband joined their trans son and four of his friends on a Mardi Gras float organized by Sydney's Gender Center.

An imam in Australia is working to open the country's first mosque for LGTBI Muslims, claiming that gay Muslims in the country lack support and safe spaces, according to a Newsweek item. Nur Warsame, Australia's only openly gay imam, told Australian media he deals with an "avalanche of misery" from LGTBI Muslims who need support and community. Warsame says he has had over half a dozen young LGTBI Muslims stay at his house because they feared for their lives, and this experience led him to believe that LGTBI Muslims need a safe space to live and worship.

U.S. President Donald Trump has cancelled his Feb. 26-27 visit to Britain, blaming the three-mile move of the U.S. embassy in London, according to PinkNews. On Twitter, Trump said, "I am not a big fan of the Obama Administration having sold perhaps the best located and finest embassy in London for 'peanuts,' only to build a new one in an off location for 1.2 billion dollars." ( Reuters reported that the development actually happened under George W. Bush. ) Mass protests were expected during Trump's visit.

Actress Catherine Deneuve joined 99 other French women claiming that men are being unfairly targeted by sexual misconduct allegations, adding that the #MeToo campaign amounted to "puritanism" and was fueled by a "hatred of men, NBC News reported. The 74-year-old Deneuve, who is one of France's most famous screen stars, was among those warning that the "legitimate protest against sexual violence" stemming from the Harvey Weinstein scandal had gone too far. ( In her own open letter published by Liberation on Jan. 14,, the actress stands by signing the manifesto while also explaining her position and apologizing to "all victims of odious acts who may have felt offended" by the letter whose text she says does not claim that harassment is a good thing, Deadline noted. ) Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi—who was tried for paying for sex with underage women at parties—is among those backing the letter, Page Six noted.

NBC News is firming its plans for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Deadline noted. The network's coverage of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games kicks off Thursday, Feb. 8, one day before the Opening Ceremony. With special editions of Today and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, NBC News will feature exclusive interviews with medal-winning athletes and emerging stars of the Winter Games. Also, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb will co-anchor Today live from Pyeongchang, on Feb. 12-23, with Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Craig Melvin and Dylan Dreyer.

Organizers of Mr. Gay World announced that Knysna, South Africa, will be the official host city of the Mr. Gay World 2018 pageant in May, The Huffington Post ( South Africa ) noted. This will be the third time that South Africa has presented the prestigious event—a world first. It will also be the second time that the contest will be held during the Pink Loerie festival, which organizers call "Africa's biggest LGBTIQ+ cultural festival."

Reality-TV competition RuPaul's Drag Race is sashaying its way to Thailand in a brand-new Thai series named Drag Race Thailand, PinkNews noted. In the United States, the show has recently been renewed for a tenth season and has inspired the spin-off shows RuPaul's Drag U and RuPaul's Drag Race All-Stars. It has been revealed that top Thai drag queen Art Arya will be hosting the show; however, it has not yet been confirmed if RuPaul herself will make an appearance on the show or who will make up the panel of judges.

Netflix has been accused of glamorizing sex trafficking after commissioning an Italian drama based on the Baby Squillo teen-prostitution scandal, Deadline noted. The U.S.-based National Center on Sexual Exploitation ( NCOSE ) called for eight-part drama Baby to be axed ahead of its launch. The show explores the lives of high school teenagers in Rome and is loosely inspired by a true story, the Baby Squillo scandal, which saw the husband of Benito Mussolini's granddaughter caught up in a teen prostitution racket in the Parioli district.

Clothing-retail chain H&M temporarily closed several of its South African stores after protests erupted over a racist image on the Swedish company's website, The Huffington Post reported. The picture of a young Black boy modeling an H&M sweatshirt with the words "Coolest Monkey In The Jungle" sparked outrage on social media last week after New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow drew attention to the ad on Twitter.

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