International News, April 5-11, 2019

International News, April 5-11, 2019

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George Clooney calls for boycott of hotels over anti-gay law

George Clooney is calling for a boycott of nine hotels in the United States and Europe with ties to the sultan of Brunei, which next month will implement Islamic criminal laws to punish gay sex by stoning offenders to death.

The Hollywood actor wrote March 28 in Deadline Hollywood: “Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?”

He wrote that you can’t shame “murderous regimes,” but you can shame “the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them.”

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah rules the oil-rich monarchy with full executive authority, and the hotels are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency. An email seeking comment was sent to the agency March 29.

The hotels are The Dorchester and Coworth Park in the U.K.; Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles; Le Meurice and Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris; Hotel Eden in Rome; and Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan.

The new laws go into effect April 3.


Chinese viewers balk at ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ censorship

Moviegoers in China are criticizing a censored version of the biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody’” which erases mentions of Freddie Mercury’s sexuality.

The film chronicles the life of Mercury, lead singer of the legendary British rock band Queen.

Chinese audience members say scenes in which Mercury reveals that he is not straight and that he has AIDS were cut or abruptly muted. A kiss shared by Mercury and his longtime partner, Jim Hutton, is also missing.

While LGBT content is generally less taboo than other topics which Chinese authorities deem sensitive, same-sex relationships are still virtually absent from mainstream media.

When Chinese video site Mango TV livestreamed the Academy Awards in January, “Bohemian Rhapsody” lead actor Rami Malek’s speech was subtitled to read “special group” when in fact he said “gay man.”


Conservative congress on family divides Italy

A congress in Italy under the auspices of a U.S. organization that defines family as strictly centering around a mother and father has made Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, the backdrop for a culture clash over family values, with a coalition of civic groups mobilizing against what they see as a counter-reform movement to limit LGBT and women’s rights.

The World Congress of Families, which ended March 31, has revealed another rift in Italy’s governing coalition, as well as providing a platform for ultra-conservatives seeking to reopen the debate over abortion, legalized in Italy in 1978.

Vice Premier Matteo Salvini, who says the question of legalized abortion is not on the government’s agenda, is a featured speaker at the congress Saturday. But the leader of the other main coalition party, the 5-Star Movement’s Luigi Di Maio, has described the event as ``medieval.’’ Still, Di Maio’s edict against the movement’s participation in the congress was defied by a senator, who spoke on March 29.

Academics and political liberals have come out against the Congress, while a coalition of some 30 civic organizations collected 147,000 signatures to pressure _ unsuccessfully, the regions of Veneto and neighboring Fruili-Venezia Giulia and the city of Verona to withdraw their sponsorship of the event. Facing political pressure, Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office did withdraw its support, and even the Vatican has kept its distance, with secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin saying that “we are agree on the substance, but not on the mode.”

Joseph Grabowski, spokesman for the International Organization for the Family that organizes the congress, said the event is non-denominational and without political affiliations.

“We welcome anyone who shares the just basic values that there is a plan and a beauty and in the design of human sexuality and the complementarity of the sexes and that marriage is a stabilizing force for society,” he said.

Yuri Guaiana, a spokesman for LGBT rights group All Out, said Italy is a natural target for such an organization. He noted that three government ministers are speaking at the event, indicating an affinity for the conservative message, and that the rights for gays and women in Italian society are relatively recent and still fragile.

“Italy is a country that has a very recent history of democracy,’’ Guaiana said. `”Rights like the right to choose for women what to do with their body and the right for same-sex couples to be recognized are very, very recent. So they’re probably trying to pick on Italy because it’s probably the most fragile country in Western Europe.” n

— compiled by Larry Nichols

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