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Saturday, March 8

Video: Inside Iran's Secret Gay World

Excellent Canadian Broadcasting Company documentary about gay life in Iran: "We have to sacrifice everything to move forward"

Part One:

Part two:

Part Three:

Friday, March 7

Amazing predictions - from 1900

1900, Ladies Home Journal: 'These prophesies may seem strange, almost impossible ... '

Telephones Around The World
. Wireless telephone and telegraph circuits will span the world. A husband in the middle of the Atlantic will be able to converse with his wife sitting in her boudoir in Chicago. We will be able to telephone to China quite as readily as we now talk from New York to Brooklyn . By an automatic signal they will connect with any circuit in their locality without the intervention of a 'Hello Girl'.
Strawberries As Large As Apples. Coal Will Not Ne Used For Heating Or Cooking. Man Will See Around The World. Store Purchases By Tube. The American Will Be Taller. Trains One Hundred And Fifty Miles An Hour.

Mehdi Kazemi in his own words

Last September President Ahmadinejad of Iran told an audience in New York that 'we have no homosexuals in Iran'. This story was republished around the world and there's video below. In the comments section of the New York Sun I found a response by Mehdi himself:

I do exist as an Iranian homosexual

I have got very surprised, very angry of this article and I do not understand really what is point of President of Iran. If Iran do not have any homosexual then I do not understand who I am then because I am an Iranian Gay and I have so many problem back my country where is Iran because of my sexual orientation

my life is in danger in Iran then what is that?

What is the piont of seeking asylum for Iranian Homosexual? They do not want to leave their country, family, friends,...... . Why is that? They put everything behind theirself to go to another country that they anything about it.

And what is the piont of tourting, killing, .... of Homosexual if there is not?????!!!!

My purpose of this letter is to kind of answering President Ahmadinejad and to say that I do exist as an Iranian homosexual and it does not matter where I am.

Best regards,
seyed Mehdi Kazemi

Ahmadinejad at Colombia University:

Thursday, March 6

The shame of gay asylum in the UK

Peter Tatchell wrote the following in 1996 in CIF about the UK's attitude to gay asylum seekers.

He has long experience of personally helping many, so he knows of what he speaks:

The failure to give refuge to the victims of genuine homophobic persecution is the single greatest blot on the gay rights record of Tony Blair's administration.
Too right. Jacqui Smith is complicit, as were her predecessors and let's not forget the gay and lesbian people in power who've stood by.
From my day-to-day work with asylum seekers, I hear first hand shocking stories about homophobic abuse and inhumane conditions inside the UK's asylum detention centres, including allegations of homophobic insults, beatings and sexual assaults. Frightened refugees, who have narrowly escaped death and seen their partners murdered, are treated like common criminals..

Asylum adjudicators nearly always turn down gay refugee claims, even when the person has presented evidence of imprisonment, rape and torture. Adjudicators often acknowledge their brutal maltreatment but advise claimants that they will not be at risk of repeat persecution if they go back home, change their identity, stop acting effeminately, never have sex and move to a remote part of the country where no one knows them. That way, says the Home Office, nobody will realise the person is gay and therefore they will not suffer persecution..
This is the reality of how some gay people are dealt with by this government. I, for one, don't want these fellow gay people ignored — I can't ignore them, I can imagine myself in their shoes and I know full well how lucky I am to have been born here.

As Peter explains:
The Home Office does not explicitly accept persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation as a legitimate basis for gaining asylum.
Unlike Amnesty International, who will fight for persecuted gay people, and some other European and other governments.

Our government, which preaches human rights via the Foreign Office, has done much to advance gay and lesbian rights. Two years after this article it is time that someone in government did something about this stain - of blood - on that record.
  • Mehdi Kazemi updates - including the new front page support of the Independent
  • Peter Tatchell told the Independent:
    "It is just the latest example of the Government putting the aims of cutting asylum numbers before the merits of individual cases. The whole world knows that Iran hangs young, gay men and uses a particularly barbaric method of slow strangulation. In a bid to fulfil its target to cut asylum numbers the Government is prepared to send this young man to his possible death. It is a heartless, cruel mercenary anti-refugee policy."

  • Find out how to contact your MP/MEP via
  • Please help, even a quick email will help. We can change this by shining some light into this dark and shameful corner — we have done it before.

Wednesday, March 5

Gaming YouTube

There's buzz that 'The evolution of dance' has finally been knocked off the YouTube #1 spot by a fan tribute to an obscure Brazilian pop band called Cansei de Ser Sexy. examines this in detail but doesn't nail whether it's definitely gaming, it just smells like it. At least partly because it's an awful video.

This is a long standing complaint, Mashable published Gaming YouTube for Fun and Profit in 2006.

Essentially, if you set your browser to auto-refresh a YouTube page (a Firefox extension does it), every time the browser refreshes the video has a new view added to it. People testing this, though, don't seem to necessarily see 1000 refreshes becoming 1000 extra views.

Numbers can be inflated by videos being embedded on high traffic sites but waxy couldn't find any evidence of that being the cause with this one.

There have been claims that the early high numbers for some Obama sites (such as his MySpace) and videos were also being gamed but that's now discounted I think as they're within range of other candidate products/other content.

What's annoying is that YouTube (Google) doesn't seem the slightest bit bovvered.

I'll stick to the Viral Chart for now for seeing where trends are — generally, the best policy with stats is to look first at the trends.

Ralph Nader on the Daily Show

Why America has no third parties.

This is Nader telling a great story about the Bushes from a year ago.

Alan Duncan: Why I can't stand him

Alan Duncan is not a gay MP. Oh no. He's an "MP who happens to be gay" (n.b. when it was convenient for him). He's also a gay man with no respect for those who enabled him and a gay man who'll swipe at other gay men to make clear he's not like them.

Here he is announcing his 'partnership' (marriage is for heterosexuals he truly believes) to the Torygraph:

"This is not a 'wedding'," he says. "You really just go into the register office and sign. There will be no Elton John-style stuff: no white suits, no John Inman, no flouncing about."
Rather hysterically displaying a complete lack of self-awareness for such a big queen (Derek Faye anyone?) he says:
"The most annoying reaction I received from friends [when I came out] was: 'We always knew that'. I said: 'I don't flounce about. I don't parade. I don't have peroxide in my hair'."
This is so traditional this stuff. People like him were telling those who created the world he lives in to 'tone it down' forty years ago. Wolfenden was all about that. The John Inman dig - he's dead, have some respect - is excruciatingly predictable.

People like him - Tories - always like to think of themselves as ground breaking whilst forgetting completely who created the ground they stand on. Yes, you need the quiet ones and the Tory gays as well to change the world but the arrogance of these characters is astonishing.

He's another rich tit — like Rupert Everett — who proudly displays his self-loathing in order to win brownie points from straight people:
"I would have loved to have kids. I really would have enjoyed being a father," he says. "But my personal view is that I don't think it's consistent with being in a gay partnership. I voted in favour of gay adoption but I would never contemplate doing it myself. I have serious qualms about it. I'm seriously uneasy about a gay couple making a baby by someone else."
Alan - duckie - there is no evidence for your queesiness save what you read in the Daily Mail. There is masses of research evidence which establishes that children of gay couples are - if anything - better off. Go look it up.

We're all in favour of 'the Conservatives' evolution into a more socially liberal party, free of its blue-rinse past'. Just stop attacking other gay people and show some damn respect for your elders.

UK searching for Obama

Robin Gould posts that:

UK Internet users are more interested in the United States presidential race than politics at home. Senator Barack Obama is the most searched for political figure in the UK, receiving three times as many searches on his name last week as Hillary Clinton, and five times as many as Gordon Brown. John McCain ranked in fourth place, just ahead of David Cameron.

UK Internet visits to Barack Obama’s official website ( started to increase steadily from the end of January and, during the week of ‘Super Tuesday’ (week ending 9 February 2008) his website received more visits than any of the major UK political party websites. Interest in Senator Obama has declined slightly since ‘Super Tuesday’ and his website now ranks one position behind The Conservative Party’s homepage ( ) in our Politics category, but it remains more popular than the websites of both Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Are Hillary's wins bad news for web campaigning fans?

It's a matter of expectations and the big MO (momentum). Hillary's wins may not bring her the nomination (simple delegate maths says no) but she won Texas and Ohio on the back of traditional campaigning and negative campaigning at that. She has the MO now.

Although the polls said it was close she raced ahead in Ohio on the back of a gaff about trade issues by the Obama camp - very traditional. And although Obama had by far the slickest operation ever seen technically (see Terry Mancour in today's Guardian), especially compared to Hillary's 'command-control', and has completely changed the rules with fundraising (one million have donated online) that didn't push him over the top in Texas. And expectations about that were raised.

He will likely still get there - people who like to bet say it's a 1-7 done deal. But yesterday's vote and a perceived Hillary 'comeback' shows - I think - some real limits to the web's impact and the problem is the lack of real evidence and real numbers on where that limit is.

Obviously the slick online operation and the fundraising has pushed Obama further and energised a lot of people, especially young ones, but just how much further I don't think we know yet. Both of them have pushed turnout up but how much is web-derived and how much to do with the first black/first woman?.

Only Pew has done some real research as far as I'm aware and this is a big gap if web campaigning is really going to get some place, some backing and some real funding elsewhere — I'm talking about the UK here.

Politically it can't be ignored because of its ability to hit you - like with John Edwards haircut and how that made him look like a rich hypocrite or the Macacca incident which defeated a Govenor. Plus everyone will want to copy Obama's fundraising. But, like with Ron Paul, being a web hit, which Obama definitely is, isn't everything.

Exactly where the line is, where web impact ends and 'traditional' takes over, where it's moved to over the past few months? We don't know, we can only make an educated guess.

And that's a problem.

Footnote: I was watching Fox online last night and they had an excellent web stream hosted by - cough - Karl Rove. And, damn, it was good. It ran live complete with silences, bathroom breaks and tekkie interruptions with occasional crosses to TV. A telling moment was when they got a traffic report and wet themselves over 50,000 hits. Plus - bizarrely - they did the TV thing of quadrupling that to 200,000 'viewers'. Er, like web viewers aren't likely to be alone at a PC?!?

Tuesday, March 4

Election viral video numbers go boom

Checking the numbers on US elections viral videos I was astonished to see the stats for the (Black Eyed Peas) pro-Obama video. It's been posted nearly 5000 times and viewed by nearly 12 million in just over a month.

To put this in context, 'dramatic look' (where some sort of rodent gives a cute impression of a bad actor) is 'just' 16 million and 2300 posts. Other videos with huge numbers, such as 'evolution of dance' (85 million) are universal, not just American.

Not long ago, 5 million for 'vote different' - the anti-Hillary viral which is based on the famous 1984 Apple TV ad - seemed astonishing. Another context is that "The Daily Show"with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central averages a nightly audience of just 1.3 million viewers (and, to be generous, maybe a million online).

Given that the Obama cheer squad video only really appeals to Americans, 12 million in a month marks a real turning point — viral video isn't a sideshow. It's also calculated, the Obama campaign has been pushing supporters to distribute it (despite not commissioning it) to 'bolster and deepen voter outreach' whereas the Clinton's buy time on TV.

Here it is:

Here's the really funny anti-McCain parody:

Tories and standards and walled gardens

Shane McCracken @ Gallomanor has thrown me a sideways question. Sideways because he's linked to me from "some others in local Govt IT" (n.b. Shane, I'm 'web' not 'IT', there's a difference) whilst discussing David Cameron's call that 'councils should be publishing data using common standards so that the public and other groups can re-use the data to compare councils and provide services'.

He links to the e-Government Interoperability Framework (e-GIF) and Simon Dickson's comments - which I'll sum up as 'it's difficult'.

Basically, Cameron is on the right track but probably for the wrong reasons.

I've consistently argued that the problem with egov in the UK is it's 'walled garden', that it operates without consideration of the wider web, doesn't behave like the wider web and - largely because of a lag effect caused by bureaucracy and lack of marketing knowledge - ignores the wider web where most web users are. Search being the most obvious example.

Cameron is talking correctly when he aligns with the Guardian's 'Free Our Data' campaign in terms of the uses this information can be put to, including commercial uses. The Guardian has detailed how the problem isn't generally interoperability but freedom of access - 'walled gardens'. Obviously if other well-funded interests want information they can help/fund breaking down interoperability.

eGif, which most Council web operations experience as simply adding numbers to pages which specify which service is described, is a good example of this because it appears to be mainly about DirectGov. The pointlessness of which is a constant moan because DirectGov is not how most people find those services. However others could make use of this data, which is mostly already there.

The far bigger picture though is Cameron's assault on the Walled Garden (I'm reading it that way). Here, he is attacking an attitude which is all-pervasive (and I mean all) within eGov - the rest of the web is irrelevant, policy is out of date, traffic isn't important, expectations are low. This is exacerbated by a seeming desire to head to the frontier (e-democracy) when the basics on which the rest of the web operates aren't in place

Cameron talks about They Work For You and is presumably another person who loves MySociety's good works. I do too but in the wider scheme of things they're a blip. He should talk about NetMums etc. instead and how they should/could be using government data.

I wrote last year about a new online service which was ignoring it's key online audience to promote itself. That service talked about all sorts of data compatibility issues being barriers. This reminds me of my recent exchanges with the BBC over it's blog comments technical problems.

Neither of these issues were primarily about tech, they were really about communications and marketing — everyone has tech issues online, even Google sometimes, but they know how to not lose audience when they have them. They made things usable and they explain what's happening when they're not - they have to.

With the BBC the technical issues weren't communicated - users were left floundering.

With the major eGov project it was the same. Because the component government bodies making up the project operated on slightly different timescales it was actually about harvesting contact points (text/email) from users and sending reminders when to sign up. A simple challenge which numerous commercial operations have already dealt with but because of the government mindset and a tekkie viewpoint simply wasn't thought of.

In fact the experience for me was an eye opener because of the blinkers which people had on - I was coming from a commercial web background and this was seen as irrelevant, even hostile, when I was just trying to help.

If Cameron wants to go for the government's web stance - hurrah! I have met a few Tories now around eGov and have always found them to come from the right place. Even when they appear to have 'savings!' brightening up their eyes. My experience of Ministers and their lackeys is the direct opposite. Deliberate ignorance and patronising arrogance.

The plain fact is that the operation is not properly led and never has been. There's been no consistency or real vision. Blair was a technophobe and Brown appears to be one too. Who they've appointed has been the equivalent of 'Northern Ireland Minister' rather than something more prominent. This has been going on for years.

This is also why I've highlighted what's happening overseas and this would be my suggestion for Cameron — point to embarrassing counter-examples, of which there are many, where a much poorer country is doing something we can't get right. That'll get you in the Daily Mail and therefore the government might pay attention. Promoting MySociety (much as I adore those lovely boys) ? Not so much.

Alright, Shane. You set me off. Job done :}

Irony of ironies

Last week The New York Times ran a story pointing out that the U.S. constitution stipulates that only a "natural born citizen" can become president. This is the clause that stops Arnie.

Thing is, John McCain was not born in the United States proper, but rather in the Panama Canal Zone in the year 1936 to military parents.

Apparently the constitutional clause has never been tested in law

Now G.W. Bush has argued for years that Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) is not American soil in order to stop prisoners getting their cases into U.S. courts.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the White House's arguments over Guantanamo were used somehow against McCain?

Hat Tip: Serof David

Monday, March 3

Annan dispels ghosts of Rwanda / Saving baby Brian

Kofi Annan has succeeded in securing the power-sharing agreement which will end Kenya's crisis and the violence.

In this, he dispels the ghost of Rwanda.

If you read the background, virtually no-one and no country comes out well. Bill Clinton, most prominently, has publicly got on his knees to apologise for what he didn't do. Then UN GenSec Boutros Boutros Ghali hasn't. Neither has John Major or Douglas Hurd, to my knowledge. The heroes of Rwanda are very, very few. I am sure that Annan, amongst others, is literally haunted by people hacked to death. That would be very African.

The agreement has received universal support across the Kenyan blogosphere, although the still unresolved issues which it throws up, mainly to do with the Constitution, worry some.

Gordon Brown made a particularly patronising statement about it:

"Kenya's leaders have reached a power-sharing agreement that represents a triumph for peace and diplomacy, and a renunciation of the violence that has scarred a country of such enormous potential".
I think blogs have played a role in pushing democrats and anti-tribalists to the fore. This has helped greatly to undermine the power-dealers behind the scene, dramatically changing information sources. Evidence of this could be seen in the attempts by those in-power to inject themselves into the blogosphere.

Mwananchi Mkenya has analysed the deal and makes some interesting points:
There are some who would like to claim that Kenya’s Democracy was a sham and that the ongoing crisis is evidence that democracy never really took root in Kenya.

I couldn’t disagree more!

  • CDF [Constituency Development Funds]: This has been an incredible triumph for home-grown democracy even though I would like to see the process of allocation further democraticed. I’m keen to find out exactly what ODM [opposition]proposes to change about CDF
  • The fact that Kenyans came out to vote in massive numbers, in direct contrast, for example, to what happens in the U.S. where only about 40% of the eligible population even bothers to vote.
  • Organizations such as the Kenya Human Rights Commission still function in Kenya. I remember a time when nobody could even investigate such things… A vibrant civil society is critical to democracy and Kenya certainly has not lost that!

  • Kenya Blog Awards 2008
    This post looks further at the growth of the blogosphere

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Operation Saving Baby Brian

    Joseph Karoki's photo blog was where I originally saw this photo

    This women is Grace Mungai. She was shot to death by police in her home. The baby in the crib is called Brian. The photo was republished around the world — though not, to my knowledge, in the UK.

    Joseph wanted to do something and tracked her family down. He has raised the money to lay her to rest.

    He is now raising money to support Brian — here's how you can help make a difference for one person.


    Thank you for donating and drop me a line at and let me know that you have supported Baby Brian and I will keep you personally informed of how your donation changed Brian’s life.


    To Donate using Paypal go to VUMA KENYA and click on the PAYPAL BUTTON under Baby Brian’s picture.

    For direct Bank Deposits in the US:

    Bank Name: Citizens Bank
    Account name: Vuma Kenya Initiative
    Account number: 1311-791-911
    Routing number: 211-070-175

    For Bank Deposits in Kenya:

    Bank Name: EQUITY Bank
    Account Name: Jeremiah Mungai
    Account No: 0200190674408
    ID No. 7156255.

    As Sharon O would say, 'every little helps'.

    Ushahidi - Help make a global product out of an African initiated project

    From White African:

    We’ve entered Ushahidi (background story here) into the $100,000 Netsquared Mashup Challenge for further development. We’re really excited about this opportunity for a number of reasons.

      First, we’d love to get experts involved to help us with planning and development work.

      Second, if you go help vote up our application (LINK), we have a stronger chance of being selected. Going and voting for us at this point is the biggest help you can be at this point.

      Third, even though the crisis in Kenya appears to be over (thank God), we’re continuing to build out Ushahidi in order for it to be used in future crisis related situations around the world.

    Here’s their explanation of the challenge:

    This year’s NetSquared Conference will bring together a unique mix of people from the public and private sectors to develop and release Mashups designed to provide deeper insight into the social issues affecting communities around the globe.

    Those “people” are you — members of the NetSquared universe working on behalf of communities everywhere and the technical experts who care about these issues.

    If we’re successful, we’ll learn something about cross-sector collaboration, meet new and interesting people, and build a unique gallery of Mashups that citizens, schools, and community-based groups everywhere can learn from, replicate, and build upon.

    So, there you have it. Head on over to Netsquared, register and vote. I know it’s a hassle to have to register before you vote, but we would greatly appreciate it if you did. Better yet, if you’re interested in helping to extend Ushahidi even further, let us know!

    Let’s see if we can make a global product out of an African initiated project…

    Ushahidi: vote here

    Hat-tip: Kenya Pundit

    Ten - now twelve - online campaigning tips for Ken Livingstone

    I've added links and some more content to the online campaigning tips for Ken (and Siân and Boris and the gorgeous Brian) + will likely expand further.

    Sunday, March 2

    30th Sydney Mardi Gras? I must be old

    It was the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday night. For those who've never heard of it (must be a few), around 700,000 watch the parade for a mile and a bit up one of Sydney's main drags, ending at the Showgrounds where the party's held. Several thousand participate and there are over 100 floats and marching groups.

    The parade assembles in the city centre then turns into the main drag, Oxford Street — 'Dykes on bikes' lead, doing teaser runs up and down, warming people up— that moment when you hit the drag is like hitting a wall of ecstasy. The next two hours is a continuous rush.

    Lots and lots of straight people both participate and watch — it's truly an event for all Sydney. The party had to introduce 'prove you're gay' measures one year because the party was so popular.

    I was in a dozen parades, so have a few memories :]

    There was the 'indigenous' year, when local Aboriginal elders led the parade in a very fancy old sports car. We made thousands of 'healing hands' and the reception was astonishing. Some of the national Aboriginal leaders participated, very butch blokes, but they had a wail of a time alongside Aboriginal drag queens. People always do. Politicians often come and I suspect it's for the good time rather than the votes. Seeing how they dress for the occasion is often fun. Even the evangelicals who pitch up with their banners have smiles on their faces.

    There was the year we did a 'live' broadcast, which amounted to using phone boxes along the way (this was pre-mobiles!). At the party, where we took the DJ feed, around 4am I had a break and one nutty volunteer came on and ranted about the organisation - a Sydney tradition. I didn't find out until a pugnacious Board member complained :[

    There was the year I pushed a very heavy robot all the way (not recommended). One year I watched from a prime spot and that year it poured down. Rain doesn't stop it because it's so warm and the spirit so high.

    There was the year Julian Clary MC'd and spoilt things by being a bitch (maybe he was jetlagged). Rural groups always participate and they weren't quite as polished: doesn't matter, Clary totally missed the spirit of the thing. You rarely see these mobs in the pictures which go around the world, but they're the heart of it in many ways. It's wonderful to see 'community' in action: Muscle Marys alongside fat old queens alongside elder lesbians alongside asian drag queens: all encouraging each other.

    What else? Imelda Marcos' shoes was a classic which everyone who saw it remembers. One hundred shoes on poles chased by a giant papier-mâché head of Imelda. That was the genius of David McDiamid and Peter Tully, gay artists lost to AIDS. David was inspired by the Mexican 'day of the dead' and did a very edgy but successful entry in the height of the crisis with "Dance of Death" puppets.

    Then there was their giant Fred's Head on a giant platter — this was the local evangelical state senator, with a perchant for leather from his biker days, who protested every year. David and Peter's genius inspired a later float which spiked Pauline Hanson's monoculturalism. 'Fred's Head' actually survived and was brought out for the 20th Parade.

    Individuals could make just as much of an impact. 'Miss New Zealand' achieved this with a floral print dress, flowery hat and a 'New Zealand' sign. Very Antipodean 1950s. My friend Brenton Heath-Kerr did this at the party with the most astonishing, inventive costumes I have ever seen such as his famous Tom Of Finland, the classic butch cartoon fantasy figure. He 'wore' the cartoon and was completely covered. He looked exactly like a cartoon. He also did Imelda. And Liza. And 'Wood Woman', a bizarre woodland creature, completely ... wood.

    The party's is 20,000 or so past dawn. The Showgrounds ("where the country comes to town") is now sound stages for film but in the 80s you could wander into the pig stalls and the rest. Much shenanigans (or so I've heard ;] ) The party goes on until Monday. There's a tradition of the morning after gathering behind a pub which I don't know still goes on but the 'after parties' are legendary.

    After 2000 there was a year when it was thought under threat. A giant Arts Festival had grown up around February, with massive corporate sponsorship. This ended up collapsing and possibly taking the parade with it. Mass 'no! ways!' stopped that. The show will go on.

    I did a London Pride parade when I came back in 2000. Depressing. Very little music, the fun stuff was spotty and subdued. I did a version of Fred's head on a platter with friends. We made a papier-mache Tony Blair and posters of Blair as Pinocchio - this was before he'd got around to gay law reform. But it was all a bit sad after Sydney.

    • Postscript: The 2008 party featured Olivia Newton-John finally taking to the Mardi Gras stage to perform Xanadu. Cyndi Lauper closed the party with Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Other legends tickling my memories were Kings Cross drag queen Carlotta and DJing from Paul Goodyear. Out of 700,000 parade watchers there were 25 arrests made. One arrest was for a man who attempted to set fire to the tail of a police horse. Parade hits included the marching together of Jewish and Arab groups who were met with a huge cheer, as were the 100 Reverends, a group of church members apologising for the past treatment of gay and lesbian Christians. A school also organised a parade entry.

    • Surviving webpage about the 1998 Aboriginal float and parade entry