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German Pirate Party website censored by schools for questioning marijuana laws

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Germany’s Pirate Party has moved beyond its seemingly humorous origins to become a serious political force. Since last year, it has received over 7% of the vote in three different regional elections, enabling it to claim seats in the local parliaments.

However, in Germany’s largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, which is scheduled to hold its election this Sunday, the Pirate Party has fallen victim to a bizarre though seemingly unintentional act of censorship.

As reported by Rick Falkvinge, who founded the first Pirate Party in Sweden in 2006, “The Piratenpartei‘s website has been discovered to be censored in schools. These state-run institutions do not allow people – voters – to read what policies the challenger party stands for. Specifically, it is the election program of the German Pirate Party that is being actively censored in schools, under the category ‘illegal drugs.’”

“Apparently, expressing a desire to change the law,” he continues, “is seen as just as dangerous as breaking the law – just questioning the current policy: enough to suppress freedom of speech in the state-run schools.”

The censorship came to light just as the Dutch Pirate Party was being court-ordered to not only remove any links from its website to the Pirate Bay but to refrain from sending visitors to other sites that might allow them to get around the blockade of the Pirate Bay by Dutch ISPs and illegally download copyrighted materials.

A message at the Dutch Pirate Party’s website describes the ruling as “a slap in the face for the free internet” and charges that “the judge decided to give the Netherlands another nudge on the gliding scale of censorship.”

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According to Falkvinge, the German schools say their own act of censorship was not deliberate and blame it on their net filtering software. He also notes that something similar happened during Sweden’s 2006 elections, when the Pirate Party’s website became inaccessible to all public offices in one of the country’s largest regions. In both cases, it appears that the ultimate responsibility lay with corporations in the United States that designed the filtering criteria.

A comment on a message board, which could not be independently verfied, claims that the German Pirate Party website was blocked by “an incompetent configuration of a filter software” which has already been corrected.

“If this is not a demonstration of the utter rejectability of censorship,” Falkvinge concludes, “and why it should never be allowed under any circumstance, as events like this will happen, I don’t know what would be the necessary demonstration.”

Photo of Rick Falkvinge and Julian Assange by Rickard Olsson [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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Here are 4 winners and 9 losers from the first 2020 Democratic primary debate

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With ten candidates on stage Wednesday, the opening debate of the 2020 Democratic primary in Miami was a packed mess. And this was only the first course in a two-part event — 10 more candidates will debate on the following night.

A crowded field makes it difficult to stand out, and that means that even after a big night like a debate, the most likely result is that not much changes. But the debate was still significant, giving candidates the chance to exceed, meet, or fall below expectations for their performances.

Here's a list — necessarily subjective, of course — of the people who came out on the top when the dust was settled, and those who came out on the bottom.

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Here are 3 ways Julián Castro stood out in the first Democratic Debate

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There were many predictions going into the first Democratic debate on MSNBC, but no one predicted that Julián Castro would break out from the crowd.

Check out the top three ways Castro stood out from the crowd.

Immigration:

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the outright winner of the immigration section of the debate

It should "piss us all off," Castro said about the father and his little girl who were found face-down in the shores of the Rio Grande River this week. “It’s heartbreaking."

Castro is a second generation American who got into specifics on immigration policy, calling for an outright "Marshall Plan" style of action for Guatemala and Honduras. He joined with other Democrats calling for an end to President Donald Trump's family separation policy, but he then suggested ending the "metering" of legitimate asylum seekers.

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