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Art Spiegelman: ‘Banning books never works. It ignites interest in the forbidden’ | Culture

Art Spiegelman, 73, describes himself as a “First Amendment fundamentalist,” alluding to freedom of expression and religion. “Just like those religious fundamentalists in Tennessee.” The famous cartoonist is talking about members of a local school board in McMinn County, Tennessee who recently decided to remove his masterpiece, Maus, from the middle school curriculum. The acclaimed graphic novel about the Holocaust is based on the memories of Spiegelman’s father, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

The author was left wondering whether the board adopted the decision out of “pure ignorance or simple malevolence,” as he explains to EL PAÍS via a video call from his home in New York. “But, you know, this is a free country.”

The school board’s ban was based on eight swear words and one scene of nudity. Spiegelman, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for Maus, believes that board members were offended by the images rather than the text.

“One was a discussion by my father with a premarital affair. She’s trying to stop him from leaving, by holding on to his legs. The other was really a picture of my dead mother [also a Holocaust survivor] in the bathtub that she killed herself in by cutting the wrists in the hot water of the bathtub,” he explains, holding an e-cigarette. “And you can kind of see a little dot that represents a nipple and a breast. Only somebody who reached the age of 14 without seeing a dot before was going to be surprised that this was happening.”

A self-portrait of Spiegelman with the 'Maus' mask on.
A self-portrait of Spiegelman with the ‘Maus’ mask on.

His first thought was that “this is just part of the crazy anti-semitism that keeps coming up in America. They’re trying to stop any discussion about these issues, because it’s too disturbing, to avoid conflict.”

This suspicion is shared by the well-known Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, who has been designated by US President Joe Biden as the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism. She said that “today’s rise in anti-semitism is staggering,” in remarks made before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 8.

Deborah Lipstadt speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing in Washington on February 8.
Deborah Lipstadt speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing in Washington on February 8.Andrew Harnik (AP)

Spiegelman is aware that the last Shoah survivors are dying. But he also doesn’t think that those parents on the school board are walking around “with swastikas on their armbands or anything like that.

“I think it’s part of a cultural trend that exists in many places in America, that takes the Bible literally. It’s in the same area where they had the Scopes Monkey trials in 1925, just 35 miles away from where the school board was, where they were trying to make it illegal to teach Darwin in the school because the Bible tells you that the world is only 3,000 years old.” This trial was captured by director Stanley Kramer in his memorable 1960 movie Inherit the Wind.

America’s romance with forbidden books has a long history that goes all the way back to Huckleberry Finn (1884) and Darwin’s The Origin of the Species, which was banned in 1895 for violating Christian beliefs. These days, there is a cultural war being waged in classrooms and school districts from Florida to Virginia and Pennsylvania, where books are being pulled from curriculums and public libraries because of their anti-racist or LGBTQ+ subject matter – books such as Toni Morrison’s Beloved or Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. “They don’t seem to know that banning books never works,” he says. “It ignites the interest in reading what is forbidden.”

The cartoonist’s allegiance to freedom of expression also has a strong tradition. He began as a teenager, speaking out in favor of the National Socialist Party of America’s right to demonstrate in Skokie (Illinois), a town that was then home to the largest concentration of Holocaust survivors after New York. (The Supreme Court ruled in their favor and the lawyer representing the neo-nazis was Jewish.) Later, in the 1980s, as a leading member of the underground comic book scene, and always ready to push the boundaries of discourse, Mexico banned his Garbage Pail Kids, a humorous take on the popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. Much later, he had difficulty finding an American outlet to publish his comics about 9/11, In the Shadow of No Towers. And in 2015 he was caught up in a controversy with the British publication The New Statesman, which he describes as an organ of the well-intentioned left, when he retracted a cover he had submitted (titled “Saying the unsayable”) after the magazine refused to print a strip in which Spiegelman reacted to the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical publication that controversially depicted Muhammad. He defended freedom of expression as also being “the right to act like an idiot.”

Despite so many precedents, the Tennessee case took him by surprise. That is why he took the time to “very carefully” study the minutes from the debate at the school board, which have to be public by law, while at the same time watching sales of Maus break new records. The trend is global, but especially intense in the US, where lately it has been impossible to find a copy. In fact, he has already decided where he will spend this added revenue: “I now have more money to commit to voter-registration campaigns and things like this to protect the future of our democracy”. “If you try too hard to protect your children, you actually make them really vulnerable because there’s no way for a kid to grow up into an ethical empathic adult without being exposed to the difficulties,” he argues. “One of the most shocking commentaries was to say what’s really disturbing are all these hanged mice and children being killed. It’s referred to by one board member because I studied the minutes really carefully. And it sounds absurd, like why should our children have to see this? Well, if it’s about the Holocaust, you have to show what happened. And I tried very scrupulously to do this without sensationalizing things.”

A spanish version of Spiegelman's comic about the 9/11 tragedy in New York, 'In the Shadow of No Towers.'
A spanish version of Spiegelman’s comic about the 9/11 tragedy in New York, ‘In the Shadow of No Towers.’Reservoir Books

To narrate the unspeakable in Maus, which was first published in War, the magazine that he and his wife Françoise Mouly published in the 1980s, Spiegelman chose to use animals as characters. The Jews were mice, the Poles were pigs (there were also a couple of French characters who were dogs). He recalls how he got the idea for it. “And it was about just drawing anthropomorphic characters and I was having trouble finding a way to do this that would be meaningful, until I saw in a film class of somebody who was really my good friend, a professor of cinema. So I went to this film class and he was showing racist animated cartoons. You know, the minstrel kind of stuff. Some humans depicted as monkeys. And then he showed the sound cartoon Steamboat Willie [1928], with Mickey Mouse. And so after showing these race caricatures, he shows Mickey Mouse who was not the nice suburban mouse of the ’50s and ’60s who grew up to become an international logo. And then I thought I really have a way in because I will do a comic about race in America, with these oppressed black mice by the Ku Klux Cats.”

For a few days he was sure that he’d had a really brilliant idea… until he realized that it would probably be misunderstood or viewed as racist, or in the best of cases, as the product of the damaged mind of a white liberal underground cartoonist. “Then I realized I could tell the story of my parents, and my family’s bloody run, using that idea. So I found this universal metaphor of racial oppression.” He also found inspiration in George Orwell’s classic anti-authoritarian tale Animal Farm, which Spiegelman notes gets often included in the list of banned books.

Maus gave him problems from the start. When he published it, “there were Jewish organizations very unhappy because the Jews were shown as meek little mice hiding only, not having a resistance. ”Many people failed to understand that behind the zoomorphism there were people wearing masks. “By the time you read the whole book, it’s clear that Maus is constructed as a self destructing metaphor. It’s a stupid metaphor. It’s Hitler’s metaphor. So I was working with it to demystify.”

Part one of the two-part graphic novel opens with a quote by the Führer: “The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human.” Claude Lanzmann, director of the 1985 documentary film Shoah, approved Spiegelman’s strategy. “Or at least it looked like he liked my work,” notes Spiegelman.

An image from 'Maus.'
An image from ‘Maus.’

The book also ran into trouble in Russia (where it was banned as “Nazi propaganda”) and in Poland, where the project to publish it was cut short several times, Spiegelman recalls. Finally it was Piotr Bikont, a journalist from the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, who dared to found a publishing house and put it into circulation. As a reward for his daring, a book-burning session was organized for him at the door of the newspaper, and Bikont came out to greet the demonstrators from the balcony behind a pig mask.

Spiegelman is amazed that this kind of thing is still happening: four days after the ban of his comic book made global headlines, a pastor named Greg Locke organized a book-burning session in Nashville, Tennessee that included books from the Harry Potter and Twilight series, which were described as “satanic.” The event was streamed on Facebook.

“So they had a big book-burning and it was published next to a picture of a book burning in Germany in 1933. And the only real difference between the two is that one was in color. That person is an idiot, really terrible person, not just an idiot, but a malevolent idiot that thinks that Covid was a hoax, and more people, as a result, got to die. He also believes that Trump won the election. Those people don’t realize that it is ineffective, unless you’re willing to go all the way after burning the books, and burn the writers and readers who are involved with these books.”

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Choco: Revolutionizing The FoodTech Industry With Innovation & Sustainability | EU20

By Clint Bailey

— In the rapidly evolving world of food technology, European startup Choco has emerged as a pioneering force. With its website,, this Berlin-based company is transforming the way food industry professionals operate by leveraging innovative digital solutions. By linking restaurants, distributors, suppliers, and producers on a single platform, Choco is streamlining the supply chain process while promoting sustainability.

Let’s explore the journey of and its impact on the overall foodtech industry.

  1. Company: Choco Technologies GmbH
  2. Website:
  3. Head Office: Berlin, Germany
  4. Year Established: 2018
  5. Founders: Choco was co-founded by Daniel Khachab, Julian Hammer, and Rogerio da Silva.
  6. Industry: Choco operates in the foodtech industry, specifically focusing on digitizing the supply chain for the food industry.
  7. Funding: Choco has secured significant funding rounds from investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners & Coatue Management.
  8. Market Presence: Choco has a strong presence in several European cities, including Berlin, Paris, London & Barcelona.
  9. Mission: Choco aims to revolutionize the food industry by leveraging technology to simplify supply chain management, promote sustainability, and reduce food waste.

Simplifying Supply Chain Management

One of the core focuses of Choco is to simplify supply chain management for food businesses. Traditionally, the procurement process in the food industry has been cumbersome and inefficient, with numerous intermediaries and manual processes. Choco’s digital platform replaces the traditional paper-based ordering system, allowing restaurants and suppliers to communicate and collaborate seamlessly.

Choco’s platform enables restaurants to place orders directly with suppliers, eliminating the need for phone calls, faxes, or emails. This not only saves time but also reduces the likelihood of errors and miscommunications.

By digitizing the ordering process, Choco improves transparency, making it easier for restaurants to compare prices, track deliveries, and manage inventory efficiently.

Streamlining Operations For Suppliers & Producers

Choco’s impact extends beyond restaurants. The platform also provides suppliers and producers with valuable tools to streamline their operations. By digitizing their product catalogs and integrating them into the Choco platform, suppliers can showcase their offerings to a wide network of potential buyers.

Suppliers benefit from increased visibility, enabling them to reach new customers and expand their market presence. Moreover, Choco’s platform helps suppliers manage their inventory, track orders, and plan deliveries effectively. These features enhance operational efficiency, reduce waste, and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable food system.
YouTube Channel

Promoting Sustainability & Reducing Food Waste

Choco recognizes the critical importance of sustainability in the food industry. According to the United Nations, approximately one-third of the world’s food production goes to waste each year. By digitizing the supply chain and enabling more efficient ordering and inventory management, Choco actively works to combat this issue.

Air France – Deals & Destinations

Choco’s platform facilitates data-driven decision-making for restaurants, suppliers, and producers. By analyzing purchasing patterns & demand, Choco helps businesses optimize their inventory levels, reducing overstocking and minimizing food waste. Additionally, Choco supports local sourcing, enabling businesses to connect with nearby suppliers & promote sustainable, community-based practices.

Expanding Reach & Impact

Since its founding in 2018, Choco has experienced rapid growth and expansion. The startup has successfully secured significant funding rounds, allowing it to scale its operations and establish a strong presence across Europe and other global markets. Today, Choco’s platform is used by thousands of restaurants and suppliers, revolutionizing the way they operate.

Choco’s impact extends beyond operational efficiency or sustainability. By connecting restaurants, suppliers & producers on a single platform, Choco fosters collaboration & encourages the exchange of ideas. This collaborative approach strengthens the overall foodtech ecosystem and creates a supportive community of like-minded aiming to drive positive change within the industry.

Future Of FoodTech

Choco’s rise to prominence in the foodtech industry exemplifies the reach of sustainability, innovation, and community. Through its user-friendly platform, Choco simplifies supply chain management, streamlines operations for restaurants & suppliers, and actively promotes sustainable practices. By harnessing the potential of digital, Choco is disrupting the future of the food industry, making it more efficient and transparent.

As Choco continues to expand its impact and reach, its transformative influence on the foodtech sector is set to inspiring, grow other startups, and established players to embrace technology for a better and more sustainable food system.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— Compiled by Clint Bailey | Team ‘Voice of EU’
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The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction

A faded felt bicorne hat worn by Napoleon Bonaparte sold for $2.1 million at an auction on of the French emperor’s belongings.

Yes, that’s $2.1 million!!

The signature broad, black hat, one of a handful still in existence that Napoleon wore when he ruled 19th-century France and waged war in Europe, was initially valued at 600,000 to 800,000 euros ($650,000-870,000). It was the centerpiece of Sunday’s auction collected by a French industrialist who died last year.

The Hat Worn By Napoleon Bonaparte Sold For $2.1 Million At The Auction

But the bidding quickly jumped higher and higher until Jean Pierre Osenat, president of the Osenat auction house, designated the winner.

‘’We are at 1.5 million (Euros) for Napoleon’s hat … for this major symbol of the Napoleonic epoch,” he said, as applause rang out in the auction hall. The buyer, whose identity was not released, must pay 28.8% in commissions according to Osenat, bringing the overall cost to 1.9 million euros ($2.1 million).

While other officers customarily wore their bicorne hats with the wings facing front to back, Napoleon wore his with the ends pointing toward his shoulders. The style, known as “en bataille,” or in battle, made it easier for his troops to spot their leader in combat.

The hat on sale was first recovered by Col. Pierre Baillon, a quartermaster under Napoleon, according to the auctioneers. The hat then passed through many hands before industrialist Jean-Louis Noisiez acquired it.

The entrepreneur spent more than a half-century assembling his collection of Napoleonic memorabilia, firearms, swords and coins before his death in 2022.

The sale came days before the release of Ridley Scott’s film Napoleon with Joaquin Phoenix, which is rekindling interest in the controversial French ruler.

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The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries

THE VOICE OF EU | Widespread concerns have surged among artists and creatives in various domains – country singers, authors, television showrunners, and musicians – voicing apprehension about the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on their professions.

These worries have prompted an urgent plea to the U.S. government for regulatory action to protect their livelihoods from the encroaching threat posed by AI technology.

The Artists’ Plea

A notable rise in appeals to regulate AI has emerged, drawing attention to the potential risks AI poses to creative industries.

Thousands of letters, including those from renowned personalities like Justine Bateman and Lilla Zuckerman, underscore the peril AI models represent to the traditional structure of entertainment businesses.

The alarm extends to the music industry, expressed by acclaimed songwriter Marc Beeson, highlighting AI’s potential to both enhance and jeopardize an essential facet of American artistry.

The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries

Copyright Infringement Concerns

The primary contention arises from the unsanctioned use of copyrighted human works as fodder to train AI systems. The concerns about AI ingesting content from the internet without permission or compensation have sparked significant distress among artists and their representative entities.

While copyright laws explicitly protect works of human authorship, the influx of AI-generated content questions the boundaries of human contribution and authorship in an AI-influenced creative process.

The Fair Use Debate

Leading technology entities like Google, Microsoft, and Meta Platforms argue that their utilization of copyrighted materials in AI training aligns with the “fair use” doctrine—a limited use of copyrighted material for transformative purposes.

They claim that AI training isn’t aimed at reproducing individual works but rather discerning patterns across a vast corpus of content, citing precedents like Google’s legal victories in the digitization of books.

The Conflict and Seeking Resolution

Despite court rulings favoring tech companies in interpreting copyright laws regarding AI, voices like Heidi Bond, a former law professor and author, critique this comparison, emphasizing that AI developers often obtain content through unauthorized means.

Shira Perlmutter, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, acknowledges the Copyright Office’s pivotal role in navigating this complex landscape and determining the legitimacy of the fair use defense in the AI context.

The Road Ahead

The outpouring of concern from creative professionals and industry stakeholders emphasizes the urgency for regulatory frameworks to safeguard creative works while acknowledging the evolving role of AI in content creation.

The Copyright Office’s meticulous review of over 9,700 public comments seeks to strike a balance between innovation and the protection of creative rights in an AI-driven era. As the discussion continues, the convergence of legal precedents and ethical considerations remains a focal point for shaping the future landscape of AI in creative industries.

Thank You For Your Support!

— By Darren Wilson, Team

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