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France's Covid Curfew And A Bad Case Of Deja Vu

Empty metro station in Paris
Empty metro station in Paris
Laure Gautherin

"Bienvenue en Absurdie..."

President Emmanuel Macron's announcement of at least four weeks of an all-night curfew in France's biggest cities sparked some colorful reactions — political and personal — across the country.

"Welcome to Absurdia" came from opposition leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a firebrand leader on the political left, who noted that most COVID-19 infections happen during the day, in schools and offices — not from 9 p.m.- 6 a.m., when people now won't be allowed out of their homes, or risk a 135-euro fine.

"Good night" titles French daily Libération

The decision to shut down nightlife altogether for millions of French citizens is of course also a major blow to entire sectors of the economy. Michelin-starred chef Michel Sarran told France Info public radio it was a "coup de grâce" for France's renowned culinary and hospitality sector after a steady progression of new limits had been imposed in recent weeks on bars and restaurants — first in the southern city of Marseille, and then Paris and elsewhere. Macron's announcement Wednesday evening of the all-night curfew came after the number of COVID cases skyrocketed through September in France, now rising above 20,000 per day, as part of what now appears an undeniable "second wave" of the virus across much of Europe.

As Paris daily Les Echos reported, reaction to the latest government measures have been much more pointed than six months ago when there was general support behind what was one of the world's strictest lockdowns. Senator Bruno Retailleau (on the political right) called out the government for failing to implement a rapid and effective system for testing, while others wondered whether the curfew will be enough to stave off a rise in the number of both cases and deaths, as hospitals begin to fill up as they did last March.

The situation indeed feels like déjà vu, with an extra splash of futility. Because even if the curfew manages to slow the spread, we've seen how quickly it can pick up again after the pent-up desire for human contact leads people to let their guard down, and masks off. Day and night.

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A Naturalist's Defense Of The Modern Zoo

Zoos are often associated with animal cruelty, or at the very least a general animal unhappiness. But on everything from research to education to biodiversity, there is a case to be made for the modern zoo.

Photograph of a brown monkey holding onto a wired fence

A brown monkey hangs off of mesh wire

Marina Chocobar/Pexels
Fran Sánchez Becerril


MADRID — Zoos — or at least something resembling the traditional idea of a zoo — date back to ancient Mesopotamia. It was around 3,500 BC when Babylonian kings housed wild animals such as lions and birds of prey in beautiful structures known as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Ancient China also played a significant role in the history of zoos when the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) created several parks which hosted an assortment of animals.

In Europe, it wouldn't be until 1664 when Louis XIV inaugurated the royal menagerie at Versailles. All these spaces shared the mission of showcasing the wealth and power of the ruler, or simply served as decorations. Furthermore, none of them were open to the general public; only a few fortunate individuals, usually the upper classes, had access.

The first modern zoo, conceived for educational purposes in Vienna, opened in 1765. Over time, the educational mission has become more prominent, as the exhibition of exotic animals has been complemented with scientific studies, conservation and the protection of threatened species.

For decades, zoos have been places of leisure, wonder, and discovery for both the young and the old. Despite their past success, in recent years, society's view of zoos has been changing due to increased awareness of animal welfare, shifting sensibilities and the possibility of learning about wild animals through screens. So, many people wonder: What is the purpose of a zoo in the 21st century?

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