When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!

Rozena Crossman

See more by Rozena Crossman

Anti-Vaxxers Of Yore: Pandemic History Is Rife With Conspiracy Theories
Coronavirus

Anti-Vaxxers Of Yore: Pandemic History Is Rife With Conspiracy Theories

Debates around COVID-19 are now fueled by conspiracy theories, fake news and scapegoats. But as the story of Quebec in the 19th century makes clear, pandemics have always been linked to outbreaks of mass skepticism and witch hunts.

Last summer, Quebecois comedian, storyteller and biologist Boucar Diouf featured an episode of a radio show with Denis Goulet, an associate professor at the University of Montreal and a specialist in the history of medicine. They talked about Goulet’s book, "Brève histoire des épidémies au Québec – du choléra à la COVID-19" (“A Brief History Of Epidemies in Quebec — from Cholera to COVID-19”).

MONTREAL — Let’s go back to Montreal between 1875 and 1885. Although waves of smallpox were raging like Facebook trolls, many francophones refused the vaccine to protect themselves against the disease. Some columnists and clergymen even started a rumor that the British authorities were trying to weaken the French Canadian population by injecting poison into their veins! An anglophone newspaper went as far as to peddle the idea that the virus was spreading due to the bad hygiene of francophones.

That’s just how it goes; the witch hunt for scapegoats is tied to the history of epidemics. You can even find doctors ready to testify that vaccines are useless. It should be noted that at the time, vaccines — made using a virus with a weakened virulence — had their risks. Contrary to today’s hyper-safe vaccines, the vials of yore sometimes contained microbes that were “healthy” enough to infect someone during their vaccination.

Watch VideoShow less
American anti-vaxxers protesting in front of Pfizer headquarters in New York
Ideas

The Shortage Of Leaders From The Sciences Is A Threat To Democracy

The number of political leaders who have science or technology backgrounds is disturbingly low. It's not just the specifics of issues such as climate change, cybersecurity and COVID-19, but rather democracy itself and being able to dialogue with those who have lost trust in the facts that the governments are giving us.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Ahead of the upcoming French national election, Paris-based daily Les Échos published a tally of the educational background of past presidents. Writer and economist Jean Peyrelevade found that in the post-War period, only one head of state (Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, a 1951 graduate of the École Polytechnique) claimed a math or science degree.

Every other past president had studied law, political science, philosophy and the like — just like all the major candidate on the ballot this spring.

Watch VideoShow less
French Antique Tale: A Father’s Christmas Gift From 1946 Cycles Back To Owner
Weird

French Antique Tale: A Father’s Christmas Gift From 1946 Cycles Back To Owner

Not your average case of lost and found.

Joseph Carayon was ten years old in 1946, living in the small southern French town of Abeilhan, when his father gave him a bicycle for Christmas. As a newly freed prisoner of war, the father had cobbled the bike together from spare parts, making for a particularly special Christmas gift.

But when he came of age, Joseph began riding a moped and lent the bike to a friend, and never saw it again. Until a brocanteur — a French antiques dealer — regifted the long-lost vehicle to Joseph a month ago.

Watch VideoShow less
Google Street View screenshot of Cerdon, in eastern France
WHAT THE WORLD

Fed-Up French Mayor Bans Snow From Falling

Icy roads, electricity outages, whiny city folk … There's only one solution to ending winter chaos.

No one’s dreaming of a white Christmas in the town of Cerdon, in eastern France. Marc Chavent, mayor of this municipality tucked into the Jura mountains, apparently has a very different dream: So frustrated by the difficulties his community faced due to snowfall that earlier this week, the mayor banned the chilly precipitation altogether.

Watch VideoShow less