During the COVID-19 pandemic there are less people on the roads across Europe. With less cars and traffic, drivers tend to drive more recklessly. There has been an increase in accidents on the continent. In response to this, cities around Europe are taking steps to improve safety when the roads are emptier and people are driving faster. While each city has their own problem with road safety, all of them are creating their own solutions. A universal issue that is contributing to accidents and making more dangerous roads is speeding. Below are some of the stats about speeding and how various European cities are dealing with it.
Empty Roads & Speeding
Whenever roads empty, the speeding increases for those still driving. Furthermore, according to the personal injury claims law firm McGinley Solicitors, speeds have gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic. While speeds have increased, the number of accidents have gone up. This goes for accidents with cars, pedestrians, cyclists, and more. Speeding isn’t the only problem, people are also drinking and driving and getting on the roads during inclement weather. Driving under the influence also increases the speed of drivers and the likelihood that an accident will occur. The problems are multi-faceted, but so are the solutions. Each country and city has their own way of dealing with speeding, driving under the influence, accidents, and deaths in their own way.
Berlin is already known for being a forward-thinking and progressive city. It is a city of constant change and flux. It has been destroyed and rebuilt, evolving into a modern and accessible place to live. The city has responded to the increase in speed and accidents by temporarily widening the cycle lanes, allowing wider distance for cars and social distancing. The response is to create new space for pedestrians and bicyclists, but with so many vehicles in Germany some are not happy about the new roads.
40 percent less people are on the roads. The extra space and less traffic has provided safer situations for people who want to walk and cycle, but cars are also now having to avoid more pedestrians. Currently there aren’t really reliable numbers on how this will effect accidents between cars and pedestrians, but it seems clear cars are having to be more careful when they are driving these widened roads. It is a significant change, and not everyone likes change, but they are necessary in this ever-evolving pandemic.
Brussels is another progressive city that has responded quickly to the changing roads during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city has decided to lower the speed limit inside their main drag, the inner ring road. The speed limit will be lowered to 20 kmh. Brussel’s center is shaped like a pentagon, which makes it ideal for pedestrians. This means that pedestrians have space to move around, and bicycles can more easily maneuver. Again this creates more foot-traffic for drivers to navigate, but with so few cars on the road it makes for a socially distanced and traversable intersection. There are also concerns about the center becoming a meeting place. With social distancing, Brussels is learning how best to use their city.
Milan is also taking measures to open up traffic to pedestrians while making the roads safer for drivers. They are doing their best to open up the center for walking, closing 35km streets to cars. Like other Italian cities, Milan is changing its environmental regulations to make cities livable and social-distanced. While many city centers like Milan are closing to car traffic and opening up for pedestrians, there are still less cars on the highways and people are speeding, causing an increase in accidents.
Many large cities around Europe have begun rolling out cycling lanes that give cars and pedestrians more room. The city aims to create 650 kilometers of lockdown cycle lanes. This will not only provide space for social distancing, it will help commuters and others who are taking a ride for exercise. With fewer cars on the streets of the French capital, it provides a more regulated system of streets where drivers have to be careful with pedestrians around. This system, while it is becoming common, is especially suited to French society.
European cities around the continent are adapting to the new streets that have less cars and more pedestrians on them. Everyone is adapting to social distancing with less people on the roads and more people trying to get out of the house and other closed spaces. We all can learn how to adapt our cities like the ones above.
Europe has a lot to offer travellers, whether you’re going on a month long inter-rail tour or for a weekend away. Every city has something unique to experience, from culture to landscapes, so we’ve shortlisted the five best to visit this summer. Before you travel make sure you are protected against any health costs by filling out your EHIC Application Form.
Amsterdam offers a mix of historical culture (a visit to the famous Anne Frank house is essential) and diverse nightlife. There are over 300 festivals every year and most of these take place in the summer. There is sure to be something happening every weekend, from dance music to food and beer festivals. Although it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a trip to Amsterdam, there are beaches just half an hour outside of the city by train. Alternatively, you can spend the day exploring along the canals by bike, which is the most popular mode of transport in the city.
Night view of The Széchenyi Chain Bridge from Buda Castle in Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is great for travellers on a budget, with food, drink and accommodation being inexpensive. The picturesque city is a great place to soak up the sun, with plenty of parks to explore and its famous thermal baths to relax in. A river cruise on the Danube is the perfect way to spend a day seeing all the sights, including the Royal Palace and Buda Castle.
A collage of Venice: at the top left is the Piazza San Marco, followed by a view of the city, then the Grand Canal, and (smaller) the interior of La Fenice and, finally, the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore.
The canals of Venice have long been a favourite of travellers in Europe. Although the summer months may be the busiest, it is the best time to explore the waterways by gondola or water taxi. You’re never far from a secluded spot or a hidden pathway in the historic city. A highlight in the summer is stopping to enjoy some gelato in the scenic Saint Mark’s Square.
Courtyard of the Museum of Louvre, and its pyramid.
The city of culture may be an all-year-round attraction but the summer months are the best time to explore. Not only can you experience the clearest view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, you can also enjoy the park beneath it. Although it is worth arriving early in the morning to avoid long queues and make the most of your day! A cruise on the river Seine will take you through the heart of the city with its distinct architecture. Alfresco dining in Paris is unmissable, so plan to visit between July-August.
Bikini-Haus, Berlin. In the background: Gedaechtniskirche, Upper West and Zoofenster
Berlin comes alive in the summer, people can be found eating and drinking in bars and restaurants outside all day. The historical sites such as Checkpoint Charlie and the Berlin Wall are a great way to spend a sunny day. Afterwards, you can unwind in one of the many beautiful parks around the city. Day trips are easily accessible from the city if you’re looking to get the most out of your visit, Potsdam is just half an hour away and is home to Schloss Sanssouci the largest World Heritage Site in Germany.
The Seine is the main river that flows through Paris, which is the capital of love. Indeed, it is the very heart and soul of the city itself. If you have booked yourself on the Cities of Light Paris to Prague Viking River Tours, you will be able to experience it in all its glory.
A Brief Background
Everywhere in the world, we see the cities near water change the relationship between the constantly moving and the static. Water, metaphysically speaking, is a mirror, which means a city is able to find its own reflection. For hundreds of years, the mirrored attraction of the Seine has been something that painters, poets, writers, philosophizers, lovers and even suicidal people have searched for.
Photo Source: www.linternaute.com
Paris has 20 arrondissements, and the Seine flows through 10 of these. Clearly, this is because the city evolved outwards, with the river at its heart. It is known that the Romans attacked the Parisi tribes, who lived on the island of the river. From then onwards, the city became prime real estate. Today, the river continues to play an important role in the city, not just in terms of attracting tourists, but also because it supplies half of all water that the city uses. This is also why it is not always ok to drink water straight from the tap in Paris (search for signs that say “eau potable”, which means you can drink it).
Right and Left Bank
The right bank and left bank often confuse people, and you are likely to see tourists in Paris standing still staring at maps. Remember that you must always face downriver, at which point the right bank is actually on your right. Once you have that in mind, and presuming you don’t struggle telling the difference between left and right, you should be able to make your way around with ease.
Photo Source: www.nihatkaradag.com.tr
Paris is home to 32 bridges, some of which are truly impressive. The Pont Neuf (Bridge 9) is the oldest one and also the best known. Poets, film makers and other artists have regularly incorporated this bridge in their movies and stories. The bridge crosses a cute little island that, today, is a docking station for riverboat tours. If you are around in the spring or summer, then sitting under the willow trees on a bench is a wonderful way to spend time.
Three other famous bridges are the Pont de l’Archeveche, the Pont Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor and the Pont des Arts. These bridges are best known for their love locks. Couples from all over the world come here and place a lock on these bridges, symbolizing that their love can never be broken. Unfortunately, these locks are now being removed, because they pose a safety concern for the construction of the bridges themselves. However, Paris would not be Paris if it wasn’t all about “l’amour”, which is why the locks have been replaced with romantic street art instead.
Paris is often referred to as the most romantic city in the world. Its majestic sights and impressive cultural background can satisfy all tastes and ages. Whether you are planning to visit Paris for your honeymoon or offer your kids an unforgettable vacation, you can be sure of the fact that you will not regret your decision.
The French culture is very distinct from everything you have experimented so far in Europe. Just like the Spanish, the Norwegians or the Germans have their own customs and rituals, the French too have something that differentiates them from the rest. They wouldn’t be French without it, right?
Photo Source: diydilettante.wordpress.com
What to see in Paris?
Eiffel Tower – it is an obvious choice, but there is a reason why everyone puts the Eiffel Tower at the top of the list. Starting from its base that inspires young men to propose to their loved ones and finishing to the top, you can admire the stunning views of the luminous city. Make sure you don’t miss it!
Palace of Versailles – we can discover here the reason why the French have such a distinct attitude. The Palace of Versailles is a true, opulent monument dedicated to the decadence of royalty. It is truly a unique example of ostentatious representations of wealth. It will surely impress you!
Avenue des Champs Elysees – just like with the Eiffel Tour, a walk on Champs Elysees is another sweet cliché that romantic couples will appreciate. The street is filled with great shops so you will surely not get bored in case you don’t like the view (hardly possible).
The Louvre Museum – extremely popular, the Louvre museum contains some of the most popular works of art in the world (Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo) and it surprises through its various exhibitions that bring diversity and sophistication closer to the viewers.
The Notre Dame Cathedral – this is indeed a place of mystery, history and poetry. All these intertwine with the purpose of offering visitors a unique experience. Its construction began in 1163 and was completed only 170 years later. Its Gothic style, rose windows, and side chapels know how to charm tourists in the French style.
Photo Source: www.shoretrips.com
When to go to Paris?
The best time to visit Paris is during spring (March-May) and autumn (September- November). These are the periods when the locals return from their vacations and you can truly experience the atmosphere of the city. If you choose to fly to Paris from anywhere in the UK you should avoid the month of July (Bastille Day -14 July) or mid-January when lots of couture fashion shows take place and the prices rocket.
But if you want to save some money you can rent a car from Thrifty and get the best deals for different models of cars. Whether it’s just you and your partner or you plan a trip for the whole family, the car of your dreams is waiting to take you into a Parisian exploration.
Mystery drones have been spotted flying over central Paris for the second night.
French police are no closer to knowing who is operating them.
There were five sightings by between 23:00 on February 24 and 02:00 on February 25, French media report.
Up to three drones were seen near the Invalides military museum, Place de la Concorde and two of the old city gates.
Flying drones over Paris at night is illegal and daytime flights require authorization from city authorities.
Five drones were seen the previous night in similar areas, including the Eiffel Tower and above the US embassy, close to Place de la Concorde.
However, some of the latest drone flights have been captured on film and will be analyzed by a 10-strong team of investigators set up after the first incidents.
The new sightings were also on the fringes of central Paris, at the key transport gates of Porte de Clignancourt in the north and Porte de Saint-Cloud in the south-west.
Small drones are inexpensive and easy to buy but their appearance in recent months over sensitive locations has worried French authorities.
It is against the law for any aircraft to fly lower than 19,700ft over central Paris. Flying any aircraft under that ceiling – including drones, police helicopters, and air ambulances – requires permission from city authorities.
Flying a drone at night is banned completely.
Drones present a problem for authorities in built-up areas, in that shooting them down could endanger the public. It is possible to jam GPS or radio signals guiding them.
Paris authorities have restricted the filming of movie action sequences following last month’s attacks in the French capital.
“There’s a problem with these action-type scenes, as the actors in uniform could be targets for terrorists,” said police commander Sylvie Barnaud.
“Also, the actors could pose confusion for the general public – during this highly sensitive period.”
Sylvie Barnaud said the use of fake weapons and pyrotechnic effects were also banned.
Tensions remain high following the attacks in January which left 20 people dead, including three gunmen. Armed police and soldiers continue to guard sensitive sites, including synagogues, media offices and large shopping areas.
SylvieBarnaud said she did not know how long the filming ban could last, but added it was common sense: “I was shocked to hear witnesses of the Charlie Hebdo attacks say on television <<it seemed like a movie shoot to us>>”.
Paris is a popular destination for film-makers, with its wide boulevards and dramatic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Louvre pyramid.
Official statistics provided by city authorities showed there were 930 film shoots in Paris in 2014, including approximately 20 international productions.
Recent box office hits which were filmed in Paris include Tom Cruise thriller Edge of Tomorrow, Luc Besson’s Lucy – starring Scarlett Johansson – and the first Taken film. Matt Damon’s visceral car chase in his 2002 film The Bourne Identity remains among Paris’ most memorable action sequences.
Agnes Nageotte of the Cinema Mission said the restrictions “could have an impact on the big American productions”.
“It’s not the right moment to do it – even if Steven Spielberg wanted to film a big scene with police and a shoot-out in the streets in January, I’m sure it would not have got made,” she said.
Olivier-Rene Veillon, who heads the Ile de France Film Commission, told the New York Times, there was “no impact on current productions”, adding it was a quiet period and the ban was “perfectly manageable”.
Taxi and rail services strikes have disrupted transport in major European cities.
Two-thirds of trains were not running in some areas of France in a strike against reforms and taxis were blocking traffic around some airports.
Cab-drivers are protesting at what they regard as a lack of regulation of rival mobile service Uber.
A protest began in Madrid early on Wednesday and action was to take place in London, Milan and other cities.
The biggest taxi associations in Madrid asked their drivers to observe a 24-hour stoppage until 06:00 on Thursday morning. More than 15,000 licensed vehicles operate in Madrid, Spanish media say.
Taxi drivers in major European cities are protesting at what they regard as a lack of regulation of rival mobile service Uber
The London protest was to start in Trafalgar Square at 14:00 BST, with taxi drivers arguing that the Uber mobile app, which originated in the US, was tantamount to a taxi meter, which only black cabs are legally entitled to use in London.
Up to 12,000 drivers are expected to take part in the protest.
The Metropolitan Police said conditions had been imposed on protesters after they failed to meet with officers to discuss their plans.
In Milan, in northern Italy, a protest was taking place throughout Wednesday, although disruption was not expected to be on a similar scale as elsewhere, with boycotts expected of key sites such as railway stations and squares. Cab drivers also staged demonstrations in Rome and Naples.
Protests were taking place in several German cities, including Berlin and Hamburg.
But the worst of the disruption was in Paris, where train services were also badly affected by strike action.
Only one in three trains was running in the Paris region, although Eurostar services were unaffected.
Unions are objecting to plans to merge the rail network operator with the train company SNCF. The company said some 28% of railway staff had walked out.
Workers were also considering whether to extend the strike into Thursday. Several regions had voted to continue the stoppage, French media reported.
The foreign ministers from Russia, the US and key EU states are holding talks in Paris to try to resolve Ukraine crisis.
The US wants independent observers in the flashpoint region of Crimea and direct talks between Kiev and Moscow.
Russia was expected to call for greater representation for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking areas in the Kiev government.
The EU earlier offered 11 billionn euros ($15 billion) of aid to Ukraine and froze the assets of 18 Ukrainians.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the package of loans and grants over the next couple of years was “designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented government” in Kiev.
Russian soldiers at Sevastopol naval base in Ukraine (photo Itar-Tass)
Ukraine’s finance ministry has predicted it needs $35 billion to rescue the economy.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry and counterparts from France, Germany and the UK on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris.
NATO and Russia have been holding parallel talks in Brussels.
The Paris gathering is being seen above all as a chance to test the waters for a dialogue about Ukraine.
In the US, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel announced plans to expand US military co-operation with Poland and Baltic states.
Chuck Hagel said the US would step up joint aviation training with Poland, and increase its participation in NATO’s mission to police the air space of Baltic countries.
The announcement was a direct response to concerns raised last week by Poland, he said.
Scarlett Johansson got engaged to French journalist Romain Dauriac and now she decided to set up her home in Paris.
Scarlett Johansson, 29, confirmed plans to walk down the aisle for a second time in September and she has since left New York to settle down in Romain Dauriac’s homeland.
The actress, who has yet to learn French, says: “I decided to take the plunge and move to Paris and it’s great, I love it. Of course, some of the stardust twinkle’s worn off a little bit now and … all the things you thought were charming before are just … I don’t wanna say, I’ve just offended an entire nation of people, like usual, but … it’s the little things.”
Scarlett Johansson continued: “Like, when I first got there I thought that … the whole kind of rude, Parisian thing was just (not true). I was like, ‘People aren’t rude, they’re wonderful!’ That was before I was a mainstay there and then people decided that once I wasn’t going away, they could just be rude to me!”
Scarlett Johansson confirmed plans to walk down the aisle for a second time in September
She reveals the most “frustrating” thing is just walking down the street, because people refuse to move out of the way.
She told David Letterman: “I like to walk around. … As I was saying, people are ruder now … but it’s frustrating. … I’m from New York … and I just assume, because you’re from New York, it’s like a wonderful dance in this street, you kind of avoid (each other) and it’s a choreography, walking down the street. And then when I got there (to Paris), I assumed it’s a kind of Provincial town, where people don’t know how to walk … and the fact that they’re just bodychecking me, they’re just confused.”
This will be Scarlett Johansson’s second marriage. She exchanged vows with Ryan Reynolds in 2008, but it lasted less than three years. Ryan Reynolds is now married to actress Blake Lively.
Paris shootings suspect Abdelhakim Dekhar has been charged with attempted murder and kidnapping.
Abdelhakim Dekhar was arrested in a car park in Paris on Wednesday after French police launched a large-scale manhunt.
He is suspected of threatening a TV station a week ago, before attacking Liberation newspaper office and Societe Generale HQ on Monday.
Prosecutors have said that samples of DNA from Abdelhakim Dekhar, 48, matched that from the crime scenes.
Abdelhakim Dekhar’s lawyer, Remi Lorrain, has complained of “violations of his right to be presumed innocent”.
Abdelhakim Dekhar has been charged with attempted murder and kidnapping
The spate of attacks started on Friday November 17, when a gunman threatened the Paris TV station, BFMTV.
Then on Monday, a photographer’s assistant was seriously hurt in a shooting at the left-wing newspaper, Liberation, before shots were fired in front of the headquarters of the Societe Generale bank in the Paris business district of La Defense.
Abdelhakim Dekhar was arrested on Wednesday in an underground car park in the Paris suburb of Bois-Colombes following a tip-off from a member of the public.
He was found in a semi-conscious state after an apparent suicide attempt.
The French authorities say Abdelhakim Dekhar was jailed in 1998 for his role in a string of fatal shootings in Paris and he was sentenced to four years in jail, but was released soon after the verdict, having already served his time in pre-trial detention.
Abdelhakim Dekhar has been identified by the French authorities as the man arrested on suspicion of carrying out recent gun attacks in Paris.
Abdelhakim Dekhar was taken into custody at about 19:00 from a vehicle in a car park in Bois-Colombes, north-west of Paris.
Authorities said the gunman had been jailed in 1998 for his role in a string of fatal shootings in Paris.
Last Friday a gunman threatened a Paris TV station and on Monday attacked Liberation newspaper office and Societe Generale HQ.
Prosecutors said late on Wednesday that samples of Abdelhakim Dekhar’s DNA matched that from the crime scenes.
They said he was not yet in a position to be questioned and the reading of his rights had been postponed.
Abdelhakim Dekhar was arrested in a stationary car in an underground car park following a tip-off from a member of the public.
French authorities have named the man arrested on suspicion of carrying out recent gun attacks in Paris as Abdelhakim Dekhar
Police union official Christophe Crepin said: “My colleagues noticed he was not very lucid. They deduced that he had taken medicines, because of the capsules nearby.”
Some media sources have suggested he may have attempted suicide.
Abdelhakim Dekhar is believed to have been the third man in the so-called Rey-Maupin affair, named after a young couple with links to anarchist groups who bungled an attempt to steal weapons from guards and then hijacked a taxi.
In the subsequent chase and shootout, three policemen and the taxi driver were killed, as well as Audry Maupin.
Audry Maupin’s girlfriend, Florence Rey, was released from jail a few years ago.
Their story was compared to the controversial American film, Natural Born Killers.
At his trial in 1998, Abdelhakim Dekhar protested his innocence, claiming he had been recruited by the Algerian secret service to infiltrate the French far-left. He served four years.
The Paris gunman has been captured and taken into custody on suspicion of carrying out recent attacks on the Liberation office and Societe Generale HQ, prosecutors say.
French police said the man bore a strong resemblance to the person shown in surveillance camera footage.
He was taken into custody at about 19:00 local time from a vehicle in a car park in Bois-Colombes, west of Paris.
The suspect threatened a TV station last Friday, and attacked the Liberation office and Societe Generale HQ on Monday.
He was apprehended from a stationary car in an underground car park.
The Paris gunman was taken into custody from a vehicle in a car park in Bois-Colombes
Prosecutors said the reading of the man’s rights had been postponed and he was not yet in a position to be questioned. They gave no further explanation and have not yet given the man’s identity nor any motive.
Hundreds of police were involved in an intensive manhunt since Monday and security was stepped up at all media outlets.
An appeal for information generated almost 700 calls.
The first incident – last Friday – was at the offices of the BFMTV television channel.
The intruder emptied the chamber of his gun in the reception area without firing, saying: “Next time, I will not miss you.”
CCTV showed that he spent only a few seconds in reception, before hurrying out.
On Monday, the suspect attacked the offices of the Liberation newspaper, firing twice and critically injuring a 23-year-old photography assistant.
Two hours later, the same man fired shots outside the headquarters of the bank Societe Generale, in the western business district of La Defense. No-one was hurt.
A car was then hijacked and the driver was forced to drop the suspect off near the Avenue des Champs Elysees, where he disappeared.
Paris authorities have launched a manhunt after a gunman attacked offices of the newspaper Liberation and fired outside the HQ of the bank Societe Generale.
A photographer, 27, was critically hurt at Liberation. The gunman later forced a motorist to drive him to the Champs Elysees before allowing him to go.
Police are looking for the same man who broke into the Paris offices of the 24-hour news channel BFMTV on Friday.
Police have now been stationed outside all the main media offices in Paris.
At a news conference, investigators held up two images, one of the suspect in a street and another picture, from BFMTV surveillance cameras, which was earlier shown on Le Parisien‘s website.
Paris prosecutor Francis Molins said that a lone gunman appeared to be behind the three attacks and the hijacking. He said the suspect had not yet been identified and the motive was still unclear.
The man is said to be between 40 and 45, and shaven-headed.
The gunman had walked into BFMTV on Friday morning and emptied the chamber of his gun in the reception area.
“Next time, I will not miss you,” the man had said to an editor he threatened.
A police helicopter hung over the Champs Elysees amid fears the gunman might be heading towards the Eiffel Tower, but it is speculated that he might have gone into the metro.
People have been encouraged to stay indoors.
Paris authorities have launched a manhunt after a gunman attacked offices of the newspaper Liberation and fired outside the HQ of the bank Societe Generale
Police say the suspect is calm and assured and each time has walked away from the scene of his attacks.
French media say the suspect told the motorist he hijacked that he was armed with grenades.
President Francois Hollande, who is in Israel, said the priority was “to stop an individual who had tried to kill and could try to kill again”.
At 10:15 local time on Monday, the gunman entered the Paris offices of Liberation, near the Place de la Republique in the east of the city, and opened fire.
He injured a photographer in the chest and stomach before escaping. Liberation said three spent cartridges had been found.
The gunman did not say anything during the attack, Liberation reported.
Some two hours later, the bank Societe Generale confirmed that a man opened fire outside its headquarters in the western business district of La Defense. No-one was injured, the bank said.
One witness of the bank shooting told Le Figaro that he heard a large bang and saw a man wearing a khaki coat and a cap and carrying a shotgun.
The gunman’s second shot caused panic and the man then disappeared down some stairs on to a street, the witness said.
Police say the gunman then hijacked a car in Nanterre, close to La Defense, and forced the driver to take him to the Champs Elysees, where he was dropped near the metro station George V.
Liberation‘s deputy editor Fabrice Tassel said the victim there was fighting for his life.
The victim – who has not been named – was said to be a freelance assistant photographer who had just arrived at the newspaper office to work on a fashion photoshoot.
Police have sealed off the area around Liberation‘s offices. Interior Minister Manuel Valls has visited the scene, along with Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti and the Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoe.
Manuel Valls said: “As long as this person is still on the loose and we do not know the motives, this represents a threat. We must move fast.”
Liberation‘s publisher Nicolas Demorand said: “In a democracy, when someone enters a newspaper office with a gun, this is very, very serious, whatever the person’s mental state.”
British actor Mark Lester, godfather to all Michael Jackson’s kids, has vowed to have DNA tests to prove he is the father of Jacko’s three children, the Sunday People reported.
Mark Lester, 54, believes there is a “good possibility” he is their biological dad.
The former child star, who was Michael Jackson’s best pal for 30 years, donated sperm to the superstar a year before the singer’s first child, Prince Michael, was born.
Now Mark Lester, who has not been allowed to see Prince Michael, 16, Paris, 15, and Blanket, 11, since Michael Jackson’s death in June 2009, has sent them a message: “I’m here, come and visit England, we’ll look after you.”
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday People, Mark Lester said: “After Michael asked me to donate sperm for him I completely forgot about it.
“He was a great dad to them, brought them up and was brilliant with the kids so I just didn’t go there but there is obviously a good possibility (that I could be the biological father).
“I wouldn’t have a DNA test without the children’s permission but when the children come of age, and it’s not far away, and they decide they want me to do it then I will. It is up to them.
“I don’t want to tell them what to do. I just want to reconnect and be the godfather that Michael made me.”
In his first interview for almost four years, father-of-four Mark Lester says the resemblance between his 18-year-old daughter Olivia and Michael Jackson’s girl Paris is striking.
And young Prince Michael had an astonishing similarity to Mark Lester when he was a child star. But the actor now feels “locked out” by the Jackson family following claims he is the dad. Dozens of his calls have gone unanswered.
Last month Mark Lester was invited to Los Angeles by Michael Jackson’s former manager Dieter Weisner only to discover it would not be possible to see the children. The kids are set to take the stand as witnesses in a $40 billion lawsuit brought against concert promoter AEG Live.
Michael Jackson’s family claim AEG, which organized his 50 farewell gigs planned for London’s O2 Arena, ignored health fears about the singer.
Mark Lester says he would happily give evidence to defend his friend of 30 years. He said: “Michael was a great friend to me and I would defend his name in the court case if I have to.”
He first met Michael Jackson in 1978 at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park, North London, where the singer was performing with the Jackson 5.
The pair, then both 20, immediately hit it off, sharing burgers and soft drinks and chatting for over three hours.
Mark Lester, godfather to all Michael Jackson’s kids, has vowed to have DNA tests to prove he is the father of Jacko’s three children
When Michael Jackson flew back to America, they kept a long-distance friendship. The singer often phoned Mark Lester at 3 a.m. for a chat because he couldn’t grasp the different time zones.
Mark Lester, who shot to fame at the age of 8 when he starred in the Lionel Bart film Oliver!, said: “We ended up great friends. Michael had so many people and security around him but had very few people that knew him really closely. I became one of those lucky few.
“Michael lived in a bubble. He barely knew any famous person outside the music world.
“He was once introduced to tennis player Boris Becker in Germany and had no idea who he was.”
In 1991 Mark Lester fathered his first child to first wife Jane. Just two years later another daughter, Harriet, was born and in 1995 he fathered his third daughter, Olivia.
Just months later, Michael Jackson called Mark Lester with an unusual request.
The actor said: “I remember Michael ringing and saying, <<Oh, you don’t have any fertility difficulties do you?>>. He was half joking so I joked, <<Oh, I just look at her and she gets pregnant>>.
“So then in a light-hearted way he said, <<Will you help me out?>>. Initially I thought he wanted me to do something with his ex-wife Debbie Rowe and I was thinking, <<I don’t think so>>.
“Then out of the blue about a year later, he mentioned sperm donation and I agreed.
“Michael set it up for me to turn up to a clinic in Harley Street, London to do it. It was weird.
“I went in a couple of times to donate but we never talked about it ever again.
“It was a really strange request but while Michael was alive I never gave it another thought. I didn’t donate to get something out of it.”
In February 1997, Michael Jackson announced the birth of his first son with Debbie Rowe, Prince Michael.
Paris followed in 1998 and Prince Michael II, also known as Blanket, arrived in 2002.
As the children grew up, a paternity puzzle arose amid speculation Michael Jackson looked different to his three kids.
He and his family vehemently denied claims the children were not his.
Mark Lester, who was made godfather by the superstar to all three kids in 2001, said: “While he was alive, I never ever thought the children were anyone else’s but Michael’s.”
Mark Lester’s children, including son Felix, now 13, became close friends with Michael Jackson’s kids and the two families became almost inseparable, spending school holidays and weekends together. Mark Lester, now a trained osteopath living in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, said: “Every time Michael came to the UK, which was at least six times a year, I used to take my children to see his.
“They always got on really well. Olivia and Harriet would play with Paris.
“We always used to stay at an isolated cottage at the Cliveden House hotel in Berkshire. I even took the kids to his home in the US. We were like one big happy family.”
Just three months after announcing the AEG Live tour at the O2, Michael Jackson, who was reported to be $150 million in debt, was found dead at the age of 50 after overdosing on painkillers and tranquillizers.
His doctor Conrad Murray was later convicted of manslaughter and jailed for four years.
Mark Lester said: “When I heard the news I was devastated. I never saw him take any drugs. I managed to get to America for his memorial service and that was the last time I saw the children.”
Two months after Michael Jackson’s death, his friend Uri Geller mentioned to Mark Lester that he could be the dad.
Mark Lester, who claims he had never previously thought about it, said: “Then I noticed the likenesses in my own children and his.
“My daughter Olivia looks like Paris. People have also pointed out similarities between myself when I was younger and Prince.”
But after hearing the claims, the Jackson family stopped answering Mark Lester’s calls.
Mark Lester said: “I just feel it is really cruel that our relationship has just been cut off. It is not what Michael would have wanted.”
France’s government has decided to overturn a 200-year-old ban on women wearing trousers.
The Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, said that the ban was incompatible with modern French values and laws.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the law, imposed on November 17, 1800, had in effect already been rescinded because of incompatibility.
The move to formally repeal the law followed a parliamentary question asked last year.
According to the law, women needed to have the permission of local police if they wanted to “dress like a man” and wear trousers.
Though it has been ignored for decades, formally it remained on the statute books.
France’s government has decided to overturn a 200-year-old ban on women wearing trousers
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the original law had been intended to prevent women doing certain jobs.
“This order was aimed first of all at limiting the access of women to certain offices or occupations by preventing them from dressing in the manner of men,” she said.
It was modified in 1892 and 1909 to allow women to wear trousers if they were “holding a bicycle handlebar or the reins of a horse”.
During the French Revolution, Parisian women had requested the right to wear trousers and working-class revolutionaries became known as “sans-culottes” for wearing trousers instead of the silk-knee breeches preferred by the bourgeoisie.
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