Archive for » April 7th, 2012«

Men’s Health looks to set coast-to-coast electric-vehicle record in Ford Focus …

Men’s Health Reinvents a American Road Trip

Team of drivers-including IndyCar and American Le Mans racer Martin Plowman and Top Gear USA horde Tanner Foust-will settle coast-to-coast “speed” record in a 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

The goal: To go fast-by negligence down.

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Men’s Health, a world’s largest men’s magazine, announced currently a launch of a 2012 Electric Car Challenge, a cross-country journey designed to assistance maximize a intensity of electric vehicles (EV’s), emanate a healthier, some-more satisfying, and some-more sparkling highway outing experience, and lift income for an critical cause. The cross-country march will start in New York City and finish in Los Angeles.

“We combined a Electric Car Challenge to denote a some-more eco-friendly ensue to a highway outing that will have a certain outcome on you, your wallet, and a environment.”
The group will leave a New York International Auto Show on Apr 11 and will stop between 40 and 55 times to recharge a battery of a 2012 Ford Focus Electric, a new electric automobile that recently warranted a 110 mile-per-gallon homogeneous (MPGe) rating from a EPA for city driving. This creates it a many fit 5-seater in a U.S. With any charging stop holding between 2 and 4 hours-and with a drivers surpassing in shifts around a clock-the group expects to arrive during Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles 10 to 12 days after a Challenge commences, presumably nearing on Earth Day, Apr 22. At that point, they will settle a record for a fastest coast-to-coast expostulate in an electric car, formulating a aim for others to kick as battery record improves and charging options expand.

“With gas prices approaching to strech scarcely $5 per gallon this summer, a Great American Road Trip is staid for a Great American Renaissance,” pronounced David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health. “We combined a Electric Car Challenge to denote a some-more eco-friendly ensue to a highway outing that will have a certain outcome on you, your wallet, and a environment.”

Though it will use open and blurb charging stations, a group will crowd-source many of a trip, mouth-watering readers and supporters to assistance make a record probable by charity their 240v, 40-amp outlets, such as those typically commissioned for garments dryers. To perform a idea of reinventing a American highway trip, a drivers will fill a charging durations with exciting, life-changing practice that we can’t suffer when racing down a highway-they’ll be intent adventures, practice and aptness challenges, culinary pursuits, environmental missions, and more. All of these will advantage readers interjection to a solid tide of startling tips and recommendation opposite a far-reaching operation of subjects. The group will yield updates during menshealth.com/ElectrifyUS, and around Twitter during @MHTechLust (#ElectrifyUS). The group will check in with FourSquare during any stop, and supporters are speedy to come out to accommodate a team, work out with them, and maybe measure some t-shirts.

According to Eric Adams, a group member and comparison editor during a magazine, one of a hardest tools of formulation a plea was simply convincing Ford to loan Men’s Health a automobile for this unusual test. “The Focus Electric is designed for civic commuting, so we’re seeking a automobile to do something it wasn’t dictated to do,” pronounced Adams, who will be a initial publisher to expostulate a Focus Electric. “We praise Ford for their eagerness to put their faith in a formulation skills and fit driving.”

In further to Adams, a group consists-at varying points during a drive-of X-Games bullion medalist Tanner Foust, co-host of Top Gear USA; IndyCar and American Le Mans racer Martin Plowman; and former Navy SEAL commander Coleman Ruiz, executive executive of Carry a Load, a substructure that supports a families of U.S. soldiers who’ve been killed in combat. The group will lift income for a substructure around a drive. Also on house for several days each, to yield opposite perspectives on a road-trip experience: Men’s Health Girl Next Door columnist Naomi Piercey, Miss Indiana 2009 Nicole Pollard; and Carry a Load spokesmodel Katie Cwynar.

The team’s route-extending to Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, and Los Angeles, and all points in between-will maximize pushing efficiency. While this is a “speed record,” no speed boundary will be broken, given high speed taxes a battery. The automobile will mostly be off-highway in sequence to extend a operation and offer improved practice for a team. For reserve and practicality reasons, a drivers will have a Ford F-150 EcoBoost support vehicle, that will assent teams to ensue forward of a Focus to assistance safeguard all a drivers accept full night’s nap daily. The outing will be analyzed and rendered carbon-neutral regulating ignition’s iSES™ sustainability program, around equivalent donations supposing by Carbonfund.org.

Ultimately, a team’s loyal idea is simply to have fun. “We wish to see what kind of good practice we can tack together while a automobile is charging,” Adams notes. “It’s not a satisfactory challenge, of course-the infrastructure for fast, easy charging doesn’t exist yet. But that’s because we’re doing it. If a infrastructure was there, what fun would that be?”

About Men’s Health (www.menshealth.com)

Men’s Health is a go-to source for group seeking a latest information and consultant recommendation in their office of a healthy and active lifestyle. Published 10 times a year in a U.S. by Rodale, Men’s Health is a best-selling men’s repository on newsstands and provides a 12 million readers with up-to-the-minute information on health, fitness, fashion, nutrition, relationships, travel, record and finance. Men’s Health is a largest men’s lifestyle repository code in a world, charity 40 tellurian editions, a horde of smartphone apps, as good as branded books, eBooks and microsites. The repository has garnered countless attention accolades, winning National Magazine Awards in a ubiquitous value and personal use categories as good as being deemed by Media Industry Newsletter as a “#1 Most Notable Magazine Launch of a Last 25 Years.” Men’s Health has also seemed on Advertising Age’s “A List” and Adweek’s “Hot List.” For present news from Men’s Health, revisit www.menshealth.com, and get present updates on Twitter (@MensHealthMag) and Facebook (Men’s Health).

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available: http://www.businesswire.com/cgi-bin/mmg.cgi?eid=50225768〈=en

Contacts

For Men’s Health
Kate Bittman, 212.808.1676
Kate.Bittman@rodale.com
or
Emily Weber, 212.297.1525
Emily.Weber@rodale.com
or
Kateri Benjamin, 212.573.0510
Kateri.Benjamin@rodale.com


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falling out of LOVE… with a car

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Has a automobile mislaid a cold with immature people?

The adore event that prior generations have had with their cars might be on a wane, suggests a news about pushing trends among people ages 16 to 34 and that could have an impact on travel policy.

The report, expelled Thursday, finds that people it news as “Generation Y” are pushing fewer miles, that some are loitering removing their driver’s permit and picking civic centers over suburbs to live in, where they can float a bus, train, travel or bike to their destinations.

The report, Transportation and a Next Generation, conducted by a Frontier Group for a New Jersey Public Interest Research Group, found that for a initial time given World War II, people are pushing less, a trend that has been seen given 2004 The news pronounced that by 2011, a normal American was pushing 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004. It pronounced a normal car miles trafficked per year by New Jersey residents fell by 461 miles between 2007 and 2010.

Factored into a dump in pushing were an boost in gas prices and a delayed liberation from a retrogression of 2008. But a news pronounced there is justification that some immature people are creation a unwavering choice not to drive.

According to Federal Highway Administration, between 2000 to 2010, a series of 14- to 34-year-olds but a driver’s permit increasing from 21 percent to 26 percent, according to Federal Highway Administration. In New Jersey, a series of drivers in a age-19-and-younger organisation has declined to 198,847 in 2010, down from a high of 250,323 in 2008 and from 231,082 in 2000.

The investigate found that many in a 16- to 34-year-old age organisation cite to live in places where they can simply travel and bike, and where open travel is accessible — from redeveloping cities such as New Brunswick, to comparison suburban towns with downtown districts and movement access, such as Red Bank, Morristown, Rahway and Somerville.


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Two Days: Six Flags, cherry blossoms and Southern rock

six-flags-wild-safari.JPGYou can feed the giraffes at Six Flags’ Wild Safari.

Six Flags fun

It’s spring break at Six Flags Great Adventure and Wild Safari, open daily until April 15. At the park’s safari, guests can now embark on a bus tour to feed giraffes.

And coming in May: If you’ve ever taken a turn on “the swings,” those whimsical single-seat carnival rides, Six Flags has upped the ante some with its SkyScreamer, at 24 stories tall, what it bills as an “extreme swing ride.” You’re still in the swings, but much, much higher.

The park’s Adventure Alley will also have three new family attractions: Fender Benders, a bumper car ride; Air Jumbo, flying elephant cars; and Deja Vu, a scrambler-with-music ride. SkyScreamer, Deja Vu and Air Jumbo open on May 22 and Fender Benders debuts in June. King Cobra, a racing tube slide, will open in July.

Until April 15, Great Adventure is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; the Wild Safari is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Online tickets are $30.99 and $61.99. A safari upgrade is $12.99 with a regular ticket. The park is at 1 Six Flags Blvd., Jackson. Season passes are $64.99 each for four passes. Call (732) 928-1821 or visit sixflags.com/greatadventure.

Amy Kuperinsky

circuz-oz-mccarter-theatre-princeton.JPGAustralia’s Circus Oz comes to Princeton.
Circus

The animal-free Circus Oz from Australia will be in Princeton this weekend.

While there’s no lions, tigers or bears, there’s plenty of acrobatics, comedy and music in the show, which calls itself “a bit punk” and “undeniably in your face.”

Shows are at 2 and 7:30 p.m. today and 3 p.m. tomorrow at the McCarter Theatre Center, 91 University Place, Princeton.

Tickets are $35 to $55. Call (609) 258-2787 or visit mccarter.org.

A.K.

Comedy

Arkansas comedian Ralphie May is at Bananas Comedy Club tonight, fresh off his fourth Comedy Central special, “Too Big To Ignore,” which aired last month.

His humor, delivered with hyperbolic facial expression, often involves talking about his family, as well as race and politics. Shows are at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. at 283 Route 17 south, Hasbrouck Heights. Tickets are $35. Call (201) 727-1090 or visit bananascomedyclub.com.

A.K.

ralphie-may-bananas-hasbrouck-heights.jpgRalphie May

Interactive

Ever wonder what being a television weather reporter feels like — and looks like?

Using the magic of chroma key technology — plus a big floor fan — visitors to Liberty Science Center can see themselves “cover” a dangerous weather event of their choosing.

Will it be a tornado or a hurricane? Tropical storm or nor’easter? (Lisa and Jeremie Duval, of Somerville, above, tried their hand with a hurricane.)

The “Wild Weather Reporter” event is offered today from 2 to 4 p.m. Space is limited, and a sign-up is required. The exhibit is free with paid admission. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Museum admission is $15.75 for those 13 and older, $11.50 for ages 2 to 12 and for seniors ages 65 and older. The center is at 222 Jersey City Blvd., Liberty State Park, Jersey City. Call (201) 200-1000 or visit lsc.org.

Kathy O’Brien

Southern rock

They don’t have the hits of Lynyrd Skynyrd, or the legendary status of the Allman Brothers.

But the history of Southern rock can’t be written without a chapter on the Marshall Tucker Band, one of the longest-running and most creative practitioners of the style. After charging out of South Carolina in the early ’70s, the Marshall Tucker Band arrived at an effortless fusion of hard rock, blues, gospel, jazz fusion, folk, and country music on “Where We All Belong,” its 1974 set. Since then, the group has pushed into improvisational territory — and many jam bands cite MTB as an important antecedent.

The group comes to New Jersey without a few of its most famous members, including lead guitarist and songwriter Toy Campbell, who died in the early ’90s. But the Marshall Tucker Band (there is no actual Marshall Tucker) continues on with original organist and lead singer Doug Gray at the helm. Appearing tonight at 7 at the Starland Ballroom, 570 Jernee Mill Road, Sayreville; $20. Call (800) 745-3000 or visit ticketmaster.com.

Tris McCall

cherry-blossom-festival-branch-brook-park.JPGCherry blossoms in Branch Brook Park.

Cherry blossoms

Why go to Washington when we have them right here?

The Essex Cherry Blossom Festival is underway at Branch Brook Park, celebrating the flowers of 4,000 cherry trees. The first in a series of festival events is the Cherry Blossom Challenge, bike races through the park’s pink foliage. There are various races, the first starting at 7 a.m. at Park Avenue and Lake Street in Newark.

Tickets are $30 to $35. The festival runs weekends through April 22, culminating in Bloomfest, with Japanese cultural demonstrations, children’s activities and music. Call (973) 268-3500 or visit essexcherryblossom.com.

A.K.


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72 Hours or Less: Hill Country Flyer

CEDAR PARK — The Nickel Plate Road goes from Austin to Burnet. So do a Milwaukee Road and a California Zephyr.

These ancestral tyrannise cars are partial of a Hill Country Flyer, a scenic sight that winds by a Hill Country.

Rolling by a Hill Country on iron rails influenced adult memories for many passengers. One seatmate talked about going to a sight repository as a immature lady after Saturday chores with her mother. “That was exciting,” she said.

Getting there: The Hill Country Flyer, operated by a Austin Steam Train Association, leaves from Cedar Park. From Interstate 35, take Exit 256 and follow FM 1431 to a Cedar Park Shopping Center, 401 E. Whitestone Blvd. Call 512-925-7570 to check accessibility of walk-up tickets.

The 66-mile track takes about dual hours, using by Liberty Hill and Bertram and finale about dual blocks from Burnet’s city square. It stays about 2½ hours before returning to Cedar Park. It departs during 10 a.m. and earnings around 4 p.m. Adult tickets cost $28-$43.

The ride: As a sight chugged along, a ancestral shade of newcomer rail seemed to run beside us. Adults stopped what they were doing, waved and smiled. Children cheered from a circuitously soccer margin as a sight passed.

First-class cars have copiousness room and atmosphere conditioning, though a seats had sole out early in a week. Coach was scarcely full when we arrived during a hire 90 mins before departure.

The manager seats were comfortable, though space was parsimonious for 4 adults confronting any other. The strange wooden-framed window struggled and squeaked before opening to let in uninformed air.

Photos: Big windows in a vestibules between cars give copiousness of room for photos. we spent a good partial of a outing there, sharpened fields of wildflowers and other scenes. Being in a automobile during a behind of a sight authorised for photos of a sight curving in front of me, as well.

The steam engine that routinely powers a sight is underneath repair, so photos of a billowing steam cloud will have to wait for another trip.

Good eats: After a sight arrived in Burnet, we was hungry. There are restaurants within walking stretch of a sight depot, and shuttles to other internal eateries.

I hopped on a initial convey we came to. It incited out to be for a Burnet Feed Store BBQ. Generous helpings of brisket and sausage dripped with flavor, with a healthy apportionment of cherry cobbler commanding it off.

Shopping and shows: The convey returned to a city center, and we spent a few mins browsing a antiques stores that line a square.

A gunfight — a staged one — pennyless out, sketch a large crowd. A few of a sight travelers were combined to a expel as tavern girls in full costume.

Next time: I’ll open for a chair in a air-conditioned cars and spend some-more time browsing a stores in Burnet’s city square.

More info: AustinSteamTrain.org or 512-477-8468 Ext. 2.

Joshua Trudell is a San Antonio author and photographer.


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Road outing on Florida-Alabama Gulf Coast desirous by BP ads 2 years after oil spill


Click to perspective (6 Photos)

PENSACOLA, Fla. — If you’ve incited on a TV lately, chances are you’ve seen ads for a Gulf Coast featuring beaches, seafood and accessible faces. But we competence have winced if we beheld a small immature heading for BP. It’s a sign that a ads are paid for by a association obliged for one of a biggest oil spills in history, a 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, that dirty beaches with connect balls and ravaged tourism for months.

Some critics have mocked a ads, others call them “greenwashing.” But dual years after a spill, tourism along a Gulf is booming. Officials can’t contend how many vacationers competence have been lured by a ads, that have run nationally and are called “Voices of a Gulf,” though many Gulf Coast destinations had their best year ever in 2011. And with clever reports for early 2012, locals are anticipating for another ensign year.

I’m one of those visitors who, ironically, competence never have deliberate a vacation here had it not been for a oil spill. Like a lot of New Yorkers, I’ve been to other tools of Florida — Orlando for thesis parks, Fort Lauderdale to revisit late relatives, South Beach for a glam, a Everglades for nature. But until we saw those BP ads, we never suspicion about visiting Florida’s Panhandle. Historically, this frame of seashore stretching opposite state lines into Alabama was a summer end for Southeasterners and a winter end for Midwesterners. But a ads swayed this Yankee to check out an area once famous as a Redneck Riviera, a tenure some journey derisive, though that during one time connoted a workingman’s bliss where beach vacations didn’t have imagination pricetags.

With my sister, another Yankee who’d never been to a region, we set off on a Gulf Coast highway trip. We ate oysters, went birdwatching, visited ancestral homes, and sunbathed on a soft, sugar-white silt a area is famous for. We didn’t adore a soaring condos that browbeat so most of a shorefront, though we found pleasing state parks charity easy entrance to primitive beaches scarcely everywhere. And a locals really lived adult to their repute for liberality and friendliness. For other travelers intrigued by a latest BP ad’s invitation to “help make 2012 an even improved year for tourism,” here are some highlights from a trip.

We started in St. Petersburg, nearing around a Sunshine Skyway Bridge, a 4-mile camber with radiant cables that demeanour like hulk bullion and white sails. We visited a Dali Museum, a collection of surrealist art by Salvador Dali in a waterfront building with a geodesic design and witty outside sculpture of a artist’s moustache, http://thedali.org/. In circuitously Tampa’s Ybor City, a ancestral if somewhat outline district famous for cigar production and Spanish-Cuban heritage, we stayed during a 1895 Don Vicente Inn, http://www.donvicenteinn.com/ (rates start around $139), beautifully easy though with complicated amenities (comfy beds and Wi-Fi).

En track to a subsequent stop, Apalachicola, we detoured to a Indian Mounds during Crystal River State Archaeological Site, http://www.crystalriverstateparks.org/CrysRiv2.cfm. Trees draped in Spanish moss line a route to an ancient relic finished of shells and earth with a pacific perspective of a river.

Apalachicola was even some-more scenic. Here a stream meets a brook in an aged post city with extended streets, like a enchanting portrayal come to life in soothing blues, greens and browns. We stayed during a Gibson Inn, a 1907 hotel on a National Register of Historic Places with mouth-watering verandas — http://www.gibsoninn.com/ (rates start during $115), and we enjoyed a best food of a trip: Oysters a few miles out of city during a no-frills Indian Pass Raw Bar (try a baked oysters with parmesan), a ideal cooking during a upscale Owl Cafe, and a contented breakfast during Tamara’s. Beaches are opposite a overpass on St. George Island, a 22-mile separator island, with a state park 4 miles in.

A word about oysters: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have tested internal seafood given a oil brief and announced it safe. But oyster lovers should be wakeful of a nasty germ called vibrio vulnificus. Cooked oysters are safe, though vibrio in tender oysters sickens about 30 people a year, and about half of them die, according to a Center for Science in a Public Interest. CSPI says oysters harvested April-November in a Gulf are exposed to vibrio, though it’s frequency seen in oysters in winter months or from colder Northern waters. For a record, my sister and we devoured Gulf oysters tender and cooked, anxious by a ambience and price, $6 or $7 a dozen.

We skipped Panama City’s beachfront condo resorts, T-shirt emporiums and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and headed true for circuitously St. Andrews State Park, floridastateparks.org/standrews/”http://www.floridastateparks.org/standrews/. There we sunbathed for hours on a famously soft, white silt while gazing during unclouded emerald waters underneath a splendid blue sky. It was an knowledge we steady several times: No matter how many signs we saw for tattoos or splash specials along Highway 98, a categorical highway joining Panhandle towns, circuitously state parks offering relaxed stretches of silt and shore.

A stormy day in Pensacola incited out to be a highlight. We started with a hearty, inexpensive breakfast during a entire sequence grill Waffle House, afterwards visited a half-dozen homes in Historic Pensacola Village, some on a own, some on a tour, pensacola.org/”http://www.historicpensacola.org/ (Tuesday-Saturday, tickets $6 during 205 E. Zaragoza St.). We schooled about a area’s 450 years of story underneath 5 flags — Spanish, French, British, Confederate and U.S. — and desired how a encampment has recorded homes from opposite durations before and after a Civil War. The Julee Panton lodge tells a story of a giveaway lady of color; a Dorr House displays Victorian oddities like art finished from tellurian hair; and a 1805 Charles Lavalle House alludes to a era’s bland hardships, with artifacts like an inventive rodent trap and a bed with springs finished from rope.

The object came out for a final Florida stop, a stately beach in Perdido Key State Park, floridastateparks.org/perdidokey/”http://www.floridastateparks.org/perdidokey/. Across a state line, we walked a 825-foot post during Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Ala., admiring a fishing techniques of a many visitors, http://www.alapark.com/gulfstate/. Early a subsequent morning, we assimilated birders during Fort Morgan State Historic Site, a stopover for birds migrating north from South America. We watched as volunteers prisoner little creatures in excellent nets strung between trees, afterwards weighed, totalled and banded them before release. A identical eventuality is designed for Oct. 4-6 in Fairhope, Ala., as a birds lapse south for a winter, alabamacoastalbirdfest.com/”http://www.alabamacoastalbirdfest.com/. But even those who can’t tell a mockingbird from a timber thrush can suffer a bird calls echoing off Fort Morgan’s scary mill buildings.

A packet took us from Fort Morgan opposite Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island. Car spaces are singular and tickets are not sole in advance, so get in line early; $16 for automobile with driver, report during mobilebayferry.com/”http://www.mobilebayferry.com/. In Mobile, a small 35 miles away, we checked into a Battle House, a Marriott Renaissance with rates that start during $159 notwithstanding a four-star oppulance accommodations. We afterwards strolled down Dauphin Street, enjoying Bienville Square and aged buildings flashy with lacy, elaborate expel iron balconies, a heading of a city’s architecture. Dinner was a fanciful preference of sushi and tacos during a hipster Bicycle Shop, 651 Dauphin St.

Our final day started during Bellingrath Gardens. Camellias and azaleas were finished for a season, though a drift are lovely. We took a fascinating debate of a antique-filled Bellingrath palace and a relaxing stream vessel ride; http://www.bellingrath.org/, $28.50 for grounds, debate and cruise. Our large dish of a day was tantalizing brisket and ribs during Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q, a informal sequence with an outpost during 770 Schillinger Road South, afterwards explored neighborhoods like Oakleigh, where many homes underline a design and defense from a Mobile Historic Development Commission — mobilehd.org/”http://www.mobilehd.org/ — installation them as historically significant. Several businesses offer guided tours, including Memorable Mobile Tours, 251-344-8687; Bay City Conventions, http://www.baycityconventions.com and Personalized Tours of Historic Mobile, 251-343-8165.

My sister continued on to Louisiana and Mississippi, a other states in a tourism ads. we returned to New York, where we told anyone who’d listen that a Gulf’s beaches, seafood and liberality were as good as they looked on TV.


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Czech out the ‘corrupt tours’

The Czech Republic is best known for Prague, its beautiful capital city, but now a new kind of attraction is coming to the fore. And it’s not very flattering: a tour of the corrupt side of the country.

RIDING a wave of public disgust at graft, a new Czech travel agency has started tours highlighting sites linked to corruption, a social ill that has plagued the ex-communist country for decades.

The aptly-named CorruptTour agency touts the “best of the worst” trips to posh villas, a nonsensical funicular, an empty meadow hosting a non-existent Olympic stadium, even a big, boxy concrete mausoleum.

“The idea was to reverse the usual situation wherein corruption feeds on business by creating a business that uses corruption as input by exposing it,” says CorruptTour’s founder Petr Sourek, a philosopher and translator.

Justin Svoboda, a guide from the Corrupt Tour travel agency, is seen reflected in the window of a mini-bus at the start of the sight-seeing tour around places linked with graft scandals in Prague.

In Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index, the Czech Republic ranked 57th alongside Namibia and Saudi Arabia on the list of 183 countries topped by squeaky-clean New Zealand and ending with Somalia.

“The worst thing is that the trend is getting worse,” says David Ondracka, head of the international graft watchdog’s Czech branch.

Ondracka went so far as to call corruption “a fundamental problem” for the country of 10.5 million that shed communism in 1989 and joined the European Union in 2004.

Recent surveys suggest that most Czech managers think things can’t work without corruption greasing the wheels of society.

Most Czechs don’t believe the centre-right government is making good on promises to fight graft, even though Prime Minister Petr Necas has sacked four ministers over corruption allegations since his cabinet took power in 2010.

At a residency of Prague’s entrepreneur Tomas Hrdlicka during a sight-seeing tour around places linked with graft scandals.

“In the corruption segment, the Czech Republic has a lot to offer to both local and foreign visitors. The local corruption environment is extremely stable with moderate growth,” CorruptTour says dryly on its website.

Their tour guide, wearing a funny orange hat and a waistcoat, is impossible to miss as he stands next to a black mini-bus with 26 tourists eager to embark on an “ornithological safari tour” of Prague’s upscale “nests“. Resembling a Hollywood homes-of-the-stars circuit, this tour targets the residences of lobbyists and rich businessmen caught up in dodgy deals – “nesting birds”, in the guide’s words.

These include Ivo Rittig, a man said to rake in profits from each public transport ticket sold in Prague, and Martin Roman, former head of the power giant CEZ, suspected of handing hefty procurement deals to cronies. Press reports have repeatedly linked both men to graft but neither has ever been charged.               

Famous for being corrupt

“Please be quiet; don’t disturb the nesting birds. We might be attacked by a dominant male,” tour guide Justin Svoboda pleads with hushed irony, provoking the laughter of tourists clicking their cameras as the bus pulls up outside a gaudy “nest”. He then points out a non-existent house which 589 companies have registered as their headquarters, and a university at which students obtain a degree in under a year – for the right price.

“It’s here that the birds grow longer feathers in a very short time, which then help them extend their territory or lure a female,” Svoboda explains.

At the luxury villa of a controversial Czech entrepreneur.

“It’s a fantastic experience,” says Kristian Leko, a law student from Prague and one of the tourists. “The extent of corruption here is unbelievable, they steal billions, everyone knows it, but no one has ever been sentenced, there’s no evidence, the police and the judiciary have been manipulated.”

“We’re famous for being a corrupt state – not that we should be proud of it,” adds Radka Frejnova, a young woman on the tour.

The agency also offers a tour of hospitals known for shady tendering procedures, and a trip to the northern city of Usti nad Labem, the home of a pointless yet overpriced funicular and of a municipal park expensively decked out, thanks to European Union subsidies.

“Companies have now started to order tours, and we’re also getting ready for an elementary school trip,” says Sourek, whose agency also offers visits in English and German.

Souvenirs are a must. Besides badges and T-shirts with the agency logo, tourists can buy bearer shares – a non-transparent security which the Czech government has been reluctant to ban – and an anti-wiretapping gizmo to guard against pesky eavesdropping.

The agency became a hit as soon as it was launched in February, but some are less than pleased.

Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda is dismayed at tourists flocking to a city hall building.

“Of course, I’m not happy, but if we closed the door, we would only show nothing here has changed,” said Svoboda, seen by Czech media as a breath of fresh air at the city hall since he took office in late 2010.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to the time when an UncorruptTour will organise city hall tours. That’s what I’d prefer,” he said. – AFP


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