Ten most corrupt countries of the world

You spend every holiday weekend annoyed that you can’t talk your way out of a speeding ticket. If only there were some way out of that predicament … aside from taking your lead foot off the gas, right? You may be out of luck on the New Jersey Turnpike, but there are plenty of places in the world where money talks, according to a new study by Transparency International. So, if you tend to disregard local laws and customs, you may want to pick one of the 10 countries below for your next vacation.

WARNING: You may need to bring a bit of fire power for some of these destinations.

1. Somalia:
Is this even a country? It has no real government to speak of, not to mention a history of piracy, mob violence, warlord brutality and kidnapping. So, chew a little khat to take the edge off.

The Good News: You can’t really break any laws where there aren’t any.

2. Myanmar: Okay, the human rights issue here is pretty severe, and the military regime is known for being among the most repressive and abusive in the world. So, don’t complain about the thread-count in your hotel.

The Good News: There’s plenty of wildlife to enjoy as a result of slow economic growth. A bleak financial outlook is good for the environment!

%Gallery-106020%3. Afghanistan: Ummmm, there’s a war going on there – you may remember that. So, you’re dealing more with warlords than conventional law enforcement officials. This takes some of the predictability out of your mischief, and it does amp the risk up a bit.

The Good News: There are several options for civilian flights. Also, fishing is fine, but you can’t use hand grenades.

4. Iraq: Again with the war … The easiest way to get there is to wear a uniform, but that will make bribing your way out of trouble far more difficult.

The Good News: Prostitutes may not be in abundance, but if you have an itch in Baghdad, you’ll probably find someone to help you scratch it.

5. Uzbekistan: The CIA describes the government as “authoritarian presidential rule.” Is there really anything else you need to know? Yes, there is: Uzbekistan has a nasty human trafficking problem.

The Good News: Uzbekistan’s currency is the Ubekistani soum – that’s what you’ll use to bribe your way out of trouble.

6. Turkmenistan: Uzbekistan’s neighbor is no prize, either. Instead of trading in skin, though, Turkmenistan prefers drugs. It’s described in the CIA World Factbook as a “transit country for Afghan narcotics bound for Russia and Western European markets.”

The Good News: If you’re in the heroin business, this is a crucial stop in your supply chain. If you’re not, well, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to care about the place.

7. Sudan: The global financial crisis of 2008 actually affected this country. Until then, money was flowing in just as fast as oil could flow out. Then, economies crumbled around the world, which dealt a nasty blow to the country.

The Good News: There’s at least one form of equal rights in Sudan: both men and women can be drafted into military service.

8. Chad: Why is Chad so corrupt? Well, this may have something to do with the human trafficking problem, which the country “is not making any significant efforts” to address. Rebel groups in the country add to the likelihood for mayhem.

The Good News: Chad ranks 190 worldwide in terms of GDP, which means your bribe dollars will go much further than in more developed nations.

9. Burundi: A dispute with Rwanda over sections of the border they share has resulted in various conflicts and a spirit of lawlessness that will make your own nefarious plans pale in comparison.

The Good News: Though landlocked, there is probably some great real estate alongside Lake Tanganyika.

10. Equatorial Guinea: Any country that has failed to try to combat human trafficking is probably a top spot for corruption, so it isn’t surprising that Equatorial Guinea made the top 10.

The Good News: Government officials and their families own most of the businesses in the country, so any broad complaints can be addressed by a handful of people.

[photo by The U.S. Army via Flickr]

Man allegedly pretends to be U.S. Marshall, kidnaps woman and has her deported to the Philippines

Sometimes in the course of a day, you come across a story that is just too weird to ignore.

According to local Hemet, CA police, Gregory R. Denny arrived at the doorstep of a local woman, “arrested” her, and drove her to a local border patrol station asking them to take her into custody.

He apparently did all of this while dressed as a U.S. Marshall wearing a law enforcement uniform, badge and a handgun.

When the border patrol post could not verify the existence of a warrant for the woman, he drove her to the San Diego airport, made her buy her own ticket to the Philippines, then bypassed security to be sure she got on the plane telling the security checkpoint staff that he was deporting her.

Denny has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, false imprisonment, impersonation of a peace officer, burglary, and false arrest.

Meanwhile, the poor lady is still in the Philippines and it is unknown whether she really was illegally in the country. He has been booked, and released on a $50,000 bond awaiting a February 16. court date.

As usual, I’m sure the TSA will start a very serious investigation to figure out how a random stranger can pretend to be with the government, and take a hostage through their checkpoint.

(Photo from KCAL CBS 2 Los Angeles)

Gunmen kidnap another Westerner in Mali

Just days after the UK issued a heightened travel alert for Mali, gunmen have kidnapped a French national in the North African country.

Pierre Kamatte, a 61 year-old malaria researcher, was working in the northeastern town of Menaka when he was kidnapped outside his hotel on Wednesday.

There has been no official confirmation, but both the French and Malian governments suspect Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb, shown here in an image taken from one of their propaganda videos. This organization claims ties to Al-Qaeda and operates across several countries in North Africa. It has conducted numerous kidnappings of foreigners and locals in the past few years and killed a British national earlier in the year.

Mali is home to the popular adventure destination of Timbuktu and music festivals such as the Festival in the Desert and stands to lose much-needed hard currency if foreigners stay away. It looks like now the hard currency will come in the form of military aid from the United States, which has pledged millions of dollars in equipment to help Mali fight the terrorists.

British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates

A British couple sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania was kidnapped by Somali pirates and is now being held for ransom.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, both in their late 50’s, had been sailing since March on their 38-foot sailboat and keeping a blog about their journey. Last week family and friends alerted authorities that they had not heard from the couple in several days, and shortly after, their boat was found in the waters of the Indian Ocean off Somalia.

Pirates boarded the boat while the Chandlers slept and began demanding money. They took all the items of value off the boat and then forced the couple to onto a container shipp they’d seized earlier this month.

The pirates then called a British news station and allowed Chandler to make a statement saying that he and his wife had been kidnapped. So far the pirates have not asked for a ransom, but the assumption is that they will make their demands soon. Luckily, family members of the Chandlers have indicated that they will pay for the safe return of the couple.

With all the news about pirates attacking ships off the Somali coast, I was surprised that someone would sail a small craft through the area. Pirates usually go for bigger ships, but have attacked smaller boats and yachts as well. They assume the people on board will be wealthy and, as in this case, that their families will pay a ransom for them.

Nine foreigners kidnapped in Yemen

Nine foreigners, including three children, have been kidnapped in northern Yemen, the BBC reported.

The foreigners were having a picnic when they were taken on Friday by the Huthi Zaidi, a Shia rebel group. The victims include a British and a Korean citizen. The rest of the group, including the children, are German. The adults were working in a local hospital as part of an international aid effort.

Kidnapping of foreigners is common in Yemen, with more than 200 abductions in the past 15 years. Kidnappings of Yemenis is even more common but rarely makes it into the international media. The kidnappings are generally the work of bandits demanding ransom or local tribesmen seeking political gain. This act by an armed rebel group may herald a new phase in a growing problem.

The Zaidi are a Shia sect and make up 30% of the mostly Sunni country. The two groups have a long tradition of mutual tolerance in Yemen, but in recent years that has soured with the rise of a faction within the Zaidi community that wants to overthrow the government. The present government itself overthrew a Zaidi government in 1962. An article in Middle East Online goes into the politics of this civil war in more depth and also reports on the kidnapping.

Yemen is an incredible travel destination with historic architecture (like the impressive towers shown here), ancient ruins, and a traditional society not yet overrun with tourism. Numerous terrorist attacks and unrest in the provinces, however, have led the U.S. State Department to issue a warning to all U.S. citizens to avoid the country unless absolutely necessary. Many other countries have their own warnings against travel in Yemen, and this latest incident will only exacerbate the problem.

Have you been to Yemen? Please share your experiences in the comments section.