Etc...

This is highway robbery!

Let's say you drive a cab in Prague and your passenger is Mayor Pavel Bem. Would you rip him off? Undoubtedly not, if you recognized him. But if you didn't? Well, that might be a different story. Last week, His Honor was recruited by a newspaper to pose as a foreign tourist for an exposé on notorious overcharging by Czech taxi drivers. He agreed and found himself being - um - taken for a ride between two of the city's leading attractions, a distance of a little over a mile. The fare: $34.17. That's 500 percent over the official rate, and five times higher than Bem said he was prepared to accept. Not surprisingly, the city now will crack down on the practice.

A peek at the White House not seen on 'West Wing'

Thursday's inauguration ceremony in Washington focuses attention on the presidency and its trappings. And what could be more closely associated with the nation's chief executive than the White House? Its first occupant was John Adams in 1800, and the stately mansion since has survived two fires (in 1814 and 1929) and has undergone one major renovation (in the Truman administration). Following Adams's swearing-in, a tradition of open houses began in 1805. Twenty presidencies later, when those became unwieldy, Grover Cleveland chose instead to review the troops from a grandstand in front of the White House. (That evolved into the inaugural parade.) Today, the house is the only residence of a head of state that remains open to the public for tours at no charge. Some quick facts about 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue:

Footprint 18 acres
Square footage 55,000
Rooms 132
Levels 6
Doors 412
Windows 147
Staircases 7
Fireplaces 28
Elevators 3
Amenities: jogging track, bowling lane, swimming pool, movie theater, billiard room
- www.whitehouse.gov

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