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Second Texas health-care worked has Ebola. CDC admits screwing up

ebola-virus

The supposed best medical system in the world, the US, botched its response to Ebola. The Dallas hospital apparently had nonexistent procedures and let hazardous waste pile up. CDC has finally stopped blaming the victims and is admitting it it could have done way better.

Frieden outlined new steps this week designed to stop the spread of the disease, including the creation of an Ebola response team.

CDC is just now creating a response team? This should have been done weeks ago. Instead, what we got from CDC was arrogant statements about how they totally had everything under control. And now it’s clear, they didn’t. And still don’t.

“I wish we had put a team like this on the ground the day the patient — the first patient — was diagnosed. That might have prevented this infection,” Frieden said.

In a conference call late Tuesday, the nation’s largest nurses’ union described how the patient, Duncan, was left in an open area of the emergency room for hours. National Nurses United, citing unnamed nurses, said staff treated Duncan for days without the correct protective gear, that hazardous waste was allowed to pile up to the ceiling and safety protocols constantly changed.

A nurse’s union polled their members who said training in procedures on Ebola were vague and sloppy at hospitals across the country and many hospitals are not prepared for an outbreak. Conditions at the Dallas hospital seem, well, appalling.

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Sitting in a casino pool watching atomic bombs explode

Horseshoe_Club_Atomic_Bombs

Memes collide. Postcard for Benny Binion’s Horseshoe Club in Las Vegas circa 1950’s proudly features nearby open-air atomic bomb explosions. People would sit on casino roofs drinking cocktails, watching the a-bombs explode. The nice people from the government said there was no risk, no risk at all, and of course the government would never lie.

The government often waited for the winds to blow to the north before exploding the bombs so the radiation would fall, as some moral cripple in the government put it, on a “low-use segment of the population” in Utah. Victims of that fallout are called Downwinders. Some of them died. Others developed strange forms of cancer. Plenty of livestock died too. The government lied., evaded, and slimed the victims for decades. It was Dubya Bush who finally ruled that those affected deserved compensation.

No doubt some people went to Vegas to gamble and to watch the bombs detonate. Benny Binion was happy to have postcards advertising the bomb blasts and his casino. Give the people what they want.

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Benny Binion, two quotes

Benny Binion, daughter Becky, one million dollars

Benny Binion, daughter Becky, one million dollars

I just finished reading Blood Aces, a new biography about Benny Binion, the Texas gangster who created a gambling empire in Vegas as well as the World Series of Poker. He could barely read and write, was a shrewd judge of character, and was also quite, um, colorful. Those who opposed him often ended up dead. Even mob heavies mostly left him alone. And he outlasted all of them, dying respected and beloved by many. (More on the book soon, after I hear author Doug Swanson speak at The Mob Museum.)

Two Binion quotes made me laugh out loud.

Binion served time for tax evasion. A few years later he explained in court how him giving a local poltician $30,000 in cash was a loan with no interest or repayment schedule, and was asked if he kept financial records.

“I didn’t keep no records. The last time I kept records you assholes put me in Leavenworth,” said Binion.

Also, there weren’t no scantily-clad showgirls at the Horseshoe, “and never would be, because as Binion liked to say, he didn’t want his money blowing out the end of some guy’s trumpet.”

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Las Vegas surveillance is pervasive. Coming to your town?

watched

The Las Vegas Sun details the extraordinary number of way Las Vegans are watched and monitored, both inside and outside of casinos. Player’s cards record everything you do. And then there are the cameras.

Cameras in Vegas casinos watch and monitor everything. Most casinos have at least 2,000 cameras. Some have upwards of 15,000. While all cameras can’t be watched at once, the watchers focus on things the rest of us might ignore, like what a person’s hands and feet are doing and if the quality of their shoes match the their clothing. If not, they could be hustlers looking to scam or steal.

“It’s easy with one camera to follow a person,” Whiting said. “But the hard thing is to stick 50 cameras together and do that throughout the whole casino floor. But that’s the future and that’s going to happen.”

Facial recognition is coming, although it’s more difficult in casinos because of difficulty in getting straight shots of faces.

Surveillance like this is coming everywhere. It can not be reversed. We can only hope to control it.

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Mob Museum: 28 yo female prosecutor takes down Cleveland Mafia boss

Angelo Lonardo

Angelo Lonardo

Donna Congeni Fitzsimmons spoke last night at The Mob Museum Wiseguy Series. At 28, in 1980, she was appointed special prosecutor for a mob case with seven murders and no bodies. No one thought she had a chance. She put many of them in prison, including Cleveland Mafia boss Angelo Lonardo. The break came when the daughter of a cop saw suspicious cars leaving a car bombing and noted the license plate numbers. This allowed them to start moving up the food chain. Mobsters informed. They eventually found all the bodies.

Special prosecutors were started by Robert Kennedy when he was Attorney General as a way to route around corrupt city law enforcement. They were appointed by the feds, not local officials. That and RICO are their most powerful tools. Sam Giancana delivered Chicago and thus Illinois to JFK in the election. Robert Kennedy went after the mob with a vengeance. More than a few think the mob was involved in JFK’s assassination. Just saying…

Lonardo was at the Appalachia meeting and knew everyone and everything. He turned informer after being sentenced to life plus 100 years at age 72. He lived under witness protection and died when he was 95. She was asked if he was penitent or felt guilt over his crimes. She said, not even slightly.

At one point, they asked a Vegas mobster what he knew about Cleveland and he told them he wouldn’t tell them anything because there was a mole in the FBI with access to informer’s names. He was right. (The mole was discovered and went to prison.)

Her takeaways:

Food is more important than conjugal visits to wise guys. Seriously!

Importance of family. Keep it in the family. We were a family not a gang

When the guys in the movies said don’t go into drugs, they were right. Dealers will roll over on anyone.

RICO works. As does the Continuing Criminal Enterprise, which says financiers with no direct participation can be prosecuted too.

A turning point came when judges became willing to hold mafiosi before trial with no bail. This was done because in this trial, there were contracts out for FBI agents and Fitzsimmons received death threats.

What happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas with organized crime. There is worldwide interest in what the mob did.

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Hysteric POTUS channels Bushist war shtick before UN

"Show me the way to the next little war,  oh don't ask why."

“We have always been at war with Eastasia”

The U.S. without a war is like an apple pie without apples

A Nobel Peace Prize recipient is among the loudest voices for war nowadays. Better, this Nobel Peace prize recipient has unchecked power to wage war and uses it willfully in a variety of nations. Perhaps best, this prize-winning peace president has set out a plan to make a desert and call it peace, for which a grateful power structure might well give him yet another prize.

Such absurdity dominates the world we live in now, because people in governments are committing us all to irrational choices based on no credible public explanation. Examples are myriad, but President Obama’s shrill war cries at the United Nations offer a paradigm of the present bloody moment that is, in part, a near-parody of grandiloquent George W. Bush doing his most preening strut as a feckless “war president.”

The following excerpts from President Obama’s long and specious 39-minute speech to the U.N. on September 24, 2014, are chosen to highlight the contradictions and deceits so carefully packaged with familiar, false pieties about imaginary realities. The pitch is fraudulent from the moment the president begins, with a pseudo-lofty, tripartite cliché untethered from the real world:

“We come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.”

Yes, every moment is a crossroads between war and peace in some place, a moment waiting for some commander somewhere to cross the line and start killing “enemies.” The president’s moment at the U.N. was NOT, for him or anyone else, a “crossroads” – he had long since proceeded straight across the intersection, extending the Iraq War of 2003 into its second decade; he had already escalated that war into Syria; he had long since carried on wars in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and who knows where else. He has no legal authority to expand wage these wars, but he knows he has no Congress or court or any other opposition with both the will and the standing to challenge his decision for more killing in the blood zones of the Middle East.

There is no “crossroads between disorder and integration,” a meaningless construction about conditions that may exist independently or simultaneously. “Integration” is an especially absurd word to apply to the police states that stretch from Iran to Egypt. U.S. policy has failed for decades to promote even the most elementary, necessary integration of Israelis and Palestinians. U.S. policing now, as ever, only heightens the disintegration among Sunni and Shia. Disorder is the hallmark of the region, and the West has only made it worse for centuries. The present U.S.-sponsored war only increases the disorder, with no promise and little likelihood of a happy ending.

In the words of Chicago mayor Richard Daley circa 1968, commenting on his city’s police riot with unintentional accuracy: “The policeman is not here to create disorder. The policeman is here to preserve disorder.”

And so it has been with the American presence in the Middle East, where the world’s policeman helped to preserve disorder for decades before ratcheting up the intensity in 2003 by bringing fresh chaos to Iraq and the rest of the region. As the self-appointed policeman of the world, the U.S. has much to regret and atone for.

And there is no “crossroads between fear and hope.” These are emotions that often coexist, not artifacts from a Pentagon planning project. If truth were told, there are no crossroads at all in this moment of American “leadership.” There is only a headlong president whose hope now is that fear will lead to dead bodies strewn across several landscapes, and that those bodies will make him look good.

In his U.N. speech, President Obama moved from his imaginary crossroads into a couple of paragraphs of selective happy talk about progress, peace, poverty and prosperity. These remarks coming from an escalating commander-in-chief were not without irony as he cited the U.N. as “a unique achievement – the people of the world committing to resolve their differences peacefully, and solve their problems together.” Moments later, without explanation, this became “the failure of our international system.” Rhetoric requires no real basis in fact so long as choice emotive buttons get pushed effectively:

“The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.”

If this line has meaning, it’s not likely a suggestion to review the brutality of others in the region, least of all our “allies.” And the line is surely not a humble recommendation to explore the dark heart of American methods of torture and killing over the past decade, and it’s not an expression of willingness to end the brutal penal colony at Guantanamo, where innocent and possibly guilty alike suffer without hope until they die. These horrors, like drones assassinating wedding parties, are brutalities that President Obama has failed to “look into,” much less tried to degrade and destroy.

There is little if anything the Islamic State has done to earn the hyperbolic fear-mongering it gets from this administration and the Fox network’s echo chamber. There is perhaps no grisly act the Islamic State has committed that has not been committed by the U.S. and/or its allies, with the possible exception of posting videos of beheadings on YouTube. Beheadings themselves are commonplace in countries like Saudi Arabia.

It’s not the beheadings that separate the brutality of the Islamic State from the brutality of others near and far, it’s the deployment of pictures of beheadings that has upset polite societies well-steeped in their denial. Posting such videos, censored as they are, has achieved a metaphorical beheading: leadership in the U.S. and elsewhere has lost its head over a theatrical provocation as effective emotionally as it is unimportant geopolitically. Some forty countries are now at war against a threat of minimal proportions, largely as a gut reaction to a disturbing movie. That’s not so much a heart of darkness as a head of darkness.

President Obama speaks from a darker heart when he refers to “Russian aggression” with nomeaningful context. Failing to acknowledge the civil war in Ukraine, the U.S. president promises to “support the people of Ukraine,” when he means only some of the people of Ukraine:

“We call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.”

In countries all over the world, from Iran and Cuba to Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as all of Latin America, the United States has consistently opposed and often crushed “the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.” Even when native movements adopted their own versions of American founding documents the U.S. was not assuaged, as the Vietnamese learned at horrendous cost in the face of American brutality that makes the Islamic State look like a bunch of Quakers.

President Obama does not acknowledge this imperial history any more than his government’s present imperial imperative. As far as Ukraine goes, the fault is all with Russia, according to the president, who even lies about MH-17 to reinforce his phony bill of particulars. He certainly omits reference to his favored Ukrainians burning opponents alive in Odessa. Nowhere does he acknowledge anything like a Western-supported coup in Kiev that established an illegitimate government with a neo-Nazi tinge, whose war crimes in the east are documented by U.N. observers. Nowhere does this Nobel peace laureate acknowledge twenty years of Western stealth aggression against Russia, in which his own administration remains active.

With no apparent shame or sense of irony, the president refers to reducing nuclear arsenals and destroying Syria’s chemical weapons as “the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again—if Russia changes course.”

Actually, these are things worth pursuing for their own sake, and if anyone needs to change course, it’s the West, the U.S./NATO/EU/IMF and the rest. The way the president couches it is intellectual fraud and moral blackmail.

The president takes a similar, not-our-fault-and-not-really-our-responsibility approach to various other issues, including poverty and climate change, where the evidence is to the contrary. Long as it is, the speech at the U.N. does not gain in coherence. The president who recently said he doesn’t have a strategy apparently still has no strategy, unless casting blame is somehow strategic:

“But as we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress: and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.”

In context, the president’s implication is that Muslim extremists prevent the rest of the world from dealing sensibly with climate change. Read the speech, these are in consecutive paragraphs. And these bad Muslims are fearfully powerful:

“… they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels…. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion.”

Or as President Bush put it thirteen years ago: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The presidential rhetoric of 2001 lives on in the presidential rhetoric of 2014. Moments later, President Bush added, “This is the world’s fight. This is civilization’s fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.” Then he lied his country into war in Iraq.

In other words, it absolutely is an exaggeration to say that “humanity’s future” depends on fighting the Islamic State, a force numbering in the thousands, a force without nuclear weapons, and virtually defenseless against attack from the air. Like so many other governments and rebels, the Islamic State has committed atrocities, perhaps on the scale of Lidice, Wounded Knee, Suchow, My Lai, Dublin, or other mass killings. President Obama charges the Islamic State with committing “the most horrific crimes imaginable,” which is flatly untrue. Islamists have not perpetrated a Holocaust or the atomic vaporization of a city. These are accomplishments of Western civilization.

Bad as it was, Islamist treatment of Yazidis in Iraq came nowhere close to the Turkish genocide of Armenians in the early 20th century. Yet genocide-denying Turkey is a much-desired ally. And the president, citing “videos of the atrocity [of beheading],” says somewhat hysterically of the enemy du jour:

“No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”

And the way the United States will do this is to bring more war, death, and suffering to a region already hostile to the West for its centuries of abuse. But the president presumably knows that some God condones that terror. For all his high-pitched condemnation of Islamic State beliefs, the president omits their nurturing safe haven in Saudi Arabia, where the state religion is a conservative Sunni belief system with much in common with the Sunnis of the Islamic State. Saudis have supported the Islamic State for years. Saudi Arabia is a police state that allows the open practice of no religion other than Islam.

For the United States, this is not division “into adherents and infidels,” this is just a quirk of a major oil producer. Besides, as the U.S. president told the U.N., the real problem is elsewhere:

“It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology…. We must offer an alternative vision.”

The answer to the whole problem turns out to be marketing! And not just any marketing, marketing to the young!

So war is just marketing by other means? And marketing is way more persuasive than justice? And blaming victims, the young who have no effective power to change anything happening to them now, is an intellectually tenable position? And it’s a moral perspective? And God condones it?

The president’s “final point” is:

“… the countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth.”

This may sound like patronizing nonsense, but perhaps the president means it as another example of “the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.” Or perhaps not:

“If young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state, or the lure of an extremist underground – no counter-terrorism strategy can succeed…. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner.”

We’re talking to you, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Kuwait and other police states, the president seems to say, and we don’t really mean anything by it, we just have a home audience that needs gulling.

The Islamic State has few if any friends, so bombing its people has little or no immediate political cost. Better, they can be punished without disrupting much of the oil business, while at the same time boosting the arms business. Down the line there may be blowback – again – but that’s down the line.

And besides, America is exceptional, and that exceptionalism means that God condones whatever we do, or as the president puts it:

“… we welcome the scrutiny of the world…. we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves…. we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary…. we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law….”

That’s part of the ideal, to be sure.

The reality is that each of the five most recent presidential administrations has committed war crimes (and other crimes), for which almost no one has been held accountable and some have received presidential pardons. Government secrecy continues to expand, police state tactics continue to spread, the “free press” is controlled by fewer and fewer people, and this president has responded to these trends by criminally charging more reporters than all his predecessors combined.

The president, who wages war without legal authority, concludes:

“The people of the world look to us, here [at the U.N.], to be as decent, as dignified, and as courageous as they are in their daily lives. And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done…. Join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.”

The candidate of hope and change in 2008 has somehow become the president of war and fear in 2014, channeling his predecessor’s rhetoric while pursuing similar policies somewhat less recklessly. How did this happen?

Somehow this U.S. president has reached the point of making an Orwellian argument that war is peace, that war is decent, dignified, and courageous, even (or especially) against an outnumbered, militarily helpless, hapless, non-state enemy (a “muscular new course,” the New York Times called it). And why, why should this one-sided war be waged?

Do it for the children – or at least for the ones who survive. That’s what it comes down to in President Obama’s crie de guerre.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and

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Silicon Valley startups too often exploit the defenseless

dickensian

Whether it’s Homejoy or Alfred Club, well-funded Silicon Valley startups are seriously exploiting the impoverished and using dubious ploys not to pay employment taxes and insurance.

Homejoy cleaners gets $19 per house and at least some of them are homeless. Alfreds are servants that run errands for you and keep the house clean for $99 a month. Even though they are at the beck and call of the startup and the client, they are independent workers and thus the startup pays no employment tax and provides insurance. And the pay is a pittance.

Another favored ploy in Silicon Valley and elsewhere is to import foreign workers on temporary visas. Cringely has a fine rant on how this H-1B visa abuse hurts the country.

Both major political parties embrace the H-1B program with varying levels of enthusiasm. But Bill Gates is wrong. What he said to Congress may have been right for Microsoft but was wrong for America and can only lead to lower wages, lower employment, and a lower standard of living. This is a bigger deal than people understand: it’s the rebirth of industrial labor relations circa 1920. Our ignorance about the H-1B visa program is being used to unfairly limit wages and steal — yes, steal — jobs from U.S. citizens.

A longtime reader of this column speaks up:

“I have been a practicing immigration attorney for over 13 years. I have done many H-1B visas and like any other government program it was loaded and is still loaded with abuses… In my opinion, employers who need H-1B Visa workers should have to go through a screening process before they are allowed to submit the application and a bond should be posted if they violate the law.

Homejoy and Alfred Club seems especially odious, as they pay their serfs tiny amounts to tend to the needs of their social betters. Say hello to the new boss same as the old boss.

Silicon Valley has a contract-worker problem.

As the [Homejoy] cleaner laid out his tools, we made small talk, and I asked him where he lived. “Well, right now I’m staying in a shelter in Oakland,” he said. I paused, unsure if I’d heard him right. A shelter? Was my house cleaner — the one I’d hired through a company that has raised $40 million in venture-capital funding from well-respected firms like Google Ventures, the one who was about to perform arduous manual labor in my house using potentially hazardous cleaning chemicals — homeless?

He was, as it turned out.

And he was being paid $19 to clean a house. Not $19 per hour, $19 for the entire job.

Some Silicon Valley insiders are beginning to worry that start-ups’ overreliance on contract workers could come back to haunt them if they run afoul of longstanding labor rules. If that happens, these high-flying disruptors could be facing serious disruption themselves.

This isn’t disruption, this is vicious, nasty exploitation hidden under a cover of Silicon Valley buzzwords.

Silicon Valley has officially run out of ideas.

It’s a Boston-based venture called Alfred Club, and as far as I can tell the idea is basically “Uber for servants.”

Alfred, explains TechCrunch writer Sarah Perez, who must have drawn the short straw in the office pool, is “the first service layer on the shared economy that manages your routine across multiple on-demand and local services (like Handybook, Instacart, and the local dry cleaner).”

I was unable to find a precise English translation for that sentence

Heh. However, let me attempt a translation. Alfreds get $99 a month, which I’m guessing works out to something well below minimum wage.

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Obamacare Insurance Lite. No hospital benefits

obamacare

The online federal calculator for certifying healthcare insurance plans lets large self-insured companies offer plans that have no hospital benefits. This does not appear to be accidental or a software glitch. Lots of companies are taking advantage of it. Health insurance with no hospital benefits is mostly useless, yet it appears to be allowable now under Obamacare..

The calculator appears to allow companies enrolling workers for 2015 to offer inexpensive, substandard medical insurance while avoiding the Affordable Care Act’s penalties, consumer advocates say.

At the same time, a kind of catch-22 bars workers at these companies from subsidies to buy more comprehensive coverage on their own through online marketplaces. No federal tax credits for health coverage are available to people with workplace plans approved by the calculator.

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US clueless, plans faux grassroots communities in Iraq to combat ISIS

grass

A talking head on CNN just parroted the mindless DC line about how the US will defeat ISIS by building grassroots communities. Bzzt. #fail. Grassroots organizing can never be mandated from above. It can only come from – wait for it – the grassroots. You want to know how to do grassroots organizing? Read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. His rules have nothing to do with ideology and instead are focused on building community organizations to implement change. Plenty of organizers on the right have used his rules.

Most importantly, Alinsky and his organizers never imposed ideology or agendas. They went into an area, listened to people’s complaints, helped them form groups, then got out of the way and let them run it. “We never stay more than a couple of years and we never outstay our welcome.” Alinksky said.

Alinsky’s approach is the mirror opposite of what the US wants to do in Iraq and Syria because the US has already determined the agenda and wants to force it on the locals. This is further complicated by the US having no clear idea who is friend of foe. It is a plan doomed to fail.

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Brothel, bar, and space aliens? Amaragosa Valley NV

Alien-1

Woo-hoo. Get a dorky photo of yourself pretending to be a space alien then frolic inside the brothel. Nevada aims to please! The Alien Cathouse is on 95 north of Vegas in Amargosa Valley, part of a sad little truck stop, low-end convenience store, and “restaurant” that features fried bologna. We looked at the menu and walked out. The space alien theme is because it’s vaguely near Area 51. Nyuck, nyuck. The whole thing is deeply bedraggled, at least from the outside. One reviewer says it’s been prettied up inside and that he managed to keep his bill to less than $2,000 for three days of carnal festivities.

Quite a few back highways in Nevada have signs and attractions mentioning space aliens, inferring that strange things appear in the skies. In a bizarre coincidence, these highways are near Air Force and military bases. I knew you’d be startled by this. (We stopped to gas up at the Cathouse  on our way to Rhyolite Ghost Town. The Nevada desert is filled with many curious and wondrous things indeed.)

Attention visitors to Vegas: Prostitution is illegal in Clark County, where Las Vegas is. If you want legal prostitutes, you’ll have to drive a bit.

alien-2

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