A man in a tree made a whole city laugh. Then his mom spoke out, and the laughing stopped.

On March 22, Seattle resident Cody Miller climbed a sequoia tree outside Macy's and refused to come down.


The police were called, and a minor standoff ensued. When authorities tried to coax Miller out of the tree, he pelted them with pinecones.

Pretty soon, a hashtag started and the jokes started rolling in.


Comparisons to similarly bearded fictional characters were made.

Someone started a parody Twitter account for Miller.


Complete with delightful tree puns.


Some wondered if Miller had a future as a professional "Man in Tree."


...and the story traveled around the world.



On and on it went. T-shirts were made. Tribute songs were written. "Arrested Development" jokes were tweeted.

For a few days, it all seemed like a bit of lighthearted fun. Miller became something of a mascot for the city to rally around, a delightfully tease-able, harmless oddball.


Then, an interview with Miller's mother changed everything.

Photo by Elaine Thompson/Associated Press.

Lisa Gossett, who was unaware Miller had climbed the tree until her sister sent her a YouTube video, revealed that her son had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

"He's my son; I gave birth to him," she told Seattle's KUOW. "I'm frustrated about not being able to do anything. It’s not like I can take him somewhere. I've got to get help."

Gossett told the station that she had asked the authorities — including the Alaska governor's office — to assist Miller again and again, but to no avail.

"They just put these people back on the streets,” Gossett said. “I feel hopeless. It’s so frustrating because I see his brothers and sisters crying for him. People are scared of him. He’s paranoid and violent. I’ve pretty much prepared myself for his death."

Far too often, we deal with people who have mental illness by criminalizing their behavior and locking them up.

A 2012 study found that prisons house roughly 10 times the number of mentally ill residents that state psychiatric hospitals do.

Nearly 15% of all prison inmates display signs of psychotic disorders.

Sure enough, rather than be funneled into a treatment facility to get help, Miller was jailed following the incident and held on $50,000 bail. He was charged with malicious mischief and third-degree assault and ordered to stay away from the tree, which sustained $8,000 worth of damage.

Suddenly, people saw Miller's story in a whole new light.

There was an outpouring of compassion for the man in the tree. (Even as the story was developing, there were people speculating about Miller's mental health.)

Others commented on the injustice of his arrest.


An impassioned Facebook post from U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania blasted law enforcement for charging Miller with a crime and urged his fellow representatives to support H.R. 2646, which expands protections for people — and families of people — living with mental illness.

In a few short weeks, Miller went from punchline to unwitting advocate.


By using Miller's story to illustrate the urgent need for more effective mental health care, Rep. Murphy's bill is suddenly receiving a burst of attention on social media.

Miller remains in jail today. But by climbing that tree, he achieved something kind of extraordinary.


The Seattle man managed to shine a light on what happens when effective support systems and treatment options for people with serious mental illness are inaccessible or simply don't exist.

His saga, alternately odd and devastating, should force the thousands who followed it to wake up to a critical point:

People with mental illness can't be cured by sending them to prison. And they don't deserve mockery.

They need support.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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