They Took Utah's Biggest Secret And Made Sure Everyone Had A Peek. (And Nope: Not THAT Utah Secret.)

Bluffdale, Utah. Ever heard of it?

I hadn't. But it's where our story takes place, so let's take a look at where it is.


Bluffdale is the site of a massive NSA data center.

It cost $1.2 billion to build, and ... well, did I mention it's massive? It's estimated that the facility could store 12,000 petabytes of data (that's 12 billion gigabytes), which could hold the text of more than 300,000 copies of every book ever published.

No one is quite sure what exactly the NSA will store here. But that much storage capacity is very unsettling, to say the least.

This place is run by the the NSA, so there's certainly no public directory or table of contents. But based on the word of multiple whistleblowers through the years, we can almost certainly say the NSA is collecting and storing far more information than we've been led to believe.

In June 2014, some folks launched an airship over the Bluffdale facility in protest.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation teamed up with Greenpeace to fly an airship (Yeah, AN AIRSHIP. THAT IS SUPER-COOL.) over the NSA facility. It said, "NSA: Illegal Spying Below."

"Protesting by flying our airship over the facility is one small way we can help draw attention to this. If we don't fight for these rights, we can expect to lose them."

Flying an airship over Bluffdale isn't going to stop the NSA. It isn't going to change the course of history. But it's still a pretty significant (and totally effing badass) action. It says: "Yeah, you're watching us. But we're watching you too."

Want to catch the whole story in video form? Check it out here.

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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