Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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Utah: Land of Secrets


As revelation after revelation spills into the news media about the National Security Agency’s digital spying, the world’s attention can’t help but shift to Utah, home of NSA’s colossal Data Storage Center, a global vortex of phone-tapping, email eavesdropping and all manner of digital snooping.

Everyone from Germany’s Angela Merkel to Utah’s Tea Party wants to know what is going on in the 200,000-square-foot complex of Walmart-esque boxes squatting on the hillside due west of Point of the Mountain. Of course, this being the $1.5 million beating heart of a spy agency, we aren’t meant to know what’s out there—to paraphrase the Roach Motel slogan: Vast amounts of information go in, but none comes out. If it weren’t for Edward Snowden, we wouldn’t know much at all. But the tantalizing bits—including that NSA monitors terrorists’ porn browsing, Internet gamers, and a few employees’ ex-lovers—boggles the imagination.

We know this about the Utah Data Center: It’s architecturally a blot upon the landscape, uses mammoth amounts of electrical power (60 backup diesel generators just in case) and gulps water at a rate of 1.7 million gallons per day to cool the fevered brows of its computers as they snoop on 5 billion phone calls daily. It has a canine corps. (NSA won’t reveal how many dogs, but we can guess their purpose.) The Data Center’s start up last fall was plagued with electrical problems that turned sections into deadly “kill zones.” (Add that to the genetically engineered dogs and you’ve got a climactic Austin Powers scene.)

And we must admit, Utah is the perfect home for NSA’s covert operations. We have a long and celebrated history of keeping all sorts of secrets. Perhaps it’s the dominant culture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has always shrouded its sacred places and rituals in secrecy, and our long relationship with the military-industrial complex. In any case, when it comes to spooky stuff in our midst, Utahns have always adopted a don’t-ask-don’t-tell philosophy (especially if there’s a little economic development involved).

What more could a spy ask for?

1. Enola Gay–Mother of Armageddon 

B-29 Enola Gay and her crew trained in total secrecy in the West Desert before kicking off the nuclear age by dropping the world’s first atom bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. Sure, the Smithsonian Institute got the Enola Gay, herself, but Utah got to keep the box she came in—a weather-beaten hangar.

2. German and Japanese Theme Parks

During World War II, the military built exact replicas of German row houses and a Japanese apartment building at Dugway to test fire bombs. It was a horrible “Three Little Pigs” experiment: “Japanesetown,” made out of wood, has long ago vanished. But the brick-and-plaster Germantown is still out there.

3. Dugway’s Bugs

The military, if they talk about it at all, explains that the labs at Rhode Island-sized Dugway Proving Ground develop “defensive measures” against potential biological attacks. The Army is fuzzy about what or how much bad juju they keep on hand. A guess: anthrax, botulism, encephalitis, typhus, Rift Valley fever and unsightly acne.

4. Indian Tomb

The remains of 84 prehistoric Indians whose bones were discovered when the Great Salt Lake receded in 1990 have been interred in a concrete vault in Emigration Canyon. “Those spirits were wandering aimlessly,” an  Indian leader explained. The exact location is kept quiet, if not secret, to prevent the tomb from being vandalized.

5. The Vault—the Roots of Everyone’s Family Tree

Near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, carved 600 feet into solid rock, is the Granite Mountain Records Vault, the nuclear blast-proof home of 3.5 billion pages of family history. Ironically, the Vault’s records are probably more secure than the NSA’s. Public access is prohibited, but the LDS church offers a video.

6. Temple Rituals—the Mormon Tradition of Secrecy

No one can argue that the culture of Utah isn’t heavily influenced by the dominant religion. Historically key to the LDS religion are blood/death oaths of secrecy. Up until recently, the secret temple ceremony included the motions of slashing one’s own throat and stomach if one were to reveal the temple’s secrets that can be googled on the Internet. In reality, most Mormons regard the temple ceremonies as not secret, but sacred, and not to be discussed with outsiders.

7. Lost Gold Mines

Legend: Under the Uinta Mountains near Moon Lake (or Utah Lake’s Pelican Point, or the Hurricane Cliffs—take your pick) lie the lost mines of Carre-Shin-Obthat worked by Indians enslaved by the Spanish. The Indians rebelled and went on to slaughter or dismember, Indiana Jones-style, anyone who attempted to enter them. Some myths say that a Ute chief revealed the location to Brigham Young lieutenant Thomas Rhoades who mined the gold for the temple’s Moroni statue.

8. Taliban HQ, 84022

The military reproduced a Taliban mountain lair on Utah Test and Training Range—basically a sophisticated shooting gallery for U.S. and NATO pilots. One of Utah’s unsung attributes is that it looks exactly like Afghanistan (not to mention parts of Iraq and Iran), making military tourism (22,000 sorties annually) to the 19,000-square-mile bombing range a lucrative economic engine. Resembling a low-budget a movie set, the “Taliban camp” includes caves, buildings and mobile launchers complete with dummy missiles.

9. Mountain Meadows Mishap 

In 1857, a group of Arkansas emigrants to California were intercepted near Cedar City by Mormon militia and Indians. The militia massacred 120 emigrants, sparing only 17 children under age 7. “The whole United States rang with its horrors,” Mark Twain wrote. Exactly why it happened and Brigham Young’s role in it was a closely guarded secret that even now is shrouded in mystery. Only one participant, John D. Lee, took the rap, some say to protect the Mormon hierarchy. He was executed.

10. Mormon Catacombs Under Main Street

Underneath downtown Salt Lake, tunnels connect the Temple with the church’s office building and, some say, the Utah Legislature. Reality? The tunnels, dating from 1889, are actually carpeted underground passages. Sorry, no piles of skulls. Golf carts whisk high church leaders about—similar to Florence’s Vasari Corridor used by the Medici, or Bruce Wayne’s Bat Cave.

11. Utah’s UFO

In the 1990s, NASA prepared an environmental impact statement for testing the mysteriously named (if you’re into ‘50s sci-fi) X-33 at Michael Army Air Field at Dugway. The X-33 would be a robot plane capable of flying at 15 times the speed of sound at altitudes of 250,000 feet. Who knows? Maybe it happened.

12. From Area 51 With Love—the Spy Plane That Wasn’t

Shortly after test pilot Ken Collins flew his super-secret A-12 out of Nevada’s Area 51 in 1963, he ran into foul weather. Before Collins knew it, he was dangling from a parachute, drifting down 20 miles south of Wendover near the smoking wreckage of his A-12. Within hours, the Air Force showed up with trucks and bulldozers to “sanitize” the crash site. Hikers in the area still find shards of titanium stamped with “Skunkworks,” the secret name for Lockheed aircraft company.

13. Poison Gas—Syria’s Got Nothing on Utah 

Two years ago, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility finished incinerating 14,000 tons of chemical weapons that had been stored there since the 1940s. But nearby (as the mustard agent blows), Dugway Proving Groundkeeps its own stash. We know because it was locked down in 2011 when a vial of VX, the most potent of all nerve agents, went missing. Whether it was found, of course, remains a secret.

14. Little Mountain, Big Boom

Little Mountain Test Facility, a 1,000-acre laboratory for simulating nuclear hardness and survivability of defense systems, lies 15 miles west of Ogden near other facilities where munitions up to the most powerful ICBM rocket motors are tested.

15. Atomic Sheep

1953: Ranchers were moving 2,000 sheep from a winter range near the Nevada Test Site into Southern Utah when they saw the flash from a nuclear explosion—five nuclear bombs were being exploded above ground. By the time the ranchers got to Cedar City, their sheep were dropping dead and lambs were stillborn. A veterinarian found strontium radiation in the sheep’s bone marrow. The Atomic Energy Commission said the sheep died from poor range conditions.

16. Careless Sheep 

1968: 6,000 sheep gamboling in scenic Skull Valley suddenly died in unison. The Army investigated what is known as the Dead Sheep Incident and reported the animals had died from eating pesticide-sprayed vegetation. Three decades later (Utah keeps its secrets), the “pesticide” was identified as VX nerve agent that was sprayed on the sheep from an military plane. The Army paid compensation to the ranchers, but never copped to spraying the nerve gas.

17. Stoner Sheep 

1971: 1,200 sheep grazing near Garrison collapsed and died with blood pouring from their noses. A few weeks earlier, an underground nuke test in Nevada had blown through the ground, sending a radioactive cloud over Utah. Gov. Calvin Rampton argued the sheep would not have died instantly from radiation—instead he hypothesized they expired from eating addictive locoweed.

18. Wild, and dead, horses

1976: A helicopter crew spotted 50 mustangs that apparently “just fell over dead.” Suspicious types said an equine encephalitis germ-warfare agent was behind it. Government investigators concluded the horses died of thirst, even though full water troughs were only a few yards away.

Back>>>Read other stories in our March/April 2014 issue.

Happy Friday! We all know the best way to celebrate the end of the week is with a cocktail 😉! ⁠

🍸 And our next highlighted cocktail is the perfect way to start your weekend. @alibislc's 'Far From The Tree' by Clif Reagle:⁠

1.5 oz. @shdistillery Bourbon⁠
1.5 oz. Utah Honey and Akane Apple Shrub⁠
.25+ oz. @waterpocketdistillery Snow Angel .25 oz. lemon juice⁠
Barspoon of simple syrup⁠
2 dashes Regans Orange Bitters⁠
Combine in shaker over ice, shake and strain into a footed glass. Serve with dried apple garnish.⁠

“My goal for this drink was to make it with as many local ingredients as possible,” says Reagle, “and seeing as the farm scene is pretty quiet in November I decided to go with a classic method of fruit preservation: the shrub.⁠

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂⁠

Link in bio to vote and learn more about Clif Reagle!

Yes. Thanksgiving is going to be different this year. So instead of stressing out to prepare a meal, help support local restaurants who need our love this Thanksgiving. 🦃⁠

Restaurants are doing what they can to make this Thanksgiving seamless for us. With offerings of curbside pick up, meal kits, and even delivery, ordering out this Thanksgiving seems like a no-brainer.⁠

Oh and did we mention no family-sized mess to clean up afterward? That’s a win-win in our book. 😉 Check the link in bio for full list of restaurants. 🍽️

Don't forget to vote in our 2020 Cocktail Contest!! 🍸🍹🥂⁠

Our next highlighted coktail is @thecopperonion's “Not Today Satan” by Frank Mealy:⁠

1.5 oz. @shdistillery Bourbon⁠
1.5 oz. pear shrub (Champagne Vinegar/Earl Grey simple 2:1)⁠
.75 oz. lemon juice⁠
Preheat glass with hot water. Mix ingredients, pour into the hot glass, top with hot water and garnish with cinnamon stick, star anise and dried pear.⁠

Mealy is a full-time bartender for the Copper Group. “Inspiration for this drink came from the expectation that we’re going to be running our outdoor patio season longer because of Covid.” People are more comfortable sitting outside, Mealy says, “So I wanted to make a hot drink for the colder months.”⁠

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂⁠

Link in bio to vote and learn more about Frank Mealy!

Our 2020 Cocktail Contest is live!! 🍸🍹🥂

We’ll be highlighting our cocktail contest contestants throughout the next few weeks. Starting with @takashi_slc’s “Red Dirt Garden” by Crystal Daniels:

- 1.5 oz. Amaro Bilaro
- .5 oz. @shdistillery Barrel-strength Rye
- .75 oz. Lemon juice
- 1 oz. Red rice orgeat made with @redbuttegarden botanicals
- Pinch of Jacobsen Salt from @caputosmarket

Daniels garnished her cocktail with banana leaves and an edible begonia- if you can’t get the begonia, another colorful edible bloom will do. 🌺

VOTE VOTE VOTE AWAY! Grab our magazine, grab a cocktail (or make it yourself) and get voting. Cheers!🥂

Link in bio to vote!

Did you know that the first woman to cast a ballot in the United States voted right here in Salt Lake City?

In 1870, on her way to work as a schoolteacher, Seraph Young stopped by SLC’s old City Hall—right across from the Capitol—and made history as the first woman to vote under a women's equal suffrage law.

Like many of us, Young voted early in that election simply because she had to get to work on time. Her story reminds us of the power ordinary people have to make history. Now, get out and vote!

Photo: Ron Fox

Our November-December issue is on stands now!!⁠

And our annual cocktail contest is open for voting! Take all precautions, support our hardworking hospitality community and remember to smile. 🍹🍸🧉⁠

Pick up a magazine, grab a cocktail and vote! Happy November, everyone! ⁠

Check the link in bio to vote.

Trick or treat? COVID cases are getting scary.

111K confirmed cases and 601 deaths in Utah.

Link in bio for a little op-ed on face masks. 😷

Here in Utah, we live on the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Shoshone, Paiute, Goshute and Ute Tribes. Today we celebrate the people who first called this land home. We remember the struggles and tragedies they endured and recognize the fight for justice and autonomy that Indigenous Peoples still face. ⁠

Go to the link in bio to give to Diné Bikéyah and support Bears Ears. 🏜️

Last night’s vigil for Breonna Taylor. ...