November 5, 2013

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Best of Business 2013

By Peri Kinder | Illustrations by Bryan Beach

November 5, 2013

This so-called “legacy waste” was at the center of many controversies over the years, with residents concerned about chemical leaks, terrorist attacks, environmental contamination and four-eyed fish.

Wearing an army-issue gas mask and hazmat suit, an anonymous source said, “Utah residents have never been in danger from this facility.” Then he waved good-bye with his third hand, and walked quietly into the night, glowing with phosphorescence.

Chemical waste, and other munitions, were stored at the facility for more than 70 years, and there were rumors that the late Larry H. Miller hoped to convert mustard gas into a sustainable fuel that could power cars at the Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele.

Closing the facility severely impacted Tooele County, which currently faces a series of financial “situations.” With many county residents laid off due to the depot’s closing, Tooele County officials are looking at new ways to bring money into the area.

On a probably unrelated note, Tooele residents tried to burn the county down in August to get some much-needed insurance money.

Best Non-secret Secret Data Center

Ever have the feeling you’re being watched? Chances are you’re not paranoid—you’re an American. Even as Edward Snowden leaked info about the government’s mass snooping surveillance programs, the Intelligence Community Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative Data Center (I couldn’t make that up) was being built in northern Utah County.

The Utah Data Center, operated by the National Security Agency, is the worst-kept secret in the state. Also known as Gossip Central, the structure is super huge, measuring more than 1 million square feet, and is expected to chew through resources faster than Honey Boo Boo goes through Twinkies.

It will burn through 65 million megawatts of power each year, and more than 1.7 million gallons of water will be used at the center every day! Those are some really thirsty employees. An article in Forbes magazine says the center can store between 3 and 12 Exabytes. What’s an Exabyte? Good question. One Exabyte is equal to one quintillion bytes of info (for the math impaired, that’s a one followed by 18 zeros). That’s a lot of data.

Some people have said that’s enough capacity to store every word that has ever been recorded in history. But since most of what’s been said doesn’t make any sense (see Utah liquor laws) there should be a lot of empty Exabytes.

The LDS church has requested access to data to make temple recommend interviews more interesting (and honest), but NSA has not granted that permission. Yet.

In the meantime, be on the lookout for men in suits attaching “accessories” to your satellite system.

Best News for Gas Mask Retailers

The state’s plan to combat high pollution levels is as clear as the skies in Beijing. During winter months, intermittent warm high-pressure systems (and other weather-ese words) trap cold air and keep pollutants from escaping. (Note: “pollutants” is not another word for “residents.”) This condition, known as The Damn Inversion is a yearly event prompting medical warnings, emission regulations and the introduction of a new state mascot, Wheezy the Inhaler.

Residents are even asked to consider not becoming pregnant during inversion season, since research shows a link between air pollution and low birth weight. So if you’d like to get knocked-up during January or February, you might want to leave Salt Lake for a more optimal environment to procreate. Kind of like salmon swimming upstream.

Inversion conditions worsen from January through mid-March, right about the time state legislators convene for the annual session. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Gov. Gary Herbert’s response to bad air quality is “I wish it would go away,” but I think he used up all of his free wishes on other things.

While it seems state leaders don’t have the foggiest idea how to solve the problem, UDOT is doing its part by blocking access to all roads with never-ending construction, therefore cutting down car pollution. And air-quality researchers unveiled a new plan to cut car emissions by billions of tons. They have encouraged the state to stop plowing the freeways during winter and give every Utah resident a pair of cross-country skis.

Best Use of a Mutated Gene

Some people are genetically predestined to become supermodels or mathletes. Some genetic mutations create things like the X-Men and Duck Dynasty. And some people are genetically disposed to develop breast or ovarian cancer.

Utah’s Myriad Genetics spent hundreds of millions of dollars to create genetic testing for these cancers. Known as BRACAnalysis (great name for a rock band), Myriad’s test determines a woman’s risk of developing hereditary cancers. While only 7 percent of women have the BRCA gene mutation, if they have it, they have an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 70.

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