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Stories You Might Have Missed Last Week

Americans are behind on car payments, coastal-access advocates get good news, and NASA says goodbye to an old friend.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine in front of a model of the Opportunity rover

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announces the conclusion of the rover Opportunity mission on February 13th, 2019.

Last week's big news was President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency at the southern border in order to build a wall. Here at Pacific Standard, we addressed the national emergency from a number of angles: Emily Moon asked if Trump saying he "didn't need to" declare an emergency would ruin his case. Jack Herrera reported on polling data showing that most Americans oppose the wall. Kelley Czajka collected our best stories on the lead-up to the national emergency in an essential reading list.

But there was plenty of other news last week too. As the holiday weekend winds down, here's a quick look at a few more stories we've been watching.

A Record Number of Americans Are Behind on Their Car Payments

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, seven million Americans have now hit the threshold for "serious delinquency"—that is, falling 90 days or more behind—on their car payments. Loan borrowers who are three months behind on payments are at risk of having their cars repossessed. This trend is a bad sign for the economy generally: "Your car loan is your No. 1 priority in terms of payment," Michael Taiano, a senior director at Fitch Ratings, a major credit agency, told the Washington Post.

A Judge Refuses to Approve a Deal to Limit Access to Hollister Ranch

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne ruled that she could not, at this juncture, approve a deal struck between Hollister Ranch and state officials that would have vastly limited public access to a beautiful stretch of the California coastline, the Los Angeles Times reports. Sterne determined the public's interest had not yet been adequately considered. The litigation is not yet over, however, and next steps are still being decided. "Now we can move forward and restate all the ways that we think this settlement is a bad deal for the public—and frankly, illegal," Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network told the Times.

NASA's Opportunity Rover Meets Its End

Opportunity, the NASA Mars rover that was sent to space back in 2004, was pronounced dead last week. Only intended to operate for 90 days, the rover just kept on trucking, setting new records for its lifespan and distance traveled, the Associated Press reports. The vehicle analyzed rocks and soil on Mars' surface, and produced evidence that there was once running water on the planet. "It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.