Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

The vaquita population continues to dwindle, a seesaw spans the U.S.–Mexico border, and Benjamins outnumber Washingtons.
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A new conceptual art installation along the border wall between Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

A new conceptual art installation along the border wall between Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

This week at Pacific Standard, we brought you the story of one of the thousands of Native American women who go missing every year, we explained how health officials in pro-life states are chipping away at abortion access, and we asked why reality TV can't stop stereotyping black women.

Here are few more stories we've been watching this week.

There May Be Fewer Than 19 Vaquitas Left

The numbers keep ticking down: When Ben Goldfarb's Pacific Standard feature story about the critically endangered vaquita came out in June of last year, it was estimated that there were fewer than 30 of the small porpoises left. And in March of this year, experts counted a total of 22. Now, a study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science estimates that the cetacean's population has dropped to fewer than 19—and could be as low as just six.

The creatures frequently get caught in gillnets, which are meant to catch the totoaba fish, which is also endangered. The best hope for the vaquita, the researchers write, is a "dual approach [that] combines the permanent presence of enforcement in the middle of the vaquita distribution and the active removal of illegal gillnets."

A Seesaw on the Border Connects the United States and Mexico

This week, the "Teeter-Totter Wall," a work of conceptual art by Ronald Rael, appeared along the border between Sunland Park, New Mexico, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In an Instagram post, Rael described the pink seesaws, which were installed through a slatted part of the border wall to connect people on both sides, as "a literal fulcrum for U.S.–Mexico relations."

"[C]hildren and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side," Rael said.

There Are More $100 Bills in Circulation Than Ever

There are now more $100 bills circulating than ever before, according to a report from the International Monetary Fund. The $100 overtook the $1 bill in 2017, with the $20 in third place. Now, the report says, there are about double as many $100 bills circulating as there were during the global financial crisis.

Does this "boom in Benjamins" mean Americans are rolling in high-value currency? Not exactly. Most $100 bills—close to 80 percent of them—are actually overseas, according to the IMF. And the average American adult carries only about $60 cash—likely in the form of bills with Andrew Jackson on them, though eventually the $20 may feature Harriet Tubman.

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