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Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

A measles outbreak hits the Northwest, Australia breaks heat records, and a fourth state mulls banning the gay panic defense.
University of Iowa junior Erica Zamudil receives a mumps, measles, and rubella vaccination shot on April 27th, 2006, in Iowa City, Iowa.

The World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 public-health threats of 2019.

This week at Pacific Standard, we looked into Kamala Harris' record on criminal justice reform, what the government shutdown could mean for subsidized housing programs, and how one food collective is preserving cultural memory through free meals.

But as usual, news has been breaking at a rapid clip, and there are many more stories on our radar. Here are a few other developments we've been watching this week.

A Measles Outbreak Prompts a Washington County to Declare a Public-Health Emergency

Clark County in Washington State has declared a public-health emergency as a result of a fast-growing measles outbreak around nearby Portland, Oregon. This week, the number of confirmed cases grew to 23. Most of the people with the disease had not been immunized, the Washington Post reports.

"Any time we have an outbreak of a disease that we have a safe and effective vaccine against, it should raise a red flag," Seattle-based pediatrician Douglas J. Opel told the Post. The Portland area has a high rate of exemption from vaccines for non-medical reasons.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 public-health threats of 2019.

Australia Is Breaking Heat Records

A multi-week heat wave has been scorching southern Australia. The city of Adelaide hit 46.6 degrees Celsius, or 115.9 degrees Fahrenheit, marking not only the hottest day on record there, but also the hottest recorded temperature in any state capital in the country, the Guardian reports. The Guardian also reported Friday that bushfires are burning in Tasmania and Victoria, and about 200,000 homes in Victoria have lost power.

The unusually hot temperatures have also affected animals in the country, leaving dozens of feral horses dying of thirst and heat-stressed bats falling out of trees.

Connecticut Could Ban the 'Gay Panic' Defense

A bill has been introduced in the Connecticut State Senate that would ban the use of both "gay panic" and "transgender panic" defenses in criminal cases. The bill proposes that "a criminal defendant may not use the shock of learning that someone they may have been attracted to was gay or transgender to justify or excuse the violence perpetrated by the defendant against the victim."

Currently, only California, Rhode Island, and Illinois have such laws in place. LGBTQ Nation reports that the Connecticut bill, which was put forth by Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney (D), has a good chance of passing.