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Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

Trump's abortion "gag rule" can proceed, rising seas cause more high-tide flooding, and NASA celebrates the 4,000th exoplanet discovery with an animation.
Coastal waters flow through deteriorating wetlands on August 25th, 2015, in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

Coastal waters flow through deteriorating wetlands on August 25th, 2015, in Saint Bernard Parish, Louisiana.

This week at Pacific Standard, we brought you stories on Dunkin's lawsuit over franchises employing undocumented workers, the new Republican conservation caucus, and the possibility that medical marijuana could solve the veteran opioid crisis.

We also launched our Unseen America project, a collection of feature stories that shine a light on the misunderstood middle of the country. You can read the first story, about the American-born children who pick America's food, now. And we'll be releasing more stories later this month.

But plenty of other news developments have been on our radar. Here are a few more stories we've been watching this week.

A Federal Court Says New Title X Rules Can Proceed

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday let stand its earlier decision allowing for enforcement of the Trump administration's new Title X family planning rules.

As Rosemary Westwood wrote for Pacific Standard in April, the new Title X rules will strip sexual health access for millions of women. Specifically, the rules will prevent abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from using Title X funds and bar providers in the Title X program from referring patients for abortions (this is why pro-choice advocates call it a "gag rule").

Twenty states plus Washington, D.C., alongside advocacy groups such as Planned Parenthood, had made an emergency bid to prevent the rules from taking effect.

"This is devastating news for the millions of people who rely on Title X for cancer screenings, affordable birth control and other critical primary and preventative care," Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, wrote in a statement.

Sea-Level Rise Is Causing Record High-Tide Flooding

According to an annual report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday, high-tide flooding, sometimes known as "nuisance" flooding, is on the rise. This flooding, which occurs on sunny days amid calm weather, has a number of impacts, including disrupting traffic, harming septic systems, and depositing salt on farmlands.

Between May of 2018 and April of 2019, coastal communities in the United States experienced a record number of high-tide flooding days, the report says. The national annual frequency of such days across the 98 studied areas reached a median of five, tying with the previous record set in 2015. Records were broken in 12 areas including Washington, D.C., with more high-tide flooding occurring along the Northeast Atlantic coastline than elsewhere. NOAA projects that such flooding could reach a frequency of 25 to 75 days per year by 2050.

A NASA Visualization Shows the Discovery of More Than 4,000 Exoplanets

A new minute-long animation from NASA shows the locations of the 4,000 planets that have been discovered beyond our solar system. The video serves as both a map and a timeline, beginning with the first confirmed detection of an exoplanet in 1992 and progressing through time. And don't forget to turn on the sound: "The faster a planet orbits its parent star, the higher the accompanying tone played."

The agency confirmed the 4,000th exoplanet in June. The Kepler satellite, now retired, discovered more than half of them, and the new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite program—which will cover an area 400 times more vast than Kepler did—is expected to find many more.