By Robert A. Vella

Fetal heartbeats

Emboldened by President Trump’s replacement of Anthony Kennedy with Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Supreme Court, conservative politicians in red states across America are pushing a wave of new anti-abortion laws intended to force the nation’s top court into making a definitive ruling against the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent which had legalized abortion in this country.  One of their favorite tactics, although not the only one, is restricting abortion to early in pregnancies when the fetal heartbeat cannot be detected.  Here’s a current example of the battles being waged:

From:  Judge Blocks Kentucky Fetal Heartbeat Law That Bans Abortion After 6 Weeks

A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked a Kentucky law that prohibits abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which typically happens around six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

The measure, which was signed into law on Friday by the state’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, and was set to take effect immediately, was poised to become one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country.

Migrating jellyfish

The ocean waters off Northern California, where I was born and raised, are normally very cold.  It was so cold, in fact, that the only people usually seen in the water were surfers in wetsuits except for a few youthful beachgoers during the height of summer.  These conditions contrasted sharply with the popular beaches of Southern California where the waters are warmer and the bikinis are skimpier.  The marine life was much different too.  In the north, surf fishing was a common activity whereas sport fishing in boats was prevalent in the south.

But now, this climatic distinction between north and south California ingrained in the state’s rich culture is disappearing thanks to global warming.  The warm waters are migrating north along with its many creatures.

From:  Flight of the jellyfish, eel and barnacle along the California coast

BODEGA BAY, Calif. – Marine biologist Jacqueline Sones was strolling along a beach near this Northern California fishing village one foggy summer morning when she spotted an unfamiliar jellyfish bobbing in the surf.


While the impressively hued Chrysaora colorata is no stranger to Southern California, or Monterey Bay for that matter, it had never been recorded venturing this far north, according to the researcher.

And that translucent visitor was just the first of dozens of nonnative species that started popping up here between 2014 and 2016, when an unusually intense and lengthy marine heat wave hugged California’s coast. Other marine immigrants included snails, dolphins, birds, crabs, fish, sea turtles and multicolored slugs that typically inhabited warmer waters off the Baja California Peninsula.

Sones, a research coordinator at the University of California, Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, and Eric Sanford, a professor of evolution and ecology at the lab, documented a total of 67 rare warm-water species.

Of those, 37 had never been documented this far north. Among those species never before seen here were Venus’ girdle ctenophores, or comb jellies; striated sea butterflies; rabbit dorid nudibranchs; pink-striped barnacles; scarlet sea cucumbers; Pacific sea eels; bottlenose dolphins; and spiny lobsters.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers at UC Davis, the Farallon Institute and the Marine Science Institute at UC Santa Barbara suggest that the migrant species were drawn north by rising sea surface temperatures and changing currents during the marine heat wave – also known as the warm-water blob.

The authors’ findings may provide a glimpse into California’s aquatic future and the ecological disruptions researchers say a warming climate is likely to bring.

A broken neck

This all-too-familiar story speaks for itself.

From:  Report: Ex-Putin adviser who died in US had broken neck

In a report published Saturday, RFE said the finding offers no clear-cut evidence of foul play in the death of Mikhail Lesin, who was a key adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin during Putin’s rise to power.

But RFE said the documents provide “the most precise scientific description” yet of a death that’s been shrouded in suspicion.

The official ruling was that Lesin, 57, died accidentally of blunt force trauma after falling repeatedly in his room while intoxicated.

Yet there is intrigue surrounding the case, fed by circumstantial evidence: It seems odd for someone Lesin’s age to die of blunt force trauma while alone in a room. There is also a gap in security video footage for the hours after Lesin was last seen alive. The police report eventually released to the public has been heavily redacted.

Above all, there is a long history of high-profile Russians turning up dead or seriously ill in foreign countries.


Lesin had amassed a fortune through a company he set up in the 1990s to sell television advertising. He then spent years as Putin’s media czar, helping bring national television under Kremlin control during Putin’s rise to power. Later he founded the global news network Russia Today, now known as RT. But he abruptly resigned in December 2014 and was believed by some Moscow-watchers to have fallen out of favor with the Putin government.

2 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Fetal heartbeats, migrating jellyfish, and a broken neck

  1. Abortion “laws” and measures that attempt to take away a woman’s right to her own body infuriate me!!

    Re: the sea creatures … those who refuse to accept climate change will simply say it’s a temporary thing and everything will return to “normal” in a couple of years. Grrrr

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    • These anti-abortion moves infuriate me too. I’m old enough to remember the horror days before Roe v. Wade. Back then, it was impolite to discuss the hell women were going through, but I was still very aware of it.

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