Former WWE star Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart dies at 63
By DAN GELSTON
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, August 14
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, who joined with brother-in-law Bret Hart to form one of the top tag teams in the 1980s with the WWE, has died. He was 63.
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office said Neidhart fell at home, hit his head and “succumbed to his injury” on Monday in Wesley Chapel, Florida. No foul play was suspected.
Neidhart’s daughter, known as Natalya, wrestles for the WWE and is a former women’s champion. Neidhart made appearances with his daughter on the WWE reality series “Total Divas.”
“My dad was always a fighter,” she wrote in an Instagram post.
Neidhart, Bret “Hitman” Hart and manager Jimmy “The Mouth of the South” Hart made up the Hart Foundation stable in the 1980s and 1990s, and the tag team won two WWE championships.
“What a great run we had. I couldn’t believe how it took off,” Jimmy Hart told The Associated Press. “But the reason why was, Neidhart was such a great character back then. Bret was more cool, the girls loved him. Neidhart and myself were kind of the evil twins.”
Neidhart married Bret Hart’s sister, Ellie, and became part of the famed family wrestling dynasty in Canada. Stu Hart trained his sons, including Bret and former WWE star Owen Hart, as well as Neidhart in the 1970s. Neidhart started his pro wrestling career in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling promotion and eventually signed with the WWE in 1985.
Hart posted a picture on social media of himself with Neidhart and the WWE tag team belts around their waists with the caption, “Stunned and saddened. I just don’t have the words right now.”
Neidhart wrestled mostly for WWE from 1985 to 1997 and was known for his pink and black gear, maniacal laugh and goatee.
Ross Hart, his brother-in-law and a former pro wrestler, told The Associated Press that Neidhart suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and it was believed he suffered a grand mal seizure on Monday.
“He got up (Monday) morning and went to lower the temperature on the air conditioner and he just collapsed and I think died pretty quickly,” Hart said. “I think this was stemming from Alzheimer’s, which he’d been battling for some time. It’s a struggle he’s been going through.”
Jimmy Hart said Neidhart seemed in good health when they last saw each other in April on WrestleMania weekend.
“He was witty, he was funny. He seemed sharp as a tack,” Hart said.
Neidhart was a shot put star in high school in California in the early 1970s and had brief tryouts for NFL teams before becoming a pro wrestler.
The Hart Foundation started as bad guys in WWE and won their first tag team championship in 1987 with the help of a crooked referee. They won the tag titles again in 1990 but split up not long after their second reign ended. Bret Hart was the wrestling technician of the team, while Neidhart brought the raw force and power that made them fan favorites later in their run.
As a singles wrestler, Hart would become one of the biggest stars in WWE history and made the promotion’s Hall of Fame. Neidhart foundered for most of the 1990s before aligning again with Hart, Owen Hart, Brian Pillman and the British Bulldog to form a new Hart Foundation and become the top faction in WWE.
Hart is the only wrestler from that incarnation still alive.
“He was very gifted athletically, even though Bret got more of the credit,” Ross Hart said. “He was more of the power behind the team but at times he did some incredibly gifted things in the ring. He was like a water buffalo. He was tough to control and tame.”
Neidhart wrestled briefly for other wrestling promotions and had brushes with the law and spent time in drug rehabilitation later in life.
But he found a second act as comic relief on “Total Divas” and was filmed going shopping with his daughter and teaching wrestlers how to play golf.
Neidhart is the latest in a string of former wrestling stars who have died in 2018, including Bruno Sammartino, Vader, Brian Christopher and Nikolai Volkoff.
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Genoa bridge collapse: maintaining these structures is a constant battle against traffic and decay
August 15, 2018
Professor of Structural Systems, University of Surrey
Marios Chryssanthopoulos has received funding from EPSRC, Network Rail and the Highways Agency for research on bridge safety.
University of Surrey
University of Surrey provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
As rescue workers look for survivors in the concrete rubble that used to be part of the Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italian authorities are starting their investigation into the possible causes behind this terrible tragedy.
It is too early to determine what may have caused the catastrophic collapse of more than 100 metres of the multi-span, cable-stayed suspension bridge, completed just over 50 years ago. But it’s important to understand that bridge engineering does not end when construction finishes and traffic starts to flow. In fact, properly looking after a bridge during its long life is as crucial as having a good design, using high-quality materials, and ensuring sound workmanship during construction.
Modern bridges are designed for a life of 100 years, though many centenarian bridges – such as the Forth Bridge in Scotland, which opened in 1890 – still provide sterling service, and of course there are smaller bridges built of stone to more ancient designs that have stood for many hundreds of years. Considering the number of bridges built in Europe during the expansion of the motorway networks from the late-1950s onwards, we should expect, and be prepared for, many to exceed their planned lifespan in coming decades. Facilitating this is ambitious but necessary, and made possible thanks only to regular inspection and maintenance that ensures that building materials have not degraded, and that structural elements are fit to bear the traffic and environmental loads they face.
So what are the factors that affect the strength of a bridge and may compromise public safety?
Environment and climate
The climate in a bridge’s location, taken alongside atmospheric pollution common in cities, can have an adverse influence on the material of the bridge – for example, the corrosion of steel reinforcement or pre-stressed steel tendons embedded in concrete. Regular inspections are typically scheduled every six years for large bridges to identify any degradation, and to take appropriate measures to replace cracking concrete and corroded steel, or to introduce protective coatings.
In England, the Midlands Link motorway viaducts, comprising 13 miles of elevated motorway carrying the M5 and M6 motorways around Birmingham, suffered from chloride-induced steel corrosion early on in their life from exposure to salt used to de-ice the roads. This required an extensive application of corrosion protection measures in the early 1990s. More than 700 structures have benefited from this action, demonstrating the cost savings that can be made if appropriate action is taken at the right time.
Stress and fatigue
Fatigue caused by use is another factor, and inspectors will look out for tell-tale signs of failure often associated with the cyclical stress produced by passing vehicles, particularly heavy trucks. This type of failure is especially relevant for metal bridge decks and the cables of suspension and cable-stayed bridges. Traffic has increased ever since these bridges were built, which inevitably leads to the need for more maintenance and strengthening work, such as additional steel, glass or carbon fibre-reinforced plates on critical parts in order to restore or enhance their strength compared to what was deemed necessary during their design. For example, Network Rail in the UK used fibre-reinforced polymers to strengthen more than 20 bridges carrying highway or railway traffic between 2001 and 2010.
Consider how we all tend to react to a road sign bearing the words: “Essential Bridge Works – Expect Long Delays”. One such situation prompted this comment from a member of the public: “We are doomed. I am going to buy a tent and pitch it outside work for the three months while the misery goes on.” Perhaps knowing why this is necessary – and the consequences of not doing so – might persuade people to reconsider such views.
Money and willingness to spend it
Equally, we must understand that maintenance budgets need to be set at levels that far exceed those that would allow engineers only to “firefight” the most severe problems, as is becoming worryingly commonplace. Instead, budgets need to allow for planned interventions and necessary upgrades over many decades. That requires public and government support, as well as skilled engineers committed to ensuring the safety of an ageing structure.
There are challenges in devising improved methods to assess bridge strength, developing new repair techniques, and new ways of collecting and using inspection and monitoring data to provide advance warning of problems. These constantly push technological boundaries, making it possible to operate existing bridges safely during their long service lives. And the experience gained feeds into new designs that will become reality in years to come.
Those investigating the collapse of the Morandi bridge will look at inspection and maintenance matters. Other lines of enquiry will no doubt include the unusual design of the multi-span bridge, with only a few cable stays to transfer deck loads to the towers, the ongoing work to shore up the foundations, and the heavy rainfall at the time of the collapse. In the shadow of this terrible loss of life, it is worth remembering that bridge inspection and maintenance may be annoying for commuters – but it is crucial.
Parole and probation have grown far beyond resources allocated to support them
August 16, 2018
Co-Director, Columbia University Justice Lab, Senior Research Scientist, Columbia School of Social Work, Columbia University
Vincent Schiraldi receives funding from Galaxy Gives and the Arnold Foundation. He is former Commissioner of New York City Probation.
Today, there are twice as many people supervised on parole or probation as are incarcerated in the U.S.
Parole is a period of being supervised in the community following early release from prison for following the rules. Probation is a period of community supervision ordered by courts as a punishment for a criminal offense. Together, they are often called “community corrections.”
I was commissioner of New York City Probation from 2010 to 2014, and research I co-authored in 2018 with 20 fellow probation and parole officials found that the number of people in community corrections has grown four-fold since 1980. The number peaked in 2007 at 5.1 million Americans. In 2016 it was 4.5 million people.
This is unique internationally, as well as historically. Probation and parole were originally meant to serve as alternatives to prison. Instead, they have grown alongside a five-fold increase in incarceration between 1980 and 2009.
On Dec. 31, 2016, the most recent date for which data is available, there were roughly 2.2 million people incarcerated in prisons and jails throughout the U.S. Add that to the 4.5 million people being supervised in the community by a parole or probation agency, and 1 in 38 adults under some form of correctional supervision.
Community corrections has turned into an add-on, rather than a relief valve, to the mass incarceration dilemma in the U.S.
Too big to succeed?
Parole and probation place conditions on people, depriving them of liberty and often serving as a trip-wire for being sent back to prison. Failing, for example, to “work dilligently as directed by your probation officer,” or associating with persons of “disreputable or harmful character” can land people under community supervision behind bars.
Thousands of probation and parole officers supervise nearly 5 million people across the U.S. However, as the number of people under community corrections has swelled, resources for officers have lagged. While twice as many people are supervised in the community as are incarcerated, 9 out of 10 correctional dollars is funneled to prisons according to a report from 2009, the most recent year with available data.
What was designed as a project to assist people at the individual level reintegrate into their communities has become a ritual in compliance. For example, last year, Philadelphia rap artist Meek Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison for a technical probation violation. He was arrested for a traffic offense and a fight in an airport, which was later dismissed.
For offenders, the “carrot” of rehabilitation has waned. The threat of being sent back to prison for technical violations, like missing an appointment or drug use – has remained. With rising caseloads, probation and parole officers often feel compelled to rely on sending people back to prison to deal with even trivial misbehavior.
In 2012, a study found that 4 out of 10 people incarcerated in the U.S. were on probation or parole at the time when they were arrested and taken back into prison, many for technical violations.
Where I work in New York, for every 10 people who finished state parole successfully in 2015, 9 were reincarcerated – the ninth worst rate in the country. More than one-third of people entering New York’s prisons annually are returning because of parole violations.
Vulnerable and returning home
Probation and parole are not evenly distributed across the population. It primarily affects young African-American and Latino men in low-income communities. One in 12 African-American males is under community supervision, as is nearly 1 in 5 young African-American males without a high school education. In New York City, there are 12.4 times as many African-Americans per capita in city jails for a parole violation than whites.
Less is more
In 2017, every major community corrections association in the U.S., along with 45 elected or appointed prosecutors and 35 probation and parole officials as well as myself wrote in a statement: “Designed originally as an alternative to incarceration, community corrections has become a significant contributor to mass incarceration” that should be downsized while reinvesting the savings in “improving community based services and supports for people under supervision.”
New York City’s probation reforms – when I was commissioner from 2010 to 2015 – provide an example. From 1996 to 2014, the number of people sentenced to probation in New York City declined by 60 percent.
Did crime increase due to this sharp decline in community supervision? Did jail populations swell as the less punitive probation option waned?
The answer to both questions is no.
From 1996 to 2014, the city’s violent crime rate declined by 57 percent and its incarceration rate dropped by 55 percent. What’s more, even though the probation department’s budget declined during this time period, the amount of money spent on each individual on probation actually increased almost three-fold because the department’s caseload fell faster than its budget.
This allowed the department to improve both supervision and contracted employment, treatment and mentoring programs for high-risk clients.
Reducing probation and parole and reinvesting in communities should be part of any deliberation on how to solve mass incarceration.
Do you suffer from climate guilt? A dose of philosophy can help
July 29, 2015
Luis R. Fernandez-Carril
Faculty member, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
Luis R. Fernandez-Carril does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
People cannot engage in something they cannot see or feel. We need concrete reasons to care and act. In this way, climate change presents a threefold intangible challenge:
1. we can perceive the weather, but the climate system is something rather abstract, a statistical construct
2. we now know climate change is anthropogenic, or man-made, but how can we understand this? One way is to say: mankind is the reason, but this becomes also very abstract. Who actually is represented with mankind? Another way is to say: China or the US is to blame, as if we are speaking of subjects and not concepts. We cannot grasp how you and I contribute to climate change, not by doing something extraordinary, but with our everyday lives
3. we cannot perceive how we as individuals can contribute to mitigating climate change. Eighteenth-century philosopher George Berkeley stated that “To be is to be perceived.” If we can’t see the change in the climate system, nor the reason why it is actually occurring, does it exist in our daily lives?
This situation requires people to consider how they perceive climate change and what they can do to make climate change more tangible and real in their daily lives.
The intangible climate
When talking about the climate system, we have to realize that we are not dealing with something tangible. Climate is not to be seen outside the window; climate is not the weather. It is a collection of data and patterns in a statistical construct.
Furthermore, climate is not here and now. Its only possible way to be perceived is through recognition of patterns, by computer modeling and, most importantly, through representations.
Images can represent the effects of climate change, such as desertification or deforestation, but not climate change itself. However, visual representations of climate change are very common in advocacy groups’ campaigns, showing polar bears, icebergs, deserts or images that show the world on fire.
These images become the referent – that is, climate change – itself, thus shaping our perceptions of it, the importance we give it and our perception of our own capacity to do something about it. This is why, if publicity and science communication campaigns represent climate change with images of deserts or polar bears, the public will perceive it as something distant and unimportant to their cosmopolitan lives. Or, on the other hand, these images may shape their perceptions to think climate change is something so big that individual actions are futile.
The intangible cause
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) 5th-Assessment Report shows that human influence on the climate system is clear. However, do we feel identified as culprits? Who is represented by mankind? Can we really relate to this?
Another way to see the problem is by saying: OK, the US, China and other countries are the most important producers of carbon emissions, and so they are to blame for climate change. However, there is a very important reason that all these industries are polluting: to satisfy our consumer needs.
This ultimately means that anthropogenic climate change is not due to “mankind” or “China’s developmental needs” but because individuals like you and me want to live comfortable lives, with three cars, a big flat-screen TV, a laptop in standby, a fillet waiting in the fridge, etc. How can we connect all these indulgences with the melting of the Arctic or with the displacement of thousands in the South Pacific?
Perhaps, we might think, that ignorance of the consequences of climate change is exactly what makes us behave like we do. Yet the IPCC and many other scientific institutions have warned us over and over about the dire impacts of runaway climate change.
As philosopher David Hume affirmed: “‘Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.” What Hume argued is that it is not pure reason that drives ethical behavior but passion and feelings. Facts are cold and abstract and difficult to relate to.
The intangible reason to act
Even if we understand that the climate system is intangible, and we understand it is not “mankind” but our personal, cosmopolitan lives to blame for climate change, how can we act? Do we see a connection between our consumer patterns and people being dislocated from sea level rise on the far side of the world? Can we act to save people who are not even born yet? Are my actions significant?
Perhaps we can think our individual actions are futile but analogous to our contribution to democracy by voting. No, the president didn’t get elected because of you, but you are part of the percentage that gave him the victory.
The grand majority of people on Earth live and work in urban settlements. In the city we are alienated from nature. We do not see it, and we do not feel connected to it. However, it is crucial for us city dwellers to understand the importance of urban settlements in the cause and mitigation of climate change given that, according to the IPCC, a high proportion of the population and economic activities most at risk from climate change, and a high proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, are generated by urban-based activities and residents.
However, how can we see climate change in the city? We must learn to see our own contribution to climate change. And it comes as easily as this: practically everything we do creates carbon emissions directly or indirectly.
Every action comes with a carbon price tag attached to it. Do you want ice in your soda? It costs. Do you want to keep the computer on the whole night? It costs, too. Learn the carbon footprint of everything you do in your daily life. Furthermore, you can learn about the most polluting companies you are contributing to without even knowing.
By understanding our daily contribution to climate change, perhaps we will finally see its real cause where we couldn’t see it before. As author Henry David Thoreau said: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
Following Alfred Russel Wallace’s footsteps to Borneo, where he penned his seminal evolution paper
August 15, 2018
Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz
Giacomo Bernardi does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of California
University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The chirping of cicadas is deafening, my clothes are sticky and heavy with heat and sweat, my right hand is swollen from ant bites, I am panting, almost passing out from exhaustion – and I have a big grin on my face. At last I’ve reached my goal, Rajah Brooke’s cottage, at the top of Bukit Peninjau, a hill in the middle of Borneo’s jungle.
This is where, in February 1855, naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote his hugely influential “Sarawak Law” paper. It’s as crucial to Wallace’s own thinking in disentangling the mechanisms of evolution as the Galàpagos Islands famously were to his contemporary, Charles Darwin.
Three years later, in 1858, two papers that would change our understanding of our place in the natural world were read before the Linnean Society of London. Their authors: Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. In another year, Charles Darwin would publish “The Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection,” squarely positioning him as the father of evolution. Whether Darwin or Wallace should justly be credited for the discovery of the mechanisms of evolution has stirred controversy pretty much ever since.
Comparatively little has been written about Wallace’s seminal work, published four years earlier. In what’s commonly known as his “Sarawak Law” paper, Wallace pondered the unique distribution of related species, which he could only explain by means of gradual changes. This insight would ultimately mature into a fully formed theory of evolution by natural selection – the same theory Charles Darwin arrived at independently years before, but had not yet published.
I am an evolutionary biologist who has always been fascinated by the mechanisms of evolution as well as the history of my own field, and it’s like visiting hallowed ground for me to trace Wallace’s footsteps through the jungle where he puzzled through the mechanics of how evolution works.
Forgotten founder of evolutionary theory
Alfred Russel Wallace, originally a land surveyor from a modest background, was a naturalist at heart and an adventurer. He left England to collect biological specimens in South America to finance his quest: to understand the great laws that shape life. But his trip back home was marred by terrible weather resulting in his ship sinking, all specimens being lost and a near-death experience for Wallace himself.
In order to make back the money he’d lost in the shipwreck, he headed to the Malay Archipelago, a region to which few Europeans had ever ventured. Wallace spent time in Singapore, Indonesia, Borneo and the Moluccas.
There he wrote a succinct, yet brilliant, paper, which he sent to Charles Darwin. In it, he described how organisms produce more offspring than necessary, and natural selection only favors the most fit. The ideas he’d arrived at on his own were revolutionary – and closely mirrored what Darwin had been mulling over himself.
Receiving Wallace’s paper – and realizing that he might be scientifically “scooped” by this unknown naturalist – prompted Darwin to rush his own writings, resulting in the presentation to the Linnean Society in 1858. Wallace’s paper, now known as the “Ternate paper,” was an elaboration of his thinking, based on an earlier, first foray into the realm of evolutionary biology.
A few years earlier, when in Singapore, Wallace had met James Brooke, a British adventurer, who through incredible circumstances became the rajah of Sarawak, a large state on the island of Borneo. James Brooke would create a dynasty of Sarawak rulers, known as the white rajahs.
Upon their encounter, Brooke and Wallace became friends. Wallace fell in love with Sarawak and realized that it was a perfect collecting ground, mostly for insects, but also for the much sought after orangutans. He stayed in the area a total of 14 months, his longest stay anywhere in the archipelago. Toward the end of his sojourn, Wallace was invited by Brooke to visit his cottage, a place up on the Bukit Peninjau that was pleasantly cool, surrounded by a lush and promising forest.
Wallace described it in his own words:
“This is a very steep pyramidal mountain of crystalline basaltic rock, about a thousand feet high, and covered with luxuriant forest. There are three Dyak villages upon it, and on a little platform near the summit is the rude wooden lodge where the English Rajah was accustomed to go for relaxation and cool fresh air…. The road up the mountain is a succession of ladders on the face of precipices, bamboo bridges over gullies and chasms, and slippery paths over rocks and tree-trunks and huge boulders as big as houses.”
The jungle surrounding the cottage was full of collecting possibilities – it was particularly good for moths. Wallace would sit in the cottage’s main room with the lights on at night, working, sometimes furiously fast, at pinning hundreds of specimens. In just three evening sessions, Wallace would write his “Sarawak Law” paper in this remote setting.
Whether consciously or not, Wallace was laying the foundation for understanding the processes of evolution. Working things through in this out-of-the-way cottage, he started to synthesize a new evolutionary theory that he’d fully develop in his Ternate paper.
Following in Wallace’s Sarawak footsteps
I’ve been teaching evolution to college students for over two decades and have always been fascinated by the story of the “Sarawak Law” paper. On a recent trip to Borneo, I decided to try to retrace Wallace’s steps up to the cottage to see for myself where this pioneering paper was written.
Tracking down information about the exact location of Bukit Peninjau turned out to be a challenge in itself, but after a few mistakes and contradictory directions obtained from local villagers, my 16-year-old son Alessio and I found the trailhead.
The moment we started, it was obvious we had ventured off the beaten path. The trail is narrow, steep, slippery and at times barely recognizable as a path. The very steep incline, combined with the heat and humidity, make it difficult to negotiate.
While much has disappeared since Wallace’s time, a huge diversity of lifeforms is still visible. In the thick of the jungle along the lower part of the trail, we spotted several stands of the tallest flower in the world, the aptly named Amorphophallus. Hundreds of butterflies were everywhere, along with other peculiar arthropods including giant ants and giant pill millipedes.
In some stretches, the trail is so steep that we had to rely on the knotted ropes that have been installed to help with the climb. Apparently red ants love those ropes as well – and our grasping hands just as much.
Eventually, after about an hour and a half of climbing and struggling, we reached a somewhat flat portion of the trail, not more than 30 feet long. On the right, a small path led up to a clearing, the former site of the cottage. It’s hard not to imagine Alfred Russel Wallace, thousands of miles from home, in complete scientific isolation, pondering the meaning of biological diversity. I was at a loss for words, though my teenage son was puzzled by the emotional meaning of the moment for me.
I walked around the cleared space where the cottage used to be, imagining the rooms, the jars, the nets, the moths and the notebooks. It’s an incredible feeling to share that space.
We walked down a slope to the huge overhanging rock where Brooke and Wallace found “refreshing baths and delicious drinking water.” The pools are gone now, filled in with natural debris, but the cave is still a welcome shelter from the sun.
We decided to climb to the top of the hill. Thirty minutes and buckets of sweat later, we arrived at a viewpoint where we could take in a view of the entire valley, unobstructed by the jungle. We saw oil palm farms, houses and roads. But my focus was on the river in the distance, used by Wallace to reach this place. I imagined what the primary forest, full of orangutans, birdwing butterflies and hornbills, must have looked like 160 years ago.
In the midst of this gorgeous but very harsh environment, Wallace was able to keep a clear head, think deeply about what it all meant, put it down on paper and send it to the most prominent biologist of the time, Charles Darwin.
Like many other evolution aficionados, I’ve visited the Galàpagos Islands and retraced Darwin’s footsteps. But it’s in this remote jungle, far from anyone and anything – perhaps because of the physical difficulties of reaching Rajah Brooke’s cottage combined with the raw beauty of the surroundings – that I felt a deeper connection with that long-ago time, when evolution was discovered.