This is a big deal
March 13, 2014
Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

There's a reason — a really, really good reason — that natural gas companies add a rotten-egg smell to their otherwise odorless product: Gas leaks are dangerous, and the best way to find them is with your nose. Wednesday's huge gas-leak explosion in New York City, which leveled two buildings and killed at least six people, is a sad reminder of that danger.

Digg's Josh Petri has taken the occasion to remind everyone that if you smell gas in your home, open the windows and leave, immediately. Smell isn't the only way to detect a leak — a hissing sound, dead houseplants, or bubbles in flooded areas are also red flags — but it's the most obvious one. Don't let the jocular tone of Petri's article dissuade you from reading about the dangers and aging infrastructure of natural gas delivery. Almost as important as the advice to leave your home and call the utility company (or 911), though, is Petri's list of what not to do if you smell gas:

Do not, under any circumstances:

• Flip any switches

• Unplug or plug in any electronics

• Use a telephone

• Start your car

• Use an open flame [Digg]

Most deadly gas explosions aren't as dramatic as the ones in Harlem, but they happen all over the country, and they kill people. Be safe. Peter Weber

critically endangered
2:08 a.m. ET

Conservationists have a dire warning: Maui's dolphin, the smallest and rarest of the world's dolphins, could be extinct within 15 years if they are not better protected.

There are fewer than 50 Maui's dolphins left in the wild, researchers say, found only in the waters off New Zealand. The German conservation group Nabu said that fishing must be banned across their habitat so they won’t get caught in nets, or else their extinction is a "matter of when, not if," leader Dr. Barbara Mass told BBC News. These figures are a "loud wakeup call," she said. "New Zealand has to abandon its current stance, which places the interests of the fishing industry above biodiversity conservation, and finally protect the dolphins' habitat from harmful fishing nets, seismic airgun blasts, and oil and gas extraction."

Scientists estimate that five Maui's dolphins are killed every year by gillnets or trawling, and a spokesman for New Zealand's minister for conservation said the office would not comment until recommendations are made in June by the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission. Catherine Garcia

Watch this
1:56 a.m. ET

You've never heard "Roxanne" performed like this, probably. You can judge whether or not that's a good thing after watching the video below, from last Friday's Tonight Show. Barbershop is a new direction for the musically adventurous Sting, but when Jimmy Fallon gets a bit randy during the song, Sting showed that he, at least, is familiar with the genre. And if you don't like a barbershop treatment for The Police, well, at least it has Sting's stamp of acceptance. —Peter Weber

on the market
1:45 a.m. ET

If you've ever wanted to own your very own historic ghost town, act now: Johnsonville, Connecticut, is back on the market for $2.4 million, just a few months after it sold at auction for $1.9 million.

Listing agent Jim Kelly said the buyer's financing fell through, and now there are several interested parties, from individual investors to a solar power company to a religious summer camp. The town is spread across 62 acres, and in the 1830s was a hub of the twine industry, CBS News reports. Although twine was still produced in Johnsonville during World War I and II, by the 1960s, the town was deserted and millionaire Ray Schmitt purchased it with the intent of turning it into a tourist destination.

Wanting to make the town feel authentic, Schmitt dipped into his personal collection of Victorian items and placed them around town, and even bought buildings like a 19th century Quaker meetinghouse and brought them to Johnsonville. The tourist trap never took off and after Schmitt died in 1998, the plan changed to turn the town into a residential community for seniors, an idea that was eventually dropped. Whatever Johnsonville turns into in the future, buyer beware: It's rumored that the town is now haunted by the ghost of Schmitt. Catherine Garcia

wedding bells
1:33 a.m. ET

On Monday, Sen. Thad Cochran's office announced, in one terse sentence, that the 77-year-old Mississippi Republican had married longtime aide Kay Webber at a private ceremony on Saturday. The marriage comes five months after the death of Cochran's wife and a year after Cochran's re-election campaign denied rumors that the senator and his executive assistant were having an affair, during a heated GOP primary battle.

Webber "is a member of the staff and a trusted aide, and any other suggestion is silly gossip," spokesman Jordan Russell told Jackson, Mississippi's The Clarion-Ledger at the time. She is also Cochran's landlady, renting him the basement of her $1.6 million Washington townhouse, and accompanied him on at least 30 overseas trips between 2002 and 2014, for no apparent official reason, with her expenses costing taxpayers at least $150,000, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

Webber, 76, started working in Cochran's office in 1981, and earns about $140,000 to help arrange travel and constituent events, The Washington Post reports. A Cochran spokesman said Webber will continue working at her husband's office. Peter Weber

finding fault
12:56 a.m. ET

The trailer for disaster movie San Andreas is enough to make anyone living in California shake with fear: An enormous earthquake causes unimaginable damage across the state, but an even worse trembler follows it that causes the earth to split open, a tsunami to hit San Francisco, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson to yell a lot. A feel-good movie, this is not.

Although San Andreas might make you want to hide under your bed for the rest of your life, U.S. Geological Services geophysicist Morgan Page says the movie's creators were playing fast and loose with the facts when they put the flick together. For instance, a scientist (played by Paul Giamatti) says a quake is going to hit that's strong enough to be felt on the East Coast, but Page tells KRON that this is impossible (phew!). Also, a huge earthquake on the San Andreas fault would not cause the Earth to crack open, due to the way the fault slides (double phew!). Finally, there's no chance of a tsunami being triggered that would take out the Golden Gate Bridge. "The San Andreas has slip motion," Page explains. "This isn't the type of motion that would generate a tsunami wave. You need something like subduction where you're lifting large volumes of water, so it didn't appear to be realistic."

Page does see the movie as a helpful wakeup call to people that emergency kits are definite necessities, though. “My hope is that the movie just reminds everyone that California is earthquake country and we all need to be prepared," she said.—Catherine Garcia

scary
May 25, 2015
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

On Monday, anonymous threats were made against six international flights, resulting in U.S. military jets escorting an Air France plane into New York City.

Air France Flight 22 was headed to New York's John F. Kennedy Airport when someone claimed a chemical weapon was on the plane, the FBI said; the plane was cleared after it landed. While an American Airlines flight from Birmingham, England, to JFK was in the air, authorities received a threatening call regarding that flight, and the pilot was instructed to land and taxi away from the terminal, The Guardian reports. The threat was later deemed not credible and the plane was allowed to go to the terminal.

Threats were also made against a Saudi Arabian Airlines plane going to New York, a United Airlines flight from Madrid to Newark, New Jersey, and Delta planes headed to Boston from Paris and to Newark from London. At 6:30 a.m. Monday, Maryland State Police said, they received an anonymous call at the McHenry barracks threatening commercial airlines, and notified the FBI. It's possible that the calls that came later targeting the planes all came from the same source, authorities said. Catherine Garcia

wild weather
May 25, 2015

Four people are confirmed dead after heavy rains hit Texas and Oklahoma over the weekend.

In Oklahoma, three people died, including a firefighter who was swept into a storm drain in Claremore during a high-water rescue on Sunday, CNN reports. In Texas, one person died in San Marcos and 12 are missing in Hays County, where 400 homes have washed away in flooding. The National Weather Service says that river and creek banks can't contain all of the rain that has fallen, and the ground is so saturated that "only an inch or two of rainfall could quickly lead to more flash flooding concerns." Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) added 24 counties to the 13 already under an emergency disaster declaration, which lets the state use resources "reasonably necessary to cope with this disaster." This week's forecast predicts more thunderstorms, high winds, hail, and tornadoes. Catherine Garcia

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