In brief | Nation & World, March 16, 2014


Fire official: Rescue workers reach basement of NYC blast site, still seeking clues to cause

NEW YORK — Emergency workers sifted through debris Saturday from the site of a deadly explosion at two New York City apartment buildings as they worked to clear the way for investigators to search for clues that might reveal what caused the blast.

Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said rescue workers reached the rear of the basement Saturday but said that investigation of the piping and meters in the front of the basement that will help explain what caused the blast that killed eight people will likely start today.

He said that the National Transportation Safety Board should be able to start pressure-testing the pipes today.

Arson detectives and fire marshals have been waiting to enter the basements to examine meters, check pipes and inspect any possible ignition sources, such as light switches, that might have caused the blast.

The theory that the explosion was caused by a gas leak gained momentum Friday after the NTSB, which investigates pipeline accidents, said underground tests conducted in the hours after the explosion registered high concentrations of natural gas. The NTSB will conduct its own inquiry after police and fire officials determine what might have caused the blast.

Hundreds of fish-eating ducks on Great Lakes starving in brutal winter, unable to break ice

DELMAR, N.Y. — The Niagara River corridor from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario is renowned as a spectacular winter haven for hundreds of thousands of water birds. But this year’s bitterly cold season has made it notable for something else: dead ducks.

Biologists say carcasses began piling up by the hundreds in early January after the plunging temperatures started icing over nearly the entire Great Lakes, preventing the ducks from getting to the minnows that are their main source of food. Necropsies on dozens of birds have confirmed the cause: starvation.

“All have empty stomachs. They’re half the weight they should be,” said Connie Adams, a biologist in the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Buffalo office who has personally seen 950 dead birds.

“This is unprecedented. Biologists who’ve worked here for 35 years have never seen anything like this,” she said. “We’ve seen a decline in tens of thousands in our weekly waterfowl counts.”

It’s a phenomenon that has been seen elsewhere along the Great Lakes, with news reports of diving ducks and other waterfowl turning up dead by the hundreds along the southern part of Lake Michigan. They’ve also been found in Lake St. Clair between Lakes Erie and Huron.

Publicist: Comedian David Brenner, a favorite of Johnny Carson’s ‘Tonight Show,’ dies at 78

LOS ANGELES — David Brenner, the lanky, toothy-grinned “Tonight Show” favorite whose brand of observational comedy became a staple for other standups, including Jerry Seinfeld and Paul Reiser, died Saturday. He was 78.

Brenner, who had been fighting cancer, died peacefully at his home in New York City with his family at his side, according to Jeff Abraham, his friend and publicist.

“David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing. To me, historically, he was the godfather of hip, observational comedy,” comedian Richard Lewis said in a statement. “He mentored me from day one. … His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”

The tall, thin and always sharply dressed Brenner became one of the most frequent visitors to Johnny Carson’s “Tonight” in the 1970s and ’80s.

His 150-plus appearances as guest and substitute host turned the former documentary filmmaker into a hot comedian, one who was ubiquitous on other talk shows and game shows.

By wire sources