Afternoon briefing

Rig worker dies in apparent accident

NEW ORLEANS — Authorities say a worker was killed in what appears to be an equipment-related accident on a drillship in the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a news release Wednesday that the incident happened Sunday aboard the Petrobras 10,000 drillship, owned by Transocean Ltd.

The safety bureau said the deceased worker was employed by Spencer Ogden Ltd. as a floorhand and was engaged in pipe-handling operations when he was pinned.

Brain matter altered in Cuban victims

WASHINGTON — Doctors treating the U.S. embassy victims of suspected attacks in Cuba have discovered brain abnormalities as they search for clues to explain hearing, vision, balance and memory damage, The Associated Press has learned.

It’s the most specific finding to date about physical damage, showing that whatever it was that harmed the Americans, it led to perceptible changes in their brains. The finding is one of several factors fueling growing skepticism that some kind of sonic weapon was involved.

Medical testing has revealed the embassy workers developed changes to the white matter tracts that let different parts of the brain communicate, several U.S. officials said, describing a growing consensus held by university and government physicians researching the attacks. White matter acts like information highways between brain cells.

Loud, mysterious sounds followed by hearing loss and ear-ringing had led investigators to suspect “sonic attacks.” But officials are now carefully avoiding that term. The U.S. says 24 U.S. government officials and spouses fell ill starting last year in homes and later in some hotels.

House OKs concealed-carry expansion

WASHINGTON — Republicans rammed a bill through the House on Wednesday that would make it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines, the first significant action on guns in Congress since mass shootings in Nevada and Texas killed more than 80 people.

The House approved the bill, 231-198, largely along party lines. Six Democrats voted “yes,” while 14 Republicans voted “no.”

The measure would allow gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons. It now goes to the Senate.

Republicans said the reciprocity measure, a top priority of the National Rifle Association, would allow gun owners to travel freely between states without worrying about conflicting state laws or civil suits.

Opponents, mostly Democrats, said the bill could endanger public safety by overriding state laws that place strict limits on guns.

Keillor had more than one accuser

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The president of Minnesota Public Radio has told employees the decision to cut business ties with former “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor resulted from “multiple allegations” that covered an extended period of time.

Jon McTaggart held an off-the-record meeting with employees Wednesday, a week after Keillor’s dismissal was announced.

Reporters from Minnesota Public Radio News did not attend because the meeting was declared off-the-record, but compiled an account from employees who did attend.

MPR News reports McTaggart said he alone made the decision to break with Keillor, who retired as “Prairie Home” host last year.

Keillor told the Star Tribune he touched a woman’s bare back as he tried to console her, and that he apologized.

The show continues with Keillor’s hand-picked successor, mandolinist Chris Thile.

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