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The West Virginia Democrat says families of the 29 miners haven’t been briefed since September. He says in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis that that’s too long.

Mr. Rockefeller also wants an update.

The April 5 explosion was the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine since 1970. The Labor Department’s Mine Safety and Health Administration is conducting a civil investigation, while the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe. Mine owner Massey Energy has denied doing anything wrong.

The Labor Department said it intends to meet with the families after the holidays.


Senator-elect hires chief of staff

CONCORD | A man who once served as former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith’s chief of staff has been hired for the same position by New Hampshire Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte.

John Easton, who served as Mr. Smith’s chief of staff for seven years ending in 2009, comes to Mrs. Ayotte’s staff from a bipartisan public-affairs firm in Washington.

Mrs. Ayotte, a Republican and the former New Hampshire attorney general, defeated Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes in November. She will replace Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who did not seek re-election.

From wire dispatches and staff reports