Briefs 10-15


Leaders set for Scotland referendum

LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron is set to sign a landmark accord Monday that paves the way for a vote on Scotland’s independence in fall 2014, Scottish Secretary Michael Moore announced Sunday on the BBC.

Cameron is scheduled to meet with Scotland’s First Minister — and its leading independence advocate — Alex Salmond before inking the deal, which would lay out the long-awaited terms of the ballot initiative. There reportedly will be one yes or no question on the ballot, a victory for Cameron who has fought attempts by Salmond to add a second option asking Scots if they wanted even greater autonomy from the British state if the bid for independence fails.

Salmond, according to the BBC, won a concession that 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to cast a vote, a plus for the independence movement as younger voters in Scotland are believed to more receptive to the notion of breaking away from Britain. In addition, Cameron reportedly also has given in on the timing of the vote; he had initially wanted the referendum held next year. The most recent opinion polls show a declining number of Scots in favor of independence, with roughly 28 percent now supporting it. Salmond, however, has argued that a delayed vote would give the independence movement more time to convince skeptical voters.

“What we are now setting up is to allow people in Scotland to make the most important decision in 300 years,”Moore said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. “People can have confidence that when they see that agreement, it will ensure that both governments’ sets of objectives have been achieved.”

Human rights group accuses Damascus of dropping cluster bombs on its own people

BEIRUT — The Syrian regime was accused Sunday of dropping cluster bombs — indiscriminate scattershot munitions banned by most nations — in a new sign of desperation and disregard for its own people.

The international group Human Rights Watch cited amateur video and testimony from the front lines in making the allegation against the government of President Bashar Assad.

Syria and Turkey, meanwhile, declared their skies off-limits to each other amid mounting cross-border tensions in Syria’s 19-month-old conflict, now a civil war. Turkey is an outspoken backer of rebels trying to oust Assad.

CDC fights fungus linked to meningitis outbreak

ATLANTA — Scattered across the carefully landscaped main campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the staff on the front lines fighting a rare outbreak of fungal meningitis: A scientist in a white lab coat peers through a microscope at fungi on a glass slide. In another room, another researcher uses what looks like a long, pointed eye dropper to suck up DNA samples that will be tested for the suspect fungus.

Not far away in another building is the emergency operations center, which is essentially the war room. There’s a low hum of voices as employees work the phones, talking to health officials, doctors and patients who received potentially contaminated pain injections believed to be at the root of the outbreak. Workers sit at rows of computers, gathering data, advising doctors and reaching out to thousands of people who may have been exposed. Overall, dozens of people are working day and night to bring the outbreak under control. More than 200 people in 14 states have been sickened, including 15 who have died.

“This is a very unusual infection,” said Dr. John Jernigan, a CDC medical epidemiologist who is leading the clinical investigation team for the outbreak response. “So, treatment recommendations, diagnostic recommendations are all going to be new, and we’re learning as we go on this one.”

By wire sources