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AP Top News at 1:46 p.m. EDT

Scots decide future amid excitement, apprehension
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) - For some, it's a day they have dreamed of for decades. For others, the time has finally come to make up their minds about the future - both for themselves and for the United Kingdom. Excitement vied with apprehension Thursday in Scotland as voters went to the polls in a referendum on becoming an independent state, deciding whether to dissolve a union with England that brought great prosperity but has increasingly been felt by many Scots as stifling.


A guide to Scotland as it votes on independence
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) - The people of Scotland are deciding Thursday whether to end a partnership with the rest of the United Kingdom that has lasted more than 300 years. Here is a guide to Scotland as the historic vote nears. ---


10 Things to See: A week of top AP photos
Here's your look at highlights from the weekly AP photo report, a gallery featuring a mix of front-page photography, the odd image you might have missed and lasting moments our editors think you should see. This week's collection includes a motorcycle crash in Italy; piglets being carried over floodwater in the Philippines; geologists surveying lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii; the flames from a raging wildfire reflecting off the still water of a lake in California.


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British hostage appears in new video
BEIRUT (AP) - The Islamic State group on Thursday released a video showing a British journalist who says he is a prisoner of the extremists. In a slick, three-minute video shot with three cameras, John Cantlie, a photojournalist, said he worked for publications including The Sunday Times, The Sun and The Sunday Telegraph and came to Syria in November 2012 where he was subsequently captured by the Islamic State group.


Sierra Leone to shut down for 3 days to slow Ebola
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) - Shoppers in Sierra Leone rushed to stock up on food Thursday ahead of a three-day nationwide shutdown, during which the country's 6 million people will be confined to their homes while volunteers search house-to-house for Ebola victims in hiding and hand out soap in a desperate bid to slow the accelerating outbreak. The disease sweeping West Africa has also touched Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal and is believed to have sickened more than 5,300 people, the World Health Organization reported. In a sign the crisis is picking up steam, more than 700 of those cases were recorded in the last week for which data is available.


Australian police: Raids thwarted beheading plot
SYDNEY (AP) - Police on Thursday said they thwarted a plot to carry out beheadings in Australia by supporters of the radical Islamic State group. They raided more than a dozen properties across Sydney and were holding six people and have identified the suspected ringleader, officials said. Nine other people were detained but were freed before the day was over.


Couple in Craigslist slaying sentenced to life
SUNBURY, Pa. (AP) - A newlywed couple whose Craigslist ad lured a stranger to his death were sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole by a judge who said their "permanent removal" from society is appropriate. Neither 19-year-old Miranda Barbour nor her 22-year-old husband, Elytte, displayed emotion as they sat with their lawyers in the Northumberland County courtroom while some of the victims' relatives described their grief and pain since the Nov. 11 murder. Elytte Barbour read a written apology, but said he could not explain his actions.


Cardinals debate marriage before crucial meeting
VATICAN CITY (AP) - The battle lines are being drawn before a major church meeting on family issues that represents a key test for Pope Francis. Five high-ranking cardinals have taken one of Francis' favorite theologians to task over an issue dear to the pope's heart: Whether Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment can receive Communion.


'Three Cups of Tea' author plans reluctant return
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - Greg Mortenson doesn't want to talk about his best-selling "Three Cups of Tea" book, but everybody else does - including his own charity. Three years ago, "60 Minutes" and author Jon Krakauer alleged that Mortenson fabricated much of the book and mismanaged the charity he co-founded, Central Asia Institute. The allegations pushed Mortenson to lock himself in his bedroom. He fought off depression and eventually underwent heart surgery. The Central Asia Institute lost most of its donors, with contributions plummeting from a high of about $22 million in 2010 to $2.7 million last year.


PepsiCo boss decries NFL problems, backs Goodell
NEW YORK (AP) - PepsiCo Inc.'s CEO Indra Nooyi has made a double-edged statement on the NFL's problems handling domestic violence, calling some players' behavior "repugnant" but saying that Commissioner Roger Goodell is "a man of integrity." The boss of the maker of Pepsi, Gatorade and Doritos, one of the league's biggest advertisers and sponsor of last year's Super Bowl halftime show, issued a statement late Wednesday that criticized the league but also expressed optimism that it can fix its problems.

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