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UNITED KINGDOM

Britain divided over voting reform

LONDON | British voters must decide whether to ditch decades of ballot box tradition, or go Hollywood in parliamentary elections by adopting the same voting method used for the Academy Awards.

The campaign ahead of Thursday’s national referendum has elements of a blockbuster: sworn political foes banding together, stormy bust-ups across the Cabinet table, rising tensions in the country’s most important “bromance” - the alliance between Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg.

Offering voters a chance to usher in electoral reform is a long-held ambition of Mr. Clegg’s Liberal Democrats - who joined with Mr. Cameron’s larger Conservative Party in Britain’s first governing coalition since World War II after last year’s inconclusive national election.

A change to Alternative Voting (AV) would generally favor the Liberal Democrats, the perpetual third-place party, while usually reducing the number of seats won by the biggest parties, the Conservatives and Labor.

Britain currently uses a first-past-the-post system, under which the candidate with the most votes - not necessarily an absolute majority - wins a seat in the House of Commons.

MEXICO

Hope is fading for missing miners

SAN JUAN DE SABINAS | Rescue workers said Wednesday there is little hope that nine missing miners have survived a coal mine explosion that killed at least five people in northern Mexico.

The gas explosion that ripped through the primitive, vertical-shaft mine early Tuesday was so powerful it seriously injured a 15-year-old boy working on a conveyor belt outside the pit.

Labor Secretary Javier Lozano said that casualty left little possibility that those inside could have withstood the force of the blast.

“The outlook is very bad,” Mr. Lozano said at the scene. “The truth is that it does not allow us to hold out much hope.”

A team of four rescuers who entered the mine quickly found the bodies of three miners in front of the rubble shaken loose by the blast. Mine employees later found two more bodies, and one rescuer who had been down the partially collapsed shaft said there was little chance anyone survived.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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