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EXPLAINER: What to know ahead of Sweden’s election Sunday

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EXPLAINER: What to know ahead of Sweden’s election Sunday

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — Sweden is holding an election Sunday to elect lawmakers to the 349-seat Riksdag as well as to local offices across the nation of 10 million people. Early voting began on Aug. 24, so many people will have already cast their ballots by election day. Here are some key things to know about the vote.

WHAT IS AT STAKE?

Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson is fighting to keep her center-left Social Democrats at the helm of a left-wing coalition but is facing a strong challenge from the right.

Sweden is known for being a cradle-to-grave welfare society and Andersson would like to preserve the social protections that have long defined Sweden, and reverse some of the market-oriented changes by an earlier government. Her party feels that some of the changes, like state subsidies going to private schools, are creating greater inequalities.

The once mighty Social Democrats have been in power since 2014. But as the party’s popularity sinks compared with its heyday in the 20th century, it has been forced it to preside over a weaker government relying more on other parties to pass laws, a situation which has produced political instability over the past eight years.

WHO IS LIKELY TO WIN?

There are two major blocs, with four parties on the left and four on the right. The polls leading up to the election showed the two blocs in a near dead heat, with the outcome impossible to predict.

Under Swedish law, it falls to the party that wins the most seats to form a government. Polls show that this is likely to be Andersson’s party, in which case it would be up to her first to try to form a coalition government with majority support in the legislature.

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But if the left as a whole has a poor showing, she might not be able to form a coalition. In that case, the baton would be passed to the second-largest party to try to form a government.

WHICH PARTY IS IN THE NO. 2 SPOT?

In the last election, in 2018, the Moderates led by Ulf Kristersson, a center-right party, won the second highest number of seats. The conservative party promotes a market economy, lower taxes and a smaller role for government in a country with a generous welfare state supported by high taxes.

But like the Social Democrats, and many other mainstream parties across Europe for that matter, the Moderates have also seen their popularity with voters decline amid a populist challenge coming from further right.

WHO ARE THE POPULISTS?

The Sweden Democrats, a populist right-wing party which takes a hard line on immigration and crime, first entered parliament in 2010 and has been growing steadily ever since.

The party won 13% of the vote in 2018, becoming the third-largest force in parliament. Polls show that is likely to improve on that showing on Sunday.

Some Swedes describe the party as Trumpist and feel put off by the fact that it was founded by far-right extremists decades ago, not quite certain whether to trust it in its transformation to a more traditional conservative party.

The party is led by Jimmie Akesson, a 43-year-old former web designer who has been the driving force in trying to moderate the party’s image.

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The party has clearly tapped into the social mood, however. Its success can be measured also by the fact that other parties have been moving closer to its positions as many Swedes believe that they can no longer bear the costs of the generous refugee policies of the past, and are seeking a crackdown on crime.

Once treated as a pariah, other conservative parties have grown increasingly willing to deal with the Sweden Democrats.

HOW SERIOUS IS CRIME IN SWEDEN?

Some of the immigrants who have been welcomed in Sweden in past years have had difficulties assimilating into Swedish society, leading to segregated neighborhoods with high crime rates.

Gang violence mostly takes place among criminal networks dealing drugs or involved in other illicit activity. But there have been recent cases of innocent bystanders being hurt. So far this year, 48 people have been killed by firearms in Sweden, three more than in all of 2021.

The fears triggered by constant news of shootings and explosions in disadvantaged neighborhoods have made crime one of the most pressing issues for voters.

“Shootings and explosions of bombs have increased in the last few years and (this violence) is now considered a great social problem. I wouldn’t say that it’s as bad as Mexico, but we are on the way,” said Anders Sannerstedt, a political scientist at Lund University in southern Sweden.

THE GENDER FACTOR

Andersson became Sweden’s first female prime minister less than a year ago — a milestone late in coming for a country that in many ways is an example of gender equality.

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“I was really proud,” said Ulrika Hoonk, a 39-year-old who voted early in Stockholm on Friday evening, saying it took “far too long” for that to happen.

Polls show that Andersson’s party is especially popular with women, with men tending to vote more conservative.

Even though Andersson is the first prime minister, there are still many women represented in positions of authority. Four party leaders are women and one party has a woman and a man sharing the leadership. In parliament, the gender balance has long been split roughly 50-50.

Several women interviewed this week said that finally having a woman in the top leadership job was very important for them, and one factor they considered when choosing which party to support.

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed.

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

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Remember last year’s Memorial Day travel jams? Chances are they will be much worse this year

The patience of Memorial Day weekend travelers was tested Thursday by widespread delays across the country, but there were relatively few canceled flights, raising hopes that airlines can handle bigger crowds expected Friday.

By early evening on the East Coast, more than 6,000 flights had been delayed Thursday, with the biggest backups at the three major airports in the New York City area and Dallas-Fort Worth International.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

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Pasha Pidlubniak waits for a domestic flight at Miami International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Miami. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

 

The Transportation Security Administration predicted that Friday will be the busiest day for air travel over the holiday weekend, with nearly 3 million people expected to pass through airport checkpoints. It could rival the record of 2.9 million, set on the Sunday after Thanksgiving last year.

“Airports are going to be more packed than we have seen in 20 years,” said Aixa Diaz, a spokesperson for AAA.

When they aren’t waiting out flight delays, travelers are reporting sticker shock at the prices.

At Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Larisa Latimer of New Lenox, Illinois, said her airfare was reasonable but other expenses for a getaway to New Orleans were not.

 

 

 

 

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Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

Motorists travel along Interstate 24 near the Interstate 40 interchange Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to hit the pavement over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

“I just have to make the accommodation,” she said. “The rental car is up … this year, the hotel accommodations were very unusually expensive.”

Kathy Larko of Fort Meyers, Florida, used frequent-flyer miles — and some flexible scheduling — to pay for her trip to Chicago.

“I’m really conscious of looking at the cost of the entire trip. We’re staying a little farther out than we normally would” to get a lower hotel rate, she said. “We’re also flying back a day later, because we could get cheaper miles.”

More travelers will be on the road. AAA estimates that 43.8 million people will venture at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) from home between Thursday and Monday, with 38 million of them taking vehicles.

 
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Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Travelers wait at a TSA checkpoint at the Los Angeles International Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Los Angeles. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

 

Airport unions are using the holiday weekend to highlight their demands.

About 100 workers who clean airplane cabins and drive trash trucks at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, started a 24-hour strike Thursday, demanding better pay and healthcare, according to the Service Employees International Union. About 15% of flights were delayed, but it was unclear whether the strike played any role.

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A planned strike at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York was averted, however. Teamsters Local 553, which represents about 300 workers who refuel passenger and cargo jets at JFK, said that it reached a settlement with Allied Aviation Services and called off a walkout planned for Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

George Ridley, 4, left, rides on a suitcase as he and his father Chris Ridley make their way through the Nashville international Airport, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. A record number of Americans are expected to travel over the 2024 Memorial Day holiday. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

 

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“We are happy an agreement has been reached, a need for a strike averted, and we are hopeful that the deal will be ratified by our members,” said Demos Demopoulos, the secretary-treasurer of the local.

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Associated Press video journalist Melissa Perez Winder in Chicago and Associated Press radio reporter Shelley Adler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

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Texas health department appoints anti-abortion OB-GYN to maternal mortality committee

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ health department has appointed an outspoken anti-abortion OB-GYN to a committee that reviews pregnancy-related deaths as doctors have been warning that the state’s restrictive abortion ban puts women’s lives at risk.

Dr. Ingrid Skop was among the new appointees to the Texas Maternal Morality and Morbidity Review Committee announced last week by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Her term starts June 1.

The committee, which compiles data on pregnancy-related deaths, makes recommendations to the Legislature on best practices and policy changes and is expected to assess the impact of abortion laws on maternal mortality.

Skop, who has worked as an OB-GYN for over three decades, is vice president and director of medical affairs for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, an anti-abortion research group. Skop will be the committee’s rural representative.

Skop, who has worked in San Antonio for most of her career, told the Houston Chronicle that she has “often cared for women traveling long distances from rural Texas maternity deserts, including women suffering complications from abortions.”

Texas has one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the U.S., and doctors have sought clarity on the state’s medical exemption, which allows an abortion to save a woman’s life or prevent the impairment of a major bodily function. Doctors have said the exemption is too vague, making it difficult to offer life-saving care for fear of repercussions. A doctor convicted of providing an illegal abortion in Texas can face up to 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine and lose their medical license.

Skop has said medical associations are not giving doctors the proper guidance on the matter. She has also shared more controversial views, saying during a congressional hearing in 2021 that rape or incest victims as young as 9 or 10 could carry pregnancies to term.

Texas’ abortion ban has no exemption for cases of rape or incest.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which says abortion is “inherently tied to maternal health,” said in a statement that members of the Texas committee should be “unbiased, free of conflicts of interest and focused on the appropriate standards of care.” The organization noted that bias against abortion has already led to “compromised” analyses, citing a research articles co-authored by Skop and others affiliated with the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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Earlier this year a medical journal retracted studies supported by the Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming to show harms of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing conflicts of interests by the authors and flaws in their research. Two of the studies were cited in a pivotal Texas court ruling that has threatened access to the drug.

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

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Michigan farmworker diagnosed with bird flu, becoming 2nd US case tied to dairy cows

A Michigan dairy worker has been diagnosed with bird flu — the second human case associated with an outbreak in U.S. dairy cows.

The male worker had been in contact with cows at a farm with infected animals. He experienced mild eye symptoms and has recovered, U.S. and Michigan health officials said in announcing the case Wednesday.

A nasal swab from the person tested negative for the virus, but an eye swab tested Tuesday was positive for bird flu, “indicating an eye infection,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials said.

The worker developed a “gritty feeling” in his eye earlier this month but it was a “very mild case,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, Michigan’s chief medical executive. He was not treated with oseltamivir, a medication advised for treating bird flu, she said.

The risk to the public remains low, but farmworkers exposed to infected animals are at higher risk, health officials said. They said those workers should be offered protective equipment, especially for their eyes.

Health officials say they do not know if the Michigan farmworker was wearing protective eyewear, but an investigation is continuing.

In late March, a farmworker in Texas was diagnosed in what officials called the first known instance globally of a person catching this version of bird flu from a mammal. That patient reported only eye inflammation and recovered.

Since 2020, a bird flu virus has been spreading among more animal species — including dogs, cats, skunks, bears and even seals and porpoises — in scores of countries.

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The detection in U.S. livestock earlier this year was an unexpected twist that sparked questions about food safety and whether it would start spreading among humans.

That hasn’t happened, although there’s been a steady increase of reported infections in cows. As of Wednesday, the virus had been confirmed in 51 dairy herds in nine states, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Fifteen of the herds were in Michigan.

The CDC’s Dr. Nirav Shah said the case was “not unexpected” and it’s possible more infections could be diagnosed in people who work around infected cows.

U.S. officials said they had tested 40 people since the first cow cases were discovered in late March. Michigan has tested 35 of them, Bagdasarian told The Associated Press in an interview.

Shah praised Michigan officials for actively monitoring farmworkers. He said health officials there have been sending daily text messages to workers exposed to infected cows asking about possible symptoms, and that the effort helped officials catch this infection. He said no other workers had reported symptoms.

That’s encouraging news, said Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota epidemiologist who has studied bird flu for decades. There’s no sign to date that the virus is causing flu-like illness or that it is spreading among people.

“If we had four or five people seriously ill with respiratory illness, we would be picking that up,” he said.

The virus has been found in high levels in the raw milk of infected cows, but government officials say pasteurized products sold in grocery stores are safe because heat treatment has been confirmed to kill the virus.

The new case marks the third time a person in the United States has been diagnosed with what’s known as Type A H5N1 virus. In 2022, a prison inmate in a work program picked it up while killing infected birds at a poultry farm in Montrose County, Colorado. His only symptom was fatigue, and he recovered. That predated the virus’s appearance in cows.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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