Stockholm, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Polls have opened in Sweden's general election in what is expected to be one of the most unpredictable and thrilling races in the Scandinavian country for decades amid heated debate on immigration.
Sunday's election will be Sweden's first since the government in 2015 allowed 163,000 migrants into the country of 10 million. While far less than what Germany took in that year, it was the most per capita of any European nation. It's highly unlikely that any single party will get a majority, or 175 seats.
The latest opinion poll suggests that Prime Minister Stefan Lofven's ruling Social Democrats will substantially lose seats but still emerge a winner with an estimated 24.9 percent of the votes.
The polls showed far-right, anti-immigration Sweden Democrats would get 19.1 percent of the votes.
Kabul, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — An Afghan official says insurgents have attacked a checkpoint in the western Herat province, killing at least nine Afghan security forces and wounding another six.
Gelani Farhad, the provincial governor's spokesman, says the attack late Saturday ignited a gunbattle in which around 10 insurgents were killed and five wounded. He says the attack was likely carried out by the Taliban, who are active in the district and frequently target security forces and government officials.
Afghan forces have struggled to combat both the Taliban and an Islamic State affiliate since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014.
Pyongyang, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — North Korea staged a huge military parade on Sunday to mark its 70th anniversary as a nation but held back its most advanced missiles and devoted nearly half of the parade to civilian efforts to build the domestic economy.
The strong emphasis on the economy underscores leader Kim Jong Un's new strategy of putting economic development front and center.
Kim attended the morning parade but did not address the assembled crowd, which included the head of the Chinese parliament and high-level delegations from countries that have friendly ties with the North.
Senior statesman Kim Yong Nam, the head of North Korea's parliament, set the relatively softer tone for the event with an opening speech that emphasized the economic goals of the regime, not its nuclear might.
After a truncated parade featuring tanks, fewer than the usual number of missiles and lots of goose-stepping units from all branches of the military, along with some students and others, the focus switched to civilian groups, ranging from nurses to construction workers, many with colorful floats beside them.
Although North Korea stages military parades almost every year, and held one just before the Olympics began in South Korea in February this year, Sunday's parade came at a particularly sensitive time.
Kim's effort to ease tensions with President Donald Trump have stalled since their June summit in Singapore. Both sides are now insisting on a different starting point. Washington wants Kim to commit to denuclearization first, but Pyongyang wants its security guaranteed and a peace agreement formally ending the Korean War.
With tensions once again on the rise, a parade featuring the very missiles that so unnerved Trump last year, and led to a dangerous volley of insults from both leaders, could be seen as a deliberate provocation.
The North displayed its latest missilery in the February parade, however, and Washington hardly batted an eye.
Soon after the Sunday celebrations end, Kim will once again meet in Pyongyang with South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways to break the impasse over his nuclear weapons.
The "new line" of putting economic development first has been Kim's top priority this year. He claims to have perfected his nuclear arsenal enough to deter U.S. aggression and devote his resources to raising the nation's standard of living.
This year's celebrations also mark the revival of North Korea's iconic mass games after a five-year hiatus.
The mass games involve tens of thousands of people holding up placards or dancing in precise unison and are intended to be a display of national unity. This year's spectacle — tickets start at just over $100 and go up to more than $800 per seat — also has a strong economic theme.
The economy was also a big part of a concert held on the eve of the anniversary for foreign dignitaries and a large foreign media contingent allowed in for the events.
Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — A roaring wildfire that shut down a stretch of a major interstate near the California-Oregon border exploded in size as crews on Saturday scrambled to prevent flames from reaching rural communities.
The blaze in California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest was burning out of control after chewing through 58 square miles (150 square kilometers) of timber and brush since Wednesday.
Aircraft were temporarily prevented from making water and retardant drops because heavy smoke was trapped under cloud cover, making for limited visibility for pilots. Firefighters working in rugged terrain were contending with hot temperatures and gusty winds.
Authorities announced Friday that a 45-mile (72-kilometer) section of Interstate 5 north of Redding would remain closed at least until Sunday.
The fire has destroyed thousands of trees — some 70 feet (20 meters) tall — that could fall onto the highway that traverses the entire West Coast from Mexico to Canada and serves as a main artery for commerce.
Truckers and other motorists were forced to take circuitous local routes that added hours to travel times.
Interstate 5 became a ghost road after fire turned hills on either side into walls of flame. Drivers fled in terror and several big-rigs burned.
Nearly 300 homes were considered threatened, but the blaze was not burning near any large towns, fire spokesman Brandon Vacarro said.
Meanwhile crews near California's border with Nevada gained minimal containment of another wildfire that closed highways on the edge of the Sierra Nevada.
A previous fire this year near Redding and another in the Mendocino area — the two largest blazes in the state this year — destroyed or damaged 8,800 homes and 329 businesses.
The Mendocino fire was expected to be fully contained by Sunday, more than six weeks after it started.
Tokyo, Sep 9 (AP/UNB) — Japanese authorities say 37 people have been confirmed dead from a powerful earthquake that struck the northern island of Hokkaido last week.
The Hokkaido government said Sunday that two people remain missing and one other person has no vital signs. Rescue workers are using backhoes and shovels to search for the missing in a tangle of dirt and the rubble of homes left by multiple landslides in the town of Atsuma. All but four of the victims are from the community of 4,600 people.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a hard-hit area of Sapporo, the main city in Hokkaido.
The magnitude 6.7 earthquake before daybreak Thursday knocked out power and train service across Hokkaido. It took two days to restore electricity to most of the island of 5.4 million people.