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The 213 Blog [News | Please Do Not Post]

A place to put national factbooks, embassy exchanges, and other information regarding the nations of the world. [In character]
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The Arthurian Isles
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The 213 Blog [News | Please Do Not Post]

Postby The Arthurian Isles » Fri May 18, 2018 7:34 am

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The 213 Blog is a part of The Cicero News Group, a media distributor based in Egilfjorður in the Arthurian Federation. The company was originally established as The Cicero, a standalone newspaper, in 1843 (933 A.R.) by a board of artisans from the town of Straumbron in the canton of Nordmark. Their initial intention was to campaign for the repeal of the protectionist Rye Laws, which were scrapped in 1851 (941 A.R.), but they continued to operate the newspaper in order to comment on current affairs while always championing free trade and decentralisation of power.

The Cicero was founded at a time of upheaval for Arthuria. The aforementioned Rye Laws imposed heavy tariffs on imported agricultural products which made basic foodstuffs expensive and contributed to low standards of living on the Isles, particularly for poorer families where starvation became common. The Laws were, in the opinion of the founding board, bad for Arthuria; the solution, they believed, was free trade. The first crop of correspondents for The Cicero took inspiration from foreign economic theories which were still new to the only-recently-discovered Arthuria at that time. They touted the benefits of the free market, profit-seeking individuals and a stable society (this focus on society has come to define the Arthurian application of capitalism right through to today). And importantly for that period - a time when scientific method was being applied to everything in Arthuria - the board insisted that all arguments put forward by the newspaper were based on rigourous fact-checking and analysis. They took as their title 'The Cicero', in reference to the ancient philosopher's saying that "true law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions."

From its conception, The Cicero was primarily a business paper, appealing to merchants, industrialists and artisans. It did not attempt to opine on the nature of Arthurian politics. Until, that is, the Arthurian civil war - known as Falhut, or The Fall - engulfed the country in 1862 (952 A.R.). The war was at its core a conflict over whether Arthuria would adopt modern theories of politics, philosophy and economics in a comprehensive reform package or whether it would try to adapt its weak political system to the dictates of foreign and domestic industrialists. In this atmosphere, it was impossible to separate politics from business. The conundrum was noticed by The Cicero's editor in 1860 (950 A.R), Artur Petursen, who broadened the newspaper's range before the tense political environment descended into war. He also hedged the paper's interests in Arthuria by expanding overseas, at first to the Company Territory of South Oriens and then into wholly-foreign markets. The Cicero's influence grew dramatically; by the end of the war in 1864 (954 A.R.) it was competing for readership with the older and much larger Figaro. Its entry into politics was confirmed when Arthuria's first Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, Lusil Grimdotar, noted that whenever she felt uncertain, she would wait for the next issue of The Cicero before making her decision.

As The Cicero became more widely-read outside of Arthuria, it began to shift its focus away from solely domestic affairs. Its new section on Zanzes (renamed to Karas after the fall of the Zanzeanic Empire) was launched shortly after Falhut and was aimed not so much at any readers from that part of Noctur, but at Arthurians who needed, in the opinion of the board, to learn more about the world which they were entering. Shortly afterwards, further sections were created for the affairs of Northern and Southern Oriens, as well as Northern Occidens (now the Radiatia section) and Central Occidens. By branching out, The Cicero expanded its readership beyond the seas such that, by 1930 (1020 A.R.) more than half of its regular subscribers were outside Arthuria.

Today, more than four-fifths of its circulation of 1.5 million is outside of Arthuria. As well as commenting on the political affairs of countries across Noctur, it has also created sections devoted to science and technology, arts and, in a return to its roots, business and finance. From the turn-of-the-century, the newspaper has also explored digital platforms, publishing online as early as 1996 (1086 A.R.) and creating a daily news app as well as this blog. Now forming part of a larger media group, The Cicero is experimenting with a virtual-reality app, its own global radio and collaborative international partnerships. It produces several explanatory films per year and maintains a strong social media presence in Noctur. The 213 Blog is an internationally-oriented reporting outlet intended to provide insights into Arthuria for people the world over. It is populated by short articles which explain, analyse or comment on facets of Arthurian life which do not necessarily make the front-pages but which permeate the country's social debate and culture. Its name comes from the street address of the first headquarters of The Cicero in Straumbron, Nordmark.
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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Fri May 18, 2018 12:27 pm

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Working-Age Population: How Arthuria Weathered The Storm





Arthuria's working-age population was once known for its perpetual decline. Shrewd policies have reversed the country's fortunes.
27 Trirmalking, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 19:18 AIT

HØLEN, ARTHURIA — Arthurians are travellers. So goes the stereotype. Descended from the old seafarers who first discovered their island home, these Antarctic recluses are destined to leave their land in search of better lives elsewhere. Farmers, workers and professionals began setting sail for the rest of Noctur almost as soon as Arthuria ended its long history of isolation in the 18th century (9th century A.R.). As global markets expanded, a trickle became a flood. Before living conditions significantly improved at the end of the 19th century (10th century A.R.), the most popular locations for Arthurian migrants were the Company Territories in South Oriens and the rich countries of Northern Oriens. Even after it joined the ranks of the developed world, its people sought to experience more exciting and well-paid lives overseas. Between 1950 (1040 A.R.), when the social democratic consensus began, and 1990 (1080 A.R.) when it ended, the number of Arthurians aged between 15 and 64 fell from 7 million to 6 million. To compound matters, by 2000 (1090 A.R.), a fall in the birthrate over a decade earlier meant that fewer people were joining to workforce. Government projections estimated that by 2030 (1120 A.R.) the country would have only 5.2 million people of working age if the then-rate of decline continued, the same level it had in 1910 (1000 A.R.).

The decline in the working-age population, defined as 15-to-64 year olds, was not disastrous for Arthuria, but it was becoming a problem for future generations to deal with. As the number of workers fell, the country relied upon increased productivity in order to maintain sound economic growth. In the short-term, this was achievable, but it was not sustainable, and the government soon found it was struggling to spend as it had done previously on public goods such as, importantly for its agenda, defence. To make matters worse, the public debt which had accumulated under forty years of social democracy was being bourne by fewer citizens and innovation - long a point of pride for Arthurian firms - was beginning to stagnate. Investment, both from overseas and domestically, saw a fall in the early 1990s (1080s A.R.). And demographics were becoming skewed, too, as the old-age dependency ratio (the ratio of over-65s to those of working age) climbed from 17 people over the age of 65 for every 100 of working age to 28 from 1970 t0 1990 (1060 A.R. to 1080 A.R.).

For Arthuria, the glimmer of hope was that this decline was gradual. It meant that when politicians were alerted to its danger, they had time to debate the problem, analyse its seriousness and come up with solutions. Early discussions of how to tinker pensions in order to reduce the costs of demographic change were quickly superseded by a decision to act in order to arrest the population decline instead. The country was also lucky that this debate occurred just as the social democratic era ended, when Hildur Manus was coming to prominence as a strong and undeterred advocate of root-and-branch change of the Arthurian social-economic landscape. Her drive for liberalisation, alongside her dominant Frelskap party, meant that potential solutions to the problem of the working age population were implemented as part of a holistic reform package. There was little opposition from the decimated Vinsten Bund, and a great deal of support from the assorted centrist parties who were just finding their feet in the Folkting.

The first great change was to encourage women to do more paid work. Arthuria has always been thought of as a proponent of gender equality in society, largely as a result of its communitarian history and harsh Antarctic climate. University-educated women consequently outnumbered men and had some of the highest participation rates in the formal economy of all countries in Noctur (they still do, in fact). But that participation still lagged behind men's. The government's reforms were delightfully simple but incredibly effective. They restructured post-natal parental leave so that a large portion was reserved for fathers, allowing women to return to work more quickly after the birth of their children. At the other end of life, improved care for the elderly meant that women could continue to work well into their 50s instead of supporting increasingly-needy parents. Arguably the greatest boost to female participation rates, though, has been better cantonal provision of pre-school education and child care, which has freed up new mothers to pursue their careers and support their family. Though not mandated by law, employers have been encouraged to change to flexible working systems; more Arthurians than ever can choose the hours they work and do so from home, as well as taking sabbaticals mid-way through their careers. Though it has never displayed any significant gender discrimination (Arthuria has never banned women from any jobs, for example), the unintended results of well-meaning policies kept women out of the workforce and pushed down the effective number of working-age people in the country. Fixing this, if only partially for now, was the first step in reversing the working age decline. But it was not enough; because of its historic inclusion, Arthuria could gain only marginally by increasing female participation.

Women were one section of society which was being kept from work. Another was the elderly. In 1990 (1080 A.R.), the retirement age in Arthuria was 65 (effectively an arbitrary age imposed by the cantonal governments). Even then, generous retirement benefits ensured that only around 50% of 60 to 64 year olds were actually in paid work. Reworking the tax system was the first act of the government on this front. Incentives to retire early, many in the form of tax breaks, were greatly reduced. The retirement age was immediately raised by 2.5 years, and has been raised by the same amount again in 2005 (1095 A.R.). Currently, there are discussions to increase it yet again. But just as employers adopted flexible working conditions to keep women in the workplace, they were also relied on to do so for the elderly. Rather than pushing them out at 60, employees were increasingly offered training, phased retirement and better workplace conditions, extending their working lives. Some companies even established older-workers' assembly lines with specific ergonomic changes and age-appropriate shift-patterns; these increased the productivity of over-60 year olds by 6% on average. Some of those experimental changes proved to be useful for other, younger workers too, and led to increased productivity company-wide for those who implemented them wholesale.

Females and the elderly were two sections of society that were being artificially withheld from the workforce. But alongside the more efficient allocation of human resources in the economy, the government sought to raise the population overall. The answer was to overturn Arthuria's archaic views on immigration which necessitated a low ceiling for migrant numbers. At its core, the system did have a solid points-based system which judged applicants based on their qualifications. But opposition to foreigners meant that a low ceiling of permissible migrants was continuously set from the 1950s (1040s A.R.) onwards. Almost immediately, the system was updated to ring-fence the numbers of foreign students who could enter Arthuria (and incentives were offered to encourage them to remain after their education) and a special category for humanitarian migrants was added. The general atmosphere of change in the country allowed the Federal Government to put pressure on the cantons to raise the migrant ceiling (it is set based on recommendations of requirements from the cantonal governments). The result of this first change has been a slow-but-steady positive feedback loop, where greater migrant presence has increased the proportion of the native population which views them positively, allowing further increases to the ceiling which now stands at 110,000 migrants per annum. Closely linked to Arthuria's more open immigration policy is its attempt to lure back its citizens who have settled overseas. Since 2006 (1096 A.R.), foreigners of Arthurian origin have been granted additional points in the immigration process. Beyond the requirements to lure more people to Arthuria, this policy perhaps marked one of the biggest cultural shifts for the post-social democratic Arthuria. Nevertheless, the country still has one of the lowest foreign-born populations in Noctur.

Now, Arthuria's population is growing (though at a low rate). As the effect of the reforms peters out, a revival in the birth rate from years ago is taking up the task of increasing the working-age population. It is a lesson in shrewd policy-making. Ultimately, though, the biggest potential boon in this perennial struggle will come from immigration. The government did well to address that early on in the post-social democratic age, but now immigration is falling once again. The current crop of politicians would do well to learn from their predecessors who saw the problem arise early on and acted to cut it off. It has been nearly thirty years since significant immigration reform. Perhaps that will be the battle to fight once again if Arthuria is to ward off the danger of extinction in the future.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Sun May 27, 2018 7:29 am

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The Government Finds Ways To Let Go Of Its Century-Old Legacy





Arthuria's postal service has needed reform for a long time. Finally, the government is taking notice.
6 Forlit, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 15:26 AIT

VESTMANAEYJAR, ARTHURIA — When the first federalists entered government following Falhut - Arthuria's brief civil war - they set about crafting a new constitution for a modern country. The Federal Basic Law was the result, including such innovations as legal gender equality and wide-ranging freedoms for individuals and groups. But it also addressed more mundane issues. One of these, which the country's founding fathers saw as particularly important, was a postal service which was to be legislated for by the Federal Government and therefore operational over all of Arthuria's territory. Though the Basic Law did not specify the means by which universal postal coverage was to be achieved, the first post-war government established the Federal Postal Agency, now known as Posturin. It was to be a state-run post office that delivered a universal mail service - in return for a postal monopoly it would deliver letters anywhere in the country for the same rate. It was popular amongst the Arthurian people and laid the groundwork for economic growth by freeing up information flow. Even after the cost ballooned and the government was forced to introduce an income tax, the idea of a universal postal obligation did not die. Today, Posturin still holds a monopoly on delivering post and, as an institution of Arthurian life, is the country's third-largest employer after Forsvaren Makt (the armed forces) and Til12 (a supermarket chain). For the past 153 years, Posturin has formed the arteries through which communication took place in Arthuria, one of the reasons why the Basic Law keeps it under federal regulation rather than delegating it down to cantons or communes.

Posturin's place in the modern world is increasingly in doubt, though. In the past decade, it has come under threat from falling letter volumes and a vast increase in the number of so-called gig economy firms and e-commerce giants who have brought competition to the parcel delivery business. This has weakened its postal monopoly. As online communication has risen exponentially, the number of additional-service letters (the equivalent to first-class in many countries) has fallen by half since their peak in 2001 (1091 A.R.). Birthday cards are falling out of fashion and financial statements are being taken online or into app-based services. Even junk mail - the sort of paper advertising that irks so many homeowners - is declining due to a combination of environmental regulation and a preference by companies for digital marketing. This is worrying, considering it makes up the largest single portion of Posturin's postal deliveries. A recent report by independent consultants estimated that letter volumes had consequently fallen by an average of 3-5% in the past decade, and that they could continue to do so up to a maximum reduction from peak of 80% before finding a new level.

These issues are affecting traditional universal postal services across Noctur, but some are dealing with the financial difficulties better than Posturin. The Arthurian agency's real-term revenue from its postal monopoly is down by 35% since 2008 (1098 A.R.), and it struggles to make up for this from its alternative revenue stream, parcel delivery. In the past two years, global parcel deliveries increased by up to 50%, claims the same independent report, but Posturin does not hold a monopoly on this business so its margins are thinner, and its distribution network is optimised towards letters, so parcels are an inefficient enterprise for it. To replace its infrastructure in order to handle parcels would be an expensive investment, and one which the government is currently unwilling to consider. On the other side of the fence, in private industry, investors have leapt onto gig-economy couriers who employ cheaper, self-employed delivery-people. In the same time period that saw parcel deliveries surge, investment in these courier firms increased twenty times over. By comparison, Posturin's labour and networks are far more expensive to maintain, and they also bear the cost of Arthuria's domestic intelligence service (which is a part of the agency). It struggles to compete. Parcel delivery does not make up more than one quarter of its total revenue.

But the gig-economy is facing a tighter labour-market as regulators adapt to this new form of employment and demand begins to plateau. A more dangerous threat to Posturin comes from the e-commerce giants and, increasingly, global logistics firms such as Søderberg Oceanic which are expanding into the delivery business. Many Arthurian politicians - most of them from the left - have argued that these companies pay far too little for Posturin's services, but they are missing the bigger picture. Instead of trying to cut better deals with the postal service, e-commerce and global logistics firms are simply creating their own parcel delivery arms. The efforts of Søderberg Oceanic are set to concentrate on major cities, which is particularly worrying for a universal postal service such as Posturin because it is in the cities where most of the profits are made to cross-subsidise more expensive rural deliveries.

The danger to Posturin has been lurking for some time. Now, finally, the government is beginning to react. Last week, the Storting asked the Folkting Energy & Infrastructure Committee (FEICom) to examine Posturin's finances and recommend necessary reforms to return the company to profitability or, at least, to cut its costs to the treasury. FEICom is a politically-stable committee. It has a slender majority of centrists and liberals on its membership, but its equivalent Federal Ministry (the Federal Ministry of Energy & Infrastructure - FMEI) is headed by Henrietur Grimdotar of the leftist Vinsten Bund. Thus, while the FMEI might be expected to punish private firms such as Søderberg Oceanic in order to prop up Posturin, the Committee is more likely to weaken its monopoly and introduce liberalisation, in the same manner than many government services were brought to heel since the end of the social democratic era. The list of speakers called to testify at FEICom's enquiry is revealing: although some are Posturin's administrative officials, more are independent experts and consultants whose views have tended to align with those of the centrists and liberals.

Liberalisation of Posturin would be good for the Arthurian people. However much its brand has become a comfortable staple of national life, it has proven slow to react to the changing business environment. This is not the inherent fault of the business itself - many on its board see the need for digitisation and innovation, but are hindered by the Folkting. Because Posturin's fate is a politically-sensitive issue which does not conform to normal party-lines, Folkmaður have been slow to deliberate proposed reforms or even to fill empty seats on its board. While many centrists and liberals support privatisation of the service, others from their side of the chamber fear that the government would have to bail out its liabilities as a precursor to such action. On the left, there is a sense of blindness to the problems at hand. This is unusual. Since liberalisation opened up Arthurian markets, the Federal Government has proven fairly adept at identifying which services it is best-placed to control (such as defence, roads, railways and migration services) and which are better left to the markets. Those that it has retained control of have been reformed slowly but deliberately in a largely successful manner, whereas those which have gone into private hands have flourished under a fairly regulated mixed-market economy. Unfortunately, Posturin has bucked this trend.

That is a shame. Across the world, examples exist of postal services which have allowed market forces to spur reform. In such cases, competition has spurred innovation and improved efficiency. New methods have been developed within these legacy firms and allowed them not just to survive, but to expand (already, board members of Posturin would like to experiment with pick-up lockers, deliveries to peoples' cars, and abolishing letter-delivery services altogether). Private firms also find it easier to raise the sort of capital that would be needed to upgrade Posturin's ageing infrastructure. Such a boost could be transformative for a company which already benefits from sheer scale. And privatisation, or some form thereof, could also force a thorough rethink of how the government approaches the postal service and telecommunications in general. The universal service obligation can work with privatisation, if the government is willing to subsidise letter deliveries in rural areas, many have argued. But this can be taken further. As letter volume continues to decline, subsidising junk mail becomes less of an issue worthy of constitutional attention (as the current Basic Law would make it). Instead, the government should prioritise its programme of broadband modernisation which has already seen most of the country connected to the internet. By scrapping letter delivery, they could pump further investment into this area, providing free or low-cost fibre-optic connectivity to every home in the Arthurian Isles. This would be as great a boost to economic growth now as a universal postal service was back in 1865 (955 A.R.). Such policies are feasible now. That they are not being implemented is because so much is being done to keep a traditional but outdated postal service alive.

The very fact that FEICom has now been given the authority to recommend overarching reform of Posturin is a good sign. It shows that the greatest obstacle to change - the government itself - is now shedding its nostalgia for the Posturin brand. If the subsequent report recommends some form of privatisation, then it is entirely feasible that Arthuria's universal postal service will be transformed within a matter of years. It would require short-term sacrifices - the government would have to accept the cost of at least some of Posturin's liabilities in order for it to be attractive to private investors, and the domestic intelligence service would have to be separated out and into a new agency - but the benefits would be tremendous, for the country and for Posturin itself. Perhaps its greatest lesson would be that the Søðen Moðel - Arthuria's economic system - would continue to espouse the basic belief that it is the benefit to the public, not to the state, which is the ultimate end of government.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:14 pm

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Arthurian Banks Accelerate Streamlining





After Arturen Bank, an old-fashioned enterprise, failed to reform itself in time, other Arthurian banks are taking note.
14 Forlit, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 20:35 AIT

EGILFJORÐUR, ARTHURIA — In major cities - and some small towns - within Arthuria, banks are where old meets new. Beyond the cash machines which line most foyers, concierges in smart uniforms greet customers with a bow of the head and guide them to where they can be best helped. Managers, who usually watch over the rows of tellers, sometimes step in to offer more personal service to older or disabled clients. Next to every position is a wooden stamp, upon which is carved a bank and branch seal in order to mark formal receipts upon the conclusion of transactions. It is not as though these sorts of banks are a rarity either. Compared to most other countries, which on average have 17.3 commercial banks for every 100,000 citizens, the Federal Bank estimates Arthuria to have closer to 32.1. That makes the country one of the most over-banked in Noctur, and its banks the most over-staffed.

It reflects an odd situation, where a strong financial sector relies increasingly heavily on overseas business. The Federal Bank again notes low profitability for Arthurian banks' domestic operations, with returns on assets at only 0.3% in the last financial year. To be sure, some of the pain was the result of the 2016 (1106 A.R.) recession, caused by the financial jitters from Radiatia following President Autenberg's election. But the trend for declining domestic banking profitability is long term and requires dramatic changes. One such reform would involve dramatically shrinking the entire sector, starting with an end to the culture of jobs-for-life.

There are signs that this is already happening. Of Arthuria's four largest banks, three have announced the closure of hundreds of Arthurian branches and the laying off of close to five thousand employees between them (the fourth is Arturen Bank, which is winding down its assets prior to ending trading entirely). Nykredit Bank - one of the four - will end up shedding nearly a quarter of its workforce and another, Norden Bank, plans to automate nearly one hundred of its branches. It is a long time coming in a country where most other industries have rapidly automated and streamlined, but it sends a signal to others in the financial services industry: they can no longer rest on their foreign laurels. Arthurian banks gained so much overseas business because the industry merged heavily after the reckless lending of the 1990s (1080s A.R.), immediately following the end of the social democratic era and the liberalisation of the economy. By the time recapitalisation was complete, enough foreign banks had retrenched from overseas markets to allow the Arthurian institutions to take up some of the business they left behind. In the spree that followed, Nykredit Bank bought stakes in South Orientine banks in particular. Now, the largest four banks have foreign loan shares of up to 42%, a figure which is only likely to increase as they cut back at home.

Arthuria's smaller banks are in a worse position. Some are not even profitable, and a population shift from the countryside to the cities has exacerbated the problem for rural banks in two ways: it has reduced their customer base and made them beholden to an older clientele which prefers personal (and costly) service. In the past decade, the Federal Fair Trade Agency has approved fifteen rural bank mergers and the pace is accelerating. Small banks have a role to play - they provide a financial lifeline to ageing customers and help to support local companies - so the Federal Financial Services Agency does not want to put too much pressure on them to merge, but there is a general recognition that stagnant business practices must be changed. The question is how to do so without shocking the system so much that it collapses. The federal and cantonal governments are encouraging some banks to offer more funding to local entrepreneurs and start-ups in order to both stimulate broader economic growth and provide new, profitable clients for financial institutions. It is one way of facing up to low profitability without the sorts of mergers which might stultify the industry.

But time is not with Arthurian banks. New financial technology (or fintech) companies are confronting them with stiff competition, and not all are from Arthuria itself. Radiatian companies are increasingly establishing offices in Egilfjorður, Arthuria's financial capital. Vindur, a messaging service, has expanded into financial transactions. A new online bank, Vikingur Bank, is becoming one of the country's most popular mortgage lenders; its CEO, Hans Hansen, attributes this to its incredibly slim costs by comparison to its traditional rivals. Vikingur Bank uses artificial intelligence to process loan applications, significantly streamlining its processes and cutting interest rates on home loans to 1.17% against the average of 1.27% for other major banks. It hopes to take advantage of a trend towards mobile banking, a service which is now ubiquitous amongst Arthuria's youth, but which it says can easily be spread to other age groups as well. If other banks heed its message, then there may soon be no more concierges, no more tellers, no more managers. Just a phone and the world at ones' fingertips.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Sun Jun 17, 2018 11:01 am

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Water Negotiations Test Relations Between Two Cantons





In Steinhald and Geldstrom, the biggest inter-cantonal debate in recent history is coming back to life.
27 Forlit, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 18:19 AIT

KORNMŒÐ, ARTHURIA — In the 1950s (1040s A.R.), relations between the neighbouring cantons of Steinhald and Geldstrom were hailed as an example for other cantonal governments to follow. Their respective President-Logmaður - Gunar Eriksen and Hafyr Trimdotar - were eager to work together. They signed treaties which paved the way for cross-border irrigation projects and significantly expanded police co-operation. Perhaps the most important agreement they reached concerned the flow of the Valhalur River, as well as a number of its tributaries. The Valhalur Treaty, signed in 1954 (1044 A.R.) and ratified by both Logting the following year, required Steinhald to construct five dams along the river's length. It also permitted a reservoir resulting from a dam which would be constructed in Geldstrom in 1960 (1050 A.R.) to extend across the border into Steinhald. In return, Geldstrom paid A100 million to the government of Steinhald, money which would allow them to construct better flood control measures in the wake of a catastrophic flood in Kornmœð in 1948 (1038 A.R.). Geldstrom would also transmit half of the energy generated from its dams on the Valhalur River to Steinhald, energy which was only feasibly-collected because dams within Steinhald had smoothed the flow to appropriate levels in the first place. At times, utility companies in Geldstrom have simply bought that energy right back at prices ranging from A200 million to A500 million per year, a good judge for how much the Valhalur River contributes to local energy needs.

The effects of the treaty on the public have been mixed. While it permitted cheaper bills for many households, up to 1000 families in Steinhald had to move to make way for a new reservoir. Now, the discontent has spread to the cantonal governments as well, despite years of reaping its benefits. The treaty is up for renegotiation at a time when the inter-cantonal relationship is at a relative low. The current President-Logmaður of Geldstrom, Risur Erling, has accused his opposite number in Steinhald of being "aloof" and "not interested in talking". He has already scrapped plans for five-way climate plan with Steinhald, Endarhejm, Egilfjorður and Vestmanaeyjar, the four other cantons which share land on the large western island of Grejhamar.

There is not long to decide whether or how to revise the Valhalur Treaty. It officially expires in 2024 (1114 A.R.) and, more worryingly, since 2014 (1104 A.R.) either party has been able to announce its outright termination within a ten year notice period. That puts years of diligent preparation at risk as politicians continue to argue. For years now, since before Risur Erling came to office, Geldstrom has sought to reduce the quantity of energy sent back to Steinhald. Politicians (and concerned members of the public) say that it has received more than enough to compensate it for having built the dams, and that while the entitlement lowers costs of energy in Steinhald it helps to keep them higher in Geldstrom. Risur has also vocally called for ecosystem management to be added to the treaty as one of its primary goals, alongside power generation and flood management. This is difficult for his counterpart in Steinhald - Elanur Balur - to counter, as it is exactly the sort of environmental measure which garners widespread support amongst almost all sections of society. It would, however, require costly work to the sixty-year-old dams in Steinhald to allow fish to pass along the river.

So Elanur has gone on the offensive, albeit politely. She has argued that the treaty in its current form has provided Geldstrom with more predictable river navigation by smoothing its flow, and a better supply of fresh water too. Moreover, she points out the costs inflicted on her own canton: adjustments to water levels upstream near the dams has reduced fish populations, eroded waterfront land and caused dust storms when reservoirs have drained. Some of the communes affected are seeking fixed reservoir levels and compensation paid to their residents (around 900 of them). These additional costs are not envisaged by the entitlement of energy returned to Steinhald by Geldstrom. As for ecosystem protection, Elanur notes that a dam in Geldstrom which was built before the treaty came into effect had already blocked migrating fish routes, and that it is consequently Risur's obligation to reintroduce them to the area.

If the talks fail, there will be no catastrophe. Steinhald would already be obliged to prevent floods in its section of the Valhalur River, and would still be likely to provide assistance in case of a flood downstream if asked to do so by either Geldstrom or the Federal Government. The differences would be that Geldstrom would then owe compensation to Steinhald (and any other cantons who provided aid). But the risks of flooding would be increased through a failure to communicate between the upstream and downstream sections of the river, and would spell bad tidings for inter-cantonal relations at a time when federal politics is becoming strained by divides amongst the general public. The talks to renegotiate the Valhalur Treaty could go two ways: either they could reinvigorate the collaborative approach which once marked projects between Steinhald and Geldstrom, or they could mimic the sharper divisions of political life across Arthuria. For the sake of the fish, we hope it's the former.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Fri Jun 22, 2018 6:07 am

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Majority Of Parties Now Support Introducing ID Cards





After issues with keeping track of a wave of migrants from the Karasian War, the government warms to a long-contested ID card scheme.
Midtenvetur, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 12:47 AIT

EINSKIRK, ARTHURIA — Immigration has traditionally been one of the most divisive issues in Arthurian politics. Explicitly racist policies were overturned in the 1950s (1040s A.R.), but even modern Arthuria retains some of the strictest criteria in the region for foreigners seeking to make it their home. It operates a points-based system which encourages skilled migrants who can fill gaps in the domestic labour market, and it sets a ceiling of total permissible migrants for the year. That ceiling is not arbitrary; the cantonal governments determine the number of skilled migrants they need and send this number to the Federal Government, which then collates them and adds additional slots to account for foreign students, family reunions and humanitarian cases. It is a fairly simple system in theory, and its execution has been mastered through decades of practice. The paperwork required to get a visa is minimal, and can be attained from offices at key migrant hot-spots throughout Noctur. From there, the government controls the inflow of migrants by transporting them to the country on specially-chartered flights. Combined with Arthuria's geographical circumstances, it means that border enforcement is rigid; only a tiny fraction of illegal immigrants in Arthuria enter the country illegally, the vast majority have overstayed their visas. This means that enforcement must move inland as well, where the government is far less effective at stopping migrants from illegally staying in the country. They rely on local authorities to check migrant status at regular intervals, but this is difficult to do without an easy form of identification such as a national ID card. In one scandal, the communal authorities of Einskirk, the capital of Nordmark, relied on landlords to check migrants' paperwork. The guide by which the landlords had to abide was long and complicated; many were over-cautious and denied housing to anyone without a passport. Nearly one hundred Zanze who had fled the Karasian War and who did not own passports were deprived of a home. In other cantons, the same story is repeated for public services or for jobs.

Unsurprisingly, the scandal reached national headlines and was the impetus for two debates in the Alting, one in the Folkting and the other in the Landting. Both drew on two historical issues in Arthurian politics which were thought to have caused the 'unwelcoming environment' to which some migrants have been subjected. The first is immigration itself, particularly its enforcement. Aside from a few overly-empathetic Folkmaður, the majority of legislators agree that conducting migrant status checks is a necessary part of policy, in order to maintain the rule of law as well as ensure that new arrivals are receiving fair treatment. Clearly, in some cases, they are not, and the problem is therefore how to improve status checks so that they can be simpler yet more effective. This question drew on the second historical issue: a national identity card register. For decades, parties of the left have championed this cause as a non-discriminatory way of checking the identity of anyone in the population. They have been unable to implement it because of staunch opposition from the right and centre, whose counter has been that there is no need for the state to check identities, that ID cards are an invasion of privacy, and that they create the potential for the state to more easily oppress its citizens. What was surprising about the two debates on this matter was that many Folkmaður and Landmaður seemed to have shifted away from the liberal fear of ID cards and towards a tentative acceptance that they could be of use in Arthuria.

At its heart, the argument that these people put forward - many of them from the centrist parties or the centrist elements of right-wing parties - was that Arthuria's newfound openness since the end of the social democratic era had altered the equation of the argument, making traditional liberal counters largely redundant. Firstly, there is now a need to check identities; thanks to the influx of foreigners for work, study and travel, access to the labour market is now contingent on one's exact status as either a national citizen or an eligible migrant. Secondly, so long as there are no ID cards in Arthuria, identity must be ascertained by other means - such as bank statements, tax records and phone bills - which represent a greater invasion of privacy than a simple card. And thirdly, as the current scandal has illustrated, as often as an overabundance of information assists state oppression, a lack of that information can assist it as well. It was, after all, uncertainty over migrant status that created the 'unwelcoming environment' to which so many have been unnecessarily exposed, an environment which was pursued as one of the answers to the question of inland migration enforcement. Creating a new national identity register, according to these new converts, would be a different answer, and one which would confer far more dignity on immigrants than the present system. The only other alternative would be to rely solely on border enforcement, do nothing, and hope for the best.

When looked at like that, it is understandable why opponents are having a hard time arguing against a national identity register. They have been left behind by well-reasoned points which have brought the debate into the modern era. In fact, they are so far behind that proponents of the scheme are not just arguing why ID cards should be introduced, but also how they could be implemented in the near-future. Nowadays, it is possible that an identity register would not even need physical cards. Technology can allow citizens to be allocated unique numbers to which their data could be tied, and which officials can look up when required. It does away with some of the physical costs of producing cards, as well as the hassle of having to carry them or replace them when lost. But it is mired by the same worries that bog down other electronic registers. For those who prefer plastic cards, the advantage is that a modicum of privacy can be maintained; physical cards can be produced only when explicitly requested, and can be claimed voluntarily rather than being automatically allocated. Ultimately, these ideas are not particularly relevant until the matter of what kind of data is held in an identity register is fully settled. Fans of efficient government suggest that health, tax and biometric data can all be collated under a registry, and that an ID number could be used to facilitate so-called 'e-government', which could currently provide up to 3000 services to citizens. The most extreme proposals state that a registry could include data on whether citizens wish to be buried or cremated. Naturally, those more conscious of civil liberties are loathe to make ID cards a massive aggregation of personal data.

Safeguards would be vital. The Information Self-Defence Force, the Arthurian military's cyber warfare branch, already provides powerful encryption to online government services, helping to guard against data breaches. Local officials who access citizens' UBI records already have their employee numbers logged; if everyone were to be issued unique numbers then these too could be recorded when officials searched for private data. In the case of migrants, however, the government would need to go beyond safeguards. A change in culture, such that status checks veered towards the generous rather than the cautious, would be required. Kristen Demokraten Parðil, a centrist party, has proposed a one-time amnesty on illegal immigrants were a national registry to be rolled out, in order to convince everyone that the policy is in their best interest. Whatever the technicalities, it is clear that the case for ID cards in Arthuria is stronger than ever. In the wake of the scandal in Einskirk, the chances that they will be introduced in the near-future are greater than ever too.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Mon Aug 06, 2018 8:29 am

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Calls For Arthuria To Introduce A Single Definition For Death





Death is defined differently by most of the cantons of the Arthurian Federation. Opponents are increasingly calling for this to change.
14 Wodmanaður, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 15:21 AIT

VESTMANAEYJAR, ARTHURIA — Rudolf Koivu was declared officially dead by doctors in Vestmanaeyjar five months ago. Though he had been put on a ventilator, tests revealed that his brain was not experiencing basic functions such as consciousness or respiratory reflexes. Consequently, they prepared to disconnect any medical equipment and remove his body to the morgue. They were stopped by his family who, as believers in the indigenous Antarctic religion, claim that life ends only when there is no more breath or heartbeat. The local Cantonal Administrative Court sided with them, ensuring that Rudolf remained on artificial ventilation until his heart naturally stopped two weeks ago. To his family, that he could be declared dead despite clearly breathing made no sense. But in most of the country, doctors would have reached the same conclusion. Seven out of the twelve cantons judge that if a brain has suffered an irreversible loss of its functions then the patient must officially be termed as being dead. Four of these cantons - Vestmanaeyjar, Nordmark, Kopmaðurhavn and Geldstrom - require evidence that the whole brain is no longer working, usually by assessing intracranial blood flow, but they are governed by this only through their own laws. Another of the seven cantons - Storaeyjar - demands only the death of the brainstem, which connects the spinal cord to the rest of the brain and regulates functions such as reflexes and breathing. The argument of its cantonal government is that brainstem death is, in essence, a proxy for whole brain death.

It is not a question which arises often, as the brain usually ceases to operate at the same time as the heart and lungs. Indeed, a lack of pulse or breathing is often used as an indication that brain death has occurred, rather than an alternative definition of death. But when objections do arise, they can be important. The time at which someone dies can affect whether their spouse is considered to be widowed, when insurance companies must pay compensation, or even whether the Landmød must be called a new Raðmaður sought. Thus, as bio-ethicists become more vociferous, situations such as Rudolf's take on greater meaning and begin to shape Arthuria's approach to death. Rudolf's father says that death is more than a medical definition: "it is a value judgement, and it is influenced by everything from our philosophy or religion to our society and culture". That suggests that it is changeable. Rudolf's family certainly hopes so, as another case is being taken to the Cantonal Administrative Court to determine whether his original death certificate (based on brain death) can be revoked and replaced by another citing the moment when he stopped breathing.

It would seem sensible at first for the court to rule in Rudolf's favour. Lack of pulse was long considered to be the standard definition of death. But in the middle of the last century, medical advances allowed machines to aerate people's lungs and pump blood through their bodies. Essentially, it increased the amount of time that it can take to die, so that no longer is death necessarily a single instantaneous moment in time so much as a protracted experience. A federal committee determined forty years ago that the answer to this issue was to define death as being that of the brain, but it recommended that cantons be able to decide how to measure that: either by permanent damage to the whole of the brain or by the cessation of breathing and a heartbeat. Why they focused on the brain comes down to Arthurian history and culture; why not all cantons adopted the committee's findings boils down to exactly the same. Since the arrival of outlanders to Arthurian shores three centuries ago, the popular philosophical approach distinguishes the mind (represented by the brain) from the body, replacing the traditional view of the heart as the most important organ. It is the human intellect, after all, that separates the species from other animals, claim bio-ethicists who favour this approach. However, the committee also adopted an economic approach to the question (fitting in with the rationalist approach to politics espoused by post-rediscovery Arthurian philosophers). They argued that the cost of aerating braindead patients was unnecessarily expensive and gained nothing in return. On the flip-side, those organ donors who were declared brain-dead tended to have more useable organs than those who waited until cardio-respiratory death before having their innards extracted. It was a morbid calculation for the committee to make, but it recognised a growing problem that more organs were being needed as medical technology advanced.

Not that this swayed legislators in the five cantons which base death off of cardio-respiratory principles. While Storaeyjar openly admits that a shortage of organs partly drove their decision to introduce brainstem death criteria, the cantonal administration of Grejhavn says that its citizens have regularly exclaimed this factor as a primary concern of moving the definition away from breathing and heartbeats. Many worry that potential donors will be declared braindead in order to more quickly use their organs in time-sensitive transplant operations. At least once in Arthurian medical memory, a successful transplant operation has been soured by questions about whether the donor was prematurely pronounced braindead. Authorities in Lysgard have attempted to find a compromise, allowing certified organ donors to be declared dead when their brain functions cease. But the law still involves confusion for non-donors, who can either be declared dead based on brain-death or cardio-respiratory failure. Æsland's law simply states that death is "the absence of all evidence of life". It is deliberately ambiguous, but reveals an issue with the current approach that is exacerbated as time goes by and medical technology improves. That is, it is increasingly evident to medical professionals that people declared dead based on the cessation of brain functions do not actually show a permanent lack of neurological activity. In one case in Storaeyjar, a woman has been on life-support for three years because her family has been able to prove that her hypothalamus is still secreting hormones, despite the hospital's assessment that she is clinically braindead. For supporters of the definition of brain-death, examples such as this one are not arguments against using neurological criteria for diagnoses, but they do show that as medical knowledge advances the law must keep up. To do otherwise would be to leave doctors too much room for interpretation.

Scientific arguments do not help advance the debate much further, though, for its fundamentals are not about how the brain ceases to function so much as whether the brain should be a component in death at all. More often than not, this relies upon religious belief. Though almost all Arthurians now accept brain-death as a legitimate criterion for judgement, there are still a few who take the traditional approach of using a mirror to detect the final breath leaving the body. The same is true of Rudolf Koivu and other indigenous Antarctic peoples. Essentially, so long as the heart is beating and breath enters and leaves the body (even if this is reliant upon a machine), the soul is still present. It is an approach to life which gives the whole body greater prominence than the more modern mind-centric views adopted in Arthuria. That is why a petition is gaining ground to take the issue of death to the Federal Constitutional Court; signatories claim that the use of brain-death by seven cantons violates the right to freedom of religion enshrined in the Basic Law. Kopmaðurhavn is held up as an example for supporters of the petition, for preventing a doctor from using brain-death as a standard if they believe that to do so would contravene their patient's religious beliefs and for directing them to take "reasonable account" of a patient's religious or moral beliefs. Opponents claim that the Basic Law only covers living citizens, but as the whole issue is about how to define the term 'living', this holds little sway.

By framing the debate as one of civil liberties, proponents of greater choice in death criteria will tap into a bountiful stream of support. Polls tend to show that people support the idea of brain-death when it is explained to them, but that they feel differently when confronted with case studies of certain individuals who, for their own reasons, would prefer a cardio-respiratory diagnosis. When looked at beyond the confines of the debate, support for 'opting-out' of the brain-death definition (within reasonable boundaries) makes sense too. In Arthuria particularly, civil rights campaigners have long promoted policies which allow individuals a greater say over their deaths, whether that be through assisted dying or checking out of hospitals to die in their own homes. Allowing them to determine how their death is defined, so long as it does not prevent the proper functioning of social institutions, is a logical addition to such rights which are already enjoyed in all cantons. This would allow patients not only the choice between brain-death and cardio-respiratory death, but also more liberal notions such as an irreversible loss of consciousness. Holding them back would only be the ability of medical science to diagnose such standards. The practical implications of offering greater choice over death seem small compared to the freedom it extends to hundreds of people.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Wed Aug 08, 2018 1:42 pm

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Whilst Others Lag Behind, Arthuria Shows There Is Business In Blood





Arguments against paying for plasma sound rational at first. But in truth, they leave a vital global health market overly reliant on Arthurian exports.
16 Wodmanaður, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 20:40 AIT

VESTMANAEYJAR, ARTHURIA — It is two hundred years since the first successful human-to-human blood transfusion took place on Arthurian shores. Today, the procedure is commonplace around the world and trading in blood products has become a big business in its own right, with global exports worth more than those of aeroplanes. However, it is not the red stuff that buyers are after. This 'whole blood' is not needed in the same quantities that it once was thanks to more efficient blood-bank management and modern medicinal techniques. Some operations which previously required up to three units of blood now need none, such that the total number of red blood cell units used in Arthurian hospitals has dropped by 25% since 2003 (1093 A.R.). Nowadays, it is plasma - the viscous, yellow liquid component of blood - which is in highest demand. It is extremely therapeutic. It can restore weak immune systems, such as those suffering from the effects of chemotherapy, and save children threatened by Rhesus disease (a complication arising when the blood type of a foetus is incompatible with the mother's; it was responsible for 10% of stillbirths in Arthuria fifty years ago). Historically, plasma was collected from donations of whole blood by volunteers, but demand quickly outpaced supply. Now, the proportion of the stuff taken from whole blood is only 13% (compared to 40% in 1990, or 1080 A.R.). The rest is collected via apheresis, an hour-long process which spins whole blood in a centrifuge and skims off the plasma. The remaining red blood cells are mixed with an anti-coagulant and transfused back into the donor. Though it takes up to six times longer than whole blood donation, apheresis can occur far more frequently and gather more plasma than the traditional method, thanks largely to plasma's replenishment rate. Whereas the older method yields 250ml of plasma every two months (at most), apheresis collects up to 800ml of plasma twice per week. One donor could supply 80 litres per year compared to 1.6 litres from whole blood donation. Indeed, regular donors are one of the mainstays of an industry which is growing exponentially in Arthuria.

In 2015, almost 50 million litres of plasma was used across Noctur. As of 2016 (1106 A.R.), much of that came from collection centres in Arthuria, combining to make up 1.6% of the country's total goods exports. The reason that Arthuria has managed to carve this niche out in the global market is simple: it allows companies to pay individuals for their plasma. A few other countries do too, but many others refuse. Almost every importer of plasma products bans payments for the stuff, based on historical scares and ungrounded arguments. The first issue they raise is that payments might induce donors to hide dangerous conditions or behaviour, such as intravenous drug use or risky sex, which would make their donation unsafe. Stemming from tainted blood scandals which infected thousands with hepatitis, this holds much sway. It is true of whole blood, which cannot be sanitised and is not accepted by Arthurian hospitals if it is sourced from a paid donor. But it is not relevant to plasma, which is heat-treated, bathed in chemicals and then screened for possible impurities. Not a single case of transmission of disease has ever been recorded in the plasma industry, such that Arthurian doctors overwhelmingly agree that products from paid donors are as safe as those from unpaid ones. The second argument against paid plasma is that fewer people would voluntarily donate whole blood were they provided compensation for just their plasma instead. Against such competition, whole blood collectors would have to begin charging, a risky strategy considering the product cannot be sanitised as plasma can. There is, however, no evidence that paying for plasma reduces the supply of donated whole blood. Indeed, Arthurians continue to voluntarily donate as much blood per person as they previously did, and a proportionately equal amount to countries which ban payment for plasma products. Finally, social campaigners worry that paid plasma collection centres prey on the poor. Certainly, data suggests that such centres are concentrated in poorer areas of the country, but, ongoing long-term studies aside, there is no evidence that plasma donors suffer any harm to their health.

Perhaps more worryingly, the solution posed by opponents to paid plasma puts the supply of the stuff (and therefore the health of patients who rely on it) at risk. They most frequently propose a voluntary system of plasma collection similar to that used to gather blood. This is already the case in most countries, and yet the data shows that it is those countries which are forced to import plasma (almost all countries which allow payment for it are self-sufficient). The simple fact is that as demand for plasma increases, it cannot be met through altruism alone. The current system, with some countries banning payment and others promoting it, creates other issues too, mainly geographical imbalance. Arthuria carries disproportionate weight in international plasma markets, for example. Half of its production is shipped elsewhere in Noctur. Its liberal policies attract pharmaceutical companies from countries which ban payment to open collection centres in the country (around two-thirds of such centres are foreign-owned). Even some foreign-designed drugs are manufactured in Arthuria, the better to exploit proximity to the supply lines which produce the necessary plasma. All of it leads to an over-reliance on one or two countries. Were Arthurian supplies to be interrupted for whatever reason, it would lead to misery for thousands worldwide.


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Postby The Arthurian Isles » Fri Aug 10, 2018 7:36 am

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Gentrification Has Made Kopmaðurhavn The City It Is Today





Gentrification attracts many critics. But it has helped to turn Kopmaðurhavn into one of the liveliest and most innovative cities in Arthuria.
18 Wodmanaður, 1108 A.R. | By Baldur Stefensen (bstefensen@cicero.org) | 13:06 AIT

KOPMAÐURHAVN, ARTHURIA — Leftist parties across Arthuria differ on some things, but they tend to come together in their condemnations of various facets of Arthurian society. The byword against which they are currently railing is 'gentrification' - or, to put it in another way, 'poor urban neighbourhoods becoming wealthier'. This issue has particularly riled members of Kopmaðurhavn's cantonal Vinst party (the Left), whose city-canton has experienced the effects of the phenomenon more starkly than most. Indeed, the changes in the city have been rapid. What was formerly a declining industrial shipping centre is now a home to innovative tech start-ups and IT firms, and its average income per capita has risen from 8% below the national average in 2003 (1093 A.R.) to 5% above it today. A flourishing Kopmaðurhavn is the result of a combination of factors, not least the policies of Frelskap - the Liberals, a centre-right party - who have led the cantonal legislative Logting either in or out of coalition for the past two decades. They have successfully drawn legions of young, well-to-do professionals to the city, creating a pool of talent for the countless new companies. Vinst, however, sees the effects of the turnaround as being detrimental to traditionally-vulnerable sections of society, particularly the urban poor and newly-arrived migrants. According to the party's members, the emergent professional class has not only smothered the unique cultures of local neighbourhoods, it has also caused increases in rent and property prices to the extent that poorer families can no longer afford to live in their homes. This is already a social ill; the fact that it disproportionately affects non-native Arthurians verges on criminal.

But their concerns are unfounded. A rigorous academic report published by Dr Emil Stefansen of the University of Kristiansand combines the results of numerous empirical analyses to show that there is no correlative rise in displacement within gentrifying neighbourhoods. On the contrary, it appears that poorer residents are more likely to stay in their homes if they live in areas which are becoming richer. Building on this report, Frelskap members of Kopmaðurhavn's Logting have argued that just as the left over-estimates the ills of gentrification, it under-estimates its benefits. For example, long-time residents of gentrifying neighbourhoods experience lower crime rates and improved amenities over time. And if homeowners decide to sell, they receive much more money for their house than what they originally paid for it. That members of the left can ignore these positives whilst historically having condemned economic segregation and lack of investment in poor neighbourhoods appears contradictory in the face of the emerging evidence; gentrification offers a simple counter to both of those problems.

How, though, does gentrification have so little an effect on the displacement of long-resident families when its opponents have accused it of driving people away for decades? In his report, Emil offers three main reasons. The first is that poorer families tend to move around more frequently anyway, regardless of the circumstances of their neighbourhood. The second is that many poorer areas have lacked investment for decades, leaving considerable slack in their commercial and residential property markets. This means that when wealthier businesses and homeowners move in, they can do so without simultaneously pushing out incumbents. Indeed, Emil points to one neighbourhood of Kopmaðurhavn which has reduced its poverty rate from 15% to 6% in just a decade without any displacement taking place. Official figures paint a similar picture: the number of poor families living in Kopmaðurhavn's gentrifying districts barely changed from 1990 (1080 A.R.) to 2015 (1105 A.R.), a time period which includes the implementation of Frelskap's policies within the cantonal Logting. Finally, a third reason for gentrification's minimal effect on displacement is that Arthurian administrations offer protections against homelessness, which tend to stabilise property prices and rental rates if they rise too rapidly.

It is not enough to explain away gentrification's negatives, however. For those poorer families who remain in gentrifying neighbourhoods, the benefits are plentiful. The influx of affluent, often native-Arthurian professionals and families provide an expanding base of new customers for local businesses, and one which has a far higher disposable income than long-time residents. As for those residents, they in turn benefit from new businesses. These tend to include well-stocked markets which offer healthier fare than those typically seen in non-gentrifying neighbourhoods, and shops offering a wider range of products than were previously available. They also bring employment opportunities closer to many peoples' homes, cutting the costs of commuting (both in time and money). As wealth flows more freely, tax collection draws in more money and gentrifying neighbourhoods tend to attract more attention from city authorities, increasing their political clout. Combined with faster falls in crime rates, newly-gentrified neighbourhoods generally bring in a higher-than-average level of investment. All of this brings positives to the entire country, not just the area in which regeneration occurs. For example, in a country where unintended racial segregation is an accidental reality (it is hard to avoid when only 2% of the population are non-native), the movement of Arthurians into largely-migrant districts is an example of both racial and economic integration, diluting the concentration of poverty nation-wide. Far from simply being a morally-worthy action, increased interaction between native and foreign, wealthy and poor is linked to reduced levels of crime and teenage pregnancy, and increased life expectancy for all involved, particularly the less well-off. Successive Arthurian governments have been trying to achieve such outcomes for centuries. That the market is doing so with minimal interference should be applauded and embraced.

Indeed, elsewhere the regeneration of Kopmaðurhavn has gathered enough momentum that it is drawing renewed investment from some of its older companies, whose presence in the city was well-known long before the tech firms started arriving. Volar, a manufacturer of electric vehicles (which started life over a century ago producing the petrol variety), has announced its purchase of a huge ruin in one of the city's last un-gentrified areas, the Old Docks. The vast expanse of the Port Central Station has lain empty and dilapidated for thirty years, a victim of the decline of industry in Kopmaðurhavn. But at a party held there last week - attended by thousands of Volar employees, city residents and local officials - the company announced its plan to refurbish the ruin. It is an auspicious start to the neighbourhood's redevelopment; surrounding the station are half-empty tenements and boarded-up factories. Despite a few new trendy restaurants (with good ratings on local reviewing sites), not many professionals have yet made the move. It was a risky move from Volar whose CEO, Baldur Eldursen, does not reveal how much was paid for the ruin or what the cost estimates are for its refurbishment. All he says is that after too much time spent under-investing, the company has accumulated funds for such reconstruction projects. They have already had to dig into that pot to pay for a survey of the place to ensure it is structurally sound in the first place.

Volar managed to survive the 2016-17 (1106-07 A.R.) recession as the strongest of Arthuria's electric car-makers. But it is not resting on its laurels. Baldur announced at the beginning of the year that the company would aim to cut costs by $4 billion and invest up to $500 million in a self-driving start-up also located in Kopmaðurhavn. To shore up investors' expectations, he also hopes to begin manufacturing electric commercial vehicles in order to break into a so-far underexploited market, and is spending a further $500 million on redesigning up to 20 of its buildings in the south of the city (at the same time as taking on the Port Central project). Baldur hopes that such high levels of investment in key infrastructure will prove to investors and onlookers alike that Volar is prepared for ever-changing car technologies, including ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps. No doubt, he is banking on the presence of a growing cadre of young professionals to provide the talent behind his big plans. He has experience, after all. Volar used to own an area of factories replete with smokestacks in the east of Kopmaðurhavn. As it transitioned to green transport, these were replaced with the successful electric car manufacturing plants which are simultaneously a testbed for environmental production methods.

As for the Port Central Station, Baldur envisions cafés, restaurants, shops and performance centres on the ground floor, with office space above. He has been promised subsidies by the cantonal Logting for these plans, and received requests from tenants for office-space. At least half of those offices will already be taken up, however, by Volar's own staff and transport start-ups in which it has invested. No doubt they will be working on the next generation of green vehicles.


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