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Försvarsmakten formed

 
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STOCKHOLM - The national Steering Committee passed a law reforming the country's defense forces. 
 
Under the Instrument of National Defense, the Försvarsmakten, the Empire's armed forces, would consist of the Army (Armén), Air Force (Flygvapnet), and Navy (Marinen). It will also incorporate local defense units stationed in each constituent region of the Empire (Danish Home Guard, Norwegian Home Guard, etc) organized under the aegis of the Swedish National Guard (Hemvärnet).
 
For the general purpose of building up its national defense capabilities, and given the current state of world affairs, conscription will be used. "We would like to make it clear that this is not intended to alarm our neighbors or cause any reason for concern whatsoever," Committee chairman Fredrik von Magnus said in a speech in front of the Stockholm Palace. This, he continued, was in accord with the policy of armed neutrality that the Empire intended to pursue. When asked by a journalist about the projected size of the Försvarsmakten, von Magnus replied that the law allowed for no more than 200,000 troops and personnel on active duty and another 300,000 in reserve. 
 
The Steering Committee also passed a stop-gap spending bill to fund the Försvarsmakten, the Defense Ministry, and relevant government institutions. It will also form an "interim" national budget to provide for the Empire's financial needs until the election of the Riksdag, which would be tasked with forming a permanent national budget. The constituent regional governments also took the initiative to provide for their defense needs as well.

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Raids in Asgaard lead to sweeping arrests
 
STOCKHOLM - Elements of the Piketenheten (Special Operations of the police force) and the Särskilda Operationsgruppen (Special Operations Task Group, SOG) launched a series of raids against selected buildings in the northern Swedish city of Asgaard today. In the ensuing firefight, over fifty suspected members of Sturmfrunt members and at least two dozen of Piketenheten and SOG troopers were killed or wounded, and dozens of arrests made. Interior minister Ludvig de Stressen stated that this joint operation was a "major victory" in the campaign against the group responsible for a spate of terrorist attacks across the Empire.
 
The Sturmfrunt, also known as the so-called 'Silver Guardians' and abbreviated as SfT, is a right-wing extremist group that aims to overthrow the Empire and replace it altogether with a fascist government dedicated to Martensist ideals. (They had initially hoped to restore Martensist rule in neighboring Germany, and failing that, to use the Scandinavian region as a springboard to export their 'revolution', but have since focused on making Scandinavia a "Sturmfront fortress".) They enjoyed a brief surge of popularity among extremist groups during the Norse Spring, particularly in the 'stronghold' of Asgaard, although they were prosecuted by the protectorate authorities and then by the Empire after its formation. 
 
The police have struggled against the Sturmfrunt for some time, owing to the confusion inherent in the national formation process and the shortage of funds and trained personnel. The prestige of the Swedish police and security services were beginning to suffer in prestige, with an increasing number of politicians and citizens accusing them of being in cahoots with the group, so the raids in Stockholm and Oslo were viewed as "victories" by de Stressen's ministry in the war against terrorism. The Empire presently allows freedom of expression, but not if it calls or otherwise advocates for the violent overthrow of the regime, which Sturmfrunt is guilty of.
 
Interestingly, despite its terroristic activities, the Sturmfrunt is officially designated as a "hate group" under Swedish law. This peculiarity, along with growing public pressure by lobbying groups, has prompted the Steering Committee to consider a bill that would officially designate it a "domestic terrorist organization" and allocate increased funding and resources against them. Other related groups such as Nordic Socialists would be outlawed by the proposed law as well.
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Expansion of Bergen continues
 
BERGEN - The revitalization of the port of Bergen continues. The Bergen Initiative was launched by the Bergen city authorities, with the implicit blessing of the Norwegian regional government and the Swedish national government, to attract foreign investment and stimulate the city's economic growth in the long run, despite the global economic slump. "The pursuit of economic prosperity and happiness would go a long way in ensuring long-term economic growth in the Kingdom of Norway and the Swedish Empire as a whole," Norway's High Chancellor Harald von Thommessen said in a speech in Kristiania (Oslo). This has struck some economic analysts as odd because the Empire under Frederik von Magnus had made it clear on a number of occasions that Sweden would pursue a policy of economic austerity as a means of insulating the Empire from the ravages of the global economic crisis. The Storting, which recently replaced the Norwegian steering committee following regional legislative elections in the Kingdom of Norway, had passed legislation earlier in the month appropriating over 6 million kronas for the revitalization project. Situated on its namesake peninsula on Norway's western coast, Bergen is the largest port in Norway after Kristiania.
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Denmark takes steps toward university tuition repeal
 
KOPENHAMN - The Danish Education Ministry issued instructions to school boards to draw up plans for the abolition of tuitions for Imperial and foreign students, in accordance to the recently-passed 'Higher Education Tuition Repeal Act'. This makes the Kingdom of Denmark the second constituent country to move toward the abolition of university tuitions, after Sweden -- although the Folketing narrowly failed to pass legislation that would've mandated student loan forgiveness (more like 'equalization', actually). Under increasing pressure from Chairman Fredrik von Magnus, the national Steering Committee has begun considering a student debt forgiveness bill that would include features such as a 10/10 payment formula and restrictions on federal interest rates, among others. Both these measures have proven to be very popular, especially with students (which had struggled with heavy debt under the old Norse regime) -- although they have faced some criticism by academic experts. "The [Tuition Repeal Act], particularly its clauses establishing a monthly stipend (the Statens Uddannelsesstotte, SU), would lead to student complacency by encouraging them to choose degrees that do not meet the Empire's labor market demands," expert Mikel Almer said. Nevertheless, the Education Ministry indicated its intentions on continuing forward with its course of action in regards to Denmark's education system.
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