Halsberg Central News Agency
The High President today announced that the Government will be holding a referendum on whether to adopt the Euro. At a press conference in the Veroni Chamber of Commerce, he said:
"This is a democratic nation. I have my own views on the single currency, as do the citizens of Halsberg. It is only fair that such an important decision is made by the people."
He added that the Office of the High President will be taking a neutral stance on this issue. High President Solomon's party, however, will be campaigning strongly for the single currency. It is one of the the rare events in which the Unionist and Conservative party campaigns for more European integration.
As expected, the stock markets closed on a high note tonight, just over 9,000. Businesses are excited by the prospect of adopting the Euro, acknowledging the thriving economies of Eurozone members. Bill Whitehall, CEO of HalCell, the major mobile operator, had this to say:
"Of course its exciting. The already thriving Halsberg economy will get a huge boost from joining this group of nations. Trading will be easier, and we will be protected from major economic shocks."
But Jillian Peterson, co-chair of the think tank Halsberg First, has a different view:
"This is awful! Our currency is part of who we are as a nation, it defines us. If we hand over control of our currency to someone in another country, who knows what could happen! If we get rid of the good old Halsberg Dollar, there will be severe consequences."
It is still unclear who will be leading each campaign. David Smith, outspoken critic of the EU and leader of the Independence Party, is perhaps the most likely candidate to oppose the Euro. With the High President declaring his neutrality, the leader of the Yes Campaign will most likely be from the Libertarian Coalition. The second-largest party in the Parliamentary Council, the Libertarians have been recognised as the most Pro-Europe. Joshua Hughes, leader of the Libertarians, may be the Yes Campaign's visible representative.
The Euro debate has started in earnest, and there is a long time to go before voters take to the polls on March 1st.
The two referendum campaigns have official leaders as of today. In a statement released by the Electoral Regulation Committee, widely presumed candidate Joshua Hughes was named leader of the Yes Campaign. In an exclusive interview with HCNA, the Libertarian leader said:
"I am honoured to hold this extremely influential position as our nation goes into this referendum. Me and my campaign will be working hard to spread the benefits that adopting the single currency will have on our nation, such as increased trade and economic activity with our neighbours."
However, the appointment of Edward Goodwin as leader of the No Campaign came as a large surprise. Recently appointed chairman of the Independence Party, Edward Goodwin has been largely unknown throughout the political world. He is known to be a close ally of the Independence Party leader David Smith. In a statement released by his campaign, Mr. Goodwin said:
"I will fight this currency with every ounce of strength in my body. The Halsberg Dollar has accompanied this nation through good and bad times. It is a symbol of our sovereignty and independence. Our economy is doing perfectly well without the Euro, and will continue to do so with the dollar."
Daily Opinion Poll:
St. Philips, HL- The two campaign leaders came face to face today in the first televised debate of the Euro referendum campaign. The two leaders sparred in what appeared to be quite a personal series of attacks. Joshua Hughes, head of the Yes Campaign, was the target of the majority of them. HCNA moderator Peter Hale struggled to keep Edward Goodwin, leader of the No Campaign, on topic:
_Hale - "Mr. Goodwin, the debate is on the Euro, not your opponent's history..."
Goodwin - "I don't care what the debate is about! I cannot let the people of Halsberg be brainwashed by this hypocrite! He voted for 5 consecutive unbalanced budgets when he was in the Council, yet he campaigns for a magical "quick fix" solution."
Hale - "Mr Goodwin, that is in no way relevant to the discussion."_
My Hughes remained calm throughout the debate, preferring to focus on the issue at hand. He gained loud applause from the crowd when he noted that the Halsberg Dollar is extremely weak when compared with the Eurozone trading bloc.
Mr Goodwin's inability to contain himself in the debate may have cost him precious votes. In a race that is neck and neck, every last vote counts. Mr Goodwin's campaign cannot afford another slip-up like tonight.
Daily Opinion Poll:
The Euro debate is hotting up, with the two viewpoints literally neck and neck in the polls. Joshua Hughes has released an advertisement brutally attacking his opponent and the Euro-sceptic ideology. In it, an animated Euro symbol is seen sprinting ahead of a similar Dollar sign after hitting its legs with a large hammer. This advert has caused controversy however, with the statistics shown being questioned by economists and businesses alike.
With the Halsberg economy booming, many people are questioning the need for a change of currency. Edward Goodwin's campaign has also released an advertisement presenting this issue. At a speech to a business leaders in Haligovina, he said:
"The thriving economy that you have created is a testament to the strength of the Dollar. I can promise you this, our economy will stall and contract if we adopt the Euro"
An independent poll conducted by the Halsberg Institute for Statistics found that voters are most concerned about the loss of sovereignty a switch to the single currency would demand.
In an unprecedented move, the electorate appears to be splitting down the middle on this issue. This campaign is the closest in terms of opinion polls Halsberg has ever known. Nearly everyone has a deeply held viewpoint on the single currency, with only 2% undecided. This 2% could prove crucial when the voters cast their ballots.
Daily Opinion Poll:
With only one day to go until the electorate cast their votes, both campaigns are desperately pushing for votes. The latest HCNA poll reveals that the vote will be extremely close, perhaps with the No Campaign pulling ahead slightly. After being questioned on the latest poll, leader of the No Campaign Edward Goodwin told us:
"This poll obviously shows that our message of self-sufficiency is resonating with the people of Halsberg. I am confident that we will see a very good result for the No Campaign tomorrow."
The office of Joshua Hughes, leader of the Yes Campaign, declined to comment.
Of course, HCNA will have full coverage of tomorrow's vote.
Daily Opinion Poll:
Will the nation choose to abandon the Dollar for good, or will they reject the Euro. It has been one of the closest ballots in the history of Halsberg. The two campaigns have each had their time at the top the opinion polls, only to come crashing down again. But it seems that Edward Goodwin has managed to turn his struggling campaign around. According to the last opinion poll carried out before the vote, the No Campaign appeared to be surging at just the right time. Political editor for the Hellenberg Chronicle Stewart Johnson said:
"It is looking increasingly likely that the No Campaign will win this referendum. Of course, Joshua Hughes and the Yes Campaign still have a fighting chance, but they have struggled to.justify a switch to the Euro. Edward Goodwin also has the built-in support of millions of self-identified conservatives, a group that the Yes Campaign have desperately been trying to woo. Whether or not this has an impact on the result has yet to be see"
As Mr. Johnson said, the Yes Campaign has been unable to convince voters that a change in currency is necessary or wise. The Confederacy's economy has recently been classified as a "Powerhouse". This has prompted many business leaders to withdraw their support from the Yes Campaign.
We now go live to the first declaration of the night from the East electoral district:
As official Presiding Officer for the East electoral district, I hereby give notice that the referendum results are: Yes - 34% and No - 66%. The turnout was 78%, and there were 132 rejected ballot papers"
The results are quite clear from the East tonight. Traditionally a conservative stronghold, the East caused quite a shock when nearly every opinion poll up until yesterday showed the Yes Campaign firmly in the lead.
Joshua Hughes, reacting to the Eastern results:
"Well, it really comes as no surprise. But this is only one electoral district, there are three more. I am most confident that the Halsberg Mint will begin production of Euro coins within the next few weeks."
And second in the declaration schedule is the North:
"As official Presiding Officer as approved by the High President, I hereby give notice that the ballot results for the North Electoral District are as follows: Yes - 45%, No - 55%. The turnout was 87%, and the number of rejected ballot papers was 364"
The North, known for being the most politically aware in the Confederacy, has chosen to stay with the Halsberg Dollar. This does come as a surprise. The north of the country historically has always voted Libertarian, the most Pro-Europe party. Perhaps the sudden change in heart is because of the fact that No Campaign leader Edward Goodwin was born and brought up in the North.
The West is now ready to announce its results:
_I, as Presiding Officer for the Western Electoral District hereby give notice that the results of the referendum in the West are: Yes - 68%, and No - 32%. The turnout was 47%, and there were 851 rejected ballot papers" _
Harriet Beaton, spokeswoman for the Yes Campaign, has this to say:
"The people of the West have accepted our message of common sense economic principles, namely, harmonising our currency with that of our neighbours. I predict that the South will follow suit"
And last but most certainly not least, the South presents its results:
As appointed Presiding Officer for the Southern Electoral District, I can give notice that the results of the referendum in the South are: Yes - 42%, and No - 58%. The turnout was 64%, and there were 89 rejected ballot papers"
And there you have it. The currency will remain the Halsberg Dollar for the moment. But what a momentus campaign it has been. The people have spoken, the Dollar stays.
A large plane has crashed in the city of St. Phillips. Eyewitnesses claim that the aircraft came down at approximately 1400 hours. According to the Halsberg Civilian Air Authority, the downed aircraft was an internal flight scheduled to arrive at Thurston International Airport. The plane experienced problems shortly after take off, before plunging down to the crowded St. Phillips Shopping District. Chief Coordinator of the Halsberg Civilian Air Authority Blake Campbell said:
"I can confirm that a large passenger aircraft has crashed in the city of St. Phillips. We have no exact figure on the number of fatalities, but I estimate it is in the high thousands. The plane in question was a fully booked flight with, according to airline records, 237 people aboard. HCAA will be conducting a full investigation into the incident in due course."
The pictures from the scene show a devastated area. It appears that the wing of the aircraft clipped the side of the Asger Tower, sending it into a spinning nose-dive before eventually impacting with the famous weekly market. Speaking exclusively to HCNA, eyewitness Reece Holden said this to our correspondent:
"it was awful! Me and my friend were out shopping, when we heard this thunderous bang. We looked up and saw the hole in the side of the Asger Tower. Then we saw the plane coming right for us. I just turned and ran. there was panic and confusion as people rushed to get out of the market square. I could swear I saw some people getting trampled. Then there was a much louder bang. I was deafened by it. Thankfully, I was far enough away by that point, but the shockwave threw me down to the ground."
We will bring you updates on this developing story as they come in.
As rescuers continue to clamber through the ruins of the St. Phillips shopping district, there was a glimmer of hope today. After being trapped under rubble for three days, a woman has been pulled to safety by rescue workers. The woman's injuries are being described as serious, but not fatal. After three days of searching, this woman is the first survivor to be rescued. As hope fades, St. Phillips Fire and Rescue Chief David Tyler vowed to continue the search:
"We will not rest until every survivor is brought to safety. The families of those still trapped are depending on us to bring their loved ones home. Make no mistake, we will not let these families down"
Many experts are questioning the structural integrity of the Asger Tower. Although still standing, respected architects claim the tower will collapse within days. According to Granger Architects, the plane's wing severed a key structural support in the outer frame of the building. The latest pictures do show the tower swaying violently in a light breeze. High winds are forecast for the coming days, prompting the Mayor's Office to evacuate the surrounding area.
The Halsberg Civilian Air Authority has released a new estimate on the number of fatalities. They believe that approximately 4,800 people have died as a result of the accident.
Caspian Air, the owner of the downed plane, released this statement:
"Caspian Air will be working closely with Halsberg Civilian Air Authority in determining the cause of this disaster, and ensuring that it never occurs again. We understand that our customers trust us to get them from A to B safely. That trust has been broken. To regain that trust, we can announce that Caspian Air will be conducting a full safety review of our entire fleet. We have grounded all our aircraft until that safety review has taken place. All customers will receive a full refund and the chance to re-book at no extra cost."
The Asger Tower has collapsed, 9 days after the original collision. Fortunately, the collapse had been widely expected, and no one was injured. It comes after the St. Phillips Fire and Rescue service issued a statement officially calling off the search for survivors:
"It is with deep regret that we officially end the search for survivors in the St. Phillips shopping district. Over a week has passed since the accident occurred, and it is unlikely any survivors remain alive. We have recovered three people from the rubble, much less than we had hoped for. However, three is better than none at all. I know that the families and friends of the rescued three are extremely grateful."
In response to the incident, the Parliamentary Council has established an inquiry into the disaster. The inquiry is expected to present its findings to the Council in the summer.
A key symbol of Halsbergian economic power, the Asger Tower was home to many influential businesses such as the mobile network HalCell. The High President made this statement in response to the incident:
"Tragedy has struck our nation. Thousands of families have been torn apart by this dreadful accident. St. Phillips has been severely injured, its main economic district devastated. But we are a resilient people. We will rebuild, we will recover. The inquiry launched today will determine the cause of this accident, and we will work with airlines and the international community in ensuring this does not happen again."
The High President today announced a new bill to crack down on anti-social behaviour. He outlined his proposals in a speech to the Parliamentary Council earlier today. Mr. Solomon called for much harsher punishments, such as the death penalty, to be implemented to act as a deterrent. According to the bill he has co-authored, anyone found guilty of the following offences shall be put to death: Armed Robbery, Arson, Assault, Burglary, Shoplifting, Vandalism and Destruction of Property. Interestingly, the bill also includes a new crime: Acting in an Intimidating Manner. This includes wearing clothes which are normally used for sporting activities.
Reacting to the proposal, Marjorie King, of the Halsberg Soceity for Human Rights:
"This bill is a direct violation of young people's human rights! I understand that there is a problem with Anti-Social behaviour, and we need to deal with it, but is killing them really the right answer? No it is not. We need to provide opportunity and role-models for these young people. I don't think we should be giving up on the disadvantaged."
Countering, co-author of the Prevention of Anti-Social Behaviour Act, Frederick Carter:
"We have been providing opportunity for these young people, but they have resisted at every turn. We throw billions of dollars into crime-prevention initiatives and look where that got us, vandalism and crime. With regards to the Acting in an Intimidating Manner clause, we have consulted with residents of affected areas and found that the number one cause for concern in the community are young people acting like they own the streets. A frightened elderly woman came to me and said that she was fearful of her life when a group of yobs were walking down the path in a line and refused to move for this poor lady. She was 86 years of age. Why should we allow this type of clearly intimidating behaviour to run rampant across Halsberg?"
The bill is currently being debated in the Parliamentary Council and will be voted on shortly. If it should pass, the Unionist and Conservative Party-dominated Senate is widely expected to pass the bill into law.
Christopher Brown has become leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists. The former UCP chairman was elected unopposed to the post, and has pledged to reverse the Europarty's electoral fortunes. A firm believer in conservative values, Mr. Brown calls for a halt to further European integration. In a statement, a UCP spokesperson said:
"This is obviously fantastic news. With Mr. Brown as leader, the ECR will prosper. He did wonders when UCP chairman, and will do so again."
When asked about his plans for the party, Mr. Brown said:
"My plans are to defend the sovereign right of a nation to govern itself. I will vehemently oppose any further erosion of national sovereignty, but encourage cooperation between European nations. As leader of this Europarty, I will emphasise the Conservative part of its name. That means balanced budgets, small government and clean and transparent politics."
In other news, the controversial Prevention of Anti-Social Behaviour Act was passed by the Parliamentary Council. Labelled by many as too extreme, the bill is now being debated in the Senate. The implications of this law may be severe. In theory, anyone wearing a certain kind of clothes can be arrested and put to death. However, the UCP is quick to deny this. A spokesman said:
"Everyone charged under this new law will be thoroughly assessed to ensure they were conscious of what they were doing. We will also look carefully at each case before proceeding with disciplinary action. Execution will occur only after guilt has been proven beyond a doubt or the accused has confessed"
Franz Palace Targeted in Terrorist Plot
Thurston Metropolitan Police have arrested four men suspected of planning to destroy the Franz Palace. It appears that the men are members of the extremist group Freedom from Oppression. FFO seek to abolish all forms of government and establish an anarchy. The four men arrested are believed to be in their twenties, and all attended Thurston City College. In a statement released by the Internal Security Service, the terrorist plot was described:
"We can confirm that a plot has been foiled that would have destroyed the Franz Palace. The four men that are currently held in custody would have planted explosives in the Palace's basement and other key structural areas. During the Senate vote on the Prevention of Anti-Social Behaviour Act, the bombs would have been detonated. The Palace would have been filled with Senators and Councillors. Thankfully, we intercepted the plot and were able to prevent it."
As a precautionary measure, the ISS has raised the terrorism threat level to Imminent. However, the threat level is not expected to remain there for long. Citizens are advised to be vigilant and report anything suspicious.
The accused are currently being questioned, and are expected to be charged with high treason. But what does this mean for day to day life in Halsberg? Already we are seeing an increased police presence, many armed with automatic weaponry. We are hearing rumours of plans for a curfew. Whether these rumours are true or not remains to be seen. HCNA understands that the High President has been moved to a safe location. However, this is all just precaution. A terrorist attack anywhere in Halsberg is extremely unlikely.
EU Budget Referendum Announced
The Electoral Regulation Committee has confirmed that a referendum on what position the Confederacy should take on the EU Budget Act will take place on Friday 30th March. The question will be: "Should the Council Delegate support a European Budget Act in principle?" It will be a simple Yes or No question. The ERC said that such a drastic change to EU membership needs public approval. John Walters, EU Councillor for Halsberg, said:
"This is a perfect example of the growing democracy in Halsberg. I was elected to represent the people, and I will do that."
Car Bomb Explodes in Central Thurston
A car bomb has detonated in Unity Square at around 8:15AM. Numerous commuters have been injured, but fortunately no casualties have been reported. It is believed that the perpetrators are the anarchist group Freedom from Oppression. No arrests have been made but police are following several leads, according to an HCNA source.
The bombing is likely retribution for the arrest of four Freedom from Oppression would-be bombers on the 25th. The four men are currently being questioned and are expected to be executed on charges of high treason.
It is unknown how the Unity Square bombers were able to bypass so much security. The Internal Security Service had been expecting a retribution attack and had deployed over 700 extra security personnel around Unity Square and the Franz Palace. Director of the ISS Nathaniel Hawke spoke to press earlier today:
_"We obviously need to look closely at the effectiveness of our security forces. I want to make it clear that there is no fundamental flaw in our security strategy. This is one incident, a regrettable one, out of thousands of planned attacks over the years. On Sunday, we prevented what would have been the worst atrocity committed in this land. While approximately nine people have been taken to hospital, their injuries are being described as minimal; they will be discharged tomorrow morning." _
This attack has prompted the ISS to raise the national terrorism threat level to Critical. The threat level has only been this high once before, in the months after the infamous Veroni bombings. The Critical level automatically grants the High President Emergency Powers. However, the Office of the High President is insisting this is purely precautionary and should not keep people from going about their day to day business.
High President Launches New Learning Scheme
The High President today announced a new scheme to lower unemployment and help young people. Under the new plans, the lowest scoring 20% of the nations school children will be removed from official schooling and given training for manual work. Praised by teaching unions and the building industry, the plans will give many young people the opportunities they would not have if they continued with academic education. Senator George Holloway said:
"These plans will only affect those who, on average, are scoring the least well in academic education. They are gaining nothing by remaining in school except humiliation by being the stupid ones. By removing these low-achievers from the equation, so to speak, teachers can focus on the pupils with more potential."
The people removed from education will be placed into training for manual work like building or industry. The Government hopes that this will stimulate the economy and allow for more talented people to prosper.
EU Budget Approved in Referendum
The electorate have decided that they will support an EU Budget. However, the majority was slim. 55% said they supported a budget, while 45% disagreed. The turnout was 43%, as expected for such a low-profile ballot. Council Delegate John Walters said:
"The people of Halsberg have spoken, the majority rules. An EU Budget, if it conforms to common sense principles, will have my support."
Many were concerned that an EU Budget which includes a membership fee will change the very idea of EU Membership. The ruling UCP was quick to deny this:
"We cannot allow member states a free ride. It is just like any club or organisation, it needs funds to survive. The proposed fee is very small, only 1 tenth of a percent of our GDP. All current public funding will remain the same."
Senator Injured in Terrorist Attack
Senator Matthew Sande is currently in hospital after sustaining over 80% burns when his motorcade was attacked. Terrorist group Freedom from Oppression have claimed responsibility for the attack. According to his press secretary, Senator Sande's condition is described as critical. High President Solomon has used today's weekly address to praise Senator Sande and has promised to bring the perpetrators to justice:
"Our democratic institutions have been attacked by anarchists and cowards. Senator Sande is a fine politician who has served his country well. We all wish him the best. I have given the Internal Security Service emergency funding to help catch these despicable traitors and bring them to justice."
Halsberg appears to be the victim of a sustained terrorist campaign. The number of attempted and executed terrorist attacks has grown substantially in the weeks leading up to Unity Day. All of the known attacks have been carried out by anarchist group Freedom from Oppression, which is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. Speaking exclusively to HCNA, ISS Director Nathaniel Hawke:
"We are tightening security around all major public areas in anticipation of another attack. It does not take a genius to work out that there is a pattern forming here; a steady increase in attacks until the climax on Unity Day. But I must stress, there is no cause for alarm. We are taking all the necessary measures to prevent any further attacks."
The ISS is indeed taking preventative steps, such as cancelling all personnel leave for Unity Day on April 17th.
Suspected Terrorists Executed
The four Freedom from Oppression members arrested last week have been executed. They were found guilty of high treason by a judge yesterday. Accused of plotting to destroy the Franz Palace, the terrorists were executed by firing squad after being interrogated. Few details concerning information gained and the methods used have been released. Prominent members of the Libertarian Coalition have called for more data to be released:
"The Government is being especially secretive with regards to interrogation techniques. Why would they prohibit outsiders from police complexes unless they had something to hide? Perhaps the Government should release the information they obtained, for the sake of political openness."
However, the Press and Media Relations Department released this statement:
Torture is not used in any of our law enforcement complexes. We comply with the standards set out in the 1995 Constitution, which specifically prohibits torture of any kind. We choose not to release data obtained unless it is absolutely necessary. This is to protect the informants and the general public."
HCNA cannot independently verify either viewpoint's claims.
High President Hails Economic Success
The High President has welcomed today's news that the Halsbergian economy is booming, having jumped 32 points since the end of Social Democrat government. The UCP has been so successful, the Confederacy was even reclassified by the WA to Capitalist Paradise. The High President attributed the good news to his widespread economic reforms and pro-business stance. He said:
"Today's news only further solidifies the effectiveness of fiscal conservatism. Our businesses have seen less regulation and red-tape, along with lower taxes. Let us not forget, that under the Social Democrats, our GDP was less than half what it is now, unemployment was at record levels and the population were denied basic civil rights. We promised to end that, and we have delivered. I only hope that voters remember this at the Parliamentary Council elections in May."
While many left-wingers disagree, the conservative approach appears to be improving quality of life as well as the economy. According to a Veroni University study, the average quality of life has risen by over 78% since High President Solomon took office. However, many analysts are sceptical that this economic boom can last. Noted socialist and economic policy advisor to the Social Democrats, Ms ?vil MacCommie:
"It is simple economics, there is a boom followed by a bust. Mr. Solomon may have helped the economy in the short term, but what about the 27% of people classified as working class. They already have jobs, but still can't afford a house."
Either way, Halsberg is doing particularly well, be it long or short term.
Terrorist Threat Level Lowered
The Internal Security Service has lowered the terrorist threat level to "Substantial". Citing a fall in terrorist activity, ISS director Nathaniel Hawke told HCNA:
"We do not have reason to believe an attack is imminent or will occur in the near future. After consulting with the High President himself we came to the conclusion that lowering the threat level was the right choice. With Unity Day coming up, we do not want to harm our tourist rating and international standing. An attack is still a strong possibility though, and I urge all citizens to be vigilant, especially around public areas."
The ISS theory of a rise in attacks until the climax on Unity Day thankfully appears to be incorrect. According to a statement from the Press and Media Relations Department, the ISS has no evidence an attack is planned for Unity Day, or indeed any other day. They told HCNA that ISS security forces are so strong, an attack on Unity Day celebrations on the 17th is impossible.