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German Ex-minister, Mayor Contender Stripped of Doctorate

Brittany Jordan

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German Ex-minister, Mayor Contender Stripped of Doctorate


Franziska Giffey, the then German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women, and Youth, speaks during a joint press conference with German Health Minister Jens Spahn in Berlin, Germany, on Oct.16, 2020. (Michael Sohn/AP Photo)

BERLIN—A Berlin university on Thursday stripped a prominent former German minister of her doctorate following a long-running saga over plagiarism allegations that led to her resignation last month.

Franziska Giffey quit as Germany’s minister for women and families in mid-May, but the center-left Social Democrat is still a leading candidate to become Berlin’s mayor in an election in September.

Berlin’s Free University said it had concluded that Giffey’s doctorate was obtained with “deception over the independence of her academic achievement.” It said her thesis used texts and references from other authors without sufficiently labeling them as such.

Doctorates are highly prized in Germany and have caused senior politicians trouble before.

In 2011, then-Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg lost his doctorate and quit when it emerged that large parts of his thesis weren’t his original work. Two years later, then-Education Minister Annette Schavan resigned after a university withdrew her doctorate.

Allegations of plagiarism led to the Berlin university reviewing Giffey’s 2010 dissertation on the policy of the European Union’s executive body, the European Commission. Giffey said in 2019 that she would resign from the government if her Ph.D. was revoked. The university initially decided to issue a reprimand, but not to revoke her title.

In November, the university said it would reconsider the decision after an expert’s report raised questions about whether it was entitled only to issue a reprimand. Giffey said then she would stop using the academic title “doctor.”

“I still stand by my statement that I wrote the work I submitted in 2009 to the best of my ability,” Giffey said Thursday. She added that mistakes she made weren’t intentional or planned, but she accepts the university’s decision, news agency dpa reported.

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Renewables Push Could Blackout Australia Without Total Grid Reform

Brittany Jordan

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Renewables Push Could Blackout Australia Without Total Grid Reform


A total reform to Australia’s grid is urgently needed, or else the transition to renewables could spell disaster for energy security, says the government’s Energy Security Board.

The board told state and federal leaders at the National Cabinet on Wednesday that Australia’s accelerated conversion from coal to wind and solar had to be accompanied by a total overhaul to the nation’s energy grid.

“This isn’t just a tweak around the edges,” said Energy Security Board Chair Kerry Schott. “It’s about a whole redesign of the national electricity market.”

This comes as both Victoria and New South Wales released their own plans to reach net-zero earlier this year, with premiers for both states having to face the Energy Security Board as it addressed Australia’s difficult challenge in safely transitioning to solar and wind power.

“It’s something we have to do to confidently embrace Australia’s energy future while reducing the risk of price shocks and blackouts.”

Energy Security Board Chair Kerry Schott speaks during a discussion forum at the Clean Energy Summit at the International Convention Centre in Sydney, Australia, on July 30, 2019. (AAP Image/Peter Rae)

This year alone, Australia experienced the brunt of blackouts and price spikes on numerous separate occasions.

In May, a fire at the Callide coal-fired power station and a lack of backup generation saw lights go out for 400,000 Queenslanders.

Also, in May, Australasia’s largest aluminium smelter was forced to power down five times in two weeks after the smelter couldn’t afford to pay for electricity after planned, and unplanned coal plant outages sent energy prices soaring—on one occasion exploding by 18,000 percent.

Following the outages, which were exacerbated by cold weather, Australians were left wide-eyed in June after their electricity bills showed average energy costs had almost tripled compared to the same month last year.

But signs of instability were starting to show even earlier with the shutdown of Victoria’s Hazelwood coal plant in 2017, and the exit of 1,600 megawatts which had supplied power to meet 25 percent of Victoria’s electricity needs, and around 8 percent of the entire National Electricity Market.

The resulting disruption was felt across Australia’s east coast, with average energy prices shooting up by 85 percent for Victoria, 63 percent for New South Wales, 53 percent for Queensland, and a further 32 percent for South Australia.

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Workers leave Hazelwood Power Station after their final shift in Hazelwood, Australia, on Mar. 31, 2017. Around 750 workers have been left jobless after the plant was closed. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Schott recommended Australia’s path to emissions-free energy be bolstered by a series of significant reforms, one of which was to reinforce Australia’s fleet of reliable energy generation and storage.

“We have had a very mild summer, and everyone has got very complacent, but we only need one hot summer in three jurisdictions together, or a major unexpected outage at a big coal plant, and we’ve got a real resource adequacy issue right on top of us,” she said.

A second recommendation was to fast track large-scale renewable energy hubs to support vast renewable power generation at an even lower price point—a direction which has gradually made progress with a recent proposal for the world’s largest, $95 billion renewable energy hub in Western Australia.

A third but equally critical suggestion was to address underlying technical constraints imbued in the nation’s energy infrastructure, namely, maintaining grid inertia and stabilising grid frequency.

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Spanish Judge Seeks Tax Fraud Trial for Pop Singer Shakira

Brittany Jordan

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Spanish Judge Seeks Tax Fraud Trial for Pop Singer Shakira


Colombian singer Shakira visits Tannourine Cedars Reserve, in Tannourine, Lebanon on July 13, 2018. (Jamal Saidi/File/Reuters)

MADRID—A Spanish judge has seen “sufficient evidence” for Colombian singer Shakira to face trial for tax fraud, a court document released on Thursday said.

Judge Marco Jesus Juberias has wrapped up a pre-trial investigation of allegations by prosecutors that the singer failed to pay up to 14.5 million euros ($17.2 million) in tax on income earned between 2012 and 2014. It is a preliminary step before a trial is set.

“The documents (…) annexed to the lawsuit are sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to continue with the proceedings,” the judge said in the court document.

While prosecutors say Shakira was living in the region of Catalonia during those years, her representatives argue she did not live in Spain until 2015 and has met all of her tax obligations.

Shakira’s representatives in Spain said in an emailed statement on Thursday that the court document was an “expected step in the process” and that the singer’s legal team “remains confident and fully cooperative with the judiciary and will not comment further.”

The 44-year-old singer and the FC Barcelona defender Gerard Pique have been together since 2011 and they have two children.

By Emma Pinedo

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Italy Wins Rematch With US in Men’s Olympic Water Polo

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Italy Wins Rematch With US in Men’s Olympic Water Polo


TOKYO—Francesco Di Fulvio and Italy won the 2019 world championship in men’s water polo, establishing themselves as gold medal contenders for the Olympics. Then the coronavirus pandemic arrived.

A year after the Games were supposed to occur, Di Fulvio sees a wide-open competition in Tokyo.

“We are the same team. We do the same play, the same game,” he said. “But now, in Tokyo 2020, maybe, here can win, in my opinion, six, seven teams. They improve their game. We did the same. So I think there will be nice games.”

Italy played one of those nice games Thursday against the United States, rallying for a dramatic 12–11 victory. Di Fulvio scored five times as the Italians jumped over the Americans in Group A with five points after playing to a 6–6 draw against Greece on Tuesday.

Five years after Serbia won gold at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics as the reigning world champion, there is no superpower towering over the 12-country field in Tokyo. Just a ton of possibilities.

“I’ve never seen eight teams, nine teams strong that can win medals,” Italy coach Alessandro Campagna said. “So every match is a fight, every match.”

Italy’s Pietro Figlioli (4) shoots during a preliminary round men’s water polo match against the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan, on July 29, 2021. (Mark Humphrey/AP Photo)

Campagna’s team is certainly among those medal contenders. Italy is seeking its first Olympic title since 1992 and No. 4 overall. It won silver in 2012 and bronze in Rio.

The United States finished 10th in Brazil, but it picked up some momentum with a runner-up finish in this year’s World League Super Final that included a 10–8 victory over Italy. It then won its first two games in the Olympics against Japan and South Africa.

Looking to strengthen its position for a possible berth in the quarterfinals, the U.S. scored the first four goals against Italy and led 11–9 with 5:22 left. But it couldn’t hold on.

“I think that we should win the game,” U.S. coach Dejan Udovicic said. “We got a few times to conclude the game and we didn’t and they punished us.”

Di Fulvio tied it at 11 with a penalty shot with 2:22 left, and Nicholas Presciutti got the game-winner when he converted a rebound with 1:40 to go. The United States had one last chance in the closing seconds, but turned it over.

“At the end we had the power, we had the concentration and we had the passion to wait for the right moment to go in front,” Campagna said.

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United States’ Marko Vavic (3) shoots against Italy during a preliminary round men’s water polo match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Tokyo, Japan, on July 29, 2021. (Mark Humphrey/AP Photo)

The United States still appears to be in a strong position to advance, but it closes group play with games against Hungary on Saturday and Greece on Monday.

“I think once you get to the quarterfinals, I think anybody can beat anybody,” U.S. goaltender Drew Holland said. “There’s lots of good teams and it’s the Olympics and we’re getting kind of to the nitty-gritty point. But again, build through the group play stage and be playing our best water polo for the crossover.”

Croatia also got an important win, beating Montenegro 13–8 behind three goals from Loren Fatovic. Croatia, which won gold in 2012, was coming off an 11–8 loss to Australia on Tuesday.

Croatia faces Serbia on Saturday in a rematch of the 2016 Rio final.

“After our last game, against Australia, we analyzed our mistakes and we played a lot better today,” Croatia goalkeeper Marko Bijac said. “We need to continue like this and try to be even better in our next match.”

Hungary, Spain, Greece, and Serbia also won. Hungary routed winless South Africa 23–1, and Spain moved to 3–0 with a 16–4 victory over Kazakhstan. Greece beat Japan 10–9, and Serbia topped Australia 14–8 in the last game of the day.

By Jay Cohen

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