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After an international tribunal invalidated Beijing's claims to the South China Sea, Chinese authorities have declared in no uncertain terms that they will be ignoring the ruling.

The Philippines brought the case to arbitration at the Hague, objecting to China's claims to maritime rights in the disputed waters. The tribunal agreed that China had no legal authority to claim the waters, and was infringing on the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

Donald Trump is firing back at Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg after she made disparaging comments about him in several media interviews. He tweeted late Tuesday that she "has embarrassed all" with her "very dumb" comments about the candidate. Trump ended his tweet with "Her mind is shot - resign!":

Donald Trump wrapped up his public tryout of potential vice presidential candidates in Indiana Tuesday night with Gov. Mike Pence giving the final audition.

The Indiana governor's stock as Trump's possible running mate is believed to be on the rise, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also atop the list. Sources tell NPR the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is close to making a decision, which he's widely expected to announce by Friday.

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The unassuming hero of Jonas Karlsson's clever, Kafkaesque parable is the opposite of a malcontent. Despite scant education, a limited social life, and no prospects for success as it is usually defined, he's that rarity, a most happy fella with an amazing ability to content himself with very little. But one day, returning to his barebones flat from his dead-end, part-time job at a video store, he finds an astronomical bill from an entity called W.R.D. He assumes it's a scam. Actually, it is more sinister-- and it forces him to take a good hard look at his life and values.

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Donald Trump picked a military town — Virginia Beach, Va. — to give a speech Monday on how he would go about overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs if elected.

He blamed the Obama administration for a string of scandals at the VA during the past two years, and claimed that his rival, Hillary Clinton, has downplayed the problems and won't fix them.

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The season for blueberries used to be short. You'd find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer.

Now, though, it's always blueberry season somewhere. Blueberry production is booming. The berries are grown in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest — not to mention the southern hemisphere.

But in any one location, the season is still short. And this means that workers follow the blueberry harvest, never staying in one place for long.

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Boehner's 2012 Challenges Highlighted By Payroll Tax Misstep

Dec 23, 2011
Originally published on December 26, 2011 12:09 pm

When the histories of the current 112th Congress are finally written, maybe it all will become clear.

But for right now, there seem to be many more questions than answers.

For instance, why did House Republicans ever think it was a good idea to stake out a position on the payroll-tax issue that would leave them holding the bag for a new year's tax increase for 160 million workers? That has now been averted with Congress' passage Friday morning of a two-month extension of the current payroll-tax holiday.

Also, how is it that Speaker John Boehner didn't force his freshmen to bend to political reality last weekend after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the extension, a deal that President Obama and Senate leaders had the impression Boehner initially supported? That would have spared himself and his party significant political damage.

Instead, he allowed the freshmen and other hardliners to steer from the back, like those old fire department tiller trucks. Those trucks were prone to rollovers when the rear driver made a steering mistake. And the House GOP arguably found itself off its wheels, too.

And how credible will Boehner be in future negotiations with President Obama and Democrats especially if, when he takes a particularly hardline stance, they can accuse him of once again being led by his freshmen to the brink of political disaster and say they will wait until he comes around?

That last question is the one with the most immediate implications. The two-month extension means Congress and Obama will need to negotiate a longer-term deal to continue past February the tax holiday and other policies like federal unemployment insurance benefits and continued higher payments to doctors who accept Medicare patients.

Boehner's position going into those negotiations has arguably been weakened after he and his House GOP were forced to back down from their position that they would not agree to a two-month extension.

That doesn't mean the House Republicans can't regain their footing. But they're definitely on wobbly legs right now.

And Boehner's negotiating challenge will be tough. To get to a year-long deal, he and Obama will need to agree on how to pay for the longer tax holiday.

Republicans had demanded higher Medicare premiums for Americans with higher household incomes and a pay freeze for federal workers. Democrats argued for tax increases on the very wealthy and the closing of corporate tax loopholes.

The mishandling of the payroll tax fight only played into the hands of critics of Boehner and his fellow Republicans that the GOP is more concerned about the wealthy than the middle class.

If Boehner and the GOP demand more sacrifice from middle class and lower income Americans in exchange for a one-year payroll tax cut extension, that would just make it easier for Democrats to make their populist arguments.

Meanwhile, Boehner clearly has the challenge of deciding how to handle his House GOP conference going forward. If he allows the freshmen to keep steering, House Republicans could find themselves upended again.

But preventing the kind of trouble House Republicans found themselves in this week could mean Boehner would need to run a far more top-down conference than he's so far been willing to do.

Carrie Budoff Brown and Jonathan Allen of Politico.com report that when Boehner talked to his conference members on Thursday, he did all the talking, telling them a deal had been reached and that was that.

"This time there was no discussion. This time, House Speaker John Boehner didn't take the chance of losing another deal to a caucus with a tendency to self-immolate.

"And so when Boehner delivered the news that he had struck a deal on a Thursday afternoon conference call with House Republicans, the technology was in place to prevent rank-and-file lawmakers from voicing the kind of angry dissent that scuttled a Senate-passed payroll bill on Saturday. The five day drama that exposed both the political naivete of the freshman-heavy Republican Conference and the sharp limits of Boehner's power over them ended in silence."

Obviously, this approach could invite a challenge to his leadership.

But in the end, Boehner could decide that exerting more up front control over his conference will be worth the intramural trouble that could cause if it avoids the sort of damaging spectacle that occurred the week before Christmas 2011.

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