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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.


Debunked Science: Studies Take Heat In 2011

Dec 29, 2011

2011 may go down as the year of the retraction in the scientific world.

Among the highly publicized discoveries that got debunked this year: a genetic basis for longevity; a new form of life; an explanation for autism; and a link between a virus and chronic fatigue syndrome.

All of these non-discoveries have something in common. They involved findings that both scientists and the public badly wanted to believe.

One thing most people would like to believe is that science can help us live to be 100. So it was no surprise that people got pretty excited about a 2010 study in the journal Science that offered a genetic explanation for long life.

The study identified 150 clusters of genes that seemed to be common in centenarians.

"The genetic control was very strong and allowed some prediction of who would live a long time," says David Goldstein, a professor of genetics at Duke University.

But as appealing as that idea was, Goldstein says he had major doubts.

"Everybody that does a lot of genome-wide association studies not only knew that there was an issue but worked out what the issue was more or less immediately," he says.

The issue had to do with the specific devices, known as gene microarrays, used to identify and sequence the genomes of these centenarians, Goldstein says. For certain gene variants, he says, the devices are known to produce misleading results.

"At least some of the conclusions in the paper were due to this source of artifact," he says, which led the authors to retract their paper.

An Arsenic-Based Lifeform?

Another study based on an appealing idea described a bacterium that appeared to defy the rules of nature. This bug, from a lake in California, seemed to use the poison arsenic in place of an element thought essential for life.

NASA held a big press conference late last year to announce the finding, which provoked a lot of talk about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. But many experts in the field were unimpressed by NASA's event.

"It took five minutes to decide it really shouldn't have happened," says Simon Silver of the University of Illinois, Chicago, who is an expert on organisms that can tolerate high levels of arsenic.

Critics said study's data failed to back up its conclusion that this organism was incorporating arsenic into its DNA. Eventually, the journal Science published some of these criticisms online.

Then just a few weeks ago, Silver's lab published a sequence of the organism's genome. The genome showed nothing that would suggest the organism is using arsenic in a unique way.

"It's not a bizarre bug at all," Silver says. "It has the normal range of genes and there's just nothing surprising in its genome at all."

Even so, the authors stand by their study. And so far, the journal Science hasn't retracted it.

Autism And Vaccines

Parents of children with autism have long hoped for a better explanation of the disorder. So many of them embraced a 2005 article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that suggested a government cover-up of a link between autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal. The piece was published in the online magazine Salon and in Rolling Stone.

Scientists soon pointed out major errors in the piece and Salon published a number of corrections.

Then this year, the writer Seth Mnookin published a book called The Panic Virus, which included a thorough dissection of the Kennedy piece.

"When my book came out, Salon used that as an occasion to sort of revisit the entire controversy and said publicly that it had been a mistake to publish it and retracted the piece and actually pulled it off of their web site,"Mnookin says.

Rolling Stone, though, hasn't followed suit.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

One of the most prominent retractions this year involved chronic fatigue syndrome, a mysterious problem that patients and scientists have been trying to understand for many years.

The mystery seemed like it might be solved in 2009 when a study in the journal Science linked chronic fatigue to a mouse retrovirus called XMRV. And that study was a big deal for people with chronic fatigue.

"This is a group of people that initially were basically told by a lot of doctors: 'you're not sick, get over it,' " says Ivan Oransky, cofounder of a blog called Retraction Watch and the executive editor of Reuter's Health.

At first, the study seemed to confirm that chronic fatigue was caused by a virus. But Oransky says the results haven't held up.

"Now it's become clear that that was a house of cards," he says. "There was something wrong with those results, and therefore there was something wrong with the conclusions."

Oransky says this particular house of cards seems to have been built using contaminated samples, poorly designed experiments, and scientists who desperately wanted to believe their own results.

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