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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 Tuesday on how he would go about reforming 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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Despite Warnings From Inspector, One Iowa Town Still Battles Toxic Air

Nov 30, 2011
Originally published on November 30, 2011 1:35 pm

Our investigative reporting colleagues at the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) continue our joint Poisoned Places series with yet another story about "a regulatory system that has failed...for years" to control toxic air pollution.

This time, CPI reports, the polluter is one of the nation's biggest emitters of acetaldehyde — a probable carcinogen — and Iowa's largest emitter of lead last year.

CPI's Chris Hamby focuses on the Grain Processing Corp. (GPC) plant in Muscatine, Iowa, which transforms corn into ethanol, corn sweeteners and beverage alcohol. Hamby gathered thousands of emails, memos and reports, which document years of tepid state and federal regulation despite constant warnings from a state inspector that "GPC's apparent compliance with air pollution laws was a facade..."

In 2009, Kurt Levetzow, a senior inspector with Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, sent an email to an agency lawyer citing an obvious blue haze generated by the plant and drifting over Muscatine neighborhoods.

"It seems obvious to me...that they've been out of compliance for a long time," Levetzow wrote.

Hamby also reports that the blue haze "can indicate the presence of compounds such as acetaldehyde," which is one of the toxic byproducts of corn processing.

GPC insists it follows air pollution rules, stays within air pollution limits and is upgrading its air pollution equipment.

GPC spokeswoman Janet Sichterman told Hamby, "We want this to be a great community with quality air, too."

But some of the people downwind of the plant in Muscatine are not convinced.

"I moved here when I was 15," said Sherry Leonard, 57, who appears in a video that accompanies the CPI story. "Things have gotten much worse. It used to be almost tolerable. But it's not tolerable anymore."

Hamby reports that state officials allowed GPC to avoid improvements that would reduce pollution. And the company admits to burning low sulfur coal when winds sent emissions toward an air monitor designed to detect sulfur dioxide, a tightly regulated pollutant.

"When Levetzow inspected the plant," Hamby reports, "he found two piles of coal. One was high in sulfur — a type that releases more sulfur dioxide, the pollutant measured by the monitor. The other, lower in sulfur, was used only sporadically."

GPC called the practice "perfectly legal" and denied it was trying to "get out of regulation."

It took Iowa regulators more than a decade to discover violations of some pollution limits. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to ensure Iowa's enforcement of federal air pollution regulations. "After years on the sidelines," Hamby writes, the EPA "says it is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation of GPC..."

"If we don't have them be accountable for what they're doing to us, they're just going to keep right on doing it," Leonard told Hamby. "I feel they should clean it up or shut it down because there's a lot of people sick in Muscatine, and it's not fair."

Additional reporting from this series — including an interactive map that lets you explore facilities that are emitting toxic chemicals in your town — is available on NPR's Poisoned Places page.

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