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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.


Housing Market Stays Mired In Low Home Price Spin

Dec 27, 2011

This month, consumer confidence jumped to its highest level since April, a sign that the U.S. economy is starting to mend. But the housing market isn't going along yet with this cheerier mood: Home prices were down 3.4 percent for the year as of October, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Housing has been at the center of the country's economic troubles since 2007, and heading into 2012, it still has a lot of problems.

In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. President Obama might feel the same way about the troubled U.S. housing market. In a 2009 speech in Arizona, he spoke about his plan to prevent foreclosures.

"The American dream is being tested by a home mortgage crisis that not only threatens the stability of our economy, but also the stability of families and neighborhoods," he said.

But despite all kinds of federal initiatives, the housing market still hasn't seen a real turnaround, which the president addressed this past summer. "[The housing market] is the biggest headwind on the economy right now," he said.

Susan Wachter, a professor of real estate and finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says the housing market still weighs on growth prospects for 2012. "It is part of the reason why the recovery is so slow and plodding," she says.

A house is the biggest single investment and purchase for most Americans. So with millions of homeowners underwater — owing more than their house is worth — that puts a damper on people's spending and confidence. There's also hundreds of thousands of fewer construction jobs and related jobs. Wachter says all that gets felt in the nation's gross domestic product, or GDP.

"It means the growth is maybe 1 percent slower than it otherwise would be. So instead of perhaps 3.5 percent we see 2.5 percent. That's a big deal difference," she says.

A Good Time To Buy ...

Still, there is at least one sort of bright spot to talk about — that is, for anyone looking to buy a home.

"House prices have fallen about 35 percent from the peak, the peak being just about 6 years ago," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "Because of that decline, single family housing is really quite affordable by historical standards in most markets."

Also, interest rates are lower than they've been in decades. So Zandi says if you've been thinking about buying a house, now might be the time.

"I think the housing market's at bottom. I think the single family market is going to come back," he says. "Not [right away], but if your horizon is 3, 4, 5, 6 years, and you're thinking about buying a single-family home, I'd start thinking about it right now."

While the table is being set for a recovery, the party hasn't really gotten started yet. Home sales were up 4 percent last month, but Zandi says they've pretty much been bouncing along the bottom without really gaining much traction.

... But A Tough Time Getting Loans

A big reason is that home prices are still drifting a bit lower, and that makes people nervous about getting into the market. It also keeps lenders nervous about loaning people money to buy houses.

"I do think lenders are very cautious," Zandi says. "In many parts of the country it's still quite difficult to get a loan."

So until prices stop falling, buyers and bankers will be nervous. And one thing that keeps pushing down prices is the ongoing foreclosure mess, which hasn't gotten much better. Millions of people have already lost their homes and millions more are delinquent on their mortgages.

"There are so many foreclosures and pending foreclosures out there. This is a huge problem," says Bruce Marks, head of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, a nonprofit group that helps people avoid foreclosure.

Heading into the New Year, he says his group has found hundreds of thousands of people who should qualify for federal programs to help them keep their homes.

"These are families that are determined to keep their home that we have to find a solution for," he says.

Marks says there are still all kinds of problems. But groups like his, members of Congress and prominent economists have been pushing through changes and improvements to existing programs. And some hope to see more people being able to refinance or hang on to their homes in the New Year.

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