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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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Investors Endure Another Disappointing Year

Dec 20, 2011

For Americans saving for retirement, 2011 was another lackluster year, filled with lots of risks but few rewards.

Savers who tried to avoid risks by putting money into federally insured savings accounts earned almost no interest. The money just sat there, even as inflation ate away at its value, with consumer prices rising nearly 3.5 percent this year.

And for those who invested in a broad array of U.S. stocks, the results were — at best — mixed.

On Tuesday, stock prices were rising on good news about housing starts. But this bounce is not enough to make 2011 a winning year. Most stock investors have lost money, and probably a lot of sleep, since January. They had to sweat out frightful plunges time again and again.

"It was a year of jitters, with huge swings in sentiment," said J.P. Morgan Asset Management Chief Market Strategist Rebecca Patterson.

The Shadow Over Markets

The poor performance and volatility of financial markets generally reflected uncertainty and disappointment tied to the failure of governments to fix debt problems. In the United States, Congress nearly triggered a Treasury default this summer by delaying legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, and in Europe, a number of debt-laden governments teetered on the edge of default.

But while investing generally was a frightening, frustrating experience in 2011, some winners did emerge. Those included people who invested in U.S. Treasury securities at the year's start.

Back in January, the conventional wisdom held that owning bonds, such as 10-year Treasuries, would be a lousy idea. At the time, those government notes were yielding about 3.4 percent.

Experts were predicting interest rates would rise throughout 2011. According to these forecasts, bonds would decline in value as investors spurned the measly 3.4 percent yield to chase after newer, higher-yielding bonds. In such a rising interest rate environment, "everyone thought bond prices would fall," said Paul Edelstein, director of Financial Economics for IHS Global Insight, a forecasting firm.

Bonds, Gold Did Well

But the opposite happened. Interest rates fell dramatically in 2011. Today, newly issued 10-year Treasuries are yielding only about 1.8 percent.

As a result, those old bonds have become much more valuable — making the people who were holding them very happy. The Dow Jones Credit Suisse Index of 10-Year Treasuries shows a gain of roughly 18 percent for the year through Monday.

Another happy group: "the gold bugs — they were right for the better part of the year," Edelstein said. People who bought an ounce of gold in January paid about $1,450. Today, that ounce is worth about $1,600, roughly a 10 percent gain.

For those who did buy stocks, the best picks involved large U.S. corporations. The Dow Jones industrial average, a measure of the stock prices of 30 blue chip U.S. companies, rose about 1.6 percent for the year through Monday's market close. (On Tuesday morning, stocks surged, with the Dow up more than 200 points.)

The big, brand-name companies in that grouping, such as McDonald's, Microsoft and General Electric, paid out dividends to investors this year. So even if stock prices didn't rise much in 2011, the cash paid out to stockholders made blue-chip investments somewhat attractive.

"The well-established companies did well," said Jamie Farmer, executive director of Dow Jones Indexes. "That reflected the flight to safety."

As part of that flight to safety, the U.S. stock market had a better year than many foreign markets. The Dow Jones Global Total Stock Market Index was down more than 13 percent for the year.

"This is still the safest, most liquid market in the world," Patterson said of U.S. financial markets.

What About Next Year?

Predictions for 2012 are difficult to make because of the extreme uncertainty in Europe, where the continuing debt crisis is threatening to trigger a financial meltdown that could spread around the world.

But absent such a catastrophic event, U.S. stock investments are likely to do well because corporate earnings are expected to rise, most analysts say.

"U.S. growth is poised to be stronger in 2012," Edelstein said. "And I would expect interest rates to stay low."

That combination should make for a relatively healthy investing environment. "But analysts are all over the map because no one is certain how the European debt crisis gets resolved," he said.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.