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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.


The Optimists' Turn: EU's Crisis May Not Be So Bad

Jan 10, 2012
Originally published on January 10, 2012 4:25 pm

Europe's debt crisis is a huge threat to the U.S. economy. Or is it?

For many months, economists have been warning that Europe's debt troubles could spiral into a massive recession that drags down U.S. growth.

But some analysts say those fears may be wildly exaggerated. The U.S. economy has been "decoupling" from Europe for some time, and wouldn't be significantly harmed by any recession taking shape over there, they argue.

In fact, the decoupling already is a fait accompli because U.S. financial institutions and corporations have responded to warnings about Europe by taking defensive steps, such as stockpiling cash and avoiding European bonds, according to Vincent Truglia, director of global economic research at Granite Springs Asset Management.

"If it was a year ago, we'd be more susceptible" to financial turbulence triggered by any European government defaults, Truglia said. "At this point, if you haven't gotten prepared for it, you should not be working for a major financial institution."

Why Europe Won't Hurt The U.S.

For those who agree with Truglia, the evidence of U.S.-EU decoupling is all around. Here are some factors that suggest Americans will not be dragged down by Europeans' trouble:

Interest Rates: The interest rates that many European governments must pay to attract bond buyers are high. For example, Italian bond yields are exceeding 7 percent. But the U.S. Treasury can offer yields of less than 2 percent on 10-year notes and still attract buyers. Since Treasury bonds serve as a benchmark for all sorts of lending rates, state governments, companies and individuals in this country can borrow money more cheaply than their EU counterparts.

Currency Values: Over recent months, the euro, a 17-nation common currency, has lost value while the dollar has advanced. That suggests global investors have been losing confidence in Europe while gaining an appreciation for U.S. safety and strength.

Stock Prices: In 2011, publicly traded shares in the eurozone dropped more than 11 percent while U.S. stocks were down only about 2 percent. This year, U.S. stock prices are rising, while European stocks are mostly flat at depressed levels.

U.S. Growth: As 2012 begins, the U.S. annual growth rate appears poised to run at nearly 3 percent, and job creation is accelerating. Meanwhile, with the exception of Germany, most eurozone economies are barely growing, and some already are contracting.

Japan's Example: Japan experienced a "lost decade" from 1991 through 2000 — a period with very little growth. Now it appears Europe may be heading into a similarly long downturn. But Japan's weak economy did not tank U.S. growth in the 1990s. Likewise, optimists say, Europe's long recession won't have a major impact on U.S. growth.

Momentum: In 2008, the United States and Europe experienced recessions triggered by the U.S.-based mortgage securities meltdown. But BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China — had enough economic momentum that year to quickly shake off the troubles and keep powering through. Likewise, in 2012, the U.S. and the BRICs will keep growth rolling even as Europe slides.

Indeed, the BRICS and other emerging markets with young and fast-growing populations, such as Indonesia and Turkey, will hold the keys to U.S. economic health, not Europe, according to the man who coined the acronym BRICs. Jim O'Neill, the chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, has released a new book: The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity in the BRICs and Beyond.

In the book, O'Neill says emerging economies will make Europe relatively less important to Americans.

"The world economy has doubled in size since 2001, and a third of that growth has come from the BRICs," O'Neill wrote. "Their combined GDP increase was more than twice that of the United States, and it was equivalent to the creation of another new Japan plus one Germany, or five United Kingdoms, in the space of a single decade."

Optimists say the United States may not only escape Europe's troubles, but actually could be helped by the turmoil. Investors are pulling money out of Europe to seek shelter in U.S. stocks and bonds. "There's a flight to quality," Truglia says.

This influx of capital can help U.S. businesses expand while keeping interest rates low.

Risks From Europe Remain

But even optimists admit the course of events will be very difficult to predict this year because of several major unknowns. For one, China's economy could be in for a "hard landing," if its growth stalls. If China, Japan and Europe all are in recession in 2012, then it would be very difficult for the United States to shake off that much bad news.

And, of course, the idea that U.S. financial institutions could really build a fireproof wall around themselves to protect against a European market meltdown could be wishful thinking. Many analysts say financial institutions are so globalized that a series of European government and bank defaults would necessarily lead to trouble for U.S. financial institutions.

"In the near term, the eurozone sovereign-debt crisis is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy," IHS Global Insight chief economist Nariman Behravesh wrote in his 2012 assessment.

One pessimist goes further. David Levy, an economist with the Jerome Levy Forecasting Center LLC, said in his 2012 outlook that U.S. companies couldn't absorb a major financial shock from Europe because "private balance sheets, in the aggregate, remain oversized, fragile, and sufficiently troubled to keep contracting."

Despite some evidence of decoupling, Levy believes that "any major jolt to ... markets will aggravate this unstable financial situation and risk triggering a new vicious cycle of financial and economic decline."

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