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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 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 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.


Romney Taxes May Be Legally Sound But They're Politically Dicey

Jan 24, 2012
Originally published on January 24, 2012 5:30 pm

The income fairness debate has just gotten a lot more interesting. And it's taking place in anything but Mitt Romney's "quiet rooms."

Romney's release of his federal tax details for 2010 and 2011 came the morning that President Obama was preparing to deliver his State of the Union address, a speech in which he was expected to make the increasing gap between the superwealthy and everyone else a major topic of the evening.

Obama even planned to have a prop. To underscore a point constantly made by Warren Buffett that he and other members of the top .01 percent pay federal taxes at a much lower rate than the billionaire investor's secretary, the White House has invited that secretary to sit in the First Lady Michelle Obama's box Tuesday evening.

Meanwhile Romney, who recently indicated his discomfort with public and boisterous debates about the ways government policies have contributed to the super rich controlling an ever larger portion of the nation's income, was forced on the defensive.

Romney's personal lawyers and tax experts explained to reporters on a conference call Tuesday morning that, yes, Romney and his wife Ann made a tremendous sum from investments in 2010 and 2011, $21.7 million and $20.9 million, respectively.

But even though they paid taxes at a relatively low rates, 13.9 percent in 2010 and an estimated 15.4 percent for the 2011 tax year which hasn't yet been filed with the IRS, they paid all that was legally required, $6.2 million for the two years, Romney's team said.

And they made $3 million in charitable donations in 2010 and $4 million in 2011, giving more than 16 percent of their income to charity, much of that in the form of tithes, a commitment to give 10 percent of income, to the church, in the Romneys' case, the Mormon church.

While Romney's surrogates on the tax-return conference call with reporters may be right that he did all he was legally require to do, that doesn't mean he doesn't have a political problem.

First, it will be a tall order for Romney, whose net worth has been estimated at between $190 million and $250 million, to defend paying federal taxes at an effective rate that's so much lower than those paid by million of Americans of far more modest means. That likely explains in part Romney's reluctance in the first place to release his returns.

Even rich politicians like Obama and Newt Gingrich, Romney's GOP challenger, paid their 2010 federal taxes at significantly higher rates, 26 percent and 31.5 percent, respectively.

With Obama making economic fairness for the middle class an overarching campaign theme, Romney gives the president an ample target to attack.

Two, Romney's tax information reinforces perceptions that for all his attempts to appeal to average voters, he's a full member of the nation's financial aristocracy with concerns far removed from the typical voter's.

For instance, until 2010 his trustee kept a Swiss bank account for Romney which at one point held $3 million before the trustee closed it. Asked if it was closed because it was bad optics politically as some had reported, Brad Malt, the trustee said:

"... I decided that this account wasn't serving any particular purpose. It might or might not be consistent with Governor Romney's political views, you know again, the taxes were all fully paid etc. But, it just wasn't worth it, and I closed the account."

Swiss bank accounts are just something that even a lot of wealthy Americans don't have, let alone middle-income Americans.

Romney may continue to try to neutralize those who question how it came to be that the rich are snaring an ever greater share of the nation's overall income. On the Today Show recently with Matt Lauer, he accused them of engaging in the "politics of envy."

But that may not go over so well with voters, a majority of whom are, convinced that the wealthy aren't paying their fair share of taxes which just so happens to be the case Obama will make Tuesday evening all the way to Election Day.

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