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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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Senate OKs Two More Months For Payroll Tax Cut

Dec 17, 2011
Originally published on December 17, 2011 9:53 pm

The U.S. Senate wrapped up a tumultuous year of divided government with votes that keep the federal government funded through September and extend expiring unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut another two months.

In a rare Saturday year-end session, the Senate's action averted a shutdown but was not the last word on the payroll tax cut extension.

An eleventh-hour bipartisan deal was struck by Senate leaders to extend expiring payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits for two more months. It contains a provision supported by Republicans but opposed by President Obama that speeds up the decision-making process for the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the president had delayed until after next year's elections. The measure extending the tax cuts and benefits passed 89-10.

According to The Hill, "Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) voted against the package."

On Saturday, President Obama said he is pleased that the Senate passed the legislation, but wants the extensions to cover all of next year.

"In fact, it would be inexcusable for Congress not to further extend this middle-class tax cut for the rest of the year. It should be a formality, and hopefully it's done with as little drama as possible when they get back in January," he said. (White House transcript here.)

The House has not yet taken a vote on the bill passed by the Senate and the president urged House lawmakers to add their approval when they reconvene on Monday. If approved, the bill would then go to Obama for signature, but it's not clear whether House Republicans will go along with the deal.

Also approved was the the $915-billion omnibus spending bill. The bill was approved and signed by President Obama later in the day. The bill reduces overall spending by $7 billion compared to last year, although the Defense Department gets an additional $5 billion. The measure passed by a 67-32 margin (Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., did not vote).

[David Welna is a NPR congressional correspondent.]

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