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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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'Smart Decline': A Lifeline For Zombie Subdivisions?

Dec 28, 2011
Originally published on December 28, 2011 8:22 pm

On the western edge of Phoenix, it's easy to find vast tracts of empty land once prepped for two-by-fours and work crews. Utility stanchions emerge like errant whiskers from the desert floor.

This is the land of zombie subdivisions. Some experts believe up to 1 million dirt lots in central Arizona were in some stage of approval for new homes when the market crashed.

"It's tragic," says Realtor Greg Swann. "It's heartbreaking."

Urban planners are floating a radical solution for areas like this. It's known as "smart decline."

Justin Hollander, an assistant professor at Tufts University, wrote a book called Sunburnt Cities, about smart decline in the Southwest. After the bust, he says, more than a third of ZIP codes in major Sun Belt cities saw population losses.

"People are leaving," Hollander says. "So that means all the houses, all the roads and infrastructure that supports those houses, it doesn't just disappear."

In some cases, Hollander calls for tearing down that infrastructure. He points to some Rust Belt cities that took generations to realize the depth of their problems.

"If you don't do a good job, it further destabilizes the neighborhood," he says. "It further creates a cycle of disinvestment."

Hope For The Zombies

Jim Holway works for the Tucson-based Sonoran Institute, a group that promotes sustainable development in the West. And he has hope for some of the zombie subdivisions.

"I tend to assume that we will grow again," he says. "Is it possible the forces that drove the growth in the West really have come to an end? I think it's unlikely. Certainly this is a time for creative thinking."

He agrees that letting land go back to nature — farming or desert — is one solution for the most unattractive zombie areas. But says the land closest to the urban core still has a chance.

And that raises another option: Start over.

Creative Redevelopment

That's the approach the city of Maricopa, south of Phoenix, is taking.

During the boom, Maricopa planners issued 600 housing permits a month. After the bust, a single piece of land with room for 182 houses was rezoned for mixed use. The Roman Catholic Church bought it, and now there are plans for a private school, shops at ground level and loft-style housing above.

Brent Billingsley, the city of Maricopa's development services director, says this type of creative redevelopment didn't happen before.

"Everyone has taken this opportunity to catch our breath and take a look at how we want to grow in the future," he says. "And we've been at a balance now for the last couple years and able to catch up and to be smarter."

Still, it will take Maricopa years to swallow the 16,000 lots set aside for residential development. Public swimming pools, baseball fields and schools will replace some of those zombie subdivisions.

Meanwhile, on the west side of town, Swann just chuckles at the idea of "smart decline."

"At some point, sometime fairly soon, this land will be profitable again, and it will turn into houses," he says. "And you'll drive by this five years from now, and you won't remember that you were here because it will be completely different. That's the way Phoenix works. Phoenix changes like dreams."

Copyright 2013 KJZZ-FM. To see more, visit http://kjzz.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The population in the Southwestern U.S. has been growing, but in the last years of the real estate bubble, developers bet on much faster growth than actually occurred. Now, in the aftermath, people in some cities are thinking about whether the population will ever catch up with the infrastructure they built. Peter O'Dowd of member station KJZZ reports on the concept of smart decline.

PETER O'DOWD, BYLINE: On the westernmost edge of Phoenix, it's easy to find vast sections of empty land once prepped for two-by-fours and work crews.

GREG SWANN: It's tragic. It's heartbreaking.

O'DOWD: Realtor Greg Swann has watched this neighborhood boom and bust. At our feet are reminders of better times.

SWANN: Wiring, phone wiring, cable wiring, that kind of stuff.

O'DOWD: This is zombie subdivision. Some experts believe up to a million dirt lots in central Arizona were in some stage of approval for new homes when the market crashed. Where planners see a problem, Swann sees opportunity.

SWANN: At some point, sometime fairly soon, this land will be profitable again and it'll turn into houses. And you'll drive by this five years from now and you won't remember that you were here, because it'll be completely different. And that's the way Phoenix works. I mean, Phoenix changes like dreams.

O'DOWD: Have you ever heard of the idea of smart decline?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SWANN: You know, I never have.

O'DOWD: Advocates of this idea, smart decline, wonder what happens if optimistic growth projections don't work out. Tufts University Professor Justin Hollander wrote a book called "Sunburnt Cities," about smart decline in the Southwest. He says after the bust, more than a third of ZIP codes in major Sun Belt cities saw population losses.

JUSTIN HOLLANDER: People are leaving. So that means all the houses, all of the roads and infrastructure that supports those houses, it just doesn't just disappear.

O'DOWD: In some cases, Hollander calls for tearing down the infrastructure, like Rust Belt cities that took generations to realize the depth of their problems.

HOLLANDER: If you don't do a good job, it further destabilizes the neighborhood. It further creates a cycle of disinvestment.

JIM HOLWAY: I tend to assume that we will grow again.

O'DOWD: Jim Holway works for the Tucson-based Sonoran Institute, a group that promotes sustainable development in the West.

: Is it possible the forces that drove the growth in the West really have come to an end? I think it's unlikely. Certainly, this is a time for creative thinking.

O'DOWD: And there is creative thinking. Holway agrees letting land go back to nature - farming or desert - is one solution for the most unattractive zombies. But says the land closest to the urban core still has a chance. This brings us to a third option: start over.

BRENT BILLINGSLEY: Oh, man, this is a big piece of property.

O'DOWD: Brent Billingsley stands on the edge of a dirt lot with room for 182 houses. Billingsley is the city of Maricopa's development services director. Maricopa grew up south of Phoenix almost overnight. During the boom, planners issued 600 housing permits a month. There's even sidewalks here.

BILLINGSLEY: There's even sidewalks up to this point. Yes, sir.

O'DOWD: But this land has now been rezoned for mixed use. The Catholic Church bought the parcel, and now there are plans for a private school, shops at ground level and loft-style housing above. Billingsley says this type of creative redevelopment didn't happen before.

BILLINGSLEY: Everyone has taken this opportunity to kind of catch our breath and take a look at how we want to grow in the future. And we've been at a balance now for the last couple years and able to catch up and to be smarter.

O'DOWD: It will still take Maricopa years to swallow the 16,000 lots set aside for residential development. Public swimming pools, baseball fields and schools will replace some of those zombies. It's acknowledgment that times have changed, and that building a community takes more than new single-family homes. For NPR News, I'm Peter O'Dowd in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.