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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.


Solar Panels Compete With Cheap Natural Gas

Jan 5, 2012

Renewable energy is growing rapidly in the U.S., with wind and solar industries enjoying double-digit growth each year. Part of that growth comes from more homeowners choosing to install solar panels.

With government subsidies, some people can even make a financial argument for installing the panels. But in recent years, the price of one fossil fuel — natural gas — has declined so much that solar panels are having difficulty competing.

The reason natural gas prices have fallen is because production is way up, thanks to hydraulic fracturing. Fracking, as it's called, is a controversial drilling technology that some say harms the environment. But the process has also made it possible to extract oil and gas once thought to be trapped in rock too deep underground for drillers to reach.

Due in large part to a combination of fracking and horizontal drilling, there's been a nearly 30 percent increase in the amount of natural gas produced in the U.S. since 2005.

"We've got a classic situation of supply and demand," says Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based outside Pittsburgh.

Natural gas demand has not gone up as quickly as supply, and Klaber says the price has dropped.

"A handful of years ago, natural gas could have been in the order of 12, 13, 14 dollars per million BTU," she says. "We're now down to three to four [dollars]."

This has allowed utilities that burn natural gas to produce electricity to hold the line on rates. For most of us, that's a good thing, but for those who've installed solar panels, it makes that investment less of a bargain.

Barbara Scott had 21 solar panels installed last March on her house in Media, Pa. Scott's family was the first in the community, and she was prepared to evangelize, "We can have open houses and write newsletter articles and promote the idea of solar," she said. But that was before the economics changed.

With government rebates and tax incentives, Scott says, her family spent $21,000 to install the system. She figured it would take eight years to recoup that investment.

A lot of other people had the same idea at the same time, which sent the price of solar energy credits down sharply in Pennsylvania. Scott says that added another seven years to the payback period.

On top of that, Scott says, electricity rates aren't going up as quickly as she thought they would, thanks in part to low natural gas prices.

"So that, again, adds another two years to our payback period," she says. "We're up to 17 years, which is, essentially, the life of the system. And we haven't even considered what happens if the system breaks or what it's going to cost to take the system off the roof and dispose of it. "

Despite this, Scott says she's still happy to have the panels on her house.

"But now, knowing it's — at best — a break-even proposition, we're not so comfortable telling other people to do it," she says.

Her experience raises questions about the viability of much larger, utility-scale solar projects built in recent years. But for them, the balance sheet looks different.

"They get a fixed price contract with a utility or somebody else who will buy that power from them," says Richard Caperton, director of clean energy investment at the Center for American Progress. Or with utilities, "they get to roll that into a rate base and recover that cost from electric power consumers."

Caperton says what's more interesting is to think about the wind, solar and even nuclear plants that are not being built now because producing with cheaper natural gas is more attractive to investors.

But natural gas prices could rise again quickly. If that happens, solar panels may seem like a good investment once again.

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