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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.


States Would Get More Flexibility On 'Essential Benefits' Under Proposal

Dec 16, 2011
Originally published on December 16, 2011 5:46 pm

It may or may not be a punt, but the Obama administration wants to let states play a bigger role in deciding what constitutes an "essential health benefits" package when it comes to health insurance.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued what it called a "bulletin" outlining a policy it hopes to impose. In other words, it's not even yet a formal regulation.

The idea is to give states "more flexibility and freedom" to implement the part of the health law that includes the essential health benefits requirement. Under the proposal, rather than having the federal government set a package of benefits for plans sold to individuals and small businesses, states could match the benefits of specified plans currently available to their residents.

States would choose a "benchmark" plan from one of these groups:

  • The three largest small group plans in the state by enrollment.
  • The three largest health plans available to state employees.
  • The three largest health plans available to federal workers.
  • The largest HMO offered in the state's commercial market.

"This is the latest step we're taking, in partnership with the states, to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable coverage," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on a conference call.

The concern with the requirement for essential health benefits comes down to this: One goal of the federal Affordable Care Act is to ensure that insurance be comprehensive enough that people get care they need, but that coverage must remain affordable.

"And we've acknowledged many times, coverage that works in Florida may not work in Nebraska," Sebelius said.

But the proposal, which is open to public comment until the end of January, is already drawing criticism from those who think it goes too far and those who think it doesn't go far enough.

Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families, called the proposal "deeply disappointing" and said it "jeopardizes the promise of health reform for millions of women and families." The partnership is worried that by "failing to provide specific standards on what the maternity coverage required under the law must include, HHS allows plans to continue offering substandard coverage that fails to meet women's needs."

Meanwhile, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee and an opponent of the health law, said the proposal will cause premiums to rise.

"The framework proposed by the administration takes away the right of individuals to choose the health care plan that best fits their needs," Hatch said.

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