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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.


What's The Economic Impact If The Tax Break Dies?

Dec 22, 2011
Originally published on December 22, 2011 3:28 pm

Most political analysts say that Congress and President Obama will eventually agree to extend the payroll tax cut into 2012 – even if it takes another month of arguing.

But what if Congress really can't get it done?

Economists are fairly unanimous in saying growth would be slowed — at least in the short term — if Congress were to fail to pass legislation to extend the tax holiday and include two other proposals to: 1) continue federal help for the long-term unemployed and 2) block a 27 percent Medicare pay cut for doctors.

They say the impasse could reduce consumer spending, slow growth and disrupt the health care sector. Failure to act on all three measures would cut economic growth by a combined 1.5 percentage points in the first half of 2012, according to a forecast by Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

'A Significant Headwind' To Growth

Without the extensions, the U.S. economy will face "a significant headwind to consumer spending growth," Feroli said in a written analysis.

The chain of events leading to this congressional deadlock began Saturday when the Senate voted 89-10 in favor of a bill that would have addressed the tax break, unemployment benefits and Medicare reimbursements. But on Tuesday, House Republicans rejected the bipartisan legislation and instead urged the Senate to appoint members to a House-Senate conference committee to keep negotiating.

It is unclear what will happen next on Capitol Hill. But if no action is taken, about 160 million workers will see their take-home pay fall on Jan. 1, when the existing payroll tax holiday is no longer in effect.

For the full year, the average household — making about $50,000 a year — would have about $20 a week less to spend. Economists say that drop in take-home pay would be noticed at gas stations, restaurants, clothing stores and elsewhere.

Consumer spending also would contract if the long-term unemployed see their extended benefits cut off. Currently, the typical recipient gets about $300 a week in jobless benefits. Traditionally, those checks come from the states and last only 26 weeks.

But when the severe recession hit in 2008, Congress passed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program to help states extend those benefits up to 99 weeks.

Since 2008, the program has paid out $183 billion, and it currently is helping more than 3 million unemployed people get emergency funds. If Congress does not renew the program, those unemployed workers will start seeing their benefits dry up — at a time when more than 13 million people are still seeking work.

IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm, examined the impact of extended benefits for the unemployed and concluded that they "clearly had a significant impact on the U.S. and state economies."

The loss of those benefits would harm the U.S. economy by reducing income for many households. Because of just this one change in federal policy, "growth will be stunted by 0.2–0.3 percentage point due to the direct link between the program and consumer spending," the firm concluded.

An Impact On Health Care

On the Medicare issue, congressional failure to block an impending 27 percent cut in reimbursements to providers could disrupt the health care sector.

Medicare manages the medical-care coverage for about 49 million Americans, most of them age 65 and older or disabled. Many doctors say they would not be able to accept new Medicare patients if the government allows the largest-ever reimbursement reduction to go forward.

The reduction in the number of patients and government reimbursements could lead to layoffs at doctors' offices and hospitals, some doctors say.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday told reporters that failure to enact legislation would be "harmful at this time where we're still in a fragile stage of our economic recovery, where things are getting better but are far from good enough."

Most Republicans agree. Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, appearing on CNN, said, "Most of us on both sides, House, Senate, Republican, Democrat, are on the same page. We want a one-year extension of the payroll tax. It means, to the average family, $1,000 — which is a lot of money."

But so far, the Senate and House leaders have not agreed on a plan to pass the legislation before Dec. 31.

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