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News Wrap: Biden Visits China to Reassure Leaders of U.S. Economic Stability

August 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street started the day with strong gains, but conflicting signals on corporate earnings undercut the market’s momentum. In the end, the Dow Jones industrial average gained just four points to close at 11,410. The Nasdaq fell nearly 12 points to close at 2,511.

Vice President Biden has kicked off a four-day visit to China. He arrived in Beijing today with his granddaughter by his side. Later, he took in a basketball game between the Georgetown University Hoyas from Washington, D.C., and a Chinese team. Mr. Biden is expected to try and reassure Chinese leaders about the U.S. economy. China holds more than $1 trillion in U.S. government debt, the most of any nation.

Mass protests built across India today, as a leading anti-corruption campaigner fasted in jail. Seventy-four-year old Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, then ordered released. He refused to leave jail unless he’s allowed to fast in a city park. At least 15,000 people turned out today in New Delhi supporting Hazare. Similar protests erupted in Mumbai, Bangalore and elsewhere, with farmers, students, lawyers and others joining in.

A debate is now brewing in Britain over the jail terms handed out in the wake of last week’s riots. Human rights groups raised new concerns today that some of the sentences are too tough, citing the cases of two men in northwestern England.

We have a report from Stephen Douglas of Independent Television News.

STEPHEN DOUGLAS: It’s what didn’t happen on these streets that’s brought both praise and criticism.

Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan used Facebook to try and start a riot, but no one turned up, except the police. They were sentenced to four years in prison. But, in contrast, Joshua Moulinie was released without charge. He urged people on Facebook to vandalize a local shop.

So are some judges being too tough?

DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: I think it’s right that we should allow the courts to make decisions about sentencing. You weren’t sitting in the court. I wasn’t sitting in the court. We didn’t hear the evidence. The sentence — they decided in that court to send a tough sentence, a tough message. And I think it’s very good that courts feel able to do that.

STEPHEN DOUGLAS: But whether punishments have been consistent and proportionate is in question.

Nicholas Robinson was given six months for stealing a case of water. But David Attoh was fined 150 pounds for taking two T-shirts. Ursula Nevin was sent to prison for five months after being given a pair of shorts that had been looted, while Linda Boyd was given a suspended sentence for stealing alcohol and cigarettes.

PAUL MENDELLE, defense attorney: I’m concerned that there may be in effect a feeling that one can simply throw the guidelines out of the window.

STEPHEN DOUGLAS: Tonight, Jordan Blackshaw’s lawyer said his client plans to appeal. Others may follow. He says his sentence has left him shocked and upset.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The London police chief urged the public again today to turn in anyone involved in the riots. He said, “Don’t let them get away with it.”

New body armor for U.S. troops may not provide adequate protection in the battlefield. The Defense Department’s inspector general is warning that the Army improperly tested more than five million bullet-blocking plates worth $2.5 billion. The I.G.’s report was issued Tuesday. The Army said it has already implemented the report’s recommendations to improve the testing.

Major tobacco companies have launched a legal bid to block graphic new warnings on cigarettes. R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard and three other firms are suing in federal court. The newly mandated labels show diseased lungs, a smoker’s corpse and a man’s chest with smoke rising from a tracheotomy hole. The companies argue the labels appeal unfairly to public emotions and will cost millions of dollars to produce.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.