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News Wrap: Biden visits China amid tension over air defense zone

December 4, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tensions in the East China Sea hovered over Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Beijing today. U.S. officials say he and Chinese President Xi Jinping traded arguments over China’s new air defense zone around islands that Japan also claims.

Later, in a subdued session with reporters, neither man mentioned the issue. Instead, Xi emphasized that diplomacy is needed from both the U.S. and China to maintain regional peace.

PRESIDENT XI JINPING, China (through interpreter): Both the international situation and the regional landscape are undergoing profound and complex changes. Regional hot spot issues keep popping up. China and the United States shoulder important responsibilities for upholding world peace and stability and promoting human development and progress.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The state-run English newspaper China Daily was far less diplomatic. In a bluntly worded editorial, it accused the U.S. of casting a blind eye to Japanese provocations. The editorial went on to say — quote — “Despite trying to present the image of being an impartial mediator, Washington has obviously taken Japan’s side.”

The European Commission has imposed fines of $2.3 billion on major U.S. and European banks over rigging interest rates. Today’s announcement named J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and HSBC, among others. They were accused of manipulating European and Japanese benchmark rates between 2005 and 2010. The rates affect everything from mortgages to credit card bills.

Here in the U.S., a bitter cold and snow front pushed across the Rocky Mountains today. Extremely low temperatures dotted the landscape and, with wind chills, could reach 30 degrees below zero in parts of Montana. The storm has spread snow across the region, causing treacherous driving conditions that were blamed for at least six deaths. Another storm is close on the heels of this one, expected later in the week.

The pace of enrollment on the website is improving some. It was widely reported today that 29,000 people signed up Sunday and Monday, the first two days after the mistake-prone site was relaunched. That tops the total for the entire month of October.

President Obama talked up the law’s benefits in Washington today, and brushed aside rising disapproval in public polls.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: More people without insurance have gained insurance, more than three million young Americans who’ve been able to stay on their parents’ plan, the more than half-a-million Americans and counting who are poised to get coverage starting on January 1, some for the very first time.

And it is these numbers, not the ones in any poll, that will ultimately determine the fate of this law.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Republicans said the new numbers on enrollment are cold comfort to millions who’ve had their coverage canceled or who face higher premiums.

Nine-one-one phone calls from Sandy Hook Elementary School during last year’s mass shooting were made public today. The seven recordings revealed police dispatchers in Newtown, Connecticut, urging callers to take cover, even as gunfire echoed. Twenty children and six educators were shot to death by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. A judge ordered the audio material released under the state’s freedom of information law.

The suspected gunman in the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport has made his first court appearance. Paul Ciancia entered no plea today to charges he killed an airport security officer and wounded three other people last month. He was denied bail. The 23-year-old suspect was wounded by police during the attack.

In economic news, a survey of leading corporate chief executives found they’re more optimistic and plan to increase hiring. At the same time, growth at service sector companies last month was the weakest since June. The conflicting data left Wall Street looking for direction. The Dow Jones industrial average lost almost 25 points to close at 15,889. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a point to close at 4,038.

There’s word today that the great majority of American silent films are now gone forever. The Library of Congress reported that 70 percent of the 11,000 feature-length movies have been lost or destroyed. Only 14 percent still exist in their original format. That’s due in part to the nitrate film stock, which was especially vulnerable to decay and fire.