BBC news 2011-08-07

BBC News with Marion Marshall

The White House has called on US politicians from both parties to work together to tackle the country's fiscal and economic problems. The appeal comes a day after the American credit rating was downgraded by the Standard & Poor's agency. The agency said the last-minute standoff between the parties over the raising of the US debt ceiling made it less likely that the growing political divides could be bridged in future. John Chambers is the chairman of Standard & Poor['s].

"We took a dimmer view of the political settings in the United States - the governability. The fact that you had a debt ceiling agreement that resulted in the government not reaching an agreement until 10 hours before they had a cash management programme, I mean, this is not how most highly-rated governments run themselves."

The BBC Washington correspondent says the White House has implicitly blamed the Republicans for the downgrade as they blocked President Obama's efforts to cut the US deficit.

More than 200,000 Israelis across the country have joined protests against the rising cost of living. The largest demonstration was in Tel Aviv, where demonstrators chanted slogans like "people before profits". It's the third Saturday of protests and the largest yet. Wyre Davies reports from Jerusalem.

If the Israeli government was hoping this extraordinary movement of middle-class protesters was losing momentum and direction, the message from the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities across the country is that they are not giving up. Inspired by the success and impact of social uprisings in the Arab world, the goal of the Israeli protesters isn't political change, but they are demanding the government of Benjamin Netanyahu do something to tackle the soaring cost of living. The inaffordability of housing, childcare and even some basic foods has driven many Israelis to despair.

Afghan officials say 31 Americans and seven local soldiers have been killed in a helicopter crash in eastern Afghanistan. It's America's biggest loss there in a single incident. The helicopter, carrying US special forces, was involved in an anti-terrorism operation in Wardak province. The Taliban say they shot it down. Nato is investigating the incident.

Local authorities in China are reported to have pulled down a monument to Japanese settlers that provoked attacks by nationalists and outrage on the Internet. The stone memorial was put up near the northeastern city of Harbin last month. Charles Scanlon has more.

Chinese newspapers carried pictures of the monument being daubed with red paint and battered with hammers. The five men who carried out the attack were arrested but then quickly released. They were hailed as heroes on Internet chat sites. The seven-metre-high monument was put up last month as a memorial to 5,000 Japanese settlers who died in the chaotic aftermath of Japan's surrender in 1945. Chinese nationalists said it was an insult to the millions of Chinese people killed during the Japanese invasion of the 1930s and 40s.

World News from the BBC

The ringleader of the US military guards who photographed their abuse of suspected Iraqi insurgents at the Abu Ghraib prison has been freed. A US army spokeswoman said Charles Graner was released from a military jail at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas after serving more than 6.5 years of a 10-year sentence. Mr Graner was convicted of leading his six-member team in the sexual humiliation of naked prisoners.

The militant Islamist group al-Shabab has abandoned its positions in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed hailed it as a victory, but al-Shabab described the move as a tactical withdrawal. Here's our East Africa correspondent Will Ross.

They left Mogadishu at night by the lorry load, but the fighters from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab may be back. A spokesman said they would now use guerrilla tactics, so grenade attacks, landmines and more suicide bombings can be expected. This al-Qaeda-linked group still holds much of southern Somalia, where it has imposed its strict version of Islamic law. Punishments include beheadings, amputations and stoning people to death. It's not yet clear whether al-Shabab's withdrawal from Mogadishu will make it any easier for aid agencies to reach victims of the drought.

Rebels in Libya have launched a new offensive in the west of the country. After fierce fighting with Colonel Gaddafi's forces, they appeared to have captured the town of Bir al-Ghanam, about 80km from Tripoli. It's the closest they've got to the capital so far.

Syrian activists say a large number of tanks have been deployed in the town of Deir al-Zour and around the city of Homs. There have been reports of further shelling in the city of Hama overnight after, activists say, at least 22 people were killed by the security forces during widespread protests on Friday. International condemnation of the violent repression of the protests has continued to grow, with Gulf Arab states calling on the Syrian government to stop the bloodshed.

BBC News.