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News Wrap: Pakistan Government Faces Criticism After Taliban Jailbreak

July 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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KWAME HOLMAN: Pakistan’s leaders faced new questions today about their ability to safeguard the country after Taliban fighters stormed a prison and freed more than 250 inmates.

We have a report narrated by Kylie Morris of Independent Television News.

KYLIE MORRIS: Local television excitedly relayed glimpses of what was a sophisticated midnight attack by jihadis on the prison, so sophisticated that booby traps were set to thwart reinforcement who came to the aid of the embattled few guarding it.

An injured police sergeant emblematic of the fight that was lost to what is thought to have been dozens of Pakistan Taliban. In the full light of morning, survivors gave vivid detail of the onslaught.

HIDAYAT ULLAH, injured policeman (through translator):When they started shooting, we parked up in front of the main gate in an armored vehicle to fight back. Then the gate exploded. We opened fire. Then our vehicle was hit by a rocket launcher or a mortar. Two of my men were killed on the shot.

KYLIE MORRIS: Six policemen died in all, as well as a number of Shiite Muslim prisoners unfortunate enough to have been identified by the Sunni fighters.

Rather than liberation, they faced execution, their throats slit. But behind these walls, the real objective was fellow Talib fighters held prisoner. Eyewitnesses spoke of some attackers with loud hailers calling out the names of those they most sought to liberate. But KPK province had been warned with suggestions the threat of a jailbreak was known to the authorities in the days before the attack. Still, they had no answer when the Talib fighters wearing police uniforms roared out of the darkness on motorbikes.

The Pakistan jailbreaks repeat a pattern established in Yemen, Libya, and most recently Iraq. Only last week, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for an assault that led to a mass breakout of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison.

KWAME HOLMAN: The leader of the Pakistani province where last night’s attack took place said he’d been told this week that prison security was good. He vowed to investigate, and said, heads will roll; no one will be spared.

Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to try to work out a final status peace agreement within nine months. Secretary of State John Kerry gave that word today, after two days of initial talks in Washington. The lead negotiators for each side shook hands after the first talks in nearly three years, and Kerry said he’s convinced peace is possible.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: While I understand the skepticism, I don’t share it and I don’t think we have time for it. I firmly believe the leaders, the negotiators and citizens invested in this effort can make peace for one simple reason, because they must. A viable two-state solution is the only way this conflict can end, and there is not much time to achieve it, and there is no other alternative.

KWAME HOLMAN: The two sides will hold substantive talks again some time in the next two weeks, either in Israel or the West Bank. The military group Hamas, which rules in Gaza, has refused to join the negotiations.

In Egypt, the European Union’s foreign policy chief was allowed to meet with ousted President Mohammed Morsi at an undisclosed location. Catherine Ashton was the first outside official to see Morsi since the military forced him from power earlier this month. Ashton said Morsi is well and that they had an open and frank discussion.

FOREIGN MINSITER CATHERINE ASHTON, European Union: We talked for two hours. We talked in-depth. He has access to information in terms of TV, newspapers. So, we were able to talk about the situation. And we were able to talk about the need to move forward.

KWAME HOLMAN: Ashton also met with the country’s interim leaders, including the army chief, as well as officials of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Also today, France called for Morsi to be released from custody.

The driver of the train in last week’s deadly crash in Spain was talking on the phone when the train derailed, killing 79 people. Investigators said today he had taken a call from a railroad controller, and apparently was consulting a document. They also reported the train was doing 95 miles an hour, nearly twice the speed limit. The findings were taken from the train’s black box recorders.

President Obama today tried to rally support for a plan to cut corporate tax rates if Republicans agree to spend more on job creation. It was his latest bid to get action on his economic policy initiatives.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I came here to offer a framework that might help break through some of the political logjam in Washington.

KWAME HOLMAN: The backdrop was a sprawling distribution facility for Amazon.com in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The company announced Monday it’s adding 7,000 jobs. The president said it’s time to create even more jobs by cutting corporate tax rates to 28 percent from the current 35 percent. At the same time, he’d spend more on public works and other jobs programs paid for by one-time changes in the tax laws.

BARACK OBAMA: I’m willing to work with Republicans on reforming our corporate tax code, as long as we use the money from transitioning to a simpler tax system for a significant investment in creating middle class jobs.

BARACK OBAMA: That’s the deal. Now it’s time for Republicans to lay out their ideas.

BARACK OBAMA: If they have got a better plan to bring back more manufacturing jobs here to Tennessee and around the country, then let me know. I want to hear them.

KWAME HOLMAN: But Senate Republicans complained Mr. Obama has given up on the idea of overhauling both corporate and individual tax rates.

SEN. PAT TOOMEY, R-Penn.: Sometimes, it just seems that this administration never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to grow this economy.

KWAME HOLMAN: Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey said he hoped for an agreement to simplify the overall tax code.

PAT TOOMEY: I thought we might be able to make some progress on that. I’m losing confidence that we can when Senator Reid insists that tax reform has to start at about a trillion dollars of tax increases and the president says today that even corporate tax reform, the part where I thought we were close to a consensus, has to be another opportunity to raise taxes on the American people.

KWAME HOLMAN: The opening bids on tax action come as Congress makes ready to start a five-week summer recess on Friday.

There was strong new evidence today of a recovering housing market. The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index showed home prices in May surged more than 12 percent from the same month last year. It’s the largest gain since March of 2006.

But on Wall Street, stocks mostly marked time, ahead of tomorrow’s policy statement from the Federal Reserve. The Dow Jones industrial average lost one point to close at 15,520. The NASDAQ rose 17 points to close at 3,616.

The Senate moved this evening to confirm five presidential nominations to the National Labor Relations Board. The independent agency helps resolve labor disputes, but delaying tactics in the Senate have stalled confirmations of new members for years. The impasse was resolved in a deal two weeks ago to allow votes on nominees for executive branch positions.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.