Monday Morning Briefing: Connecting the dots in New York and New Jersey

September 19, 2016

Investigators are trying to piece together clues behind a series of bombs planted in New York and New Jersey over the weekend.

Federal authorities are searching for Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year old naturalized U.S. citizen from New Jersey, for his possible role in the bombing of a Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. The blast injured 29 people, none of them fatally. But another bomb was found several blocks away, but it never went off.

Separately, a series of bombs were found in Elizabeth, New Jersey, overnight. One was detonated by a robot sent in by authorities, but no one was injured.

  • One exploded in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan and injured 29 people, none of them fatally.
  • A pressure cooker bomb, similar to the ones that killed three people at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and injured hundreds of others, was planted a few blocks away but did not detonate.
  • Eleven hours before the Chelsea bomb went off, a bomb exploded in Seaside Park, N.J., before a charity race to benefit the Marines. The race hadn’t started at the time the bomb went off and no one was injured.
  • A series of pipe bombs was found in Elizabeth, N.J., One of them detonated when a robot sent by authorities tried to defuse it. Again, no one was injured.
A view of a mangled dumpster at the site of an explosion that occurred on Saturday night in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, USA,  September 18, 2016.   REUTERS/Justin Lane/Pool     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTSOBKI

A view of a mangled dumpster at the site of an explosion that occurred on Saturday night in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, Sept. 18, 2016. REUTERS/Justin Lane/Pool

http://pictures.reuters.com/Doc/RTR/Media/TR3_UNWATERMARKED/2/6/2/0/RTSOBKI.jpg

“The crudity of the devices in all three cases certainly doesn’t point to any group that’s been developing (improvised explosive devices) for years,” said a U.S. official involved in the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss the inquiry.

The official added that the crude nature of the devices and the apparent low level of planning had some investigators concerned that the blasts were just a test of New York’s security.

“That’s what worries us: Was this some kind of test run, not just of the devices, but also of the surveillance in New York and the response?” the official said.

Quote of the day:

“For people who live in New York City, there is always the sense that something terrible is going to happen. You just always adopt a ‘que sera’ attitude.” – Karen McWharter, 61


Around Wall Street

  • The Federal Reserve meets Tuesday and Wednesday to decide whether to raise interest rates. A Reuters poll last week showed experts expect no change in rates. And interest rate futures indicate that traders expect the Fed to stand pat until February. On the other hand, market volatility is low, middle class income has improved, and inflation may be increasing, leading some to believe it may be time to hike rates.

Digits of the day:

2 percent

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said oil producing countries were close to reaching a deal to stabilize oil markets. Prices rallied as much 2 percent in London trading overnight. OPEC nations and other oil producers have been trying to forge an agreement to freeze production to prop up oil prices. OPEC members may call a meeting if they reach consensus at an informal gathering in Algiers this month, OPEC Secretary-General Mohammed Barkindo said.

  • Indonesia wants five years of back taxes from Google. The company could face a bill of more than $400 million for 2015 alone if it is found to have avoided tax payments, a senior tax official said.

Around the world

  • Syrian rebels backed by Turkey may extend their zone of control in northern Syria by pushing south and are focused on heading toward the Islamic State-held town of al-Bab, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said. Turkey launched its northern Syria operation last month to clear Islamic State from the Syrian border and stopping the advance of Syrian Kurdish fighters. So far, Turkey has secured a narrow strip of land along the border.
  • China accused Japan of trying to “confuse” the situation in the South China Sea, after its neighbor said it would step up activity in the contested waters, through joint training patrols with the United States.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s political party is on its way to a landslide victory in the country’s parliamentary election, taking 76 percent of 450 available seats in Russia’s Duma, the lower house of parliament. Putin is widely expected to run for reelection in 2018.

Around the country

  • A potential rerouting of a pipeline at the center of a protest in North Dakota would be a laborious and costly task, possibly delaying a startup by months and provoking further opposition from Native American and environmental groups who were instrumental in halting construction. Most routes still cross either lands that are culturally important to Native Americans or large waterways.
  • New Jersey’s “Bridgegate” trial opens today, with two cronies of Governor Chris Christie accused of arranging lane closings that caused gridlock on the George Washington Bridge in 2013. The resulting traffic delayed commuters for hours and left emergency vehicles slow to respond to 911 calls. Prosecutors said the two defendants planned the lane closures to take revenge on a mayor of nearby Fort Lee, N.J., who refused to endorse Christie for re-election. The governor hasn’t been charged and has denied any knowledge of the plan.
  • HBO was the big winner at this year’s Emmy awards, snatching trophies for “Game of Thrones” and “Veep.” “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” FX’s 10-hour dramatization of the former football player’s 1995 double murder trial and sensational acquittal won nine Emmys.

Today’s reason to live

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