Tuesday Morning Briefing: From class clown to bombing suspect

September 20, 2016

We know the who. We know the how. But we don’t know why a 28-year-old man of Afghan descent living in Elizabeth, New Jersey, allegedly planted bombs in New York City and New Jersey. He was ultimately caught after being shot several times in a gunfight with police. Two officers were wounded in the shootout.

Ahmad Khan Rahami came to the U.S. in 1995, several years after his father arrived seeking asylum. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2011, CNN reported. Described as a “class clown” by a high school classmate, he studied criminal justice before dropping out of a community college. More recently, he became active in the Muslim community of his racially diverse hometown.

He traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan several times between 2011 and 2014, including a visit to Pakistan from April 2013 to March 2014, according to CNN. His wife is from Pakistan, several media outlets reported. After one of his overseas trips, he came back “a completely different person,” one of his friends told the New York Times, forsaking his Western-style clothes in favor of Muslim robes.

Rahami was not listed in U.S. counterterrorism databases, but officials are investigating his possible links to international terror groups. “If you’re working off the premise that the guy made all these devices,” a law enforcement official told the Times, “then the guy is a pretty good bombmaker. And you don’t get that good on the internet.”

By the way, did you steal a bag over the weekend? If so, the New York City police want a word with you. It seems someone took the bag that contained the undetonated pressure-cooker bomb in Chelsea. Then they left the bomb in the street.

Where are those droids we were looking for?

Members of a school band wearing Star Wars costumes walk in the center of La Paz, Bolivia, September 19, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado - RTSOH5X

Members of a school band wearing Star Wars costumes walk in the center of La Paz, Bolivia, Sept.19, 2016. REUTERS/David Mercado

Around the world

Digits of the day:


The Red Cross is postponing aid convoys for four Syrian towns after Syrian or Russian aircraft struck trucks delivering aid for 78,000 people in the hard-to-reach town of Urm al-Kubra near Aleppo yesterday. The U.N. suspended all aid convoy movements. At least 12 people were killed in the attack with at least 18 of 31 trucks being hit.

  • Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said the United States should “not harbor a terrorist” like Fethullah Gulen and that his activities should be banned around the world. Erdogan blames Gulen, an exiled cleric living in Pennsylvania, for the attempted coup in Turkey in July. Gulen denies involvement in the coup. Washington has said it will extradite him only if Turkey provides evidence, much to the Turkish government’s frustration.
  • A fire ripped through a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos sending thousands of refugees fleeing. The United Nations refugee agency said the fire was linked in part to poor living conditions. A police official in Athens said two riot police squads were being deployed to the island. The fire followed violence in the camp amid rumors that hundreds of people would be deported.

Around the country

  • During her tenure as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton acquired the reputation of being skeptical about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to “reset” relations with Washington. That skepticism may set the tone between the two countries, should Clinton become president.

Quote of the day:

“She is not perceived by many people as the Kremlin’s preferred candidate. Many here believe that she would be tougher on Russia than Obama.” — Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council

  • Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma released a video yesterday showing an officer killing an unarmed black man who had his hands in the air. Officer Betty Shelby shot Terence Crutcher, 40, whose sport utility vehicle broke down on Friday, police said. We don’t know what Crutcher was doing to warrant getting shot. But Tulsa Police Chief Chuck Jordan assures us, “We will achieve justice in this case.” The U.S Justice Department is looking into the incident as a possible civil rights violation.
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had full knowledge that his henchmen arranged lanes closures that caused gridlock on the George Washington Bridge in 2013 as a way to punish a mayor of a nearby town who would not support his re-election, federal prosecutors said. The prosecutors made their accusations in a criminal case that opened yesterday against the two Christie allies. The governor hasn’t been charged and has denied any knowledge of the plan.
  • Jim Carrey is the target of a wrongful death suit brought by the estranged husband of Carrey’s girlfriend who died in an apparent suicide a year ago. Mark Burton accused the “Dumb and Dumber” star of supplying his wife, Cathriona White, with prescription drugs that resulted in her death. Carrey denied the allegations and called the suit an attempt to exploit him.

Around Wall Street

  • Wells Fargo Chief Executive John Stumpf faces the Senate Banking Committee, which is probing the bank’s sale of services and credit cards to customers who didn’t ask for them or know they were buying them. He is expected to be the face of contrition. The bank agreed to pay $190 million to settle regulatory charges that employees opened some 2 million accounts without customers’ knowledge, in order to meet sales targets.
  • Steve Eisman, the maverick investor whose exploits in the subprime housing market were at the center of best-selling book “The Big Short,” says bankers should stop griping about regulation. “I don’t think regulation has gone too far,” he said at an industry conference. “The banking industry should just shut up on this topic.” Eisman made a fortune for himself by accurately predicting the housing crash.
  • Will the euro survive the next big crisis? Probably not, according to one of the architects of the currency.

Today’s reason to live:

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