FBI says man planned to bomb National Mall on Election Day
By JIM MUSTIAN
Thursday, October 11
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal authorities have charged a New York man with building a 200-pound (90-kilogram) bomb they say he planned to detonate on Election Day on the National Mall in Washington.
Paul Rosenfeld, 56, of Tappan, was charged Wednesday with unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device and interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive.
Prosecutors said he planned to use the bomb to kill himself and draw attention to a political system called sortition, in which public officials are chosen randomly rather than elected.
It was not immediately clear whether Rosenfeld had an attorney. A message left with the federal public defender’s office in White Plains, which often represents newly arrested criminal defendants, wasn’t immediately returned.
The FBI raided Rosenfeld’s home Tuesday and found a functional bomb in his basement that consisted of black powder inside a plywood box, according to a criminal complaint.
Agents also found empty canisters of black powder often used in firearms and artillery, the complaint said.
The FBI said in court filings that Rosenfeld, after being pulled over on Tuesday, confessed to ordering large quantities of black powder over the internet and having the substance delivered to “a location in New Jersey.”
Rosenfeld took the black powder to New York, constructed smaller explosive devices and conducted test detonations, according to the criminal complaint.
William Sweeney Jr., the assistant director of the FBI’s New York field office, said in a statement that Rosenfeld intended to “detonate a large explosive to kill himself and draw attention to his radical beliefs.”
“Had he been successful, Rosenfeld’s alleged plot could have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders and caused untold destruction,” Sweeney said in the statement. “Fortunately, his plans were thwarted by the quick action of a concerned citizen and the diligent work of a host of our law enforcement partners and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
Rosenfeld had an initial court appearance before a magistrate at a federal courthouse in White Plains on Wednesday afternoon.
From Caesar to Trump: Immunity is a hard thing to give up
October 11, 2018
Cavan W. Concannon
Associate Professor of Religion, University of Southern California
Cavan W. Concannon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Two prosecutors working Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election have left and returned to jobs at the Justice Department, a possible sign that the investigation is winding down. Among the big questions remaining, after the indictments of Trump campaign staff or confidants: Will Mueller formally charge President Donald Trump with a crime?
As media coverage has underscored, there is a long-standing tradition of American jurisprudence that a president cannot be indicted while in office.
Immunity from prosecution for elected officials is not a modern American concept. It stretches back almost three millennia to the ancient Mediterranean.
Paying attention to this history, and particularly to the tumultuous last days of the Roman Republic in the first century B.C., allows us to better understand how our current conversation about presidential immunity is deeply entwined with ancient Roman law, whether we know it or not.
As classics scholar Sarah Bond has recently shown, immunity “either as a privilege of office or as a special grant” has a long history as a feature of Greek, Roman and medieval law.
Immunity in Roman law
While both Roman and U.S. law render certain officeholders immune from prosecution while in office, the Romans theorized the relationship between power and office differently than U.S. law.
Roman law granted immunity to certain elected officials whose offices entitled the holder to “imperium” or “potestas” or to officials whose office was “sacred.”
Offices with “imperium” are closest to what we might consider presidential powers. The term translates generally as “the right to command.” “Imperium” allowed the officeholder to exercise authority over a range of matters, such as military command, legislative authority, the maintenance of public order and the power of coercion (ranging from incarceration to capital punishment).
Protection has its limits
According to Roman jurists, officials with immunity could not be summoned to court for criminal or civil offenses while they held office.
This did not mean, however, that those officials could never be held accountable.
Roman officeholders with immunity could not be removed from office until their term was completed. They kept their office until they formally laid it down in a ritual ceremony. All officeholders could be indicted after they completed their year in office for both civil and criminal offenses.
Since the law stipulated that officeholders with immunity could not hold two such offices consecutively, officials were often taken to court after their terms expired.
One of the most famous examples was the trial of Gaius Verres for his alleged crimes while governor of Sicily in 70 B.C. Verres was brought to trial after his governorship for extorting bribes and looting art from temples, among other things.
As Rome conquered more territory, the temptation for provincial governors to engage in graft or other crimes increased. That’s because new territory presented greater access to resources, while the governor’s “imperium” made taking advantage of the inhabitants of these provinces far too tempting. This meant that accountability became more important over time.
Whereas the American system allows for the possibility of impeaching certain elected officials, the Roman system relied on veto power from a higher official or one of equal rank, and short terms of office.
Thus, a consul – the highest elected office in the Roman Republic and closest in practice to our president – could have his decisions vetoed by his co-consul for that year, effectively rendering his powers null. Because these offices were held for only a single year, this system made it hard for one individual to do lasting damage.
Julius Caesar works the system
The Roman political system began to fall apart in the Late Republic of the first century B.C. This was a time when, much like our current moment, there was a breakdown of norms and the exploitation of the system’s rules by increasingly brazen elites.
The most famous example of this was Julius Caesar.
In 59 BCE, Caesar was first elected consul. Caesar and his opponents used bribery extensively to buy votes during the election.
In order to pass legislation, Caesar also violently intimidated his conservative co-Consul Bibulus to the point where he holed up in his house for the year.
At the end of his term, Caesar arranged to be appointed proconsul, or governor, of Gaul for five years, the result of a secret alliance with Marcus Crassus, a wealthy aristocrat, and Pompey, a powerful military commander. This extended his immunity and allowed him to avoid pending prosecution.
The First Triumvirate – as these three were called – later extended Caesar’s proconsulship by another five years.
By 50 B.C., having held office for 10 years, Caesar’s alliance had fallen apart and he lacked the allies in Rome to secure a further renewal of his term. When his term was set to end, he feared prosecution for what he had done during his consulship.
The next year, Caesar led an army across the Rubicon in a bid to hold on to his office, beginning a civil war that would lead to the fall of the Republic.
All because he was afraid of losing his immunity.
US impeachment vs. Roman veto
While British law was informed by Roman law, the founders of the American Republic relied heavily on Roman legal philosophy as a model when they wrote the Constitution.
In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton described presidential immunity much like that which applied to a Roman consul: The president cannot be prosecuted while in office, but he is liable to prosecution after his term ends.
Unlike the Roman system, Hamilton and the founders created a mechanism to remove the president from office: impeachment by Congress. Impeachment was a necessary check. With two consuls serving alongside each other every year, the Romans had a natural check on executive power that is lacking in the American system and its single executive.
This brings us back to Trump’s legal troubles. Roman law relied on short terms of office and the veto power of other officeholders as checks on the grant of immunity. The American system relies on impeachment by Congress as the mechanism for checking presidential immunity.
Caesar’s various machinations – extending his time in government, waging war – to prolong his immunity should make it clear what any president, including Trump, could do to maintain their immunity to prosecution. These dangers apply to Republican and Democratic politicians alike.
As was the case with Caesar, immunity is a tough thing to give up when you may have something to lose.
Uptick in Social Security checks for 2019 as inflation rises
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR
Thursday, October 11
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tens of millions of Social Security recipients and other retirees will get a 2.8 percent increase in benefits next year as inflation edges higher. For the average retired worker, it amounts to $39 a month.
After a period of low inflation, the increase for 2019 is the highest in 7 years.
The cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, affects household budgets for about one in five Americans, including Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans and federal retirees. That’s about 70 million people, enough to send ripples through the economy.
Automatic inflation protection has been a standard feature of Social Security since 1975. Social Security recipients also gain from compounding because COLAs becomes part of their underlying benefit, the base for future COLA increases.
Nonetheless many retirees and their advocates say the Social Security COLA is too meager and doesn’t reflect higher health care costs for older people. Federal budget hawks take the opposite view, arguing that annual increases should be smaller to reflect consumers’ penny-pinching responses when costs go up.
With the COLA, the estimated average monthly Social Security payment for a retired worker will be $1,461 a month next year. Other Social Security beneficiaries include disabled workers and surviving spouses and children. Low-income disabled and elderly people receiving Supplemental Security Income also get a COLA.
Retiree Danette Deakin, of Bolivar, Missouri, says she feels as though her cost-of-living adjustment is already earmarked for rising expenses. Her Medigap insurance for costs not covered by Medicare is going up, and so is her prescription drug plan. She expects her Medicare Part B premium for outpatient care will also increase, although the government hasn’t released that yet.
“It isn’t enough of an increase that it takes care of all of the increases from health care, plus rent — our rent gets increased every year,” said Deakin, 70, who worked in the finance department at a boat dealership.
Health care costs eat up about one-third of her income, she estimated.
“I appreciate the COLA adjustment, and in no way am I complaining,” Deakin added. “It’s just that every single thing you can talk about goes up. It doesn’t go down.”
By law, the COLA is based on a broad index of consumer prices calculated by the government. Advocates for seniors claim the general index doesn’t accurately capture the rising prices they face, especially for health care and housing. They would like the government to switch to an index that reflects the spending patterns of older people.
“What the COLA should be based on is still a very real issue,” said William Arnone, CEO of the National Academy of Social Insurance, a research organization not involved in lobbying. “Older people spend their money in categories that are going up at a higher rate than overall inflation.”
The COLA is now based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, or CPI-W, which measures price changes for food, housing, clothing, transportation, energy, medical care, recreation and education.
Advocates for the elderly would prefer the CPI-E, an experimental measure from the government that reflects costs for households headed by a person age 62 or older. It usually outpaces general inflation, though not always.
COLAs can be small or zero, as was the case in several recent years. People often blame the president when that happens. However, the White House can’t dictate the COLA, which is determined by nonpolitical experts. If there were to be any revisions, President Donald Trump would have to persuade Congress to change the underlying law.
Trump has repeatedly vowed not to cut Social Security or Medicare. But the government is running $1 trillion deficits, partly as a result of the Republican tax-cut bill the president claims as one of his main achievements. Mounting deficits will revive pressure to cut Social Security, advocates for the elderly fear.
“The revenue loss in the tax bill contributes to much higher deficits and debt, and that is where the threats begin to come in,” said David Certner, policy director for AARP. “Social Security, and in particular the COLAs, have been the target.”
Beyond federal budget woes, Social Security faces its own long-term financial problems and won’t be able to pay full benefits starting in 2034.
Former President Barack Obama floated — but ultimately dropped — a proposal called chained CPI, which would have slowed annual COLAs to reflect penny-pinching behavior by consumers. The idea behind it is that when the price of a particular good or service rises, people often respond by switching to a lower-cost alternative.
Because of compounding, smaller COLAs would have a dramatic effect over time on the federal budget and Social Security finances. But if inflation continues to rise, proposals to scale back cost-of-living adjustments carry greater political risk.
Social Security is financed by a 12.4 percent tax on wages, with half paid by workers and the other half paid by employers. Next year, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax will increase from $128,400 to $132,900.
About 177 million workers pay Social Security taxes. Of those, nearly 12 million workers will pay more in taxes because of the increase in taxable wages, according to the Social Security Administration.
Shop and Save Like a Member — BJ’s Wholesale Club Opens Doors to Let Everyone Save without Fees or Commitment
“Welcome One and All” is a free showcase of recent transformation
WESTBOROUGH, Mass. (October 11, 2018) – BJ’s Wholesale Club (NYSE: BJ) today announced “Welcome One and All,” a free event running from Monday, October 15, 2018 to Sunday, November 4, 2018, that lets all shoppers experience the convenient perks of BJ’s membership, with no fee or commitment.
During the event, all shoppers are invited to visit their local club to shop BJ’s unbeatable values and enhanced assortment and learn about its new digital conveniences. BJ’s has recently expanded its offering of convenient online shopping options for members including Shop BJs.com – Pick Up in Club, Add-to-Card digital coupons, same day delivery, and the BJ’s mobile app.
“At BJ’s, we’re committed to providing unbeatable value and outstanding service,” said Lee Delaney, executive vice president, Chief Commercial Officer. “We’ve transformed our clubs with convenient new services and great products, giving members more ways to save time and money. We’re proud to showcase the new BJ’s Wholesale Club, and we welcome all shoppers to experience what a BJ’s membership has to offer.”
All shoppers can visit their local BJ’s club and BJ’s Gas beginning Monday, October 15, 2018 through Sunday, November 4, 2018 to take advantage of the incredible savings and added convenience of a BJ’s membership. Shoppers not currently enrolled in membership can sign up for a free three-month trial membership or join for just $25 for twelve months with BJ’s Easy Renewal. Shoppers who sign up for BJ’s membership in-club during “Welcome One and All” will also receive one free delivery through November 4, 2018 on a same day delivery order through delivery.bjs.com (first time users only).
Additional benefits of a BJ’s membership include:
BJ’s biggest advantage is value. BJ’s beats supermarket prices on national brands every day, saving families 25 percent or more on groceries*. Its exclusive brands, Berkley Jensen and Wellsley Farms, let families save without sacrificing quality or fun.
BJ’s Gas prices are among the lowest around. Members can save money and time by filling up their tanks at BJ’s Gas.
BJ’s offers excellent fresh food. BJ’s offers much more fresh food variety than other clubs. BJ’s is the only major wholesale club to offer a full-service deli with premium meats and cheese. Members can have fresh meats cut to their specifications. BJ’s butchers will recut and repackage at no additional charge.
Shoppers can find their local BJ’s Wholesale Club by going to www.bjs.com/locations.
*25% savings is based on Member pricing on a basket of 100 national brand household staples, on an unpromoted unit-price basis, when compared to four leading grocery chains in our trade areas. Learn more at www.bjs.com/25percentterms.
About BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, Inc.
Headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, BJ’s Wholesale Club Holdings, Inc. is a leading operator of membership warehouse clubs on the East Coast of the United States. The company currently operates 215 clubs and 136 BJ’s Gas locations in 16 states.
The Company’s common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: BJ).