Monday Reads: Pre Debate warm-up jitters

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Good Afternoon!

Take my advice for tonight’s debate. Don’t watch the pundits or you’ll need some form of tranquilizer.  Have I mentioned how horrible Andrea Mitchell is lately?

So, the debate is tonight and of course, we’ll be live blogging the drama.  I am assuming there will be drama.  I’m still trying to figure out if there will be blood.  Several little bits about the particulars first before we get on with the big build up to the event.

Bloomberg TV will be running a fact check of the debate on its screen tonight.  I find that very interesting.  How many debates have ever needed real time fact check before?

Bloomberg TV will conduct on-screen fact checks of statements made by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during Monday night’s debate, POLITICO has confirmed.

The channel’s decision to conduct an on-screen fact-check sets Bloomberg apart from the other major TV networks, none of whom have committed to doing on-screen fact checks during the debate. Most will leave the fact-checking to segments in the post-debate analysis coverage.

Clinton’s supporters have called for aggressive fact-checking during Monday’s debate, saying that members of the media have failed to adequately fact-check and correct falsehoods from her Republican rival. NBC’s Matt Lauer was recently criticized for not correcting several false statements from Trump during a presidential forum on the network.

Spokespeople for the networks told POLITICO that on-screen fact checks would be hard to execute in real-time, which is why they were opting out. That leaves the real-time fact-checking up to NBC’s Lester Holt, the debate moderator, or Clinton herself.

The debate will be on at 9 pm Eastern. Lester Holt of NBC News will be the moderator.  The format will be somewhat informal. Here are the details via Heavy.first-date-nerves

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern. It will be televised on all major broadcast and cable news networks.

The debate is being held on the anniversary of the very first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960. Here’s a look at the broadcast information:


DATE: Monday, September 26, 2016


AIR TIME: The debate will begin at 9 p.m. Eastern. It’s scheduled to end at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.


TV CHANNEL: This debate will be broadcast live on all the major networks and leading cable sites, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox, Fox News, MSNBC, and PBS NewsHour and Univision.

To find out what channel the station you want to watch is on for you, click here to go to TV Guide’s listings. Then change the “Provider” (right under TV Listings) to your local provider. You’ll be able to scroll down to see what channel the station you’re interested in is on for you.


LOCATION: Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York


MODERATOR: NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt.

12631562_10207197700835066_2340311403332702159_nMy guess is that the debate will either be very uninteresting or very volatile.  I can’t see much room for moderation in anything with Donald Trump participating. He’s the very definition of ASSymmetric political warfare. Jay Rosen–professor of journalism and media critic–believes that asymmetry between the parties right now has caused issues for the media. What do you do when one party has gone completely off the rails explicitly supporting policy that wouldn’t pass constitutional muster, is openly xenophobic, racist, and sexist, plus delegitimatizes private choices concerning love and religion?

Over that stretch I have tried to develop my own pressthink in reply to “theirs,” meaning the ideas most campaign journalists have about their work, and the explanations they tend to give when criticized for it. I tried to summarize the first 20 years of this tension in my 2011 lecture: Why Political Coverage is Broken. What I said there is still basic to how I do my criticism, but Trump’s spectacular intervention has raised the stakes and altered the terms of the debate.

Trump is not a normal candidate and can’t be covered like one. Journalists have finally accepted that. Just the other day Dean Baquet, editor of the New York Times, said this about Trump

He’s been hugely challenging. I don’t think we’ve ever had somebody who in my time as a journalist so openly lies, and that was a word that we struggled to actually utter. We’re used to, I think as journalists, we’re used to philosophical debates, like one party thinks we should go to war on Iraq, makes its case—exaggerates its case, we now know. But there are warring philosophies. I’ve never quite seen anything like [Trump], and I think it’s a real challenge for us.

Elections were about warring philosophies. Journalists sat in the press box and brought you the action. Baquet admits: this organizing image no longer organizes much. But even his phrase “hugely challenging” understates it, I think. Here are the major propositions I have been using to understand this unique and perilous moment.

1. Political journalism rests on a picture of politics that journalists and politicos share.

As practiced by the “mainstream media” (the professionals who work at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, NPR, the AP, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Reuters, Bloomberg, Politico, Time magazine) political journalism is constructed — it rests entirely — on a mental picture of the American system in which the two major parties are similar actors with, as Baquet put it, “warring philosophies.”

Elections are the big contests that distribute power between them. The day-to-day of politics is a series of minor battles for tactical advantage. The press is part of this picture because it distributes attention, but — in this view of things — it doesn’t participate in politics itself. It reports on battles large and small, questions the power holders, tries to reveal machinations going on behind the scenes and generates public interest in the drama of politics. But it is unaligned with the major players and unaffected by the outcome of the contests it chronicles.

To report successfully on such a system you need sources who trust you inside both parties. You need people in both parties who will return your calls and have drinks with you at the Des Moines Marriott. The simplest way to guarantee that is to look at politics in the same way that people in the party establishments do. The political pros who staff the committees and run the campaigns and consult with the big players are the closest readers of political journalism and closest in outlook to the journalists who consider reporting on politics their profession.

I called this a mental picture, but it’s more than that. It’s a stable framework within which work can be done, coverage can be planned, knowledge can be refined, reputation can be won, careers can be built. The image of two similar parties with warring philosophies that compete for tactical advantage also positions the mainstream press in a comfortable way: between partisan players as chronicler, questioner and referee. Among those most comfortable with that position: media owners and managers hoping to alienate as few people as possible.

In other words: powerful forces keep the mental picture in place.

2. Asymmetry between the parties fries the circuits of the mainstream press.

Now imagine what happens when over time the base of one party, far more than the base of the other, begins to treat the press as a hostile actor, and its own establishment as part of the rot; when it not only opposes but denies the legitimacy — and loyalty to the state — of the other side’s leader; when it prefers conspiracy theory to party-friendly narratives that at least cope with verified fact; when it is scornful of the reality that in a divided system you never get everything you want.

This is the thesis that Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein developed in their 2012 book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. They are think tank scholars with PhDs and Washington insiders who were frequently called on by journalists to explain trends and furnish quotes. They had the same incentives as journalists to stay on conversant terms with politicos in both parties. Mann and Ornstein came to the conclusion that something had changed in the Republican Party. Their summary of it:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

How will Lester Holt handle the short-finger vulgarian?  How will Hillary respond to the man who has used sexism, meanness, and lies to characterize her entire life and accomplishments?    Lester Holt is probably not what is needed to get to the crux of this mean campaign season.  John Oliver and his entertainment form of news is probably a better source of analysis and outrage.

Political scandals, whether focused on Hillary Clinton’s email use or Donald Trump’s shady business dealings, have emerged as one of the most popular talking points of the 2016 presidential election. But as John Oliver explained on the latest“Last Week Tonight,” when you break down all the alleged scandals plaguing both candidates, it’s overwhelmingly clear that there is no contest: Trump is “unethically compromised to an almost unprecedented degree.”

“This campaign has been dominated by scandals, but it is dangerous to think that there is an equal number on both sides,” Oliver said. “You can be irritated by some of Hillary’s—that is understandable—but you should then be fucking outraged by Trump’s.”

Fucking outraged indeed.

So, what do “they” expect?  Here’s a bit from ABC.

–ANALYSIS — ABC’s RICK KLEIN: What if he apologizes? What if he behaves himself? What if he drops “Crooked Hillary” for “Madam Secretary”? What if – stay with us here – he doesn’t stretch the truth? Forget the no-holds-barred attacks Donald Trump has proven himself capable of. Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare might be humble Trump, since that would flip storylines enough to potentially dominate the takeaways regardless of what else happens at Hofstra. Clinton’s camp is pressuring Lester Holt to do the fact-checking the candidate doesn’t want to do by herself. But she may be in the position of wanting and needing to draw Trump out – to bait him into a discussion of President Obama’s birth status, for instance, or a real policy discussion on Iraq or Afghanistan or ISIS. Clinton-as-aggressor would surely be unexpected. It also may be helpful in a race where she continues to struggle to lock down her base. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Trump getting a larger share of Republicans and of Romney voters than Clinton is of Democrats and Obama voters. Clinton isn’t known for smackdowns. But it may not hurt for her to show some fight.

downloadJames Hohmann from WAPO says Trump has won the expectations game already.

— Reviewing the coverage ahead of Trump’s 9 p.m. showdown with Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University makes it sound like all the GOP nominee really needs to do is not talk about how well-endowed he is…

“I think that Trump is buoyed by the very low expectations. This is a guy who’s never debated one-on-one … So if he does passably, we’ll all say he won,” a Politico reporter said last week. The headline of a lead story on Politico this morning, citing anonymous “insiders,” declares that “The heat is on Hillary.”

A lot of people are going to look at Donald Trump and think, ‘Hey, if he can even get out a good sentence and show off his experience, then he’s doing well,’” New York Times correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said on “Morning Joe” last week, addressing the Clinton campaign’s complaints that she’s being subjected to a double standard.

“Clinton has the much tougher task tonight,” NPR declares in its curtain-raiser this morning.“She has the burden of high expectations. The former senator and secretary of state, who’s now been through two presidential campaigns, is an experienced debater who knows policy inside and out. But her job is very hard — Clinton has to convince voters who don’t want to vote for Trump but haven’t warmed up to her that she is likeable, honest and trustworthy. And she has to press her case that Trump is unqualified to be president without being overly aggressive or ‘harsh.’”

“I do think that the stakes are much higher in this debate and all the debates for Hillary Clinton,” CNN’s Dana Bash said on the air recently. “Because she is a seasoned politician. She is a seasoned debater. Yes, we saw Donald Trump in the primaries debate for the first time, but he is a first-time politician. So for lots of reasons—maybe it’s not fair, but it’s the way it is—the onus is on her.

The liberal group Media Matters has rounded up several other examples in this vein. The editor in chief of The Hill, Bob Cusack, also said on Fox News earlier this month that the bar for Clinton is “higher” than for Trump. “So there is an opportunity for Trump—if he can do the prep work and land some zingers—he could really make up some ground in the battleground states,” Cusack said.

As the Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel notes, tongue in cheek, “Debate Bar So Low For Donald Trump That If He Doesn’t Vomit, He’s Exceeded Expectations.”

— This tenor of coverage has influenced public perceptions about the debate. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the race is within the margin of error nationally. Likely voters split 46 percent for Clinton and 44 percent for Trump. Among registered voters, Clinton and Trump are tied at 41 percent. The poll finds that eight in 10 voters plan to watch tonight’s debate, prompting some to estimate that upwards of 100 million could tune in. Overall, no matter who they’re supporting, 44 percent expect Clinton to win versus 34 percent who expect Trump to come out ahead. Many who say they’ll watch have already made up their minds. While about one in five registered voters say the debate could change their minds, only 6 percent said there is a good chance of that occurring.

So, anyway, the press is still trying to buck up Trump–imho–to make this a horse race.  It includes coverage of the upticks or down ticks  in the latest polls from Colorado and Pennsylvania.  Again, you can’t seperate random variance from trend in one data point so paying attention to any one poll without knowing  a lot of the past and the details is quite delusional.stress_and_anxiety_funny

Just one point separates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in two states that are critical to both candidates’ chances of becoming president, according to new CNN/ORC polls in Pennsylvania and Colorado.

In Colorado, likely voters break 42% for Trump, 41% for Clinton, 13% for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 3% for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Pennsylvania’s likely voters split 45% for Clinton, 44% for Trump, 6% for Johnson and 3% for Stein. Those divides are well within each poll’s 3.5-point margin of sampling error.

Sam Wang–a great neuroscientist and poll analyst–suggests we ignore the expectations game as well as focusing too much on an individual poll.  He says its more important to watch the polls AFTER the debate.

Polls are likely to move after the debate. It is the moment when voters get to make a direct, side-by-side comparison of the two candidates. This may also be the last time for any significant shift in the race.

Both before and after the debate, pundits will emit opinions about “expectations.” This commentary does not have predictive value. It would be better if they kept their focus on policy substance or factchecking.

Here are three reasons why you should basically ignore the onslaught of horserace punditry that is about to rain down.

It’s a tight race. Clinton’s the favorite but close enough that Trump would probably pull ahead if he “wins” debate.http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/ 

Above is a mild example of what you can expect in the coming 24 hours. This particular statement is a bit circular: of course Trump will probably be perceived as “winning” if his numbers improve. However, there’s a bigger problem: the premise of “meeting expectations” itself carries no predictive value.

Trump could take the lead, but it would go against what we know so far. I would characterize the race as being very close, but not as uncertain as you might think. Why? The unappreciated story of 2016 is the amazing stability of public opinion. As measured by national polls, 2016 marks the most stable Presidential race in >60 years of modern polling. At the level of state-poll-based analysis, the stability is even greater. This basic fact should inform all analysis.

Wang provides 3 reasons and explanations. I’ll just list the points here and let you go read the explanations.636066015689702126754581096_college-tips-article

1. What commentators think about “exceeding expectations” is an anti-indicator.

2. If polls move after the debate, the reasons were baked in a long time ago

3. Polarization has made it difficult for opinion to move much.

I think his bottom line is most interesting here.

The groups that may choose up sides are self-described undecideds (4%), Gary Johnson supporters (8%), and Jill Stein supporters (3%). Undecideds andJohnson supporters are likely to split evenly between Clinton and Trump, while Stein supporters should break heavily toward Clinton. Tomorrow is a chance for them to get on the bus.

I guess that probably means more outreach to millennials is necessary.  Here’s the link to RCP and the latest poll by poll result.

So, hopefully, we will see you tonight as we nail bite our way through this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Tuesday Reads

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton welcomes Vice President Joe Biden as he disembarks from Air Force Two for a joint campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Good Afternoon!!

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden appeared together in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Atlantic reports:

For Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, their joint campaign stop Monday in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was a play for the swing state’s crucial voters, particularly those from the white working class who Donald Trump has taken pains to attract.

But it was also something of a homecoming: Both the vice president and Clinton’s father, Hugh Rodham, were born in the city, a former coal-mining and manufacturing hub. Biden has long used Scranton as a symbol of the American dream, and often invokes his early years there as evidence he’s a man of the people. During his remarks Monday, he framed Clinton as a fellow child of Scranton: the product of one of its families, yes, but also of its ethos.

The city “is made up of so many people with grit and courage—I mean this sincerely, from the bottom of my heart—with grit, courage, determination, who never, never, ever give up,” Biden said. “They deserve someone who not only understands them, they deserve someone who’s with them. And they deserve someone who’s made of the same stuff. That’s Hillary Clinton. That’s who she is.”

Biden also had plenty to say about Donald Trump, none of it nice. From Politico:

Vice President Joe Biden on Monday ripped into Donald Trump for his overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin, declaring that the Republican nominee “would have loved Stalin.”

At a rally in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, Biden assailed Trump as unfit to be president and slammed his proposals on foreign policy and the military. With Hillary Clinton at his side, Biden criticized the GOP nominee’s repeated warm statements toward Putin and said “Trump’s ideas are not only profoundly wrong, they’re very dangerous and they’re very un-American.”

“This guy’s shame has no limits. He’s even gone so far as to ask Putin and Russia to conduct cyberattacks against the United States of America,” Biden said, raising his voice for emphasis over the raucous crowd. “Even if he is joking — which he’s not — even if he’s joking, what an outrageous thing to say.”

Pointing out his aide who travels with him and carries the U.S. nuclear codes, Biden said Trump is too unstable and lacks the knowledge to be given control over such weapons. The vice president also spoke warmly of his son Beau, a military veteran who went on to serve as Delaware’s attorney general before losing a battle with cancer in 2015. Biden said he would have tried to stop his son from serving if Trump were commander in chief.

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As usual Biden went on and on, but he did have some very nice things to say about Hillary. There was also an awkward moment when Biden disembarked from his plane and gave Hillary a hug that seemed as if it would never end. Mediaite:

Vice President Joe Biden and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shared a tarmac hug Monday that got a little awkward when Biden just kinda refused to let go.

Biden deplaned before a Pennsylvania joint rally and hugged Clinton. But while Clinton broke off the hug after an appropriate amount of time, Biden held onto her. In a move easily recognizable to wrestlers and friend-zoners everywhere, Clinton starting tapping Biden on the arm as he continued the embrace.

All told, the hug lasted about fifteen seconds and three attempted tap-outs.

Donald Trump was in Youngstown, Ohio yesterday to make a supposedly “serious” speech about how he would combat terrorism. Many of the ideas he presented were for policies that the Obama administration is already carrying out. The rest were the usual insane, racist plans that have become his trademark. Tim Mak at The Daily Beast: Donald Trump Cribs His War Plan From the ‘Founder’ of ISIS: Barack Obama.

Trump spent a substantial amount of time in his speech hammering the Obama administration for not doing enough to defeat ISIS.

But in Syria, Libya, and Iraq, the multinational effort to defeat ISIS appears now to be on the upswing. And in the sparse moments when Trump actually proposed ideas to defeat ISIS, it sounded suspiciously like the ideas already being put into practice by his arch-nemesis Obama.

You know: the guy Trump called the “founder” of ISIS….

“They’re trying to make it look much better than it is. It’s bad,” Trump said, referring to the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign’s assessment of ISIS….

But while the Republican nominee’s address in Youngstown, Ohio, on Monday was billed as a speech describing new ways to defeat ISIS—in recent weeks ISIS has seen serious setbacks.

Trump denounced the situation in Libya, which he blamed on Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. But ISIS’s grip there is changing rapidly. ISIS appears to be on the verge of losing its African capital in the city of Sirte to local militia fighters who lately have been bolstered by U.S. airstrikes.

While Trump referred to stopping Syrian refugees from entering the United States, ISIS just suffered a major loss there Monday. After a months-long battle, Arab and Kurdish forces reclaimed a northern city that is on a key route for ISIS fighters, equipment and money traveling from Turkey into Syria. Over the weekend, video emerged showing female residents of this city burning their burkas and men cutting their beards, an outward display of the end of ISIS rule.

Meanwhile, ISIS already has lost territory in several Iraqi cities, including Fallujah, Ramadi, and Tikrit.

I wouldn’t expect Trump to know about what’s actually happening; I don’t think he reads anything in newspapers unless it’s about him. But you have to wonder who is writing his speeches.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the final session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland

Much of the speech was devoted to his proposed anti-immigrant policies. Trump said that as president he would suspend immigration from countries that have problems with terrorism, although he didn’t specify which countries he was referring to. And how would President Trump keep these potential immigrants out? He would use something he calls “extreme vetting.” NBC News reports:

Donald Trump on Monday promised “extreme vetting” of immigrants, including ideological screening that that will allow only those who “share our values and respect our people” into the United States.

Among the traits that Trump would screen for are those who have “hostile attitudes” toward the U.S., those who believe “Sharia law should supplant American law,” people who “don’t believe in our Constitution or who support bigotry and hatred.”

Those who Trump will allow in are “only those who we expect to flourish in our country.”

The Republican nominee did not disavow his prior proposal to temporarily ban all Muslims from the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The position, released in December 2015, is still on the nominee’s website. He did, however, call for a temporary suspension “from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism” in order to succeed in the goal of extreme ideological vetting.

It’s unclear whether or not this is in addition to, or in place of, his original temporary ban. In the past, as Trump has proposed a regional and country-based ban, he’s called it an “expansion” on his original ban — not a scaling back.

Trump did not name any countries that would be included in the regional ban, but said that should he be elected, his administration will ask the Department of State to “identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. There are many such regions,” Trump said. “We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.” One of Trump’s long standing complaints about Syrian, and other, refugees, is that they are not sufficiently vetted and, because of that, could be a “Trojan Horse.”

Here’s a good analysis of the speech by NBC News’ Benjy Sarlin: Making Sense of Donald Trump’s Disjointed Foreign Policy Pitch. Check it out at the link.

Tharid Udin and Imam Maulama Akonjee

Tharid Udin and Imam Maulama Akonjee

In other news, a Brooklyn man has been charged in the shocking murders of Queens Imam Maulama Akonjee and his friend Thara Uddin. Police don’t know the motive yet, but you have to wonder if Donald Trump’s hate speech could have contributed to this crime. From New York Magazine:

Police have charged a Brooklyn man for the brazen murders of a Queens imam and his associate on Saturday. Oscar Morel, 35, was taken into NYPD custody Sunday night after allegedly ramming his car into an unmarked police car around 11 p.m. in the Ozone Park neighborhood — the same community where the killings occurred. Police identified Morel on Monday evening, and said he’d been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, according to the New York Times. He’s also facing two counts of criminal possession of a weapon after police searched his home and found what they believe to be the revolver used in the killing and clothes worn by the gunman in surveillance video.

Police have not yet named a motive in the killing of the 55-year-old imam Maulama Akonjee and his friend and assistant 64-year-old Thara Uddin, both Bangladeshi immigrants and religious leaders in their Queens neighborhood. The men were shot in the head at close range in broad daylight around 2 p.m. on Saturday. The victims were a block away from the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque, where both men, who wore traditional Muslim garb, had just finished afternoon prayers.

NYPD chief of detectives Robert Boyce said it’s still unclear if Morel had any connection to the two victims. “We’re still drilling down on it,” he said, adding that it’s “certainly on the table that it’s a hate crime.

A home-surveillance video of the shooting, released Sunday, shows the killer approaching the two men from behind. He rushes up behind them and lifts his arm and aims at the back of their heads; the two men crumple to the ground. The shooter appears to stuff the gun in his pocket and walk calmly away from the scene.

Read more at the link.

We’ve gone through years of public shootings, and there seems to be a new phenomenon developing–people thinking they hear gunshots and then freaking out mobs of other people. Will this become a regular “thing?” Two examples:

People running out of Crabtree Mall in NC to escape shooting that never happened.

People running out of Crabtree Mall in NC to escape shooting that never happened.

ABC News: Reports of Gunshots in Bustling Mall: Chaos, People Running.

Witness reports of gunshots ringing out inside a busy North Carolina mall caused chaos Saturday afternoon as shoppers ran screaming for the doors or sheltered in stores while dozens of officers arrived.

Police said hours later they were investigating but hadn’t confirmed whether any shots had been fired, adding no one was found wounded by gunfire although there were several minor injuries among people running away. The shopping complex in an affluent area of Raleigh was put on lockdown while helicopters buzzed overhead and numerous law enforcement vehicles swarmed the shopping area….

The police chief said no shell casings had been found by late afternoon. But she noted that witnesses heard what sounded like gunshots, and added that the FBI, sheriff’s office and state investigators were also on scene.

Eight people ranging in age from 10 to 70 were transported to hospitals for treatment of injuries suffered as they rushed to leave the mall, she said. None of those injuries appeared to be life-threatening.

Video posted on social media sites shows dozens of people running toward mall exit doors as numerous screams were heard. Outside the mall, where people gathered afterward, a police officer got on the loudspeaker of a fire truck and said there was no one shot in the mall. Witnesses described chaos after reports of shots.

New York Magazine: Scenes From the Terrifying, Already Forgotten JFK Airport Shooting That Wasn’t.

When the first stampede began, my plane had just landed. It started, apparently, with a group of passengers awaiting departure in John F. Kennedy Airport Terminal 8 cheering Usain Bolt’s superhuman 100-meter dash. The applause sounded like gunfire, somehow, or to someone; really, it only takes one. According to some reports, one woman screamed that she saw a gun. The cascading effect was easier to figure: When people started running, a man I met later on the tarmac said, they plowed through the metal poles strung throughout the terminal to organize lines, and the metal clacking on the tile floors sounded like gunfire. Because the clacking was caused by the crowd, wherever you were and however far you’d run already, it was always right around you.

Passengers huddled near the ground at immigration control while police looked for a possible shooter at JFK airport. It turned out to be a false alarm. PHOTO: BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Passengers huddled near the ground at immigration control while police looked for a possible shooter at JFK airport. It turned out to be a false alarm. PHOTO: BRIGITTE DUSSEAU/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

There was a second stampede, I heard some time later, in Terminal 4. I was caught up in two separate ones, genuine stampedes, both in Terminal 1. The first was in the long, narrow, low-ceilinged second-floor hallway approaching customs that was so stuffed with restless passengers that it felt like a cattle call, even before the fire alarm and the screaming and all the contradictory squeals that sent people running and yelling and barreling over each other — as well as the dropped luggage, passports, and crouched panicked women who just wanted to take shelter between their knees and hope for it, or “them,” to pass. The second was later, after security guards had just hustled hundreds of us off of the tarmac directly into passport control, when a woman in a hijab appeared at the top of a flight of stairs, yelling out for a family member, it seemed, who had been separated from her in the chaos. The crowd seemed to rise up, squealing, and rush for the two small sets of double doors.

Probably there were other stampedes, some small and some large, throughout the airport, to judge by the thousands of passengers massed outside on the tarmac by about 11 p.m. — not a peaceful mass, but a panicked one. Some of them had been swept outside by police charging through the terminals with guns drawn, shouting for people to get down, show their hands, and drop their luggage, since nothing was more important than your life. Others had been on lines where TSA agents grabbed their gear and just ran, at least according to reports on Twitter.

More at the link.

So . . . what else is happening? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!