Bridget Armstrong | WYPR

Bridget Armstrong

Producer, Midday

Bridget Armstrong is a producer for Midday hosted by Tom Hall. She joined the WYPR team as a producer of Maryland Morning in March 2016. Before coming to WYPR, she worked for SiriusXM and prior to that, at NPR.  While at NPR, Bridget worked on the 2014 Elections Desk and Tell Me More hosted by Michel Martin, where she produced discussions addressing race, gender and pop-culture.  A true lover of conversation, Bridget also hosted and produced a roundtable podcast. Bridget is a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, an Historically Black College.

David Spence of David Spence Photography

Theater Critic J. Wynn Rousuck returns to Midday with her weekly review of a regional production. This week, she’s talking about Fred’s Diner at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick, MD. The new dark comedy by award-winning playwright Penelope Skinner transports the audience to an American Diner on an English motorway, brimming with captivating characters and deadly secrets. After premiering London, this is the 2nd time the play has been produced in the U.S. and first time it's been produced on the East Coast. Fred’s Diner is directed by Peter Wray, and runs through June 18th, 2017.  

Former FBI Director James Comey was center stage yesterday in public and classified appearances before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Following Comey's public testimony, President Trump’s private lawyer pronounced the President vindicated. The President himself tweeted the same thing this morning. Many observers, however, disagree. Partisanship was by no means absent during Comey’s testimony. Like beauty, Obstruction of Justice is in the eye of the beholder.  The cloud of scandal hovering over the Trump administration is perhaps murkier than ever.  

Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

Today another installment of the Midday Culture Connection with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland, College Park. Presidential senior advisor and first son-in-law Jared Kushner’s meeting with a Russian banker back in December is the subject of a federal and congressional investigation. ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis conducted his own investigation into Kushner that hits closer to home. Kushner Companies owns and operates 15 apartment complexes in the Baltimore area. Although Kushner stepped down as CEO in January he’s still a stakeholder, with a share of the company estimated to be worth at least $600 million. 

 

Jury selection begins today in the trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is accused of second degree manslaughter in the death of a 32-year-old African-American cafeteria supervisor named Philando Castile. Yanez shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota last July. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live streamed video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. According to prosecutors, Castile had a gun in his pocket that he was licensed to carry. They say when he told Yanez about the gun before trying to pull out his driver's license Yanez warned Castile three times not to remove the gun, to which Castile repeatedly responded that he was not going for his weapon,. Prosecutors say when Castile reached for his license, Yanez shot him.

The start of this trial comes on the heels of an acquittal earlier this month in the trial of another officer, Betty Jo Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was found not guilty in the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black motorist whose shooting was captured on a video taken by police in a helicopter. In both of these cases, the encounters between these motorists and police lasted a very short time, but the ramifications of the legal decisions in these and other cases will last for the foreseeable future.  

Doug Mills/NY Times

(Originally broadcast on May 17, 2017)

Our country is becoming much more diverse.  In thirty years, it's estimated that people of color will outnumber non-Latino white Americans. Are our newsrooms representative of our increasingly diverse nation? It’s a question that news organizations are grappling with across the country. Last month, NPR’s Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen published a report that said that in 2016, of the 350 employees in the NPR news division 75.4 percent were white. In the commentary Jensen wrote "There's simply no way around it: If the goal is to increase diversity in the newsroom, last year's was a disappointing showing” 

Last December, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd published a frank piece about the lack of diversity in their newsroom. Of course, NPR and the New York Times are not alone. In 2014, minorities made up 22 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13 percent of journalists at daily newspapers. That’s according to the Radio Television Digital News Association and the American Society of News Editors. People of color make up about 15% of the programming staff at WYPR.

Photo courtesy Bowie State University

It's the Midday News Wrap, our regular Friday review of the week's top local, national and international news. This week, as headlines focused on President Trump's first foreign trip, his 2018 budget proposal, and on the continuing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the nation was stunned by news of the May 20 stabbing death of Bowie State University student Richard Collins III.  The 23 year-old Collins, who had just been commissioned as a US Army lieutenant, was murdered by a University of Maryland/College Park student, who has been identified as a member of a white supremacist hate group on Facebook. How is the community responding to this tragedy, and what are school officials doing to address rising concerns about racially motivated attacks on their campus? Joining Tom on today's NewsWrap panel to discuss these and other issues in the news this week are Kamau High, managing editor of the Afro-American Newspaper and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland, and the author of “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.”

Yesterday, President Trump issued a budget plan that proposes dramatic cuts to Medicaid and other programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the president wants to reduce Medicaid spending over 10 years by as much as $1.4 trillion according to some estimates. The Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides healthcare support under Medicaid to low income children, would be cut by 20% in the first year alone. This of course comes after House Republicans passed a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month. Some in the Senate have vowed to start over, rather than work with the House bill as they craft their own. 

What could these cuts mean for the most vulnerable folks living in our city who rely on programs like Medicaid and food stamps to survive? Tom is joined by Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of the city of Baltimore, for the Midday Healthwatch. 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump spent a year on the campaign trail saying terrible things about Muslims and NATO. He railed against Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. He even had bad things to say about the Pope.  

He leaves today to meet with leaders of Saudi Arabia, NATO, and Israel, whose trust he abused when he revealed secrets Israel had collected, to Russian diplomats. He’ll also meet with the Pope.  

Meanwhile, computers across the globe were paralyzed by ransomware, a white police officer was acquitted in Oklahoma after shooting an unarmed black man during a traffic stop, and layoffs are imminent in the Baltimore City Schools.  

ClintonBPhotography

Everyman Theatre is wrapping up its 26th season with the raucous British comedy Noises Off. Everyman’s Resident Company of actors transforms into a bumbling British company of actors just hours away from their opening night. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Between the lost lines and love triangles pandemonium takes over before intermission. 

Vincent Lancisi is Everyman’s Founder and Artistic Director. He also directs this production. Deborah Hazlett stars in the role of Dotty Otley. They join Tom for a preview of Noises Off.

MD GovPics/Jay Baker

On Saturday, all eyes will be on the Pimlico race track for the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes.  As the sports world bends its gaze to the aging track in Northwest Baltimore, track owners and local leaders are considering the future of Pimlico.

Almost everyone agrees that the track needs an upgrade. Will it take a facelift, or a complete tear-down and re-build to assure that the second leg of the triple crown stays in Charm City? Or, will the Preakness move to Laurel, MD? What’s at stake, with the Preakness stakes? Sandy Rosenberg, who represents Baltimore City in the House of Delegates, and WYPR reporter Karen Hosler join Tom to talk ponies and politics.     

Doug Mills/NY Times

Our country is becoming much more diverse. People of color will outnumber non-Latino, white Americans in 30 years. Are our newsrooms representative of our increasingly diverse nation? It’s a question that news organizations are grappling with across the country. Last month, NPR’s Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen published a report that said that in 2016, of the 350 employees in the NPR news division 75.4 percent were white. In the commentary Jensen wrote "There's simply no way around it: If the goal is to increase diversity in the newsroom, last year's was a disappointing showing” 

Last December, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd published a frank piece about the lack of diversity in their newsroom. Of course NPR and the New York Times are not alone. In 2014, minorities made up 22 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13 percent of journalists at daily newspapers. That’s according to the Radio Television Digital News Association and the American Society of News Editors. People of color make up about 15% of the programming staff at WYPR.

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

We begin with President Trump’s stunning decision to fire FBI Director James Comey earlier this week. Initially, the White House said Comey’s dismissal came at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt the President said his decision to fire Comey came before the recommendation. Democrats aren’t buying it and say Comey was fired because of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

John Fritze is the Washington Correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Julie Rovner is the chief Washington Correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Prior to her role at Kaiser, Julie covered health policy for NPR for 16 years. Dr. Terry Anne Scott is an assistant professor of History at Hood College in Frederick. They join guest host Nathan Sterner to weigh in on Comey and the White House and other news of the week. 

Sheri Parks/D.Watkins

Today another installment of Culture Connections with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland. Author D. Watkins joins as we continue to reflect on the 2015 Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray. D. co-hosts Undisclosed, a podcast that re-examines Freddie Gray’s death. 

Getty Images

Today a conversation with a panel of activists and community leaders as we continue to reflect on the 2015 violence and Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray. Last year The Department of Justice issued a report detailing widespread misconduct and unconstitutional practices within the Baltimore Police Department. The city signed a consent decree with the DOJ and city leaders have vowed to reform the department.

Will those reforms be enough to build trust between police and communities of color? Two years after the Uprising, are residents seeing any differences in their communities? 

Kids Safe Zone

Following the 2015 Uprising, everyone from politicians to activists pointed to issues of systematic racism and inequality as the cause of the unrest. Today as we reflect on the 2 years since the Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray we’ll check in with two activists who lead non-profits to talk about the work they’re doing and the work the city has ahead to achieve equity. 

Ericka Alston Buck is the CEO of Maryland Community Health Initiatives Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides several services based programs in the Penn North Community, including the Kids Safe Zone and the Penn North Community Resource Center.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This week, we reflect on what’s happened in Baltimore since the 2015 violence and Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of police. Even before the national guard troops left town in April 2015, civic leaders, law enforcement officials, scholars, business people and community activists identified systemic racial and economic inequality as root causes for the unrest. These community leaders envisioned a road forward that included more employment and educational opportunities for the city's poorest residents. Has that happened? What work do we have ahead of us?

Tom is joined by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. He's been the president of The University of Maryland Baltimore County since 1992. He’s the co-author of Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Odds and the author of Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement. In 2012 he was asked by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. 

Flickr/Franco Folini

Last month, the outcry from concerned parents and citizens about the number of missing teenage girls in and around Washington, D.C. sparked national outrage. The conversation was prompted by the dozens of missing persons alerts with pictures of black and brown teenage girls shared on social media over a short period of time.

There were theories and fears that the girls were being preyed upon by human traffickers. The hashtag #MissingDCGirls trended on Twitter; celebrities and politicians weighed in, and Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a task force that will increase the number of police officers assigned to work missing persons cases, among other things. It turns out, that, according to the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the actual number of missing children has decreased over the last two years.  

Penguin Random House

Tom is joined today by Nigerian author, essayist and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Adichie splits her time between her native country Nigeria and the US, where she has a home in Columbia, Maryland. She's won several prestigious awards, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She's headlining the 2017 Baltimore CityLit Festival later this month. That’s an annual event sponsored by the CityLit Project, an organization that advances the cause of all things literary here in Maryland.

Getty Images

We begin with State Senator Jim Rosapepe (D-MD 21st District), with his take on why lawmakers in Annapolis spent this year’s session with one eye on Capitol Hill. 

Then, the Midday News Wrap panelists join Tom to discuss the biggest stories of the week. Yesterday, President Trump dropped the "mother of all bombs" on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, this comes after the President launched a targeted airstrike in Syria in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alleged use of chemical weapons. 

And, it's the video seen across the country; the footage of a 69-year old man being forcibly and violently removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight has caused a pr nightmare for the airline. Dr. David Dao's lawyer says he suffered a concussion and broken nose in the incident and lost two teeth, he plans to file a lawsuit. How did the incident escalate to violence and can United bounce back?

Maryland GovPics

Nearly 2,700 bills were introduced in this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly, which came to a close on Monday night. Paid sick leave is in. Fracking is out. Ethics laws for lawmakers were juiced-up, as a long time member is indicted on fraud charges. There was a package of bills to address the opioid epidemic, and a measure that could lead to punishment for drug manufacturers who hike prices unreasonably. Gov. Larry Hogan reached a compromise on a transportation bill, and legislators found a way to allocate additional help to local school jurisdictions, including Baltimore. When asked to assess the third General Assembly since being elected in 2014, the Governor told reporters,“I’m not sure how it could have been any better."

Last night the Maryland General Assembly wrapped up its 437th annual session, passing hundreds of bills in the final hours of Sine Die, as the last day is known. Governor Larry Hogan was generally pleased with the session, but promised to veto a paid sick leave bill. Governor Hogan proposed a bill that would have required businesses that employ 50 or more workers in a single location to provide sick leave. Democrats rejected that bill, in favor of a bill that requires businesses with 15 or more full-time employees to provide employees the opportunity to earn at least 5 sick days a year.  

Tom speaks with House Minority Leader Nic Kipke who represents Anne Arundel County in the Maryland House of Delegates. 

Education Elsewhere

Yesterday, Governor Larry Hogan signed a bill allocating an additional $23 million to Baltimore City Public Schools. This comes after Mayor Catherine Pugh diverted additional funds to education in her budget. So is it enough to close the $130 million gap and avoid teacher layoffs? We’ll get an update from Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises

Then, a conversation with activists who use their artistry to empower young people. 

Pressfoto / Freepik

When we think of school segregation, we tend think of that long, dark period in American history, before the landmark Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954, that refuted the notion that “separate but equal” schools were constitutional. For decades following the decision, schools became more integrated, opening their doors to students of color voluntarily and through court ordered busing programs. However, in the last 30 years school across the country have moved towards re-segregation.

Maryland has the third most segregated classrooms in the United States behind New York and Illinois. So, what does that mean for the young people we’re educating? 

Photo by Craig Schwartz

We turn to the world of theater and the premiere of a new musical at the Everyman Theatre here in Baltimore.  Its subject couldn’t be more timely:  Los Otros or, The Othersdelves into the complexities of immigration, cultural identity, sexuality, and coming of age.

In 2012, a very different version of Los Otros was presented at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles.  Vincent Lancisi, the founder and artistic director of the Everyman, commissioned a re-write of the musical after that original production, and then held a workshop in New York so that the writers could make further revisions, which continued as the rehearsal process for the Everyman production got underway.

The man who composed Los Otros' beautiful music and the woman who wrote the lyrics and book join Tom in Studio A.  Composer Michael John LaChiusa is a five-time Tony Award nominee for work on and off-Broadway.  He’s won, among other awards, an Obie, a Dramatists Guild Award, and Daytime Emmys.  Ellen Fitzhugh has received Tony, Emmy and Drama Desk award nominations, and written lyrics with numerous film score composers, including the renowned Henry Mancini.

If Republicans in the US House of Representatives can’t pass their health care bill by Friday afternoon and send it on to the Senate, the President says he’ll walk away, and move on to other items on the Trump agenda.  Has Repeal and Replace morphed into Reveal and Disgrace?

Last October, FBI Director James Comey revealed he was looking into Hillary Clinton's e-mails. He waited until this week to mention that at the same time, he was also looking into allegations about collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.   Devin Nunes is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee. He got to visit the White House this week! And then he said he’s very sorry about it.  Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch has made his pitch to join the Supremes. Chuck Schumer says the Dems will filibuster.  

 

Today, a conversation about Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Maryland is home to four of the nation’s more than 100 institutions. Last month, President Trump issued an Executive Order directed at HBCUs after meeting with nearly 100 presidents and leaders of those institutions. Some HBCU students and alumni criticized the meeting, calling it a photo op. Several HBCU presidents who attended say they were given little time to discuss their concerns and talk about strategies to help their institutions succeed. 

In 2015, following the uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray, there was a big spike in people expressing interest in mentoring. Now two years later has that interest been sustained? Few question the fact that when young people develop a close relationship with a caring adult, those young people do better in school, and they are able to navigate the tricky waters of adolescence much more effectively than their peers who do not have an adult providing a model, and interest in their lives. Kera Ritter is the President of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Chesapeake, one of several organizations in Maryland connecting young people with mentors.

Monica Reinagel

Today, another installment of our semi-monthly health feature, Smart Nutrition, with our regular guest, licensed nutritionist and blogger Monica Reinagel.  On this edition, Monica assesses a popular personal-health makeover plan called The Whole30 Challenge, in which folks are encouraged to spend at least 30 days not only cutting out the usual bad-diet culprits -- junk foods and sugar -- but also giving up some stuff that’s considered pretty good for you, such as dairy, beans and whole grains.  The creators of the program say it’s not a diet but a way to jumpstart a more nutritious lifestyle. So, does it work?  And more importantly, is it healthful?

Monica Reinagel, who blogs at nutritionovereasy.com as The Nutrition Diva, weighs in on the pros and cons of The Whole30 Challenge, and takes your nutrition questions, too. 

Morgan State University

Dr. Eric Conway is director of the Morgan State University Choir as well as Chairperson of the school’s Fine Arts Department. He joins Tom to talk about Morgan State University's upcoming production of The Wiz: Super Soul Musical, which opens next Thursday.

The musical hit Broadway in 1975. R&B singer Stephanie Mills starred as Dorthy. Diana Ross and Michael Jackson starred in the 1978 film adaptation. Morgan State's production features  the talents of Morgan State students and local singers and actors. 

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay writes about  flawed women, women who are broken, women who won’t bow to a man’s will, women who make mistakes, women who challenge the status quo, women who are just trying to figure it all out, women women who are difficult...

Roxane Gay’s latest collection of short stories explores what it means to be a difficult woman.  Roxane Gay is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times. She is the author of several books including New York Times bestseller Bad Feminist, and her latest Difficult Women. She joins guest host Bridget Armstrong to talk about Difficult Women and her forthcoming memoir Hunger, which is set to be released in June. 

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