Rob Sivak | WYPR

Rob Sivak

Senior Producer, Midday

Rob Sivak is senior producer of Midday, with host Tom Hall.  Rob joined WYPR in 2015 as senior producer of Hall's previous show, Maryland Morning (which aired its final show on September 16th, 2016).  Before coming to the station, Rob enjoyed a 36-year career at the congressionally funded global broadcaster, Voice of America.  At VOA, he honed his skills as a news and feature reporter, producer, editor and program host.

After reporting stints at VOA's New York City, United Nations and Los Angeles bureaus, Rob spent two decades covering international food, farming and nutrition issues for VOA's 180-million worldwide listeners, and created and hosted several popular VOA science magazines.  At Midday, he continues to pursue his passion for radio and his abiding interests in science, health, technology and politics.

Rob grew up as an ex-pat "oil brat" on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia, and studied and traveled widely in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  He attended Hofstra University in New York and Boston University's School of Public Communications.  Rob and his wife, Caroline Barnes, live in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they've raised three daughters.

Photo by Getty Images

It's the Midday News Wrap, our weekly roundtable on the week's major local, national and international developments, with a rotating panel of journalists and commentators.

We're approaching the 100-Day mark in the Trump administration: Republicans hold the House, the Senate and the White House, and yet -- while the Senate did approve Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch --President Trump has had little to show for as far as legislative victories are concerned.  What’s next on the president’s agenda?  Another attempt to repeal and replace the ACA?  Or perhaps he’ll move his long-promised tax reform agenda to the front burner, although we’re still waiting to see a tax reform proposal of any kind.   

Bill O’Reilly has lost his job, but Fox has helped leaven the pain of that loss for him with a $25 million dollar check, despite more than a dozen complaints that he is an indecent creep.  Even creeps have contracts, it appears.

And in Georgia, a young filmmaker came within 2 points of an outright victory for a seat in Congress.  An untested Democrat, Jon Ossoff, got 48% of the vote in a field of 18 mostly Republican candidates, just short of what he needed to win without a runoff.  Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel got less than 20%.  They’ll face each other head-to-head in June.  Polls today have them tied. 

Speaking of elections, the French are set to begin voting this Sunday in their presidential election.  There are 11 candidates in that race, four of whom are polling close to each other.   

And in the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May, who is preparing the British exit from the EU, has called for a national election in June -- three years ahead of schedule.  

In Turkey, voters seem to have narrowly approved President Recep Tayip Erdogan’s bid to consolidate his power.  President Trump quickly congratulated the Turkish leader, but critics have called the vote an erosion of democracy.

Arkansas, amid protests and court rulings, last night, carried out its first execution in more than a decade.

Here in Baltimore, Wednesday was the second anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray. 

And Dallas Dance, Baltimore’s charismatic school superintendent still in the first year of a four-year contract, announced, surprisingly, that he will retire at the end of June.  

Joining Tom on the News Wrap panel today:

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci is contributing opinion writer at the New York Times and author of  the new book Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protests.  She joins Tom on the line from Chapel Hill, where she is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina.

Kamau High joins us in Studio A.   He is managing editor of the Afro-American Newspaper, based here in Baltimore, and a former reporter and digital producer in New York City for the Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, among others.

Michael Fletcher is also here today.  He is a senior writer at ESPN’s The Undefeated.  He was for many years a national economics reporter and a White House reporter for The Washington Post, and before THAT,  he was a reporter for many years at The Baltimore Sun. 

Photo courtesy Dr. Axe

For most of us, there’s at least one food we just can’t think about eating: otherwise-respectable fare like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, cabbage or kale, organ meats or sardines, tofu or…gorgonzola cheese. One look, or one whiff, and our minds tell us, no way…  

Today we're going to explore ways we might get around such food blocks, on this installment of What Ya Got Cooking? -- a regular Midday feature where we talk about recipes, food trends, traditions and good eats with our resident foodies:  John Shields and Sascha Wolhandler. 

John Shields is a chef, cookbook author and, with partner John Gilligan, the proprietor of Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  He’s also the host of Coastal Cooking and Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields on Maryland Public Television and PBS.

Sascha Wolhandler runs Sascha’s 527 Cafe with her husband, Steve Susser.  

John and Sascha join Tom today with their tips for overcoming food aversions with a little creative cooking…and they share a few ideas for making the most of the delicious new spring veggies now available at local farmers markets

So, what foods do YOU avoid?  Got a recipe that’s changed your mind about a food you’ve always hated?  You’re welcome to join the conversation!

US News and World Report

The Trump Administration and the Republican leadership in Congress are still vowing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but as of now, Obamacare remains the law of the land.

With growing numbers of Americans speaking out in support for all or parts of Obama’s signature legislation, what lies ahead? 

How healthy is the ACA, and what changes might be in store for the tens of millions of Americans who depend on it?

Joining Tom to discuss the status and future of the Affordable Care Act are three experts on the ACA and national health policy: Julie Rovner, the chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News and a former health policy reporter for NPR;  Professor Brad Herring, a health economist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Andrew Ratner, Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, the agency that runs the state's health insurance marketplace.  

We also take your tweets, calls, and emails.

Photos by Sigrid Estrada

In this week when Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter, it’s another installment of Living Questions, our monthly series in which we explore the role of religion in the public sphere.

Today: the thorny issue of anti-Judaism in some of the great works of Christian art, with two writers for whom the famed 18th-century German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, is a central focus.   

Lauren Belfer is a novelist.  Her latest book, And After the Fire, follows the journey of a Bach cantata as it changes hands over the course of two hundred years.

The music scholar Michael Marissen has written extensively about the religious and often anti-Jewish sentiments in the texts that Bach chooses to set to his glorious music.

His latest book is called Bach and God.   Marissen also explored this topic in a monograph he co-wrote in 2005 with Tom Hall and former ICJS executive director Christopher Leighton, called The Bach Passions in Our Time: Contending with the Legacy of Antisemitism.  

Confronting the legacy of anti-Semitism in the arts, on this edition of Living Questions, a collaborative production of WYPR and the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS).

Photo by Glenn Ricci

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom each Thursday with her impressions of the region's latest stagecraft,  this week reviews what Submersive Productions likes to call its "immersive" new offering at Baltimore's historic Peale Center, called H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum Presents the Treasures of New Galapagos and Astonishing Acquisitions from the Perisphere.

Like previous excursions by Submersive Productions, H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum, based on a concept by Lisa Stoessel, engages the audience in a non-traditional theatrical setting. It encourages playgoers to explore the former Peale Museum's three stories of interconnected rooms, each not only filled with art, curios and exhibition-style display cases, but also peopled with live actors and puppets.

The titular H.T. Darling, played by mustachioed Sarah Olmstead Thomas, is a well-to-do explorer who has just returned from an expedition to a fanciful region of outer space called the Perisphere, and an alien planet he's named New Galapagos.  Darling shares the artifacts he's brought back with him in his Incredible Musaeum, where each audience member chooses his or her own path through the rooms, and through the evening's strange and cleverly organized events.

H. T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum is directed by Lisi Stoessel, Susan Stroupe and Glenn Ricci.  Mr. Ricci is also Submersive Productions' co-artistic director, with Ursula Marcum.

The cast also includes Josh Aterovis (Clayton, a museum guard),  Francisco Benavides (The Groundskeeper), Caitlin Bouxsein (a museum guard), David Brasington (Carol, a curator), E’Tona Ford (a museum guard), Emily Hall (shopkeeper-shared role), Brad Norris (Cedric), Martha Robichaud (shopkeeper-shared role), Trustina Sabah (Aku Maxilla, “humanoid specimen”), Lisi Stoessel (Maude, a curator),  and Alex Vernon (Dr. Percy Warner).  

Ursula Marcum and Jess Rassp are the play's puppeteers.

H. T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum is playing at the historic Peale Center, where its run has been extended through Sunday, May 14.  Ticket and showtime information here.

AP Photo

The Consent Decree between the city of Baltimore, the Baltimore Police Department and the Department of Justice was the result of a damning report in August 2016 that described a pattern or practice of unconstitutional misconduct by Baltimore police, which has disproportionately affected the city's communities of color.   

When Judge James Bredar signed the Consent Decree this past Friday (April 7), it became an order of the court.

So now, what’s next?  What will court oversight of the police department look like?  How will the Trump Justice Department be involved with an agreement reached during the waning days of the Obama administration?  And if the police department is committed to reform on its own, why is a consent decree necessary?

Joining Tom to address these questions are four people who've been closely following the evolution of Baltimore's Consent Decree over the past two years:

Monique Dixon is Deputy Director of Policy for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund;

David Rocah is the Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Maryland;

Bishop Douglas Miles is Pastor of the Koinonia Baptist Church and Co-Chair Emeritus of BUILD, Baltimorians United In Leadership Development;

and Kevin Rector covers the courts and crime for the Baltimore Sun. 

Photo montage courtesy Daily Express

It's the Midday News Wrap, our Friday focus on the week's top local, national and international news stories, which certainly came in a cascade this week.  Our special guest and our panel of news analysts help us sort them all out:

After promising an “America First” foreign policy, President Trump last night ordered a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase, in response to President Bashir Al-Assad’s latest use of chemical weapons.

Steve Bannon is out as a member of the NSC's inner circle.  Devin Nunes is out, at least temporarily, as the Republican's lead investigator on the House Intelligence Committee looking into Russian meddling in the US election.  

Also out: a 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court nominees.

In the U.S. for meetings with Mr. Trump were the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and China.  And the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is in, it seems, on just about everything.   

Tom begins the show today with Senator Chris Van Hollen, who won the seat vacated by Barbara Mikulski last year.  Then, Tom is joined by Domenico Montanaro, lead editor for politics at NPR and Luke Broadwater, reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

Photo courtesy Eric Gay/Associated Press

It’s Opening Day on Midday!

Later today, the Baltimore Orioles begin their annual quest for a playoff berth against the Toronto Blue Jays -- the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last season -- while Oriole Park at Camden Yards celebrates 25 years. 

And after a record-breaking weekend in the women’s NCAA Final Four -- including one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history -- the men take the court tonight.   It'll be a face-off between the first-time finalist Bulldogs of Gonzaga (out of Spokane, Washington) and the Tar Heels of North Carolina, who lost last year’s final to Villanova at the buzzer.

Later this week, The Masters golf tournament gets underway in Augusta, Georgia -- without Tiger Woods -- and later this month, the spectacle that is the NFL draft comes to Philadelphia.   Plus, the NBA is closing in on their list of playoff contenders.

Mike Pesca, an NPR contributor and host of Slate.com's The Gist and Milton Kent, host of WYPR's Sports at Large, join Tom to sort out all the action.  And we take your calls, tweets and emails.

Photo by Brad Trent

Judy Collins' unparalleled musical career has spanned more than six decades, and her best-selling interpretations of music -- from traditional folk ballads and the work of singer-songwriters of the 1960s to the American Popular Songbook -- have delighted and inspired audiences around the globe.  

At 77, Collins today maintains a rigorous schedule of concerts, including an appearance at the Columbia Festival of the Arts on Saturday, April 1st (details here). Over the years, she has also been involved with many other projects such as books, movies, and activism on behalf of causes near and dear to her.  

Her latest CD is called A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim, a collection of ten of her favorite songs by the renowned composer, performed with piano accompaniment by Russell Walden. 

Judy Collins joins Tom on the line from her home in New York.

Medscape.com

In a dramatic political showdown last week on the nation’s health insurance system, the Republican-led House and a determined President Trump tried but failed to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare. Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to withdraw his controversial bill, because of defections by both conservative and moderate Republicans, means the ACA remains the law of the land. But with opponents still vowing to bring the program down, are critical medical coverage and public health services still in jeopardy? 

Concerns were also raised this month by the Trump Administration’s proposed 2018 budget, which would boost defense spending and sharply reduce funding to federal agencies like Health and Human Services, whose budget would be cut by 18% next year. What would such cuts mean for the future of medical research, maternal health care and addiction treatment?

For now, Governor Larry Hogan's declaration earlier this month of a State of Emergency provides an extra 50 million dollars over the next five years to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic in Maryland, and help support the state's prevention, recovery and enforcement efforts. 

Today, it’s another edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our monthly visit with Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of the City of Baltimore. She joins Tom in the studio to talk about the ACA going forward, the state's continuing battle against the opioid epidemic, and other issues on the front lines of public health.

Pages