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.

Courtesy Philadelphia Gay News

Since the 1960s, a succession of federal and state laws have been enacted to impose tougher penalties on perpetrators of hate crimes -- criminal acts that target victims because of their race, religion, gender or ethnicity.  But as the frequency of hate crimes has increased across the country in recent years, some lawmakers and civil liberties activists have questioned whether hate-crime laws are an effective response to acts of bigotry.  Today, we’ll explore that issue with a panel of experts: 

Faizan Syed is the executive director of the Missouri Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group that works to promote a positive image of Islam and Muslims in America.  Mr. Sayed joins us on the line from his office in St. Louis;

Robert West is CAIR-Missouri's Civil Rights Staff Attorney; and

Frederick Lawrence is a lawyer, civil liberties scholar and CEO of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, a Washington, DC-based honor society that promotes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. He is the author of Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes Under American Law.  In the 1980s, Lawrence served as the Chief of the Civil Rights Unit in the Office of the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, working under then-US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.  Mr. Lawrence has also served as dean of the George Washington University law school, and as President of Brandeis University.  He is currently a Senior Research Scholar and Visiting Professor of Law at the Yale Law School...

It’s terrible, but legal, to be a racist.  When bigotry is behind a crime, what’s the best way to prosecute the criminal?   

Photo courtesy Patheos.com

Today it's another edition of our monthly series called Living Questions – a series produced in collaboration with the ICJS, the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies here in Baltimore – that explores the role of religion in the public sphere.  

On today’s program, we’re going to be looking at the impact of the 112-day-old Trump Administration on religious freedom and tolerance in the United States.  Much has been said and written about the polarization in American political dialogue since the November presidential election, but we’re going to focus on how Donald Trump’s election victory has affected the way diverse religious groups interact with the larger society, and how presidential actions may have improved or worsened the climate of religious freedom -- one of America’s bedrock values.

Joining Rob to examine these questions are three leaders in their respective faith communities: 

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, which describes itself as a non-profit “strategy center…advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”  He is also a contributing editor to Commonweal Magazine, and the author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church, published in 2015. His analysis has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter.   John Gehring joins us from NPR studios in Washington.

Joining Rob in Studio A is Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg.  He has been the Rabbi at the Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill here in Baltimore since 2010. He is a fellow in the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and is a contributing author to Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation about Rabbinical Education.  He is a trustee of the ICJS.

Also in the studio is Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat.  A native of Syria who has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, Imam Arafat serves as the President of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland, and is the president and founder of the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation, a non-profit group that provides religious and cultural training, consultation and orientation services for foreign exchange students and for the staff of the State Department’s Youth Exchange Study Program.

Photos by Teresa Castracane

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is here with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she joins guest host and Midday senior producer Rob Sivak with a review of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's revival of the 1960 classic musical, The Fantasticks.

The longest-running musical in Broadway history -- and still a perennial favorite of theater companies across the country and around the world -- has a simple, Shakespeare-inspired storyline, at whose heart is a 19 year-old boy and the 16 year-old girl next door. Their controlling fathers scheme to lead the unwitting pair into romance, but the matchmaking goes terribly wrong. The lyrical and sentimental musical, with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, is filled with memorable songs.  The Fantasticks is Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's first musical.  Directed by Curt L. Tofteland.

The Fantasticks continues at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company through Sunday, May 21st.

photo courtesy vanhollen.sen.gov

President Trump's surprise decision Tuesday night to fire FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email-server investigation, has sparked a political firestorm, and precipitated what some political observers say is an unprecedented constitutional crisis. 

Critics of Comey's sacking allege it was a brazen attempt by Mr. Trump to derail the FBI's ongoing investigation -- being led by Mr. Comey -- into Russia's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and possible collusion with the Trump presidential campaign.  The presidents's supporters say Mr. Trump's decision to fire the FBI chief was justified by Mr. Comey's controversial public statements regarding the FBI's Clinton investigation.  And they dismiss critics' concerns that the FBI's Russia probe could come to a halt under the new director that Mr. Trump will appoint.

For the first segment of Wednesday's show, Tom speaks with U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D. Md.) about the Comey firing, how it changes the political dynamic in Washington, and what impact it will have on the effort to finally learn the truth about Russia's involvement with the 2016 presidential race and the Trump campaign.

Photo courtesy Madison Smartt Bell

Tom's guest this afternoon is the novelist Madison Smartt Bell.  He is the author of more than 20 books, which include novels, short stories and works of non-fiction.  In 1995 and 1996, his novel, All Soul’s Rising, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.   It won the Anisfield-Wolf award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race.  It’s the first of a three-part trilogy about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Slave Uprising of the late 18th century.

Bell’s a professor of English and the co-director of the Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College.  He calls his latest novel "a fever dream."  Behind the Moon begins with a group of teenagers skipping school and heading to the desert for a camping trip.  When one of them gets into an accident, it sets off a chain of events that brings together an absent  mother, a young refugee, and a shaman, among others, for a story that delves into the complexities of family, the hardships of the outsider, and the power and possibility of the spirit world.  

Madison Smartt Bell will be talking about Behind the Moon on Saturday, May 13 at the "Starts Here Series” held at Bird in Hand Bookstore, located at 11 East 33rd Street, Baltimore, MD  21218.  

The event begins at 7:30pm.  For additional details, click here, or call 410 243 0757. You can also contact host Jen Michalski at jen.michalski@gmail.com

Today, the author joins Tom in the studio, and takes your calls, emails and tweets.

Photos- Allen by Stuart Hovell. Parnes by Chip Somodevilla

Yesterday, Emmanuel Macron trounced the populist far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, to become France’s next President.  The election was a blowout, and the latest in a string of repudiations of anti-immigrant candidates in Europe. 

So why have voters in France, the Netherlands and Austria rejected populist candidates while voters in the United States embraced the xenophobia of Donald Trump?  The authors of a new book about the 2016 Presidential election argue that the answer is, in part, Hillary Clinton.  Few candidates in history had the kind of political pedigree that the former Secretary of State brought to the race, but she was unable to overcome chronic and implacable voter distrust. 

Jonathan Allen is the head of community and content for Sidewire, and a columnist for Roll Call.  He joins us from the studios of NPR in Washington, DC.

Amie Parnes is the senior White House correspondent for The Hill newspaper.  She connects with us from WBGO public radio in Newark, NJ.

The two reporters /co-authors join Tom for the hour to describe one of the most consequential cases of woulda, coulda and shoulda in U.S. political history.  Their new book is called Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.  

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It's the Midday News Wrap, our Friday review of the week's top local, national and international stories, with host Tom Hall joined by a rotating panel of esteemed journalists and political observers.

This week, Democrats actually broke into song (belting out a few choruses of the 1969 Steam hit, "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye") on the floor of the House of Representatives, as the Republicans' seven-year-long campaign to repeal and replace Obamacare finally took a step towards fruition.  Given the dramatic reductions in health coverage written into the bill, many Democrats believed it was a vote that will come back to haunt the Republicans at election time.  

Associated Press photo.

On Friday (05/05/17) afternoon at 1:00pm, Reveal, the nationally syndicated NPR program produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting, will air an episode about police and communities of color here in Baltimore.  Mary Rose Madden of the WYPR news team and Mary Wiltenberg, a freelance reporter here in Baltimore, have each contributed stories about what happens when suspects in a crime react to police in different ways.  It’s called Running from Cops: In the Streets to the CourtsYou can hear it tomorrow afternoon on the radio or on-line, and you can also be part of a special listening event with the two reporters at 1:00 tomorrow at the Charles Theater here in Baltimore.  Mary Rose Madden and Mary Wiltenberg join Tom in Studio A with a preview.

Photography by Katie Simmons-Barth

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck stops by each Thursday with her latest review of a major stage production. This week, it's "Dorian's Closet," at Rep Stage in Columbia, Maryland.

“Dorian’s Closet” is a new musical getting its world premier at the Rep Stage, that's loosely based on the life of Dorian Corey.  She was a legendary female impersonator who yearned for fame, but who also gained notoriety for a startling discovery made after her death.

The musical chronicles Dorian’s rise in the underground club scene in New York City in the 1980s through her death in 1993. “Dorian’s Closet” is a sobering and inspirational odyssey about the drive to turn dreams into reality. Directed by Joseph Ritsch.  Book & lyrics by Richard Mailman and music by Ryan Haase; choreographed by Rachel Dolan, with Musical Direction by Stacey Antoine.

Dorian's Closet continues at Rep Stage through Sunday, May 14.

Photo courtesy Baltimore Sun

Today (April 27, 2017) marks the 2nd anniversary of the 2015 Uprising, the eruption of violence in Baltimore following the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25 year-old African American man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while being arrested by Baltimore City Police.  Those fateful days of rage – coming after two weeks of tense but largely peaceful protests -- shook Baltimore to its roots. It sparked a city-wide soul-searching that launched ambitious efforts to address the long- simmering issues affecting Baltimore’s communities of color. Yet two years later, many would say too little has been done to address the root causes of the 2015 unrest, and that the city may have let slip important opportunities for lasting change.

Photo by Stan Barouh

It's Theater Thursday on Midday, and that means our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings. This week, it's The Magic Play, the latest work of 2015 Helen Hayes Award-winner Andrew Hinderaker (Colossal). He returns to the Olney Theatre Center with another unique story combining passionate theatricality with a touch of genuine theater magic.

Brett Schneider plays a talented magician (like himself) who has won acclaim by maintaining absolute control over his performances. He has tried to do the same with his love life, but when his lover forces him toward some painful emotional reckonings, it threatens even his confidence as a magician. Hinderaker's play weaves a tale of emotional conflict and sleight-of-hand wizardry.

The Magic Play is directed by Halena Kays, with magic created by Brett Schneider.  Jim Steinmeyer serves as magic consultant.   Also in the cast are Jon Hudson Odom and Harry A. Winter.

An advisory from The Olney Theatre Center:  The Magic Play is recommended for ages 16+ for mature themes, strong language and intimate situations. It is not a magic show appropriate for children.

The Magic Play continues at the Olney Theatre Center through Sunday, May 7th.

Photo by George David Sanchez

Today, it’s Midday on Mid Life.  Mid Life can be a dizzying hash of juggling jobs, keeping a marriage vibrant, tending to children as they enter adulthood, and caring for parents as they enter their twilight years.  No wonder the term “midlife” so often has the word “crisis” attached to it like a tentacle.     

But our 40s, 50s and 60s can also be a time when we come into our own, forge new relationships, and discover fresh things about the world and ourselves. 

In her most recent book, Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlifeformer NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty takes a clear-eyed look at the challenges and joys of being old enough to know better, and young enough to enjoy the new things that life may have to offer. 

Barbara Bradley Hagerty will talk about her book Wednesday night (April 26) at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church on Dulaney Valley Road in Lutherville.  Her talk is sponsored by a group called Well for the Journey.  The event begins at 7:30.  More details here.

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.

Joining Tom on the News Wrap panel today:

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci is a 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 JournalThe 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.

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.  

The US Senate.

Barbara Mikulski has been a social worker, a community organizer, a Baltimore City Council member, a Congresswoman for 10 years, and for the last 30 years, she’s been Senator Barb.  By the time she retired in January as the longest serving woman in the history of the US Congress, Senator Mikulski had earned a reputation as a fierce advocate for families, women, children, seniors and scientists.  She’d also earned the respect of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle, mentoring and helping to pave the way for other women seeking elective office. 

Senator Barbara Mikulski, now a Homewood professor of public policy and adviser to the president at The Johns Hopkins University, is Tom's guest for the hour today.  They'll discuss her remarkable career, her take on Trump, and her prescriptions for the Democrats as they navigate the vagaries of Washington without her.

photo courtesy Boston Globe

In this seventh week of the Trump Administration, Republicans in the House, the Senate and the White House continued to wrangle loudly over a health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. 

President Trump’s second try at an executive order temporarily banning travel from six Muslim majority countries and halting all refugee admissions was blocked, again, by federal court rulings in Hawaii and Maryland -- rulings the White House says it will appeal. 

Mr. Trump also unveiled his first proposed federal budget, calling for huge increases in defense spending and deep cuts across a wide swath of social programs and federal agencies, including the EPA and the State, Labor and Agriculture Departments.

And in Maryland’s General Assembly, amid partisan battles over paid sick leave and bail reform measures, the House of Delegates passed a revised version of Governor Hogan’s 43.5 billion-dollar state budget proposal, and sent it on to the Senate.

Joining guest host Nathan Sterner to sort out the week’s developments are three keen observers: Amy Goldstein, a national reporter for the Washington Post with a focus on health care policy, on the line from the Post’s newsroom in Washington, DC;  Michael Dresser, State House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, on the line from Annapolis; and, in the studio, Richard Cross, a former press secretary and speech writer for Maryland Governor Robert Erlich and now a conservative columnist and blogger at rjc-crosspurposes.blogspot.com.  

photo courtesy washingtonwire.com

This is another installment of Living Questions, a program produced in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies that explores the role of religion in the public sphere.  On today’s edition, guest host Rob Sivak leads a discussion about "school choice" in Maryland.

Photo by Shealyn Jae

It's Thursday and that means it's time for Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck to join us with a review. This week, she joins guest host Rob Sivak to talk about "Trust," the new production now on stage at Fells Point Corner Theater in Baltimore until Sunday, March 19th.

Here's how Fells Point Corner Theatre describes this off-beat play by Steven Deitz -- one of the country's most prolific regional-theater playwrights:

"A rising star and a faded one. A radio DJ. A Bohemian. Guitar picks, pick-ups and wedding dresses waiting to be worn. In a fast-paced, grungy grind, how can anyone be trusted when temptation trumps all?  From the creative team who brought us previous year's productions of Other Desert Cities and Detroit, Director Michael Byrne Zemarel combines with the talents of Valerie Dowdle, Cassandra Dutt, Laura Malkus, Rachel Roth, David Shoemaker and Mark Scharf to bring you a play about rock'n'roll -- and the ones it leaves behind."

"Trust," by Steven Deitz,  is on stage at the Fells Point Corner Theatre in Baltimore until Sunday, March 19th.

Photo by Jillian Edelstein

Tom's guest today is the acclaimed Pakistani novelist and essayist Mohsin Hamid.  He’s the author of insightful and quirky novels like Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

In his latest work, Exit West, he explores the complexities and punishing challenges of being a refugee.  With hints of fantasy and a trenchant analysis of the human condition, Hamid writes fiction that forces us to listen and essays that compel us to question the common wisdom.

Mohsin Hamid joins Tom to talk about his work, and the uncertain fate of refugees in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to those displaced by war, famine and political upheavals.

You can meet Mohsin Hamid on Saturday, March 11, at the Church of the Redeemer in North Baltimore.  The event will support the work of the Baltimore office of the International Rescue Committee.  It’s sponsored by the Ivy Bookshop, and it begins at 7:00pm.   For more information, click here.

Photo by Richard Anderson

Midday's theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio -- as she does most Thursdays -- with her review this week of The White Snake, on stage in the renovated Head Theater at the newly named Baltimore Center Stage.

Based on an ancient Chinese fable, The White Snake uses mystery and magic to tell a fantastical tale that's staged in grand-spectacle style, intertwining traditional and modern storytelling techniques.  

Two animal spirits -- White Snake and Green Snake, played by Aime Donna Kelly and Eileen Rivera, have taken human form as a beautiful woman and her sly servant. White Snake falls in love with a poor pharmacist’s assistant (played by Joe Ngo), but their relationship is condemned by a conservative monk (played by Peter Van Wagner), and their newfound happiness is threatened by tragedy. 

The White Snake was written-adapted by Mary Zimmerman, and directed by Natsu Onoda Power.  Nicole Wee is the costume designer,  Hana S. Kim is the scenic and projection designer, and  Jeff Song is music director.

The White Snake is at Baltimore Center Stage until March 26th.  Ticket and showtime information is available here.

Photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

It’s the Midday News Wrap, our regular Friday review of the week's top local, national and international news stories, with a rotating panel of journalists, commentators and community leaders.

President Trump gave a widely praised speech on Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.  Various news outlets have identified more than a dozen false or misleading statements in that address.  The Washington Post is keeping track of such things.  They’ve accumulated 187 factually inaccurate statements by the President in his first 40 days in office.  Still, many people think the President quieted some skeptics with his performance in front of Congress.

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