Rob Sivak

Senior Producer, Maryland Morning

Rob Sivak joins the WYPR Maryland Morning team as Senior Producer after a 36-year career at the congressionally funded global broadcaster, Voice of America, where 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, including the still-running Science World.  At Maryland Morning, 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 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: Claremont School of Theology

Time now for another installment in our monthly series, Living Questions, in which we examine the role of religion in the public sphere.  We’re producing this series in partnership with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

In February of this year, the ICJS inaugurated a three-part lecture series called Imagining Justice in Baltimore, in which a Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholar each address how his or her religious tradition understands the notion of justice -- and how that applies to our community.  

Tom's guest this morning is the third and final speaker in this series, who will address this topic from the Muslim perspective.  Najeeba Syeed is Assistant Professor of Interreligious Education at the Claremont School of Theology, in Claremont, California.

Professor Syeed is recognized internationally as a leader in peace-building.  She has done award-winning work in southern California reducing violence in the schools there and in mediating interracial gang conflicts.   Her international conflict-mediation efforts include work with Israelis and Palestinians, as well as work in Guam, Afghanistan, India, and elsewhere.  Professor Syeed joins us from the studios of KPCC radio in Pasadena, California.

Baltimore Tree Trust

In 1872, a bunch of tree lovers in Nebraska set aside one day a year in which they encouraged everyone to plant trees, and voila, Arbor Day was born.  This year, that day falls on Friday, April 29th.  But planting trees just once a year won’t begin to address the tree shortage we have in Baltimore, especially in neighborhoods that have many other deficits to address, like access to healthy food and health care.  And speaking of healthy, our next guest will tell you that planting trees improves health in a big way – the health of people, and the health of neighborhoods.  Amanda Cunningham is an arborist and the co-founder of the Baltimore Tree Trust.  She joins Tom in the studio.    


Continuing our series of conversations as we approach the one year anniversary of the funeral of Freddie Gray and the violence that followed -- reporter Mary Wiltenburg brings us a sound montage of that cataclysmic day, and its aftermath. A year later, the narrative of the Baltimore uprising is still a work in progress. The voices of the protesters, police and others who were there refocus our memories of the chaotic, wrenching events that day at Mondawmin Mall and at the corner of Pennsylvania & North Avenues. We hear them again through the prism of time and with a fuller understanding of the city's response.

Then, with election day right around the corner some candidates and supporters are waging attacks against their opponents. The latest tweet campaign against State Senator Catherine Pugh, who is running for mayor, seems to be generated by bots, or Twitter accounts not linked to real people. Reporter Lawrence Lanahan joins Tom to discuss. 

Plus, the husband and wife cabaret duo Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, masters of the American Songbook, will be at Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy tomorrow night. They join Tom with a preview of their show.

More people have chosen to vote early in this year's primary election than ever before. What does that tell us about what to expect on election day? If the turnout in Baltimore is higher than in previous contests, who does that help, and who does it hurt? How will the Presidential races affect the contests for the Senate, Congress, Mayor, and City Council? Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun, Kimberly Moffit from University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Kenneth Burns of WYPR join Tom to discuss these questions and more. 

Plus, we go up on the roof with Elder Harris of the Newborn Community of Faith Church. He’s been living high to get people in Sandtown-Winchester politically engaged.

And, for decades women have been told to increase their calcium intake as they get older, but is that bad advice? Nutrition Diva Monica Reinagle joins Tom to discuss. 

Monica Reinagel

For years, people over 50 – especially women -- have been told by their doctors to maintain a healthy intake of calcium to avoid or slow the onset of osteoporosis, a bone-thinning disease that afflicts nearly half of all American women over 50.    Now, there’s lots of calcium in the foods we eat -- dairy products and leafy greens, fortified drinks like soymilk and juices and cereals, and sunlight helps our bodies produce the Vitamin D we need to absorb all that dietary calcium.

Still, most people in the West still don’t get enough calcium, either from food or from the calcium supplements they’ve been taking every day.   Until a few years ago, the solution to this calcium deficit might have seemed obvious:  take more  calcium supplements to erase that deficit.  But a pair of studies last fall (9/15) in the online British Medical Journal confirmed what US officials have previously reported: that taking calcium supplements is not just a waste of time and money, but could actually threaten your health. To help us understand these new findings and how we can properly -- and safely – keep our calcium levels where they’re supposed to be, we turn to our Nutrition Diva, Monica Reinagel. She’s a licensed nutritionist who blogs at Nutrition Over Easy, and whose weekly podcasts appear on Quick and Dirty

Flickr-Creative Commons

Freddie Gray died a year ago Tuesday (April 19th), after suffering injuries sustained while in police custody.  The trials of the six officers who have been indicted in connection with his death are on hold until next month, and some wonder if efforts to address the underlying problems that this tragedy laid bare, are on hold too.  Today, the perspectives of an acclaimed columnist and a theater artist.  Pulitzer-Prize winner E.R. Shipp is the Journalist in Residence at Morgan State University.  Kwame Kwei-Armah, OBE, is the Artistic Director of Center Stage.  We’ll talk about what should and could be done in the wake of last April’s violence.

Plus, J. Wynn Rousuck reviews playwright Brooke Berman's comedy, "Hunting and Gathering," the new show at Rep Stage in Columbia through April 24th.

And Arab-American author  and local educator Susan Muaddi-Darraj talks with Tom about her new book, A Curious Land: Stories from Home, a collection of connected short stories that chronicles one hundred years of life in a West Bank Palestinian village.

Enola Aird

Continuing our series of conversations as we approach the one year anniversary of the funeral of Freddie Gray and the violence that followed, Dr. Cheryl Grills and Enola Aird on new strategies for mental health treatment in communities of color.  Black Minds Matter:  a call for liberation from mental slavery through emotional emancipation.

Then, our sports guru Mark Hyman divines the ingredients that have led to the Orioles’ best start ever,

Plus, this is the time of year we think about the inevitability of death and taxes. Saturday, April 16th is National Health Care Decision Day. Dr. Marian Grant on why It Always Seems Too Early, Until It’s Too Late to make decisions about advance care planning.

Katie Simmons-Barth

On the surface, the title of Brooke Berman’s comedy, “Hunting and Gathering,” refers to finding a place to live in New York – no easy task. The characters on stage share apartments with roommates, sleep on friends’ couches, house sit and occasionally – rarely – rent apartments of their own.

But the title also refers to personal relationships – friendships, romances, affairs. Hunting for them, gathering them up, trying to hold onto them.

The clever set at Rep Stage’s area premiere of “Hunting and Gathering” consists of walls of corrugated packing boxes. Even the stairs in designer Mollie Singer’s set are made of boxes. Some of these boxes hold surprises, which I’m not going to spoil. 

Community Healing Network

Today (April 15th) is Emancipation Day in Washington DC.  The government holiday marks the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act by Abraham Lincoln in 1862 that freed -- and compensated the owners of -- more than 3000 slaves in the District of Columbia.  The Act set the stage for President Lincoln's broader Emancipation Proclamation, a wartime executive order he signed in January, 1863, which declared the 3 million slaves held in the rebellious Confederate states to be free. Neither of these "emancipations" outlawed slavery, nor conferred freedom on all of the nation's four million African slaves.  Slavery remained legal in the United States until  the US Congress, at Lincoln's urging, passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution on January 31, 1865, and the states ratified it on December 6th of that same year.

 This morning, we begin with a conversation about a different kind of emancipation: the emotional emancipation from the mental slavery that afflicts many people in communities of color.  Tonight, the Black Mental Health Alliance will present a panel discussion at Coppin State University about how negative perceptions of Africans and African Americans can have a crippling effect on communities of color, and why African-centered approaches to mental health are crucial to addressing the psychological health of minorities in Baltimore, and beyond.  Two of the panelists at tonight’s event join Tom in Studio A:  Dr. Cheryl Grills is a professor of psychology at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and the Immediate Past President of the Association of Black Psychologists.  Enola Aird is a lawyer, and the founder and president of the Connecticut-based Community Healing Network.


Early voting gets underway tomorrow in Maryland, less than two weeks before the April 26th primary election, which will decide a number of important national, state and local races. In the race for Baltimore mayor, State Senator Catherine Pugh leads with 31 percent, followed by former mayor Shelia Dixon at 25 percent, according to a poll released by The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore.  

Lawyer Elizabeth Embry is in third place with 9 percent support, from 5 percent last month. Businessman David Warnock is in fourth place with 7 percent. Councilman Carl Stokes and Councilman Nick Mosby are tied at fifth place in the poll with 5 percent support.

Last week, Maryland Morning hosted a debate between Shelia Dixon, David Warnock and Nick Mosby. At the time,  according to a March 10th poll, Warnock was in third place. Mosby placed fourth.  Poll-leading Senator Pugh, who had been invited to participate in the debate, said she would be unable to do so, citing obligations in the Senate.

Invited once again by WYPR to participate in this week's debate with Ms. Embry and Councilman Stokes, Senator Pugh initially declined again, citing a scheduling conflict. But Sen. Pugh changed her plans suddenly Wednesday morning, and with the live debate already in progress, she joined host Tom Hall and the other candidates in the Maryland Morning studio for a lively discussion about who should be the next mayor of Baltimore.