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.

Intel Free Press // Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re a tech nerd, chances are you need not be told that today marks the beginning of the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. More than 3,000 companies from around the globe have set up shop to show off their latest gadgets and gizmos. But these days, CES goes far beyond being a “gadget show.” It’s also a major showcase for electric and self-driving cars, video-equipped drones and robotic equipment, security systems, and wearable fashion-tech, like smart shoes.

If you have no idea what smart shoes are, join the club, and listen up. Marc Saltzman is a syndicated journalist who writes about all things tech. He hosts TechTalk on CJAD radio in Montreal, and he joins Tom from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 


My next guest is the acclaimed actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith. In addition to her work in television on shows such as The West Wing, Madame Secretary, and Nurse Jackie, she has made 18 documentary dramas, in which she plays a myriad of characters, through whom we are guided, with trenchant insight, around the complexities of different social issues.  A Baltimore native, she has taken on such subjects as the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, integration, and the US Health Care system. We spoke last month when she was in Baltimore performing her latest play at Center Stage. The play -- called Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education: The Baltimore Chapter -- is a masterpiece of storytelling and a provocative call to action to end what is often called the school to prison pipeline.

Also last month, Baltimore's Center Stage, under the leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE, produced "My America Too: Taking Theater to the Streets" -- a series of videos available now. Center Stage's CS Digital program commissioned 10 American writers to create plays set around the kitchen table, inspired by recent events in Baltimore, Ferguson, MO and other communities.

Da Capo Press

  In 1939, the SS St. Louis left Hamburg, Germany en route to Havana, Cuba, with more than 900 Jewish Refugees on board, hoping to escape Nazi persecution. Cuba refused to accept the refugees. Then, the United States and Canada refused to accept them, and the ship was forced to return to Europe. Two of the passengers on that ship, Alexander Goldschmidt and his son, Helmut Goldschmidt are the subject of a book by Alexander’s grandson, Martin Goldsmith.

Martin lives in Bethesda, and may be familiar to you as the host of Symphony Hall on Sirius XM radio, and the former host of NPR’s Performance Today. His book is called Alex’s Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance. Tom spoke with him about the book in September 2014.

Robert Hruzek // Flickr Creative Commons

On behalf of all of us on the Maryland Morning team, we wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, and all the best in the new year.

We’re foregoing our usual coverage of news and current events on this Christmas morning, in favor of bringing you a little music and poetry of the season.

Paola Kizette Cimenti // Flickr Creative Commons

As we prepare to sit down for our holiday dinners, or graze the buffet at those New Year’s Eve parties next week, it’s a great stroke of luck that today happens to be Smart Nutrition Day here on Maryland Morning, when we check in with the Nutrition Diva, Monica Reinagel.

She’s a licensed nutritionist who blogs at Nutrition Over Easy, and whose weekly podcasts appear on Quick and Dirty Tips. Monica has, over the years, injected all sorts of common sense into our discussion of diet and nutrition.

Today, Monica and Tom talk about the recently published National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. The dietary study shows that despite the modern-day focus on healthier eating and regular exercise, Americans gain weight faster and more easily than they did 30 years ago.    Monica has an explanation.

Rachel Baye-WYPR

We begin with a conversation with one of our city’s most passionate advocates for young people.  Munir Bahar co-founded the group 300 Men March two years ago to prevent violence on Baltimore’s streets and to help African-American men become more engaged in their communities. 

Then, what’s next for Officer William Porter, and how will lawyers for the State’s Attorney adjust their strategy as they prosecute the other officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray?  David Jaros and Michael Higgenbotham from the University of Baltimore School of Law untangle the legal and social issues facing the defendants and the city. 

Plus, the music of Helicon, the Celtic masters who have performed an annual Winter Solstice concert in Baltimore for the past 30 years. Ahead of their show Saturday (December 19) at Goucher College, we observe our own Maryland Morning tradition by welcoming the band back to the studio to play some tunes.

Baltimore Sun Arts


A beloved holiday tradition here in Baltimore has become a beloved holiday tradition here on Maryland Morning. Helicon joins Tom Hall in the studio once again to share a bit of holiday music. For the 30th year in a row, the esteemed Celtic band will be presenting their annual Winter Solstice concert Saturday afternoon and evening at Goucher College. They are here this morning to give us a little preview.

It appears that the jury is deadlocked in the trial of Officer William Porter, accused in the killing of Freddie Gray.  What does this mean for Porter and for the other five officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death?  We’ll get legal analysis from two experienced lawyers: trial attorney Edward Smith and University of Baltimore law professor David Jaros. 

Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun/TNS

We begin today with an update on the trial of Officer William Porter.  On this Wednesday morning, a nervous city awaits the jury’s verdict in Officer Porter’s trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office in the death of Freddie Gray last April. After eight days of testimony, Judge Barry Williams gave the jury his instructions on Monday, after lawyers for Officer Porter and the State’s Attorney made their closing statements in what reporters described as a packed courtroom in courthouse East in downtown Baltimore.  Yesterday afternoon, after about nine hours of deliberation, the jury told Judge Williams that they were deadlocked as to the guilt or innocence of William Porter.  The judge sent them back to deliberate further, and at 5:30 last night, they called it a day.  They are resuming their deliberations this morning.

The Chesapeake Bay Program

We focus on a new report from the Abell Foundation, which says efforts in Maryland to restore the pollution-damaged Chesapeake Bay are being threatened by misguided state clean-up priorities, and inadequate monitoring of the biggest source of the Bay's pollution – agriculture.  Our senior producer Rob Sivak takes a closer look.

And, the Single Carrot Theater has been an anchor on Baltimore’s thespian landscape for almost 10 years.  Tom talks with the company's managing director and artistic director about their current production, the thriving theater scene in Charm City, and what the company is doing to address inequality.

Plus, our theater critic  J. Wynn Rousuck reviews Gifts of the Magi, a musical that combines Americana and the holiday spirit; and Zoey Washington-Sheff shares some tips on winter coat-shopping, holiday party style, and fashion gift ideas for your favorite people.