Midday | WYPR

Midday

Monday-Friday from noon-1:00, Tom Hall and his guests are talking about what’s on your mind, and what matters most to Marylanders:  the latest news, local and national politics, education and the environment, popular culture and the arts, sports and science, race and religion, movies and medicine.  We welcome your questions and comments. E-mail us at midday@wypr.org, tweet us: @MiddayWYPR, or call us at 410-662-8780.
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Meet the Midday team

Midday programs with Sheilah Kast as host ended on September 16, 2016

Archive prior to October 5, 2015

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

On today's Midday NewsWrap, Tom begins with a review of some of the week's major national and international developments, from President Trump's "America First" speech this morning to the World Economic Forum in Davos, to the bombshell New York Times report that the President ordered  the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June, but then backed off.  Tom is joined on the line by journalists Ron Elving --Senior editor and correspondent on the Washington Desk at NPR News -- and Karoun Demirjian, defense and foreign policy correspondent for the Washington Post.

Then, we switch gears and focus on the week's top local news, from Mayor Pugh's shakeup of the city's police department and the continuing mystery surrounding Detective Suiter's violent death...to why Baltimore lost its bid for Amazon's coveted HQ2 . Tom is joined in the studio by Andy Green, Opinion Editor at the Baltimore Sun, and community activist Bishop Douglas Miles, pastor of the Koinonia Baptist Church and Co-founder Emeritus of BUILD (Baltimorians United In Leadership Development).

Photo by Rob Clatterbuck

Every Thursday, our resident theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom in studio to regale us with her review of a local theater production. This week, she spotlights a new production of the opera Trouble in Tahiti at Stillpointe Theatre.

Originally composed and conducted by the legendary Leonard Bernstein (whose other works include "West Side Story"), this opera centers on a young suburban couple who live a seemingly perfect and beautiful life. In reality, both husband and wife are suffering a numbing discontent with their lives and relationship. Claire Galloway Weber and Peter Tomaszewski play the lead roles of Dinah and Sam.

Trouble in Tahiti is directed by David Schweitzer, with musical direction by Ben Shaver.  For ticket info, click here.

photo from Johns Hopkins University

How are you feeling today?  Flu-ish maybe?  If so, you’re not alone.  We keep hearing that this is the worst flu season in years.  And if you’ve had this year’s flu, that’s no doubt how it feels. In fact, it is probably the worst flu season in the past three years, and we’ll have to wait until it’s over before the CDC can rank it more definitively.   

Here’s what we do know in this -- the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Influenza pandemic, which infected 500 million people worldwide.

This year’s flu is now widespread in 49 states -- all but Hawaii. The number of children who have died from flu this winter has now reached 30.  Three years ago 148 children died from the flu, according to the CDC.  The number of adults who die from flu in any given year is less clear.  But what is clear is that the flu is serious.  

The severity of this year’s flu raises some interesting ethical questions.  For example:  Should getting a flu vaccination be mandatory?   Of course, being vaccinated is no guarantee that you’ll avoid the illness, but experts point out that if more people are vaccinated, the outbreak will theoretically be less virulent.

Where children are concerned, the link between vaccination and health is perhaps clearer.  Most of the 30 children known to have died from the flu so far this winter -- about 85% -- had not been vaccinated. 

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, joins Tom today.   He stops by from time to time to help us explore how ethicists frame some very complex questions, in a segment we call Midday on Ethics.

Photo by Sarah Wanyana

The African Children’s Choir joins Tom in Studio A to preview their concert tonight in Baltimore.  These 18 young singers, aged between  7 and 10 years, are all from Uganda. Many come from families impacted by war, famine and disease.  They are now on a 9-month, nearly 50-concert tour of the United States. After Baltimore, they'll venture across the mid-Atlantic, up to New England and then out west to Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Over the years, the African Children's Choir has performed for heads of state and shared the stage with celebrated artists such as Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey and others.

 

Tonight at 7 pm they will be performing in Baltimore at St. Matthew Catholic Church at 5401 Loch Raven Blvd.  The concert is free and open to all. The Music for Life Institute, the non-profit charitable organization that runs the Choir, welcomes donations, which help support African Children's Choir programs such as education, care and relief campaigns.   Click here for more information.

Photo courtesy Baltimore Sun

Today, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh joins Tom in Studio A.  Like Mayor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Sheila Dixon, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake before her, last Friday, Mayor Pugh fired the city's police commissioner.  Kevin Davis was an outsider who had come to Baltimore after tenures in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties.  He was replaced by a 30-year veteran of the Baltimore Police, Darryl DeSousa.  The Mayor’s mandate to her Commissioner-designate is clear: improve violence reduction, and turn around our city’s crime numbers, which are at historic levels. 

The first few weeks of this New Year have not been easy for the city: multiple maintenance crises in city schools, the announcement by Amazon that we are out of the running for their new headquarters, the shuttering of the only big box department store in West Baltimore, and hovering above it all: murders on our streets that continue at an alarming rate. 

Mayor Pugh points to several areas in which the city is making progress. The Police training academy has a full class preparing to join the force. Bloomberg Philanthropies has invested millions to improve technology for law enforcement, and to train young entrepreneurs.  The Safe Streets program is being expanded, and a new violence reduction program that has shown promise in Boston is being bought to Baltimore. 

The Mayor has spoken of changing the narrative about our city.  She talks about how she plans to do that in today's Midday with the Mayor.  And she takes questions and comments from the Midday audience.

Today's program was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page, where you can now watch the complete video.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

 The Consumer Electronics Show ended 10 days ago in Las Vegas. From voice-activated AI, to Smart Cities, to innovations for the disabled, Tom talks to a panel of experts to walk us through the trends and some of the gadgets they took note of at this year's show.

 

Courtesy of Mary Rose Madden

Today, two editors of the Afro Newspaper in Baltimore join Tom to discuss the firing of Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and the hiring of his Deputy Commissioner Daryll DeSousa. Mayor Catherine Pugh announced this change-up last Friday citing her dissatisfaction with the city's high homicide rate. DeSousa, a 30-year veteran of the force, now inherits the challenges of his predecessor such as the ongoing Gun Trace Task Force scandal and the Consent Decree with the Department of Justice.

Kamau High is the Managing Editor of the Afro Newspaper.  Sean Yoes is a columnist, editor and host of The Afro First Edition.

 

Courtesy of Evan Vucci / Associated Press

In this week's news, the federal government faces a shutdown as Baltimore’s mayor shakes up the city's police department.

The U.S. House and Senate are arguing about passing a short-term spending resolution to avoid what Republicans are calling "the Schumer Shutdown." Democrats say that the bi-partisan bill to preserve DACA crafted by Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Dick Durbin has what it takes to solve the crisis for Dreamers, and avoid a messy and costly shutdown.

Meanwhile,  Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has fired Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.  30-year city police veteran Darryl DeSousa began serving as acting commissioner this morning. 

By Lawrence Randall "The Eye" Photography

To close our Friday show, the wonderful jazz trumpeter, vocalist and composer Nico Sarbanes joins Tom in Studio A, along with guitarist Michael Benjamin.   They play two pieces in the set, including  "A Cottage for Sale," by Willard Robison, and to take us out, a rendition of "Groove Merchant" by Jerome Richardson.

Nico, Michael and bassist Shawn Simon will be performing a program of jazz standards and Nico’s own compositions at the Cultural Center at the Opera House in Havre de Grace two weeks from Sunday, Feb. 4 at 3 p.m.

Screenshot: Imamu Baraka / Facebook

A week ago Tuesday, a few minutes before midnight, the temperature in Baltimore was below freezing.  A man named Imamu Baraka stepped out of his office on Howard Street, near the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus for a quick trip to the drugstore.  He encountered security guards from the hospital pushing a young woman in a wheelchair, who was dressed only in a hospital gown and socks, despite the frigid cold.

The reasons she came to be taken out of the hospital by security guards are also unclear. What is clear, however, is that Mr. Baraka saw something, and said something.  He got involved.  And he showed extraordinary compassion and concern for a woman who was a stranger to him. 

Mr. Baraka joins Tom to share that experience, and to question the inhumane policies that permitted hospital workers to discharge a vulnerable patient into the freezing night.  Then, Tom discusses the access-to-care challenges facing many people suffering from mental health issues and homelessness, with Dr. Jonathan Shepherd, board president of the Black Mental Health Alliance and medical director of Hope Health Systems, a private Baltimore mental health treatment center.  Joining the conversation on the line from California is Philip Reese, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and reporter for the Sacramento Bee who has written about "patient dumping" incidents in Nevada.

Photo courtesy Rapid Lemon Productions

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio for her weekly review of one of the region's many thespian offerings.  This week, she spotlights Love Is a Blue Tick Hound, Rapid Lemon Productions' regional premiere of a collection of four short plays by Audrey Cefaly, three of which have received New York premieres, and all of which have won festival awards throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Cefaly's suite of four intimate one-act duets -- Fin & Euba, Clean, The Gulf, and Stuck -- explores the many ways we struggle to cope with the complicated dynamics of life and love.

Part of the 2018 Women's Voices Theater Festival, Love Is a Blue Tick Hound is on stage at Baltimore's The Theatre Project now through Sunday, January 21, and at Washington's Trinidad Theatre/Capital Fringe from February 9-17.   Click here for Theatre Project tickets and here for Trinidad Theatre/Capital Fringe tickets.

CREDIT BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Today, Dr. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools joins Tom in Studio A for a conversation about the state of the city's school system. With nearly 60 schools closed due to the cold earlier this month and accusations of funding impropriety from the governor, mayor and parents, BCPS faces increased scrutiny and pressure to educate and provide for its students. 

At a press conference announcing $2.5 million in emergency funding for City Schools, Gov. Larry Hogan pointed to mismanagement and a lack of accountability, and he called for a newly created Investigator General to be embedded in the Department of Education to oversee state grants to the city.

All these conflicts arise as BCPS continues to educate a student population disproportionately affected by poverty and racial injustice.

Photos courtesy AP; Mansfield Foundation

An international conference on the Korean crisis is underway today in Vancouver, Canada, without representatives from Russia and China.  Have months of militant rhetoric between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un brought the world to the brink of an unthinkable war?  Will the talks between North and South Korea in advance of the Winter Olympics help ease tensions?

Tom explores those questions today with two astute foreign policy observers:

Frank Jannuzi is a US-Asian affairs analyst and the President and CEO of The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes understanding between Asia and the US. 

Josh Lederman covers the State Department and foreign affairs for the Associated Press.  

The global rebuke of President Donald Trump continues, after it was reported that he made racist comments about Haitian, Central American and African countries during a meeting on immigration in the Oval Office last Thursday.  Since this story broke, the media has been awash with the testimonies of Black African immigrants from around the globe who have felt compelled to defend not only their countries of origin, but also their right to study, to travel, and to seek a better future for their families.

To explore African emigre reactions to the President's comments, Tom speaks with Amaha Kassah, founder and Executive Director of African Communities Together, an organization of African immigrants to the United States. He joins us by phone from New York City.  

photo courtesy biography.com

On this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday -- marking what would have been the slain civil rights leader's 89th birthday -- we are talking about Dr. King’s legacy, and how the movement for racial and economic equality and justice is positioned moving forward.

This year, we’ll also mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, as well as of the Fair Housing Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law just a week after King’s death, as cities across the country were enveloped in violence.

Violence in many forms remains part of the American landscape, and with the political rise of Donald Trump, violent and abrasive rhetoric now permeate public discourse to a heart-breaking degree, from Charlottesville to the Oval Office.  

Joining Tom on this MLK Day edition is a panel of guests with keen insights into the long, continuing quest for racial justice in America:

DeRay Mckesson is a civil rights activist and the host of a podcast called Pod Save the People;  

Michael Higgenbotham teaches at the University of Baltimore Law School.  He’s the author of Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America;  

Taylor Branch is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Parting the Waters, the first volume of his seminal history of the civil rights movement, America in the King Years

And joining the conversation on the line from Frederick, where she is on the history faculty of Hood College: Dr. Terry Anne Scott.  She teaches African American history and writes about African American social and cultural history.

Tom and his guests also respond to listener comments and questions.

Photo courtesy BSO.

Today on Midday on Music, Tom is joined by Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Director Marin Alsop, who has been working hard to make the BSO as accessible and appealing as it can be. She began her historic tenure at the BSO in 2007, and in 2012 she also became the principal conductor of the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra in Brazil.  

Courtesy of Bruce F Photography

Today, Midday's intrepid theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck reviews the courtroom drama Inherit the Wind, now on stage at Vagabond Players.

Based on the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial," Inherit the Wind explores themes of science, religion, and intellectual freedom, as they swirled together in a historic courtroom debate over whether Charles Darwin's theory of evolution should be taught in public schools. Written in 1955 by playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, the play was a broadside at the contemporaneous McCarthy hearings, the infamous Senate campaign to purge suspected communists from jobs in the US government, industry and the arts.

Inherit the Winddirected by Sherrionne Brown, continues at Vagabond Players through Sunday, February 4, with show times on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here or at the door.

Samierra Jones

Today a conversation about the heating crisis in Baltimore city schools. School officials blame the problem on old buildings and underfunding. Gov. Larry Hogan points to what he calls mismanagement and ineptitude. So what’s really going on, and what should be happening moving forward? 

Governor Hogan also announced $2.5 million dollars in emergency aid for Baltimore schools. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh directed the Department of Public Works to pitch-in and help with emergency repairs, and she called on the business and philanthropic community to help pay for it. A student at Coppin State University, Samierra Jones, started a GoFundMe page to raise money for space heaters and coats.   In a startling article in the Baltimore Sun, Luke Broadwater reported that the City has returned nearly $66 million dollars to state coffers that had been allocated for repairs. If money is short for needed repairs, how can this be? Many people concluded that the sub-zero temperatures outside exposed sub-par performance by school officials.  

Courtesy of Monica Reinagel and Dan Ariely

It’s the beginning of a new year, and for many of us, that means following up on resolutions to shed those extra pounds. Today, on this edition of Smart Nutrition, Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, joins Tom in Studio A to talk about a few weight loss strategies. They also check in with Duke University behavioral economist Dan Ariely about a strategy he’s developed to ease the angst of weight reduction.

Then, Monica and Tom discuss CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful new tool for genetically altering our foods, a new ranking of the best diets for 2018, and which ones might be worth trying.

Monica Reinagel is an author and a licensed, board-certified nutritionist.  She blogs at nutritionovereasy.com and she joins Midday for our Smart Nutrition segment every other month.  

Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and co-founder of BEworks, Timeful, Genie and Shapa.

 

The 438th session of the Maryland General Assembly begins tomorrow and Baltimore City is certainly on the agenda. Governor Larry Hogan announced a plan to appoint an investigator to look into what he described as corruption, mismanagement and ineptitude in some Maryland school districts. This comes after the announcement of $2.5 million dollars in emergency funding to restore heating to many Baltimore City public schools. 

The new federal tax overhaul could mean more revenue for the state. How to spend it is a point of contention. Democrats say they have enough votes to pass their version of paid sick leave After threatening to “take the knee,” The Legislative Black Caucus is confident that their bill to increase diversity in the medical marijuana industry will pass.  Rachel Baye covers Maryland politics for WYPR. Erin Cox is The Baltimore Sun's State House bureau chief, they join Tom for a preview of the 2018 General Assembly. 

Courtesy of the Brookings Institute

When the sweeping Republican tax bill was pushed through and voted into law just before Christmas, critics ripped into it as a gift for the wealthy. Many of them focused on the benefits that it will bestow upon the wealthiest of all -- the top 1% — and especially the top 0.1%. Critics worry that the ultra rich are becoming wealthier, while incomes for most other Americans are stagnant.

Today's guest, Richard Reeves, says that the gap that poses the greatest threat to our culture isn’t the one between the insanely rich and the rest of us, but rather, it’s the gap between most people and the so-called Upper Middle Class, the top 20% of Americans, by wealth. That gap, Reeves says, is changing how families are structured and it’s informing our political and personal attitudes about everything. 

Richard Reeves joins Tom live from the studios of NPR in Washington, DC.

Danni Williams via Facebook

On this week's edition of the Midday News Wrap: The Labor Department announced that the economy added 148,000 jobs last month, fewer than expected. The stock market is at record levels. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1%. Very few other things appeared steady this week. Steve Bannon’s list of BFFs is considerably smaller this week. President Trump says Bannon has lost his mind. People at Breitbart News think Bannon may soon lose his job. The President tweeted about the size of his nuclear button. A new bombshell book by a journalistic flame thrower suggests that many in Trump’s circle question the President’s basic competence for his job, confirming the impression held by about 70 million voters in 2016. And President Trump dissolved the Voter Fraud Commission.

The New York Times reported last night that Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be investigating false statements made by the President and inquiries made by the Attorney General as a matter of possible obstruction of justice. And two new Democratic senators were sworn in this week: Doug Jones, the first Democrat to represent Alabama in 25 years, and Tina Smith, who replaces Al Franken as the junior Senator from Minnesota. The Senate now includes a record high 22 women in its ranks, and the Republican majority has been shaved to one.

In Baltimore, sub-zero temperatures have exposed sub-par performance by city and state officials, as classrooms in nearly one third of schools in Baltimore had heating problems. And the FBI made the stunning decision to refuse to accommodate Police Commissioner Kevin Davis’ request that it take over the investigation into the death of Detective Sean Suiter.

Joining Tom in Studio A to discuss this week's news: Julie Bykowicz covers national politics for the Wall Street Journal. Before joining the Journal, she covered the Trump White House for the Associated Press. Michael Fletcher is a senior writer at The Undefeated, the on-line platform of ESPN. He was for many years a national reporter for The Washington Post, where he covered economics and the White House. 

Rachael Boer Photography

Baltimore-based classical guitarists Jorge Amaral and Mia Pomerantz-Amaral joined Tom in studio to give us a fabulous preview of their concert this weekend.

Duo Amaral will be performing a program of Latin American music this Sunday, Jan. 7, at 3 p.m.,  in Columbia, Maryland, as part of the Sundays at Three Chamber Music Series. Click here for more information and tickets.

Photo by Jack English

On this month's edition of Midday at the Movies, Tom is joined by our regular movie maven Jed Dietz, the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival, and by special guest Max Weiss, the managing editor and film critic at Baltimore Magazine, who also writes about culture at Vulture.com, the entertainment website of New York Magazine.

Awards season is underway, and our guests weigh in on some of the films in contention for the year's first major awards presentation: the 75th annual Golden Globes, which happen this Sunday (January 7th at 8PM ET on NBC).  They'll talk about a few interesting omissions from the roster of nominees…and a couple of new biopics: one about Britain's World War II-era prime minister Winston Churchill, called Darkest Hourand a second, which opens tomorrow night, about another legendary figure, of a different sort: 1994 Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding, whose gritty backstory is the focus of I, Tonya.

And we field your calls, emails and tweets about the movies on your mind...

Spotlighters Theatre - Shaelyn Jae Photography

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck to bring us her weekly review of one of the Baltimore-Washington region's thespian offerings, and this week it's First Date, a musical comedy now on stage at Spotlighter's Theatre

The minimalist romp finds blind-date novice Aaron (played by Reed DeLisle) set up with serial-dater Casey (Lindsey Litka), and their casual drink at a busy New York restaurant soon turns into a complex and comedic dinner for two that involves a suprisingly large cast of characters.

First Date is stage-directed by Fuzz Roark, with book by Austin Winsberg, music and lyrics by Alan Zachary and Michael Weine, and musical direction by Michael Tan.

First Date continues at Spotlighter's Theatre through Sunday January 21.  For ticket info, click here.

(Adult Language and Situations - Parental Guidance Necessary.)

Today, we continue our series of conversations with members of the Baltimore City Council who came into office in late 2016 as part of a wave of energetic and idealistic legislators who were elected on the promise of change and new ideas.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Baltimore’s insistent and insidious plague of violence.  In 2017, record numbers of Baltimoreans, lost their lives to homicide. Today we’ll focus on Baltimore City and the issues before the city council as this New Year gets underway. 

pixabay.com

A warning to listeners who may be tuning in with young children: we will be talking about mature topics today on this edition of Midday Culture Connections.

The sexual assault allegations against powerful men in Hollywood and pretty much every other industry has shined a light on the pervasiveness of predatory sexual behavior. Today, we’ll examine the ways hypersexualized images of women on television, on the internet and in print distort the ways our culture views and treats women. Scholars have called it “pornification.”  

 Pornography dominates the internet. More people view internet porn every month than click on Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined. So how does pornography affect mainstream popular culture? And how do the images of women we encounter every day affect the ways women view themselves and the ways men view and interact with women?

(This conversation originally aired on November 15, 2017.)

A student is suspended from the University of Tulsa for statements his husband made on Facebook; posters advertising “Straight Pride Week” ordered removed from bulletin boards at Youngstown State University. A law professor is asked to resign when she wears blackface to a Halloween party, to promote a conversation about race. Today on Midday, a conversation about free speech on college campuses. Are trigger warnings and safe spaces in higher education stifling intellectual thought and violating the first amendment or creating intellectually diverse and inclusive campuses? 

Photo by Robert Kniesche/Baltimore Sun

(This program was originally aired live on October 10, 2017)

In this archive edition of MiddayWYPR and the Baltimore Museum of Industry team up for a special program -- presented as part of BMI's Issues in Industry series -- examining Baltimore's calamitous de-industrialization, the challenge of rebuilding the city's workforce, and the future of work in Baltimore's increasingly dynamic industrial landscape.  Broadcast in front of a live audience at BMI's Communications Gallery, the hour-long discussion featured Midday host Tom Hall moderating a guest panel that included Anita Kassof, BMI’s executive director; Dr. Nicole King, associate professor and chair of the Department of American Studies at UMBC;  Phillip J. Pack, a retired Sparrows Point steelworker and union trainer; Lauren Purviance, with Jane Addams Resource Corp., a Baltimore job training firm; Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a labor economist, author, media commentator and CEO of Economic Education, LLC; and Joe Jones, Director, Center for Urban Families, a Baltimore nonprofit.

The panel also addressed emailed and tweeted questions and comments from the live audience.

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