Midday | WYPR

Midday

MD GovPics/Jay Baker

On Saturday, all eyes will be on the Pimlico race track for the 142nd running of the Preakness Stakes.  As the sports world bends its gaze to the aging track in Northwest Baltimore, track owners and local leaders are considering the future of Pimlico.

Almost everyone agrees that the track needs an upgrade. Will it take a facelift, or a complete tear-down and re-build to assure that the second leg of the triple crown stays in Charm City? Or, will the Preakness move to Laurel, MD? What’s at stake, with the Preakness stakes? Sandy Rosenberg, who represents Baltimore City in the House of Delegates, and WYPR reporter Karen Hosler join Tom to talk ponies and politics.     

Felicia Chapple

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is here with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings. She joins Tom with a review of Arena Player's Crowns: A Gospel Musical

After 17-year -old Yolanda's brother is shot and killed in Chicago, she's sent down south to live with her grandmother, who is an active and respected member of her church community. Crowns is a show that focuses on African-American church women and as the title suggests, big, stylish, hats play a major role in the musical. The hats are used to convey history, tell the women's stories and to impart social rules.

TiaJuana Rountree gives a standout performance as Grandma Shaw and Khadijah Hameen's singing is nearly show stopping. Crowns, which is inspired by a portrait book of the same name, has been performed all over the country, this is first time it's being performed in Baltimore. 

Doug Mills/NY Times

Our country is becoming much more diverse. People of color will outnumber non-Latino, white Americans in 30 years. Are our newsrooms representative of our increasingly diverse nation? It’s a question that news organizations are grappling with across the country. Last month, NPR’s Ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen published a report that said that in 2016, of the 350 employees in the NPR news division 75.4 percent were white. In the commentary Jensen wrote "There's simply no way around it: If the goal is to increase diversity in the newsroom, last year's was a disappointing showing” 

Last December, New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd published a frank piece about the lack of diversity in their newsroom. Of course NPR and the New York Times are not alone. In 2014, minorities made up 22 percent of television journalists, 13 percent of radio journalists, and 13 percent of journalists at daily newspapers. That’s according to the Radio Television Digital News Association and the American Society of News Editors. People of color make up about 15% of the programming staff at WYPR.

photos: Russian Foreign Ministry; American Enterprise Inst.

We begin today's show with yet another stunning development in the 117-day-old Trump Administration: the Washington Post and the New York Times reported last night that President Trump “boasted” about highly classified intelligence relating to a purported ISIS terror plot, in a meeting last week with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador at the White House. The published reports, which were based on anonymous sources described by the Times as “a current and a former American government official,” said Mr. Trump “provided the Russians with details that could expose the source of the information and the manner in which it was collected.”

The classified material disclosed by Mr. Trump in his meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, was reportedly provided to the United States by a Middle Eastern ally known to be very protective of its own intelligence information. The material Mr. Trump shared with the Russians was deemed so sensitive that US officials had not shared it widely within the US government, nor with other American allies.

Although Mr. Trump’s disclosure is not illegal, sharing the information without the permission of the ally that provided it was a major breach of intelligence protocol and could jeopardize a crucial intelligence-sharing relationship.

Joining Tom is Gary Schmitt.  He’s a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, and the Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies and Director of AEI’s Program on American Citizenship.

Mr. Schmitt  previously worked on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as the Staff Director.  During the second term of the Reagan administration, he served as the executive director of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.  

Netflix

Next,  a conversation about a new, seven-part documentary that will be released on Friday (May 19) on Netflix. It's called "The Keepers," and it has already engendered intense interest in the cold murder case of a 26-year-old Catholic nun who taught at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore City.  Sr. Catherine Ann Cesnik went missing in November 1969. Her body was found at a dump in Lansdowne, in Baltimore County, in January, 1970. Her murderer has not yet been identified.

In February of this year, Baltimore County Police exhumed the body of a former Catholic priest who died in 2001. Seven years before his death, A. Joseph Maskell had been accused of abusing students at Keough High School. Police exhumed his body looking for evidence that may link him to Sr. Cathy Cesnik’s murder.

Ryan White, who directed "The Keepers," joined Tom in Studio A. He has met with and interviewed several of Sr. Cathy’s former students, some of whom have been actively investigating her murder for years. Several of these former students figure prominently in "The Keepers."

Gemma Hoskins is one of those former students. She joined us on the phone from Ocean City.  She maintains a Facebook page about the killing of her favorite teacher that now has more than 1,000 members.

Help is available 24/7 for victims of sexual assault via the National Sexual Assault Hotline at their website (click here) or by calling 1-800-656-4673.

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?   

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

We begin with President Trump’s stunning decision to fire FBI Director James Comey earlier this week. Initially, the White House said Comey’s dismissal came at the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt the President said his decision to fire Comey came before the recommendation. Democrats aren’t buying it and say Comey was fired because of the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

John Fritze is the Washington Correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Julie Rovner is the chief Washington Correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Prior to her role at Kaiser, Julie covered health policy for NPR for 16 years. Dr. Terry Anne Scott is an assistant professor of History at Hood College in Frederick. They join guest host Nathan Sterner to weigh in on Comey and the White House and other news of the week. 

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.

Pages