Midday | WYPR



Today, a conversation about the relationship between religion and environmentalism on another installment of Living Questions, a monthly series exploring faith in the public sphere. 

Some have decried President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord as a “dishonor” to God. To what extent does faith play a role in motivating environmental activists? What do religious scriptures and faith leaders say about the human responsibility to protect the earth?

Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin is a Baltimore-based rabbi, writer, and environmental advocate.  She is the director of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Network at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center. She is also the founder of the Baltimore Orchard Project, a non-profit coalition of Baltimorians dedicated to growing the urban orchard and providing free healthy local fruit to people living in Baltimore’s food deserts.

Jodi Rose is the executive director of Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, a 5-year-old network of nearly 200 congregations working on the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake watershed.

Emmalee June Aman is a convert to Islam and the founder and lead advocate of Winds of Change Advocacy, a consulting business which advises environmental groups on effective ways to organize and mobilize. She also helps lead the Dayspring Permaculture Garden, a communal farming experiment underway on a private 200-acre environmental preserve and interfaith retreat in Germantown, MD.

Photo by Richard Anderson

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is back for her weekly review of a local production! Today, she discusses Baltimore Center Stage's Jazz, the world premiere of Nambi E. Kelley's adaptation of Toni Morrison's 1992 novel. Directed by Kwame Kwei-ArmahJazz depicts the turbulent relationship of a couple living in 1920s Harlem. 

Jazz runs at Baltimore Center Stage on North Calvert Street through Sunday June 25th.

Philip Montgomery for The New York Times

Today another installment of the Midday Culture Connection with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland, College Park. Presidential senior advisor and first son-in-law Jared Kushner’s meeting with a Russian banker back in December is the subject of a federal and congressional investigation. ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis conducted his own investigation into Kushner that hits closer to home. Kushner Companies owns and operates 15 apartment complexes in the Baltimore area. Although Kushner stepped down as CEO in January he’s still a stakeholder, with a share of the company estimated to be worth at least $600 million. 

Courtesy Harper Collins Publisher

With more than 6,000 hours of shows logged during an influential career that spanned more than 30 years, David Letterman’s impact on the landscape of late-night is unquestioned.    On today's Midday, a closer look at the life and work of the trend-setting funny man, through the eyes of a writer-journalist who's spent the past three years sizing up the Letterman legacy. 

Jason Zinoman writes about comedy for the New York Times, and has contributed to Slate, the Guardian and Vanity Fair.  He’s the author of three books:  Shock Value, a chronicle of the horror film industry, and Searching for Dave Chappelle, a probing look at the unexpected twists and turns in the career of that brilliant comedian. 

courtesy AP Photo

It’s the Midday News Wrap, our regular Friday look at the week's top local, national and international stories, with host Tom Hall and a rotating panel of journalists and commentators. 

We begin today with a conversation about a Maryland bill to require employers at businesses with 15 or more full time employees to earn at least five paid sick days a year.  The sick leave bill was sponsored by  Luke Clippinger, who, along with Robbyn Lewis and Brooke Lierman, represents Baltimore City in the Maryland House of Delegates.  The bill passed in late April.  Last week, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it.  To discuss the prospects for overturning that veto next January, and how the law might impact the state's small businesses, Delegate Clippinger joins Tom on the phone today from Frederick, Maryland, where he is attending a meeting.

Then, the Midday News Wrap continues with Tamara Keith, a White House reporter for National Public Radio and host of the NPR Politics Podcastwho joins us from NPR studios in Washington, DC; and Will EnglundForeign Assignments Editor and veteran Russia correspondent for the Washington Post, and author of March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution, who joins Tom in the studio.  They'll discuss the big stories in another very busy week in Washington, including President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, the political fallout from his first international trip, and the ongoing investigation of Russia's election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

Photo courtesy Warner Bros.

It’s the Midday Movie Mayhemour monthly get-together with movie mavens Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post, and Jed Dietz, founding director of the Maryland Film Festival

Ann has just returned from the Cannes Film Festival, which had its share of controversy this year.  So we’ll get a report on that. 

Jed and his crew at the MFF have now been in operation in their new theater, the Parkway, for about a month, we’ll get an update on that, and we’ll talk about a few of the movies that will be at The Charles Theater, The Senator, and the Parkway here in Baltimore in the coming days, including Wonder Womanthe much anticipated action-adventure flick from director Patty Jenkins. 

One of the controversies at Cannes has to do with requirements about Netflix movies having to be released theatrically in order to qualify for prizes, and how long after theatrical release those movies can be made available to stream, etc.

We also invite your calls, emails and tweets on the issue:  How important is it for you to see a movie in a theater, rather than on a TV or computer or tablet, or even your phone?

Photo by ClintonBPhotography

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings.  This week, she's here to tell us about Noises Off, the British farce now playing at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre. 

Everyman’s Resident Company of actors collectively plays a British company of hapless actors in this broad comedy. With their opening night on London’s West End imminent, the company's actors blunder through their rehearsals, and things get worse as the actual play begins.  The cast struggles to control the chaos of lost lines and crossed lovers, and to pull their act together -- for the audience and for themselves.

Noises Off continues at Everyman Theatre through June 18.

Tom previewed Noises Off with Everyman's founding artistic chief and the play's director, Vicent Lancisi, and with Deborah Hazlett, who stars in the role of Dotty Otley...on the May 19 Midday.  To listen to that conversation, click here.

Organizers expect upwards of 5,000 people to assemble in Druid Hill Park this Saturday morning, June 3,  for the 10th annual Baltimore 10-Miler. If you’ll be running this weekend, or if you’re into cycling, swimming, soccer, baseball, or any number of other athletic pursuits, you'll want to listen to today's show.

Dr. Miho Tanaka joined Tom in the studio today. She knows the challenges that are faced by professional athletes and weekend warriors alike.  Dr. Tanaka is an orthopedic surgeon, an assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and the director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital. She is a team physician for U.S. Soccer. Before moving to Baltimore, she was the team physician for the St. Louis Cardinals and the St Louis Surge in the WNBA.  She has also served as assistant team physician for the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Liberty. Dr. Tanaka took your questions about fitness and how to get the most out of our exercise regimens, regardless of your age, gender or fitness level.  

Here's some good news for local joggers, runners and walkers: "parkrun" -- a free, weekly, 5K event -- is coming to Charm City. Parkruns take place in 11 U.S. cities, and 13 other countries.  Yesterday, the founder of parkrun, Englishman Paul Sinton-Hewitt, was in Leakin Park to announce the launch of Baltimore's free, weekly parkrun, to be held in the park each Saturday morning at 9 a.m. starting June 24.


Jury selection begins today in the trial of police officer Jeronimo Yanez, who is accused of second degree manslaughter in the death of a 32-year-old African-American cafeteria supervisor named Philando Castile. Yanez shot Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota last July. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live streamed video of the immediate aftermath of the shooting on Facebook. According to prosecutors, Castile had a gun in his pocket that he was licensed to carry. They say when he told Yanez about the gun before trying to pull out his driver's license Yanez warned Castile three times not to remove the gun, to which Castile repeatedly responded that he was not going for his weapon,. Prosecutors say when Castile reached for his license, Yanez shot him.

The start of this trial comes on the heels of an acquittal earlier this month in the trial of another officer, Betty Jo Shelby in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She was found not guilty in the death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed Black motorist whose shooting was captured on a video taken by police in a helicopter. In both of these cases, the encounters between these motorists and police lasted a very short time, but the ramifications of the legal decisions in these and other cases will last for the foreseeable future.  

Doug Mills/NY Times

(Originally broadcast on May 17, 2017)

Our country is becoming much more diverse.  In thirty years, it's estimated that people of color will outnumber non-Latino white Americans. 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.

Photo courtesy Bowie State University

It's the Midday News Wrap, our regular Friday review of the week's top local, national and international news. This week, as headlines focused on President Trump's first foreign trip, his 2018 budget proposal, and on the continuing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, the nation was stunned by news of the May 20 stabbing death of Bowie State University student Richard Collins III.  The 23 year-old Collins, who had just been commissioned as a US Army lieutenant, was murdered by a University of Maryland/College Park student, who has been identified as a member of a white supremacist hate group on Facebook. How is the community responding to this tragedy, and what are school officials doing to address rising concerns about racially motivated attacks on their campus? Joining Tom on today's NewsWrap panel to discuss these and other issues in the news this week are Kamau High, managing editor of the Afro-American Newspaper and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, an associate professor of communication and African and African American studies at Loyola University Maryland, and the author of “Letters to My Black Sons: Raising Boys in a Post-Racial America.”

Photos courtesy Austin Caughlin, Mikecheck

We close the show today with a little live music to spring us into the Memorial Day weekend. 

Austin Caughlin is a name familiar to listeners of Midday.  Every Friday, we remind you that Austin wrote and recorded the Midday theme music.  Austin is on the composing staff of Clean Cuts, a music production studio here in Baltimore.

On Saturday night, May 27th, Austin hosts a benefit concert  -"Singing in Solidarity" - with other artists and musicians from 7-9 pm at the Four Hour Day Lutherie to raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.  

Austin joins Tom in the studio today with Mikecheck, a local singer and musician who'll also be appearing at the SPLC benefit tomorrow night, along with other performers, including singer Sandy Asirvatham and writer Rion Amilcar Scott.

It’s time for another installment of Smart Nutrition here on Midday.

When it comes to nutrition, we’re often faced with information overload and conflicting conclusions from different studies.  For example, if you drink one diet soda per day, do you increase your chances of getting dementia? Maybe. Maybe not. Broccoli is good for you, right?  If you have irritable bowel syndrome, not so much.  Same goes for cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. Good for most people most of the time, but not all people, all of the time.    

How are we to make sense of the steady stream of research about what to eat and what to avoid -- and just how much of a connection is there between what we eat and diseases we may develop?  Should we try to eat well?  Sure, of course.  But a lot of us are confused by what seem to be varying conclusions when it comes to food research. A new study sheds some light on why making the best nutritional choices can be challenging for a lot of us --  and why the sources of our information about nutrition are not always the most reliable.    

To help us sort this all out today, we turn to Monica Reinagel, The Nutrition Diva.  She is an author and a licensed nutritionist who blogs at nutritionovereasy.com.  And she joins us on Midday every other month to discuss the latest trends in food, health and nutrition, and take your calls, emails and tweets.  

Photo by Dave Iden

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for her weekly review of thespian doings.  This week, it's the final production of Baltimore Annex Theater's 2016-17 season: The King of Howard Street is an original play based on the life of the formerly homeless Baltimore writer and housing rights advocate, Anthony Williams, who's portrayed in this production by Joshua Dixon.

For more than two decades, Williams lived in abandoned buildings up and down Howard Street. Several years ago, he began to chronicle his life story and the stories of his friends and family. Last year, Williams approached Annex Theater's Artistic Director, Evan Moritz, outside of the theater and handed him three spiral-bound notebooks filled with drawings and writings, including a draft of his autobiographical play.  Inspired by Williams' story, Moritz commissioned playwright Ren Pepitone and director Roz Cauthen to bring this story to a wider audience, and they've done so with a compelling mix of dance, music, and theater.

The King of Howard Street also features performances by Nathan Couser (Insurrection: Holding History) as Saint Lewis, William's right-hand man; Desirae Butler (The Tempest) as McFly; and Jonathan Jacobs  (Tempest, Master and Margarita) as Randall.  The cast also includes Malcolm Anomanchi, Kristina Szilagyi, Christian Harris, Mary Travis, David Crandall (Annex Company Member), and Elaine Foster. Costumes are by Stylz, Set by Bernard Dred, Lighting by Rick Gerriets (Annex Company Member), Sound by David Crandall, and Video by Rachel Dwiggins (Cook, Thief, Wife, Lover and Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman)

Yesterday, President Trump issued a budget plan that proposes dramatic cuts to Medicaid and other programs like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as food stamps. Despite campaign promises to the contrary, the president wants to reduce Medicaid spending over 10 years by as much as $1.4 trillion according to some estimates. The Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides healthcare support under Medicaid to low income children, would be cut by 20% in the first year alone. This of course comes after House Republicans passed a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this month. Some in the Senate have vowed to start over, rather than work with the House bill as they craft their own. 

What could these cuts mean for the most vulnerable folks living in our city who rely on programs like Medicaid and food stamps to survive? Tom is joined by Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of the city of Baltimore, for the Midday Healthwatch. 

She's a three time Grammy award winner, who took her first violin lesson at the Peabody Institute here in Baltimore just before her 4th birthday.  Six years later, at the ripe old age of 10, she was off and running on a concert career that has taken her to five continents and 43 countries around the world. She spoke at the Peabody Institute’s commencement ceremony yesterday, and before she takes off for her next port of call, Hilary Hahn joins Tom in the studio.

Over the past 20 years, a revolution in biotechnology has allowed scientists -- and the giant ag-biotech companies many of them work for – to blow past the tedium and imprecision of ages-old traditional breeding and dive directly into the DNA -- the genetic core -- of a plant, animal or microorganism, and move desired traits in or out as needed.  The result is that nearly all of four major crops being grown today -- corn, soybeans, canola and cotton -- are now genetically modified, high-performance varieties that a majority of farmers in the US and many other countries have been planting with gusto.

But the worldwide proliferation of these new GM crops has raised fundamental questions that go far beyond “are GMOs safe to eat?”  The questions go to the nutritional value and diversity of the foods we buy and eat every day, to the social and economic structures of food production and marketing, and to the quality of the environment in which our food is being grown.

Today, guest host Aaron Henkin (producer of WYPR's Out of the Blocks series) spends the hour examining how well the Baltimore City Public School System's "school choice" program is working, twelve years after its launch.

The program was created to give all students (and their parents) a chance to participate in the selection of the middle schools and high schools they wish to attend. 

The annual high-school choice program starts each fall, it goes on through each spring, and it gives late middle-schoolers an opportunity to identify their top five preferred high schools.  Kids make these selections based on a range of criteria:  they look at student population, gender mix, sports programs and, special academic offerings like advanced placement courses and college-credit curricular tracks.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump spent a year on the campaign trail saying terrible things about Muslims and NATO. He railed against Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information. He even had bad things to say about the Pope.  

He leaves today to meet with leaders of Saudi Arabia, NATO, and Israel, whose trust he abused when he revealed secrets Israel had collected, to Russian diplomats. He’ll also meet with the Pope.  

Meanwhile, computers across the globe were paralyzed by ransomware, a white police officer was acquitted in Oklahoma after shooting an unarmed black man during a traffic stop, and layoffs are imminent in the Baltimore City Schools.  


Everyman Theatre is wrapping up its 26th season with the raucous British comedy Noises Off. Everyman’s Resident Company of actors transforms into a bumbling British company of actors just hours away from their opening night. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong. Between the lost lines and love triangles pandemonium takes over before intermission. 

Vincent Lancisi is Everyman’s Founder and Artistic Director. He also directs this production. Deborah Hazlett stars in the role of Dotty Otley. They join Tom for a preview of Noises Off.

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.  


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.