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Midday

Courtesy of Hari Kondabolu

Tom's guest is Hari Kondabolu, the comedian/satirist and co-host of the popular podcast "Politically Re-Active" with fellow comedian W. Kamau Bell.

Their show focuses on what they call "the dumpster fire that is the U.S. political landscape" with leading activists and writers.

A major draw on the nationwide standup comedy circuit and a regular on late-night TV talk shows, Hari's latest stand-up album (available via digital download) is called Hari Kondabolu's New Material Night, Volume 1 , which was recorded live in San Francisco in 2013.

Ahead of his two upcoming shows at The Creative Alliance in East Baltimore on Sunday August 27th, at 7:30 and 9:00pm, Hari joins Tom on the line to talk about racism, rebel statues and living in Donald Trump's America.   

Photo courtesy CBS Sports

We begin with a conversation about the horrific events that took place in Charlottesville, Va.  over the weekend which resulted in the death of one woman and two VA state troopers.  Many were injured, and brazenness about racist and hateful rhetoric is alive and well.  White nationalists succeeded in shining a bright spotlight on themselves in Charlottesville.  The president of the United States has said little to dim that light, drawing severe criticism from, as he might say, many, many sides.  Dr. Nathan Connolly, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, joins Tom to reflect on Charlottesville and its aftermath.

MTA

Today, we take another look at Baltimore Link, the city’s new bus system.

Gov. Larry Hogan promised the bus system overhaul after he killed the proposed Red Line extension of the Light Rail in 2015. Hogan contended that the $135 million overhaul of the Baltimore bus system would be a better option that the $2.9 billion dollar light rail proposal.  

MTA officials promised that Baltimore Link would speed up travel times for commuters and get people closer to more of the places where they work.  We discussed Baltimore Link on Midday right after it launched in June, and today, we re-examine it, now that it’s had a couple of months to work out some of the kinks, which are to be expected with any large overhaul.

Tom speaks with Senator Ben Cardin, the senior senator from Maryland and ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, about President Trump's  escalating war of words with North Korea. This conversation was recorded on Thursday morning.  At that time, President Trump had already talked about the "fire and fury" of a response to North Korea should they initiate hostilities. This morning, the President tweeted that the US military was "locked and loaded" with military solutions should North Korea act "unwisely." The President appears to be implying that he’s ordered some sort of new military plan for North Korea.  Most military observers doubt that American preparedness for a conflict with North Korea is, in fact, substantially different than it has been for some time. 

Baltimore City Government

On Wednesday Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh released her plan for curbing the spike in violence in the city. Her violence reduction plan takes a holistic approach to fighting crime.  The mayor wants more training for police officers, increased access to housing and jobs, and free community college for Baltimore city public school graduates. Critics say the Mayor’s plan lacks accountability and measurable goals. 

Dominique Maria Bonessi is WYPR's City Hall reporter.

Edward Jackson is a professor of criminal justice at Baltimore City Community College. He’s also a former Baltimore City Police Department Colonel, who retired from the department in 2004. He was recently appointed by Mayor Pugh to Baltimore City’s Community Oversight Task Force. 

They join Tom to discuss the mayor crime plan and a crime reduction plan put forth by the city council's public safety committee led by 2nd district councilman Brandon Scott. 

Baltimore’s annual festival that celebrates African American art, music and culture, known as AFRAM, takes place tomorrow at Druid Hill Park.  The festival is in its 41st year and free to the public. It features performances from local artists, interactive exhibits, children’s activities, as well as job training and health and wellness information.

Afra White, the planner of AFRAM festival, joins us on the line from City Hall today. She’s the director of external affairs for the Office of the Mayor. The Baltimore festival is presented this year by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and the City of Baltimore with the support of the advisory board and steering committee.

This week the American Visionary Art Museum is celebrating its 25th anniversary. The museum highlights the work of so-called “outsider” artists as many of the artists are self-taught visionaries. Back in the early 90s now-retired Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski spearheaded a movement to pass a resolution in Congress that made the American Visionary Art Museum an official national museum. For more than two decades the museum has served as an education center and repository for intuitive, self-taught artistry. The founder and director of AVAM, Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, joins us today in Studio A to talk about the museum and its current exhibits. 

Photo courtesy of Rev. Maria Swearingen

This is another edition of Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere, which we produce in collaboration with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.  

This past January, the leadership of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC, elected the Reverend Maria Swearingen and Reverend Sally Sarratt as their congregation’s co-pastors.

Calvary Baptist has a long, progressive history since its founding by anti-slavery abolitionists in 1862, but the selection of these two women to lead their congregation was nonetheless a bold move.

Maria Swearingen and Sally Sarratt are a married, lesbian couple.  They join Tom in the studio to talk about the journey that brought them to Calvary Baptist, what they are doing in their co-ministry, and what their election as co-pastors may say about the Baptist Church and about tolerance in established denominations across the broader religious landscape.

Rousuck's Review: "Love's Labour's Lost"

Aug 10, 2017
Photo by Will Kirk

Every Thursday, Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck stops by with her review of one of this region's theater productions.

Today, it's the new production of Love's Labour's Lost by the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, which is being staged as part of their seasonal Shakespeare in the Meadow program.

The play -- one of the Bard's early comedies -- follows the attempt by Ferdinand, King of Navarre, and his three companions to forswear the company of women for three years. Their plan does not go particularly well.

Chris Cotterman, the associate artistic director of the BSF, directs the light-hearted production, which runs through Sunday, August 13, outdoors at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory in Evergreen Meadow (located at the Johns Hopkins Evergreen Museum and Library). From August 18-20, the production moves indoors to the Great Hall Theater at St. Mary’s Community Center. Check the Baltimore Shakespeare factory website for details.

The House and Senate and the president have all left town for the August recess. Just before they left they were deep in the drama of the Senate Republicans’ failure to repeal and/or replace Obamacare, otherwise known as the Affordable Care Act.

During this exodus of all politicians from Washington we’ll put politics aside for a moment and ask: What should the healthcare system and healthcare coverage in the U.S. look like? Can we take the system we’ve got and make it work better? And if we were starting from scratch, what kind of system would we create?

Two experts who have been thinking and writing about healthcare for years join Midday to answer these questions.

Today, a conversation with a man who has filed or joined more than half a dozen cases against the Trump Administration: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Mr. Frosh is a Democrat who was elected in 2014, after serving for 28 years on the Maryland General Assembly.

Earlier this year, to the chagrin of the Governor, the general assembly gave the Attorney General’s office the authority to sue the Trump administration without Governor Larry Hogan’s permission. Back in March, Maryland joined the state of Washington in a lawsuit against the second travel ban.  Maryland also filed a lawsuit with the District of Columbia alleging that President Trump violated anti-corruption clauses in the constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments after he took office. Attorney General Frosh pushed back against president Trump’s voter fraud commission, saying that the commission only exists to “indulge Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote.” He also called the commissions’ request for voter data “repugnant.” The lawsuits of course are not without critics. Republican state lawmakers accused the Attorney General of “grandstanding,” saying that he’s exploiting his political power to go after President Trump.

Closer to home, Attorney General Frosh has spoken out about criminal justice reform. In an opinion issued last year, he told state lawmakers that our cash bail system is unconstitutional. Mr. Frosh joins Tom to talk law, respond to comments, and field all of your burning questions.

It’s another edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our monthly conversation with Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.    

According to the latest estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose  -- more than 50,000 people every year. The majority of these deaths, now surging in more than 30 states, are being caused by powerful illicit opioid drugs like heroin and fentanyl, and widely-used prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, the active opioids in Percocet and Vicodin, respectively.

AP Photos

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury.  The Trump White House has called in the Marines, or at least one highly respected Marine General, to impose order in the West Wing, and to squash the constant barrage of leaks.  Those leaks, however, continue at an unprecedented pace.

A transcript of phone calls with the Presidents of Mexico and Australia were revelatory about the President’s negotiating style.  A transcript of a phone call with the head of the Boy Scouts will never be leaked, because the phone call was imagined by the President.  In West Virginia last night, he played hits from the campaign like “Lock her up!” and reveled in the defection of the state's Democratic governor to the Republican Party.  In Baltimore, the City Council and the Mayor wrestled over plans to stem the violence on city streets.  

A lot to parse in this week's News Wrap. Tom is joined today by Associated Press White House reporter Darlene Superville, on the line from Washington.  And joining us in the studio is Jean Marbella of the Baltimore Sun. She has been a writer and editor at the Sun for 30 years, currently serving on the Sun’s investigative and enterprise team.

Image courtesy Annapurna Pictures

This is another edition of Midday at the Movies.  Today, Tom is joined by  our favorite movie mavens, Jed Dietz of the Maryland Film Festival and Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post, for a look at the latest fare in movie theaters this summer. 

Detroit, the new Kathryn Bigelow movie about the Detroit riots in 1967 is at the Charles.  Dunkirk has landed at the Landmark, and Step, the documentary about triumph at a Baltimore high school, is kickin’ it at the Senator.  Jed and Ann talk with Tom about these and more of your Charm City cinematic choices this weekend, and take your questions and comments.  

Photo by Tom Lauer

Midday Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio every Thursday to review one of our region's current theater productions.

Today, she spotlights Sister Act, a musical based on the 1992 film comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg as a lounge singer who is forced to hide out in a convent, disguised as a nun.  Sister Act is directed by Tom Wyatt at Cockpit in Court on the Essex campus of the Community College of Baltimore County. It will run through Sunday, August 6.

There’s a new top librarian in Baltimore. Heidi Daniel took over as President and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library this week after longtime president Carla Hayden left last year to lead the Library of Congress. Heidi comes to Baltimore from Youngstown, Ohio, where she oversaw 15 branch libraries. Prior to Youngstown, she worked at both the Houston Public Library and the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma City.

The library’s central branch is already undergoing a major renovation, so what else is new at the Pratt? These days, a library is much more than a place you go to check out a book, and that’s especially true of the libraries in Baltimore, which often serve as resources and safe havens for children and families. The Enoch Pratt library offers legal advice from an onsite lawyer, after school programs and job placement assistance among other services. Heidi Daniel joins us to talk about some of these programs and her vision for the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Check out Heidi's book recommendations for kids.

Credit Courtesy of Dr. Brittney C. Cooper

Today, another installment of the Midday Culture Connection with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland.

Sheri is an Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming at the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland College Park, where she is also an Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies.  She’s the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a Legacy from the Sacred Dark Feminine to the Strong Black Woman.

We’re joined by Dr. Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women and gender studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University in Brunswick, New Jersey. She is also the author of a new book called Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women.

Dr. Cooper’s book explores the history of black women as intellectuals. The 19th and 20th century “Race Women” she tells us about are often thought of as activists rather than public intellectuals. Their scholarship and achievements are often overshadowed by the work of Black men like W.E.B Dubois, Frederick Douglas and others, as well as the writing and activism of white feminists. 

A little later in the program,  Tom is joined by Ellen Gee, a contemporary Race Woman, who is one of the organizers behind the Baltimore Ceasefire, an attempt to put a stop to the onslaught of violence that has plagued Baltimore, particularly since the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. She and other organizers are calling for no violence in our city for 72 hours, beginning this weekend.

photo from Johns Hopkins University

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.  When he stops by Midday, we talk about all manner of complex dilemmas. Today, we’re having a conversation about the ethical questions surrounding the case of Charlie Gard. He’s the infant in Britain who died on Friday, a week shy of his first birthday.  He was critically ill for all of his short life.  He had a rare genetic condition that left him brain damaged and unable to move or breathe on his own.

His parents sought permission from UK courts to do what they thought was best for their son.  First they wanted to take him to the U.S. for experimental treatment.  More recently, his caregivers said that there was nothing more than could be done to help him and that he would die without artificial life support.  His parents wanted to take him home from the hospital to die.  In both instances, the courts ruled that what the parents wanted was not in the best interest of little Charlie.

Baltimore Sun

On Tuesday, a very heated City Council public committee hearing on a bill that proposed a mandatory one-year sentence for people caught carrying illegal handguns erupted into chaos and confusion when several area university representatives were invited to testify before members of the public who had been waiting to speak for hours. Two people were arrested in a confrontation with police in the chamber.

photo courtesy Comstock-Fasano

A little touch of Broadway comes to Baltimore tonight when the acclaimed New York cabaret team, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, return to Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy.  They’ll present a show called Downton Abbey Road: The Best of Britain  

Known for their imaginative interpretations of the American Songbook as well as more contemporary fare, Comstock and Fasano are award-winning artists who are regulars on the New York circuit, as well as in venues around the country.  Today, they join Tom in Studio A. We'll hear some recent recordings, and talk about their new show and their storied career as married musical partners.

Photo courtesy of Monica Reinagel

It's another edition of Smart Nutrition, our regular series of bi-monthly conversations with the Nutrition Diva, Monica Reinagel.  Today, she and Tom talk about whether there's any such thing as a "disease proof" diet. 

We’ve all heard the expression: we are what we eat. Study after study suggests that if people would only eat more of this and less of that, they would be less likely to develop cancer, diabetes or heart disease. But what if someone eats all the right things but still develops cancer? If people make good food choices – if people eat leafy greens and we avoid processed sugar and trans fat - can people actually “disease-proof” themselves? There are plenty of books in which authors claim just that. There are titles like "The Breast Cancer Prevention Diet", "The MIND Diet", "The Fertility Diet"; there’s even one called, "Disease Proof."  The Nutrition Diva helps us sort the facts from the fiction.

Monica Reinagel is an author and a licensed nutritionist who joins us on Midday every other month. Follow her blog at nutritionovereasy.com.

Photo by A. Mains

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for her weekly review of one of the region's thespian offerings.  

Today, she spotlights Fallout, the play by Laura King that's being staged by Baltimore's Vagabond Players as part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival.  It's directed by Audra Mains Mullen, and stars Gareth Kelly as David and Ryan Gunning as Anna, two strangers with issues, who seek refuge from an unknown menace in a fallout shelter, a relic of the nuclear holocaust paranoia that raged during the Cold War.  In the tight confines of the shelter, Anna and David wrestle with their inner demons, even as they deal with their terror of what lurks outside.

The Vagabond Players' production of Fallout -- one of just two plays to be fully-staged in this year's Baltimore Playwrights Festival -- runs through Sunday, July 30.  Special Thursday show July 27, 8 pm; Friday and Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm.

The Vagabond Players is located at 806 South Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21231.
Tickets can be purchased here.

Eighteen years ago, the state of Maryland deregulated its electricity market with the idea that a free market would give consumers cheaper rates. This has since led to the proliferation of retail electricity suppliers competing for the attention and affection of consumers. With renewable energy production currently on the rise, these suppliers have also been touting what they call “green electricity” plans.

Have consumers made the switch toward these alternative energy plans? Has deregulation delivered on the promise of lowering prices?

Joining Tom in the studio to help us answer these questions is Kent Mottice, Energy Policy Manager at the Maryland Energy Administration, the state agency whose mission is "to promote affordable, reliable and cleaner energy for the benefit of all Marylanders."

With us on the line from DC is Tim Brennan, a professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he teaches Economics and Public Policy. He’s also a senior fellow at Resources for the Future, an organization that conducts economic research on environmental policy. And on the line from Pacifica affiliate KPFT in Houston is Ryan Handy. She covers the regulation of public utilities and the oil and gas industry as energy reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

Macmillan Publishers

Today, a conversation about criminal profiling and how it came to be standard procedure in police investigations.  Today, we take it for granted that when crimes occur, particularly serial crimes - think Ted Kaczyinski or David Berkowitz or Jeffrey Dahmer - that police will consult with experts who are able to provide a likely profile of these perpetrators so police can figure out who and where they are.

Courtesy of Medscape

It’s another edition of Healthwatch, our monthly conversations with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.  She and Tom discuss a wide range of public health issues, from the weekend’s dangerous heat to the hot drama on Capitol Hill as Senate Republicans continue their struggle to repeal Obamacare. They also talk about White House plans to cut essential public health budgets, and about new state funds for a city program promoting healthier food options in the city's corner food stores. And Dr. Wen has the latest on the continuing threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus -- remember the Zika virus?

Photo courtesy WBUR

It's the Midday News Wrap, with guest host Nathan Sterner sitting in for Tom Hall.  Among the stories Nathan spotlights in this week's review: the drama of competing healthcare bills, the wrangling and chaos within the Republican Party, and the still-unfolding puzzle of possible Russian ties to President Trump's inner circle.

 Early in the week, Senate Republicans lacked the votes for their latest proposal to replace the Affordable Care Act.  By Tuesday, President Trump announced, “We’ll let Obamacare fail.”  The confusion deepened later in the week with proposals to Repeal without Replace and Repeal with Delayed Replace.

Also this week, there was the drip, drip of revelations about exactly who else was in the room in June of 2016 when Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chief at the time, attended a meeting where they were promised Russian government help for their campaign and some dirt about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.  Then on Thursday came the announcement that Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort have all agreed to appear before Senate committees next week to discuss Russia and the 2016 election.

Andy Green, Editorial Page editor of the Baltimore Sun, and Richard Cross, a longtime Republican communications staffer in both Annapolis and Capitol Hill, are here with background and analysis on the week's developments.

But first, Julie Rovner is on the line from DC to help us make sense of the week’s healthcare news.  Rovner is chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News, where she is the Robin Toner Distinguished Fellow.  If her voice is familiar to you, that’s because Rovner was a health policy reporter for NPR for 16 years before joining KHN.  She is the author of the book “Health Care Politics and Policy A-Z,” now in its third edition.  

Public Domain

Roughly a fifth of the US population – and a third of the under-30 crowd – say they have become disaffected with traditional religious institutions and they’re telling pollsters that they don’t identify with any particular church or religious faith.

They‘re called "nones" -- as in "none of the above," but most say they still believe in God. So why are growing numbers of Americans turning away from the traditional church, synagogue, and mosque? And what are they looking for? Senior Producer Rob Sivak sits in for Tom Hall as host of today's edition of Living Questions, our monthly series examining the role of religion in the public sphere, produced in collaboration with The Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies.

Joining Rob in Studio A are the Reverend Joseph Wood, assistant rector at Baltimore's Emmanuel Episcopal Church;  Joshua Sherman, program associate at Repair the World at Jewish Volunteer Connection;  and Terrell Williams, associate organizer for Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD).  Alan Cooperman, Director of Religion Research at the Pew Research Center and the author of its 2012 report, Nones on the Rise, joins us on the line from Pew headquarters in Washington D.C.

Spotlighters Theatre / Shealyn Jae Photography

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Senior Producer Rob Sivak in the studio today with her review of the musical Spring Awakening, produced by the Spotlighters Theatre.   It tells the story of a group of 19th century German teenagers trying to discover more about one another and themselves, under the intense scrutiny and repressive control of the adults in their lives.

Television Academy

The Emmy nominations are in. Saturday Night Live and HBO’s Westworld racked up 22 nominations a piece, while other popular newcomers like HBO’s Insecure were left off the list. With so many high quality options for viewers on television and on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, are we entering a golden age of television?  The Emmy awards will air in September, today Bridget Armstrong, sitting in for Tom Hall, dishes about the television hits and misses of the season with her TV-talking partner, WYPR digital producer Jamyla Krempel

Radha Blank also joins the conversation. She’s a playwright, performer and screenwriter. She's written for Empire on Fox, Netflix’s The Get Down and most recently she worked as a writer and co-producer for Spike Lee’s latest series She's Gotta Have It which premieres on Netflix this Thanksgiving.

Courtesy Washington Post

We have seen the videos from cell phones, surveillance footage and police cameras. In the moments before and sometimes after police shootings of black people, it sounds like the police and the black people are speaking from completely different social realities. The shootings are the horrific tip of an iceberg. According to a GenForward survey done by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago, two-thirds of African-Americans under the age of 30 say they or someone they know has experienced violence or harassment at the hands of the police. Twenty-four percent of black men between 18 and 34 report that they have been mistreated by the police in the last 30 days, according to a Gallup poll

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