Midday

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Some employers say soft skills, like communication and leadership, are just as important in getting hired as technical requirements like typing or computer programing. But soft skills are a challenge for schools, not just figuring out what they are, but how to teach them . . . and test that they have been taught. We’ll speak with Karen Webber, director of the Education and Youth Development program for the Open Society Institute in Baltimore, and Vanessa Proetto, teacher at Baltimore’s National Academy Foundation School, about the development of a soft skills curriculum. And veteran of the hospitality industry Michael Haynie tells us why mastering soft skills makes workers promotable. 

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Suicide rates in the United States have risen by nearly a quarter since 1999, according to new federal data. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death for Americans, although researchers believe that some suicides still go unreported. What’s behind this alarming trend? We speak to Jodi Jacobson Frey of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, about why working-age men are at particular risk, and Holly Wilcox, of the Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine and Public Health, who explains the major increase in suicide rates for adolescent girls. Plus, a story of recovery: We hear how one woman found support in the midst of a crisis.

Check out Man Therapy, a site aimed at encouraging men to take care of their mental health. 

Center for a New American Security

Killer robots. That’s what some are calling a class of weapons that do not yet exist, but could one day soon. Formally known as lethal autonomous weapons, they would have the ability to choose and destroy targets on their own, with no human involvement. They could absorb data and take action at lightning speeds. Some argue that these weapons could target more precisely, and preserve the lives of human soldiers. But how will they distinguish friend from foe? And what if these powerful weapons fall in the wrong hands? Are lethal autonomous weapons the key to more humane warfare, or should they be banned before it’s too late? Our guests: Mary Wareham, global coordinator of the ‘Campaign to Stop Killer Robots’ at Human Rights Watch; Major General Charles Dunlap, Jr., former deputy judge advocate general of the United States Air Force and Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University; Paul Scharre, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Drug shortages don’t sound like the kind of thing that could happen in the United States. Yet shortages of drugs ranging from cancer treatment to painkillers have become commonplace. The FDA even has a mobile app for shortages, aimed at healthcare professionals. When the supply of a medication runs dry, doctors scramble to find alternatives. They are often less familiar with the substitute drug. It may be less effective. It may have side effects. And in some cases, there simply is no substitute. That means physicians increasingly face an agonizing ethical decision: which patients should receive drugs and which should not? We discuss how physicians are coping with the crisis in our nation’s drug supply. Our guests: Dr. Yoram Unguru, an oncologist at the Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore and a faculty member at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Jesse Pines, director of the Office for Clinical Practical Innovation at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.  

At the top of the hour - Officer Edward Nero found not guilty on all charges related to the arrest of Freddie Gray. WYPR reporter P. Kenneth Burns explains Judge William's verdict and we discuss what this means for the remaining trials.

Next, can civic engagement stave off memory loss as we age? Can bringing seniors into elementary schools for a few hours a week boost students’ reading ability? The Baltimore Experience Corps has matched 300 older adults to nearly 30 elementary schools for the purpose of improving literacy. Branch director Bill Romani joins us to discuss how this 18-year-old program benefits teachers, students, and retirees, and is changing attitudes about aging. Volunteers Sylvia Seymour-Crosby and Lauren McKenzie share what the Baltimore Experience Corps means to them.

On July 1st, Sonja Santelises will take over as CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools. Her predecessor, Gregory Thornton, served less than two years in the position, facing criticism for poor communication and calls for his resignation from parents, education advocates, and state lawmakers. We speak to Sonja Santelises about her plans and her prior experience as the city’s former chief academic. And we hear from current and former school board members about the replacement process, including what makes a strong candidate and why the search for Thornton’s replacement was not publicly announced. Plus, how much of an impact do school CEOs have on student achievement? One study debunks the myth of the “rock star” superintendent.

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The Conowingo Dam supplies enough clean energy every day to power 160,000 homes and businesses. But this dam and others have greatly altered the Susquehanna River. Legend has it you could once walk across the river entirely on the backs of migrating shad. Last year, around 8,000 shad made it past the dam, a record low. Only 43 made it all the way to their spawning grounds. Plus, millions of tons of polluted sediment have built up in the reservoir behind the dam. It is now at capacity. Meanwhile, for the first time since 1980, the Conowingo is up for relicensing. Could this be a watershed moment?

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Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed. Plato, Socrates, Hippocrates. All of them had at least one thing in common. They fasted. It turns out these influential figures were on to something, at least when it comes to health. Some scientists say that regularly abstaining from food for even short periods of time may improve health, boost brain power, and fight diseases ranging from cancer to diabetes to Alzheimer’s. It could even extend lives. The catch is that you have to periodically put down your fork. Could you permanently say goodbye to breakfast if it meant you might live longer? What about skipping all your meals two days a week? We speak to Mark Mattson, chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging, and University of Maryland molecular geneticist Steve Mount, who has been a practitioner for the last 12 years.

Whether you’re an avid star-gazer or just a fan of outer space, chances are you’ve turned your gaze to the night sky in search of constellations, planets, and other celestial attractions. But you may not have considered how studying space can be a catalyst for community building. Baltimore’s Popscope is working to make astronomy fun, free, and portable. We speak to volunteers Ariel Hicks and Joseph Long about Popscope’s goal of creating an inclusive community of astronomers throughout the city. Plus, Herman Heyn, Baltimore’s self-proclaimed "star hustler” has been a street corner astronomer for nearly thirty years. What wonder do the heavens still hold for him?

If you’re feeling safe, that you made it through a digital revolution and a near-collapse of the world economy, and you still have a job … Alec Ross wants you to know there’s more innovation on the way – a tsunami of changes coming soon that will re-make our economy, again. In his new book, "The Industries of the Future," the Johns Hopkins distinguished visiting fellow predicts robots not just performing physical labor more efficiently, but taking on tasks humans could not imagine doing. Ross pictures technology vaporizing language barriers, and the so-called sharing economy hammering the working class. With all this, some advice for our children. Alec Ross, and the future of your job, on Midday. Original air date: February 18, 2016.

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