Midday | WYPR

Midday

Michael Chunko / Flickr via Creative Commons

Sand. It’s one of the world’s most vital commodities, though we don’t give it much credit. Our cities are essentially made of sand, from the asphalt roads to the concrete buildings to the glass windows. Human beings use more of the stuff than nearly any other resource. And as the global population expands and the world becomes more urban, it is in ever greater demand. Sand mafias in India have reportedly killed hundreds of people, and sand mines are wreaking environmental havoc all over the world. How can we possibly be running low on sand? And what does it mean for the future of civilization? The global sand shortage. Our guest, journalist Vince Beiser, wrote this piece for the New York Times and this one for WIRED. His work is supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Baltimore Police

There will be no convictions in the death of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody last April. Prosecutors dropped all the charges against the three remaining police officers charged in his death. Three other officers were previously acquitted. Last May, when Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby first announced the charges, outraged protesters celebrated, even as the police union condemned the charges. Why did the prosecution choose to drop charges now? What is the reaction to this news in the community where Freddie Gray lived? What does this mean for Marilyn Mosby, and where does Baltimore go from here?

Larry Weaner Landscape Associates

If you’ve ever planted a flower garden, you know what’s required: planting, watering, maybe adding fertilizer and compost. And then there’s that never-ending task, weeding. But what if there were an easier way to create a beautiful, rewarding garden? There is, according to landscape designer Larry Weaner, author of "Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change." He argues that many traditional gardening practices are not just time-consuming: they’re counterproductive and harmful to the environment. When we plant species that aren’t suited to our local landscape, we set ourselves up for struggle, he says. Instead, the natural processes of native plant communities should guide us. Stop pulling weeds, retire the rototiller, and start a revolution . . . in your garden. 

Y'amal / Flickr via Creative Commons

McDonald’s. Walmart. Nestle. Just a few of the multinational corporations that have vowed to stop selling eggs from caged chickens. Major brands have also promised to boycott pork from pigs kept in narrow cages known as gestation crates. And this spring, Perdue announced it will provide natural light and more space to the 700 million chickens it raises for meat every year, among other reforms. These companies are responding, they say, to consumer demand. Can the marketplace change the face of industrial farming? How much are Americans willing to pay for better treatment of animals? Do people agree on what is most humane?

Courtesy Sagamore Development

The company behind the planned Port Covington development has reached a 30-year, multi-million-dollar agreement with six South Baltimore neighborhoods. The deal also sets up a group, made up of members of Sagamore Development and the communities, to oversee how the nearly $40 million dollars worth of funding is disbursed. The communities’ wish-list includes a library, police substation, and after-school programs. Supporters say this deal is too good to pass up, but opponents question if it goes far enough on jobs or affordable housing. And all this hinges on the City Council’s approval of a $660 million dollar tax-increment-financing deal, the largest in Baltimore history. 

Andreas-photography/Flickr via Creative Commons

For years, Maryland courts held that parental rights were limited to biological and adoptive parents. This month, Maryland’s highest court overturned that policy, ruling that adults involved in raising a child may be considered “de facto parents.” Today, we’ll look at the implications for LGBT parents and also for blended families. What does this mean for the rights and responsibilities of former step-parents and other adults who help raise a child? Does this decision reflect a shift in how courts consider the interests of children? We’ll speak to an attorney who has pioneered legal protections for LGBT couples, and to state Senator Rich Madaleno, whose proposal for de facto parents died in the 2015 General Assembly. What makes a parent?

How are you? Ask most anyone, and the answer you’ll get is busy. We are nation starved for free time. Many of us live in a state of perpetual motion, bouncing from one obligation to the next: Work, childcare, grocery shopping, cooking, bills, laundry, more work. It’s hard to find time for sleep, let alone that forgotten indulgence, leisure. And in some circles, being busy has become a badge of honor. How did we get here? Is public policy to blame or are we bringing this on ourselves? How much of our busyness is in our heads? And what can we do to find peace? 

Five years ago, uprisings in Egypt, Libya, and other Arab countries seemed to herald a transformation of the region’s politics. Today, the Middle East has devolved into failed states and proxy wars, while ISIS has seized vast territory and inspired terror across the globe. What went wrong? Was the Arab Spring a failure or a flash point in the long-term struggle for democratic change? Political scientist Marc Lynch argues that the United States would make a mistake if it defaulted to the imagined stability of authoritarian regimes. Marc Lynch joins Midday to discuss the balance of power in the Middle East, the devastation of Syria, and why Islamic extremism is growing. His latest book is "The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East".

Gilda/Flickr via Creative Commons

Leather created by microbes. Bacteria genetically engineered to prevent malaria. In community labs around the world, a growing number of amateur scientists with little academic background are learning the ins and outs of biotechnology. Like computer hackers before them, they hope to democratize a complex technology. What are they working on? Is it risky to let amateurs tinker with the code of life? Or should we all learn these skills as biotechnology increasingly alters our everyday lives? 

House GOP / Flickr via Creative Commons

We’ll start with a round-up of political headlines: Enoch Pratt CEO Carla Hayden confirmed as head of the Library Congress; an update on the Maryland U.S. Senate race, and a look at the Democratic and Republican party platforms. We’ll talk with the Baltimore Sun’s John Fritze. Then, Congressman Elijah Cummings, chair of the Democrats’ platform committee, discusses some of its planks - which include criminal-justice reforms, a $15 minimum wage and free in-state tuition at public colleges.

Pages