Midday | WYPR


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.

Zoos. Many of us went to them as children. Many of us take our own children to them. But public outcry over keeping wild animals captive has grown in recent years. SeaWorld plans to stop breeding orcas after widespread criticism of their treatment. The Ringling Brothers retired their circus elephants this year. The city of Buenos Aires has announced it will permanently close its 140-year-old zoo. And the National Aquarium in Baltimore plans to send its dolphins to a sanctuary. Is it the beginning of the end for zoos and aquariums? What is the role of these institutions in our society? Do the benefits outweigh the costs?

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. More than 2 million Americans are currently behind bars. But reformers on both sides of the aisle are finding common ground on everything from cutting back on mandatory minimum sentencing to limiting solitary confinement. Conservatives are among the loudest voices calling for an end to mass incarceration. How did this happen? How did tough-on-crime conservatives come to fight for prison reform? And what can this rare area of agreement teach us about bipartisanship in a polarized age? A new book by two Johns Hopkins University political scientists seeks to answer these questions. Why have conservatives turned against mass incarceration?

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis joins Midday to share his reaction to last week’s violence  --two black men shot by police, in Baton Rouge and near Minneapolis, and five police officers killed by a black sniper in Dallas, after a Black Lives Matter march. We ask Davis what police are doing to confront violent crime, including near-daily homicides. We ask about the number of officers who have left the department and what’s being done to fill those vacancies, as well as what to expect from the U.S. Justice Department’s review of Baltimore. Plus a look at Baltimore’s new policy about using force, the first full rewrite in more than a decade. And your questions for Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. 


Snipers in Dallas killed five police officers Thursday night, the deadliest attack on law enforcement since September 11th. The shooting occurred at the end of a protest following the fatal shootings of African-American men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota. What does this shooting mean for the Black Lives Matter movement? How does the path forward look for those calling for police reform? Professors Karsonya Wise Whitehead and Lawrence Brown join us to discuss what Dallas means for the future of protests. And Baltimore Police Lt. Kenneth Butler, president of a local group for black police officers, shares his reaction to last week’s violence.

During a portion of the hour usually devoted to Midday, WYPR carried live special coverage of the police ambush in Dallas. Five police officers were killed and seven injured after a protest in an ambush by snipers. With the shooting in Dallas and the recent deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police, we opened the phones to your calls and emails for the remainder of the hour.  

Ahead of the Democratic and Republican conventions later this month, where presumptive nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are expected to announce their running mates, we discuss the pros and cons of rumored vice-presidential picks. Will Clinton make history by choosing a female or Latino running mate? Can Trump select an experienced politician without compromising his anti-establishment platform? Does it matter what part of the country a running mate hails from? Political scientists Melissa Deckman and Todd Eberly join us as we discuss the candidate’s V.P. shortlists, the importance of grassroots support, and how the unpopularity of both major party candidates may impact turnout this November.