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Photo Courtesy The Afro-American Newspapers

On this edition of Midday's Afro Check-In:

Frustration continues for commuters who rely on the Baltimore Metro System, following the abrupt closure of the subway system for repairs two weeks ago.  Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh adds 20 positions within her office, including the recently created Office of African American Male Engagement.

And in Annapolis, House Bill 2, which encourages minority and women participation in the state's medical marijuana industry, is advancing slowly, in the General Assembly.  Will the MD Legislative Black Caucus achieve its goal of racial diversity in Maryland's Medical Marijuana industry?  

Kamau High, Managing Editor of The Afro and Sean Yoes, Baltimore Editor and the Host of the podcast, The Afro First Edition, join Tom in Studio A. 

Today on Midday, with high winds blowing outside our Baltimore studio, we explore whether the winds of change will blow through Annapolis come November, as we begin a series of Conversations with the Candidates who will be on the June 26th primary ballots here in Maryland. 

Between now and the election, Tom Hall will be talking with Democrats who are running in the gubernatorial primary, as well as the Democrats and Republicans who are running for Baltimore County Executive, and candidates in a few other races as well. 

Today, Tom's guest for the hour is Alec Ross.  Last April, Ross became the first person to announce his candidacy in the Democratic primary for Maryland governor. Since then, eight rivals have joined him on that ballot. Alec Ross is an innovation expert, and the author of the New York Times best-selling book, “The Industries of the Future,” about innovation and the changes that economies and societies can expect over the next decade. Ross served in the State Department as Senior Advisor on Innovation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  He also worked in the Obama campaign and transition team in 2008. He’s a former Distinguished Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins University.  He is 46 years old. He and his wife, who is a teacher in a Baltimore City School, live in Baltimore, where they are raising three children.

American Visionary Art Museum

The night sky is filled with billions of stars … we marvel at them, far off in the distance, suspended in space millions of light years away. And we're more connected to stars than we might think. That's the message of our guest,  astrophysicist Dr. Michelle Thaller. She's the Deputy Director of Science for Communications at NASA. She's also a presenter next Sunday, March 11, at the American Visionary Art Museum’s Logan Visionary Conference that focuses on ‘Two Views of Heaven: Spiritual and Scientific.’

Here’s a stoop story from astrophysicist and Nobel Prize winner Adam Riess, of Johns Hopkins and the Space Telescope Science Institute. He told his story at a tribute to Senator Barbara Mikulski, about her dedication to supporting scientific research. You can hear his story and others at stoopstorytelling.com or at the Stoop podcast.

Photo courtesy oscars.org

Welcome to another edition of Midday at the Movies
The 90th Annual Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday night, hosted once again by talk show host (and social activist) Jimmy Kimmel.  Excitement about this year's awards is running high because of a notably diverse and independent crop of films, filmmakers and performers. 

On today's Midday at the Movies, we preview a bit of that excitement by offering up some predictions of Oscar glory. Two of our favorite movie mavens join Tom in the studio:  

Jed Dietz is the founder and director of the Maryland Film Festival,which runs the newly restored  SNF Parkway Theater in Baltimore.

And Max Weiss is editor-in-chief and film critic for Baltimore magazine.

Before the conversation turns to the Oscars, however, Tom and his guests discuss the cinematic phenomenon that's swept not only U.S. theaters the past three weekends, but the international film market as well: Black Panther

An Africa-centered sci-fi action-hero film produced by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther has been attracting massive global audiences. As of Tuesday this week, the movie's worldwide box office had reached $748.1 million, and it continues to chase records for domestic weekend ticket sales. 

Photo by Shealyn Jae

It's Thursday, and our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins us once again, today with her review of Count DownThe play by Dominique Cieri is being produced by The Strand Theater Company, the only Baltimore theater that presents works written exclusively by women artists.

Cieri describes the play as a composite of her experiences working for a New Jersey youth arts program, helping a group of at-risk teenage girls express themselves by creating an original musical stage production.  Cieri says her work with the girls quickly became "a labor of love, and an odyssey into the psyche of the adolescent girl."

Count Down -- directed at the Strand by Bari Hochwald -- portrays that revelation, and, in the words of the Strand's program, "exposes the inherent dissonance between the child welfare system and the reality of the girls who have no choice but to spend their childhood and adolescence in its care."

Count Down was the recipient of the 2009 Mid Atlantic Individual Playwriting Fellowship, and Finalist for Playwrights First Award, the National Arts Club, NYC.

The Strand's production of Count Down is presented as part of the DC region's 2018 Women's Voices Theatre Festival.

Count Down continues through Sunday, March 4 at The Strand Theater,  which is located at 5426 Harford Rd. Baltimore MD 21201.  Ticket info at www.strand-theater.org.

For Christians, Lent is a time of fasting and penance, a reminder of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. What do wizards and elves have to do with Lent? Not much by themselves, but Michael Fischer tells us how the fantasy series ‘The Lord of the Rings’ offers a new way to think about mercy and fellowship. Check out his blog and reading schedule here.

Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images

On this edition of the Midday Healthwatch:  a busy week for public health advocates.  Members of the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a measure requiring restaurants to replace the sugary soft drinks offered in most kids’ meals with more healthful milk, juice or water -- a response to the city's rampant childhood-obesity rates. In Annapolis, advocates pressed state lawmakers for new controls on soaring prescription drug prices. They also lobbied to bolster mandatory insurance provisions of the beleaguered Affordable Care Act, and they sparred over a bill that would impose tough new conditions on the use of the life-saving anti-overdose drug Narcan, or Naloxone, by repeat opioid abusers.

Joining Tom in the studio -- and taking a break from the front lines of public health advocacy -- is  our regular guest on the Midday HealthwatchBaltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.  She talks about some of the key legislative battles being waged over public health policy, and addresses listeners' comments and questions. 

Siyh / Flickr via Creative Commons

A new report by the nonprofit Job Opportunities Task Force dives deep into the ways the poor in Maryland are at greater risk of criminal charges or penalties. Caryn York, executive director of JOTF, says the poor face consequences that are blind to their ability to pay. We hear JOTF's recommendations for reform on issues ranging from bail to car insurance. 

Photo courtesy: Montogomery County Board of Elections

 Republican Governor Larry Hogan has assiduously tried to distance himself from President Trump.  He has a very high approval rating and by the time the general election campaign begins after the June primary, it’s expected that he may have as much as $10 million dollars in his campaign coffers.

The challenge for MD Democrats: Choose a contender amongst the seven primary candidates who can unseat the popular Republican Governor.   The filing deadline to be on the ballot in June is tonight at 9pm.  Today on Midday, we size-up up the candidates. 

We speak with pollster Dr. Mileah Kromer, William F. Zorzi, reporter for Maryland Matters and  Ovetta Wiggins, who covers Maryland politics and government for the Washington Post.

Julek Plowy

Catholic Relief Services, whose humanitarian aid stretches across the globe, was founded to help to help the dispossessed after World War II. With a new podcast, CRS is highlighting some of the colorful characters and memorable events that make up its history. CRS producer and content creator, Rebekah Lemke and podcast host, Nikki Gamer, share stories and explain why Catholic Relief Services’ work is as necessary today as it was 75 years ago.

You can listen to the anniversary podcast here.

Wendel Patrick is the composer, producer and performer of the musical score for every episode of Out of the Blocks. In this special installment, he talks about some of his favorite compositions from the show and delves into how (and why) he makes the music.  Wendel can span musical genres from classical to hip hop with compositions that take the listener on an emotional journey full of surprises:  A cell-phone ringtone symphony? Check. A hair-clipper fugue? Check.  This is a must-listen for aspiring music producers or anyone who wants to hear extended music cuts from Out of the Blocks.

Photo courtesy: Flickr

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, there was predictable and familiar outrage, but also, an eerily comfortable ease with which, as a nation, we processed this tragedy.  There have been more than 50 mass shootings and attempted mass shootings in US schools since the Columbine massacre in 1999. 

Students from across the country have organized protests and walkouts.  They have taken to social media and TV, crowded into State Houses, and confronted lawmakers in nationally televised town hall.  Has this movement, led by young survivors of gun violence, flipped the script on our national discourse about gun law reform?  

In 2013, however, after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, when student protesters who called themselves Dream Defenders met with Governor Rick Scott, he did not change his position on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws one bit.  One of the things that is clearly different about the debate this week, animated by young people, and the young people who protested five years ago:  the race of the protesters. 

Wikimedia Commons

We often think of racism as operating solely on a visual level - judgments based on skin color or facial features. But what about sounds? What judgments of intelligence, education, and personality lie behind ideas about sounding ‘white’ or ‘black’?

Jennifer Lynn Stoever is Associate Professor of English at Binghamton University in New York, and Editor-in-Chief of the blog, “Sounding Out!”. She joins us ahead of a talk she’ll give Thursday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County on her book, “The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening”.

Decoding Menus

Feb 25, 2018


Ever wonder why a menu looks the way it does? This week, Tony and Chef Cindy break down how a menu gets built and how to decode even the most complicated bill of fare.

Photo courtesy Gun News Daily

On today's edition of the Midday News Wrap, we begin with Baltimore Brew founding editor and publisher, Fern ShenThis week, the Brew published a series documenting the ballooning problem of overtime abuse in the Baltimore police department.

Then, Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun and investigative reporter Alec MacGillis of ProPublica  join Tom to review some of the week’s top local and national stories, from Police Commissioner-designate Darryl De Sousa’s confirmation hearing in the City Council, and the Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore taking a victory lap following hundreds of warrant arrests, to the national debate over gun regulation that’s been re-ignited by last week’s deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school.

Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker

There are few names or brands more deeply entrenched in the American psyche than Walt Disney. The 20th century animation pioneer built an iconic business and entertainment empire on the shoulders of a talking mouse named Mickey.  By the time of his death from lung cancer in 1966 at the age of 65, Disney and his many multi-media enterprises -- from movies to theme parks -- had become an unparalleled force in American culture. 

Now, a new show at the Single Carrot Theater in Baltimore explores a side of Mr. Disney that's in stark contrast to his benign public persona.   The production is called "A Public Reading of an Unpublished Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney," and joining Tom to talk about it is the  company’s artistic director, renowned actress Genevieve de Mahy.  

Erika Clark/Make Studio

Artists who face challenges -- whether physical, developmental or emotional -- find a welcoming space at Make Studio. This month marks eight years that the nonprofit has been fostering a creative, inclusive community for artists. Make Studio also provides access to materials, studio space and exhibition prospects. We meet Erika Clark, a member-artist for five years, and co-founder Cathy Goucher, who talks about the intangible support Make Studio offers. 

They'll celebrate the anniversary at GO FIGURE: MAKE STUDIO Celebrates Our 8th! More info here.

Rohai Zod tells a stoop story about cultivating a patriotic and parental love, and the sacrifice that comes with it. He told it at last year’s Strong City Stoop event called ‘Live and Learn: The Immigrant Experience.’ This year’s Strong City Stoop Storytelling theme is “Keep Calm and ___” on Feb. 23 at 7pm at the University of Baltimore’s Wright Theater. More info here.

Photo by Alyssa Eisenstein-Oxfam

Three-point-four million American citizens live on the island of Puerto Rico.  While efforts to rebuild communities in Texas and Florida after a series of deadly hurricanes last September are progressing steadily, 400,000 Puerto Ricans on the island are still without electricity, some five months after the wind and rain stopped. 

Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano has just returned from his second trip to Puerto Rico.  He’s with the Baltimore-based international aid group,  Lutheran World Relief.  He joins Tom in the studio.

Diane Jharriah-Robinson of Caritas-Antilles is working to restore stability and normalcy to the lives of the 73,000 people displaced by hurricanes on the tiny island of Dominica.  She joins us by phone from her field office in the Dominican capital, Roseau.

They give us an update on relief efforts, now that the TV cameras are long gone. 

Photo by Bill Geenan

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio with her weekly review, today spotlighting a new production at Baltimore's Center Stage.

From the playwright of Detroit ’67, Skeleton Crew (the third play in Dominique Morisseau’s acclaimed Detroit Trilogy) tells the story of four workers at the last exporting auto plant in Detroit struggling to survive as their way of life disappears.  Directed by Nicole A Watson, the play's cast includes Stephanie Berry as Faye, Sekou Laidlow as Reggie, Brittany Bellizeare as Shanita, and Gabriel Lawrence as Dez, portraying a team of loyal and proud workers trying to navigate their uncertain futures.

Part of the Women’s Voices Theater Festival

Skeleton Crew continues at Baltimore's Center Stage through March 4th.

Creative Commons/Flickr

The latest edition of the Goucher Poll shows that none of the eight Democrats running for governor has a commanding lead and that four months ahead of the primary, “undecided” polls higher than all the Democrats combined. Governor Hogan remains popular, the poll finds, but less than half intend to vote to re-elect him. We talk with pollster Mileah Kromer and political reporter Bill Zorzi to decipher what all the numbers mean. You can see all the results for yourself at this link.

Wikimedia Commons

The Congressional Research Service estimates that about 4.3 million people hold permanent government security clearances, but many close advisers to President Trump do not -- including presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Last week, Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coates, said the system of approving security clearances for top officials is “broken” and must be overhauled. 

A couple of days after Coates’ Senate testimony, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wrote a memo outlining an overhaul of how the White House manages security-clearance investigations. In that memo, obtained by the Washington Post, some White House staffers with Top Secret interim clearances, a group that may include Kushner, will lose their clearances on Friday.

Tom’s guests today are two reporters who have been covering national security matters for years. Deb Reichmann has written about national security for the Associated Press for the past six years.  Before that, she was an AP reporter in Afghanistan. She also covered the George W. Bush White House and the final year of the Clinton White House for AP. She joins us on the line from the AP studios in Washington. 

Scott Shane is a reporter with the investigative unit of the New York Times. He’s written about national security as a reporter in the Washington bureau of the Times since 2004. He’s also the author of several books, including Dismantling Utopia, on the Soviet collapse, and Objective Troy, about the American terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.

Jason Lander / Flickr via Creative Commons

A year ago, Maryland began issuing licenses for direct-entry midwives--someone who is not a nurse, but is trained in the art and science of caring for expectant mothers. Few families choose home birth, but the number who do is on the rise.

Midwife Alexa Richardson walks us through the care midwives provide--before, during, and after birth--to ensure mom and baby are safe and healthy. And Lauren Turner, who had both her children at home and is a doula, describes the visceral experience of birth.

getty images/npr

Here are four things we know:

One is that Donald Trump is President of the United States.
Two is that, barring some unforeseen occurrence, Donald Trump will be President of the United States until, at least, January 20, 2021.
Third is that something that Trump says or does will draw criticism from significant portions of the American populace.
And fourth is that some of the people who criticize Trump will be athletes. In case you hadn’t noticed, many who are happy with the first two items are dismayed with people in the third group. That’s nothing new.

Karl Merton Ferron /Baltimore Sun

When Baltimore Police Commissioner Designate Darryl DeSousa appeared on Midday last Wednesday, he was quick to credit the efforts of Erricka Bridgeford, one of the founders of Baltimore Ceasefire 365, for the city’s 12 day streak with zero murders. 

It was in the days during and after the third Ceasefire weekend that began on February 2nd, that Baltimore experienced no homicides for nearly two weeks, the first time that has happened in our city since 2015.  Since then, three men have been killed: Sadik Griffin, John Townes, Jr., and Sean Sewell.    

Erricka Bridgeford cares about the disheartening data, but she also cares about the individuals who’ve lost their lives, and the devastating effects their deaths have on their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities.  She joins us today in Studio A. 

The efforts of Baltimore Cease Fire 365 to stem the tide of violence in Baltimore are on-going and next Ceasefire weekend is scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend, in May.


Governor Hogan’s recent offer of $100 million dollars to settle the 12 year-old lawsuit filed by the state’s HBCU’s against the Maryland Higher Education Commission, was met with hope by some, and incredulity by others as the state admitted that the cost of reversing the legacy of discriminatory funding practices would actually cost billions. 

Debora Bailey, reporter for the AFRO Newspaper, and Dr. Earl Richardson, President Emeritus of Morgan State University, are in Studio A to discuss the road ahead for the Maryland’s Historically Black Institution.



In the first few pages of Sunburnwe learn that its main character has walked out on her family--just left her husband and young daughter on a Delaware beach, and hitchhiked west. As the tale unfolds, we’re treated to the tropes of film noir--slick dialogue as the protagonists circle each other in a mix of distrust and desperate infatuation. We talk to Laura Lippman about the inspirations behind her latest mystery.

Photo courtesy: The Executive Office of the Governor

Today, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan joins Tom live in Studio A.  He is one of only two Republicans elected to our state’s highest office in the last 50 years, and in a poll released last month by Gonzales Media and Research, 71% of MD voters said they approve of the job the Governor is doing.  While there is no shortage of Democrats vying for the chance to face the Governor in the general election in November, Mr. Hogan leads all of them in head-to-head match-ups at this early stage in the campaign. 

Calling for bipartisanship and cooperation in his State of the State Address last month, the Governor points to education funding and accountability, re-districting, and the environment as some of his top priorities.  Tom discusses some of those issues during his 30-minute interview with Mr. Hogan. 

Later, Maryland and government reporter for The Daily Record, Bryan Sears, joins us on the line with the latest from Annapolis and reaction to the Governor's remarks. 

Former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan explains why it will take new policies as well as more money to bring Maryland’s K-12 schools to a world-class status.