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The American Academy of Pediatrics says drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and intellectual disabilities. The National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome -- NOFAS - estimates that upwards of 17,000 school children in Maryland may suffer with the consequences of prenatal exposure to alcohol. We speak to Kathy Mitchell, vice president of NOFAS and the birth mother of a daughter with fetal alcohol syndrome. 

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It’s Midday at the Movies!  Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced their nominees for top honors in last year's filmmaking, and in just a few weeks -- on Sunday, February 26th --  we’ll find out who the 2017 Oscar winners are.  Today, we’ll find out who Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday and Jed Dietz of the MD Film Festival are rooting for.  It’s not an Oscar So White year for nominees, but will black  actors or filmmakers actually take home any statues?  And Jed reports on some of his favorites from last month’s Sundance Film Festival.

Photo by Rob Clatterbuck

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us today, as she does each Thursday, with a review of the ambitious new production of Grey Gardens at Stillpointe Theatre.

Inspired by Albert and David Maysles' unforgettable 1975 documentary of the same name, the musical Grey Gardens offers a glimpse  into the poignant lives of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale ("Big Edie") and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie"), played and sung by Zoe Kanter and Christine Demuth, respectively. 

The two women -- an aunt and niece of former First Lady Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis -- famously transformed from edgy, upstart socialites into isolated, hoarding eccentrics by the late 1950s, spending their reclusive existence reliving their pasts and tending a colony of cats in their derelict mansion -- dubbed "Grey Gardens" -- in the posh Long Island beach community of East Hampton, New York.

The 2006 musical had a successful Broadway run, thanks in part to the solid book by Doug Wright and an intriguing score by Scott Frankel (music) and Michael Korie (lyrics). 

Daniella Robinette and Ryan Haase co-direct this new production to take full advantage of Stillpointe Theatre's recently expanded performance space.  

Grey Gardens continues at Stillpointe Theatre through February 12. Ticket information here.

Some research indicates men may be almost as likely as women to be victims of sexual assault. Yet we rarely think of them in that light. We hear from psychologist Dr. Andrew Smiler, a leading expert on the masculine self and a board member of MaleSurvivor, an advocacy organization for male victims of sexual assault. Then we turn to Kenneth Rogers, Jr., a Baltimore schoolteacher who has written a book about his experience as a victim. It took him two decades to face the abuse he suffered--in part, he says, because of his gender. He will read and discuss his book at the Waverly Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library on Saturday at 3pm. 

Pascal Terjan / Flickr via Creative Commons

Imagine - you’re in your car, and you hit some traffic. But you don’t have to lift a finger because your self-driving cars slows down on its own. The U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland was recently designated by the federal government a site for trying out self-driving cars. 

You may feel that you’ve heard more about the American working class in the last year than in the previous decade and a half combined. Could be. There have been books--like Nancy Isenberg’s "White Trash" and J.D.Vance’s "Hillbilly Elegy"--explaining attitudes of and about the working class. More pointedly, Donald Trump highlighted the frustration of the working class and harnessed it to build his campaign’s momentum. While much of the public may have been overlooking the working class for years, Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin has been paying it a lot of attention, and drawing links between what’s going on in the economy and what’s going on in families. In 2014 Cherlin, who is the Benjamin H. Griswold III Professor of Public Policy, published “Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America.” 

Ben Chun/Flickr via Creative Commons

The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth has had trouble bringing inner-city kids into its programs. African-American kids from lower socioeconomic backgrounds haven’t done well on the standardized tests the center typically uses. So the Center is looking for new ways to identify bright kids from underserved neighborhoods. The result is the Baltimore Emerging Scholars Program. Program manager Andrew Moss and Amy Lynne Shelton, director of research at the Center and a professor and associate dean for research in the Johns Hopkins School of Education, both join us. We also hear the impressions of 4th-grader Santino Vaughan, who seemed impressed with an astronomy lesson involving a grapefruit and a flashlight. “We saw the phases of the moon," he says. "We saw the crescent moon, we saw the half moon, we saw the gibbous moon, and then we saw the full moon.” 

Comedian and Baltimore native Meshelle shares her story of moving from the city to the suburbs when she was little. Her story has been edited for brevity. 

Baltimore City Public Schools

Last week, Baltimore City Public Schools President & CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises announced that unless additional funding is secured for next year’s school budget, Baltimore schools are facing layoffs of more than 1,000 teachers and faculty. Cuts to arts and enrichment programs are likely to come as well, as the system tries to to close a $130 million budget gap. Rising school costs and declining enrollment are not new challenges to city schools, but this year’s shortfall is the largest the district has faced in a long time.

The Baltimore Teachers Union called the layoffs “unacceptable” and Dr. Santelises herself concedes that her plan to balance the budget, will drastically change how the school system operates.

Abbamouse / Flickr via Creative Commons

Open enrollment for Obamacare closes at midnight Tuesday, and Marylanders seem to be signing up for it at almost the same pace they did last year. We’ll talk with the acting head of the ‘Maryland Health Benefits Exchange’ about premium increases and other challenges--including confusion about what might replace the Affordable Care Act when Congress repeals it. And we’ll turn to a professor of health policy and management to discuss some elements the Republican congressional majority is considering.

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