Nathan Sterner | WYPR

Nathan Sterner

Local Host, Morning Edition

Nathan gets to WYPR before sunrise every weekday morning, to make sure listeners start their days with the news they need. Between 5am to 3pm, Nathan serves up news headlines, weather, and the occasional snarky comment. Nathan edits and does the occasional interview for Sheilah Kast's On The Record, infrequently fills in for Tom Hall on Midday, and co-hosts the Friday morning Spotlight on Station North. When not at WYPR, Nathan teaches a class on audio documentary at Towson University. Before coming to WYPR, Nathan spent 8 years at WAMU in Washington -- working every job from part-time receptionist to on-air host, gaining experience in promotions, fundraising, audience analysis, and program production. Nathan has also served as a fundraising consultant, and helped dozens of public radio stations nationwide with their on-air fundraisers. Originally from rural Pennsylvania, Nathan has called Charm City home since 2005.

On Thursday night, four Democratic members of Maryland's congressional delegation heard from their constituents. Senator Chris Van Hollen as well as Congressmen John Sarbanes, Dutch Ruppersberger, and Elijah Cummings took questions at a town hall meeting at the Baltimore War Memorial. 

Baltimore County's school board bemoaned the loss of Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance at its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night. Dance abruptly resigned earlier that day. WYPR's Jonna McKone covered the meeting, and told Nathan Sterner some of what happened.

photo courtesy Boston Globe

In this seventh week of the Trump Administration, Republicans in the House, the Senate and the White House continued to wrangle loudly over a health care plan to replace the Affordable Care Act. 

President Trump’s second try at an executive order temporarily banning travel from six Muslim majority countries and halting all refugee admissions was blocked, again, by federal court rulings in Hawaii and Maryland -- rulings the White House says it will appeal. 

Mr. Trump also unveiled his first proposed federal budget, calling for huge increases in defense spending and deep cuts across a wide swath of social programs and federal agencies, including the EPA and the State, Labor and Agriculture Departments.

And in Maryland’s General Assembly, amid partisan battles over paid sick leave and bail reform measures, the House of Delegates passed a revised version of Governor Hogan’s 43.5 billion-dollar state budget proposal, and sent it on to the Senate.

Joining guest host Nathan Sterner to sort out the week’s developments are three keen observers: Amy Goldstein, a national reporter for the Washington Post with a focus on health care policy, on the line from the Post’s newsroom in Washington, DC;  Michael Dresser, State House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, on the line from Annapolis; and, in the studio, Richard Cross, a former press secretary and speech writer for Maryland Governor Robert Erlich and now a conservative columnist and blogger at rjc-crosspurposes.blogspot.com.  

John Lee / WYPR

Last week Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said she would update plans to shrink the city school’s $130 million budget shortfall. Monday, she and city officials unveiled that plan.

Clarke optimistic about minimum wage bill

Feb 7, 2017
P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said Monday that the city is in a good position to raise the minimum wage to $15 in five years.

“We’re in about the best position we can be in,” Clarke said.  “Sure, we’re coming from a setback, but we’ve surged; we’ve grown [economically] as twice the rate of the state itself.”

Creative Commons

The debate over the future of hydraulic fracturing in Maryland is heating up, with growing numbers of towns and counties across the state voting to ban the controversial natural gas-drilling method, also known as “fracking.” In January, state lawmakers will have to decide if they want to impose a permanent ban on fracking, or allow it to proceed when the moratorium ends next October. But with a changing political and economic landscape, dueling studies of fracking’s impact on the environment and new state drilling regulations, it is not clear how this long-running debate will be resolved. 

Drew Cobbs, the Executive Director of the Maryland Petroleum Council, and Mitch Jones, an anti-fracking activist and a senior policy advocate at Food and Water Watch, join guest host Nathan Sterner to explore the risks and benefits and the uncertain road ahead for fracking in Maryland. 

Photo courtesy Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

Before Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning earned notoriety for their theft of US government secrets, there was Brian Patrick Regan.  This hour,  guest host Nathan Sterner delves into the bizarre story of this little-known American spy.  In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Regan used his position in a US intelligence agency to steal huge amounts of secret government data, and tried to sell it off to foreign governments.

He was brought down, in part, because of his dyslexia.

A new book on the case is called “The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI's Hunt for America's Stolen Secrets.” Nathan talks with author Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in the first part of the hour.

Courtesy of Space Telescope Science Institute

If you’ve ever looked up at the night sky and felt dwarfed by the magnitude of the universe, prepare to feel even more insignificant. When astronomers analyzed deep space images gathered by NASA’s Hubble Telescope in the mid-1990s, they estimated that the observable universe contained about 200 billion galaxies. It turns out they were off by a bit. Well, more than a bit. New models reveal that the previous estimate is at least 10 times too low. There are closer to 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. So, what does this mean? How do scientists know this information? And, why, with 10 times more galaxies, are there still patches of darkness in the night sky? Joel Green, a project scientist in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute, joins us to answer these celestial questions.

We begin with a conversation about the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. There are some who believe that if this type of gas drilling were allowed in Western Maryland, it could generate up to 3,000 jobs and at least $5 million in annual tax revenues. But many have concerns about the impact on the environment and public health. We’ll hear from Dr. David Vanko, the former head of the Maryland Fracking Commission, and co-host Nathan Sterner talks to Dr. Brian Schwartz, a researcher from Johns Hopkins, and Senator Bobby Zirkin, who proposed banning fracking.

Then, Alan Walden, the Republican candidate for Mayor of Baltimore, joins Tom to talk about his vision for the future of Charm City. And theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck has a review of the new show at Ford’s Theater in Washington, Come From Away. The musical tells the true story of the 7000 airline passengers whose planes were diverted to the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, immediately after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and how the tiny community’s embrace of these stranded strangers became an inspirational counterpoint to the horrors that brought them together. 

Today, a look at the controversial issue of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It’s a method of getting at natural gas that involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground at high pressures to fracture the underlying rock and release the gas.

Fracking has expanded rapidly across the US in the past decade, mostly in western states. There are also thousands of fracking operations in the East, especially in the area known as the Marcellus Shale… a gas-rich rock formation that runs beneath parts of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland’s two western-most counties.

A Maryland commission-- chaired by Dr. David Vanko, dean of the Fisher School of Science and Marthematics at Towson Universty -- was created in 2011 to study the environmental and health impacts of fracking, as well as its potential economic benefits. Four years and 34 public hearings later, that commission recommended that fracking be allowed to proceed under strict regulations.  But the General Assembly intervened and imposed a two-year moratorium on fracking that expires in October 2017.  

While Maryland’s Department of the Environment may see fracking as a reasonably safe enterprise, public doubts have been fueled by a steady stream of troubling scientific research.  Dr. Brian Schwartz, a professor in the Johns Hopkins-Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health, has co-authored a series of four papers over the past year that suggest fracking operations could be the culprit in a wide range of health problems.  Dr. Schwartz joins Maryland Morning co-host Nathan Sterner in the studio to discuss those findings.  Joining the conversation by phone is State Senator Bobby Zirkin, who first proposed a permanent ban on fracking back in 2014, and plans to do so again in Annapolis next year.

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