Midday | WYPR


Monday-Friday from noon-1:00 pm, Tom Hall and his guests are talking about what’s on your mind, and what matters most to Marylanders:  the latest news, local and national politics, education and the environment, popular culture and the arts, sports and science, race and religion, movies and medicine.  We welcome your questions and comments. Email us at midday@wypr.org, tweet us: @MiddayWYPR, or call us at 410-662-8780.

WYPR’s Midday Receives Regional Edward R. Murrow Award

Listen to our latest series:

Midday in the Neighborhood

Conversations with the Candidates: 2020

Midday on Higher Education

Names of Baltimore's Fallen 

Special WYPR Coronavirus Coverage


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Meet the Midday team

Midday programs with Sheilah Kast as host ended on September 16, 2016

Archive prior to October 5, 2015

Plan B/A24 Productions

It’s another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly look at films and filmmaking.

We’re joined once again on Zoom by our good friend Ann Hornaday – she’s a film critic for the Washington Post and the author of the bestselling movie-goers’ guide, Talking Pictures: How To Watch Movies. 

Also with us on Zoom is our friend Jed Dietz, the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival...

And listeners, we’d love to hear from you today as well. Tell us about the films you've been watching recently, whether you streamed them or ventured to watch them on the big screen.

Have you seen any of the films tapped for Golden Globe Awards this year?

Here are links to some of the films discussed today: 

Minari​, an American odyssey, directed by Lee Isaac Chung; winner of the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. (streamable on Amazon Prime, others)

Malcolm & Marie, a Netflix original romance directed by Sam Levinson, and starring Zendaya and John David Washington. (Netflix)

Nomadland, directed by Chloe Zhao. This semi-documentary portrait of older Americans seeking new lives as nomads won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture Drama and Best Director, Motion Picture.  Its star, Frances McDormand, was a nominee for Best Actress. (Hulu and theaters)

The Father, a moving portrait of dementia directed by Florian Zeller, and starring Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Coleman. (in theaters, streaming after March 26)

Human Being Productions

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck  joins Tom now with another look at the pandemic-inspired virtual theater scene.  We begin with her review of Cry It Out, a new virtual production from Everyman Theatre of playwright Molly Smith Metzler's 2017 comedy about the perils of parenthood.  Filmed using COVID-safe techniques, the production is directed by Vincent M. Lancisi, and features Laura C. Harris as Adrienne, and resident company members Megan Anderson as Lina, Beth Hylton as Jessie, and Tony Nam as Mitchell.  The production is available for ticketed streaming through April 11. 

The Mayor's Office

It’s Midday with the Mayor, another in our series of live conversations with the Mayor of Baltimore, Brandon M. Scott

Among the topics Tom and the Mayor discuss:

The mass vaccination site at M&T Bank Stadium has been open for a week.  When Governor Larry Hogan made comments about Baltimore getting more vaccines than it is entitled to, the reaction by the Mayor and other city leaders was immediate and angry.  Hogan repeated the comments days later.  The racial disparities between those who have received the vaccine and those who haven’t are clear for all to see.  What is not clear is whether or not the State’s plan to erase that disparity will be effective.  

Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons

Last December, Martha Jones, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, described in a Washington Post oped how her research had revealed that Johns Hopkins, the namesake of her institution, had owned slaves.  Long thought to be an abolitionist, Mr. Hopkins, in fact, claimed at least four men as his property in 1850, and prior to that, had used Black people as collateral for a loan.

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Emilie Amt, the Hildegarde-Pilgram Professor of History at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, published a blog post on a site devoted to African American history that revealed a legacy of slavery at her institution. 

Photo by Zach Krahmer

Tom's guest today is the American author, George Saunders.  He’s published hundreds of short stories, and his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2017.  Saunders’ short stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s and many other magazines, and collected in best-selling books like The Tenth of Decemberwhich was a finalist for the National Book Award, and which Time Magazine called one of the ten best books of the decade.  

Tom describes George Saunders as "a wholly original, surprising and powerfully imaginative writer whose work is unlike anything I’ve read before.  His writing seems to re-invent the rules for how fiction is structured and re-imagine how storytelling can unfold."  

The House Republican Caucus

Today on Middayan update from the General Assembly in Annapolis with one of the leaders of the Republican caucus in the House of Delegates.  

Tom's guest is Delegate Kathy Szeliga.  She’s the Minority Whip who represents District 7, including parts of Baltimore and Harford Counties.  

Delegate Szeliga and Minority Leader Nic Kipke have headed the House GOP Caucus since 2013, longer than any other Republican caucus leadership in state history, but they have both announced that they will relinquish their roles at the end of the 2021 Session.  

There are six weeks left in the Session. “Crossover Day,” when the Senate and the House of Delegates sends bills to each other that each chamber intends to pass, is in three weeks.  

Del. Kathy Szeliga joins us from Annapolis, on Zoom.

Listener comments and questions are welcome.

The Washington Post

Continuing today's focus on the 2021 Maryland General Assembly at the midpoint of its 90-day legislative session, Tom's next guest is Ovetta Wiggins, who covers the Annapolis State House and Maryland politics for The Washington Post.

She discusses the key legislative developments of the 2021 session thus far, including efforts to advance  progressive policing reform.

Ovetta Wiggins joins us from Annapolis on Zoom.

Office of Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

It’s the Midday Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen

Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, which is being manufactured here in Baltimore, has been approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration, adding an important weapon in the fight against the coronavirus.  Unlike those made by Pfizer and Moderna, the J&J vaccine requires only one dose, so it’s much easier to administer.  The company is promising 100 million doses by June and a billion doses by the end of the year. 

Just under 14% of Marylanders have been inoculated against the virus as of today.  More than twice as many White people have been vaccinated than Black people.  Only about 4% of those vaccinated so far have been Latino.  

Each week here on Midday, it is our practice to read the names of the people who have lost their lives to violence in Baltimore City, and to post their names on this Web page. We do so to stand in witness to their untimely deaths, and to remember their families and friends in their hour of grief.

We compile their names from researcher Ellen Worthing's blog site, chamspage; from the Baltimore Sun; and from the Baltimore Police Department's media listserve, and the BPD's public Facebook page.

Penguin Random House Publishers

Former President Donald Trump has been voted out of the White House and removed from Twitter, which has considerably reduced his presence in the public psyche.  

That is about to change.  On Sunday afternoon, he will give the culminating speech at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, and he will do so as a still-dominant figure in Republican politics.  

The “Trumpublican” faction of the Party remains loyal to Mr. Trump, and unmoved by evidence of his role in the insurrection, and unconcerned about investigations into the former President on several fronts. 

A national Quinnipiac University poll conducted this month has 76% of self-identified Republicans saying they believe there was "widespread fraud in the 2020 election."

CPAC opened this morning with speeches from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, two of several Republican Presidential probables like Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton and Mike Pompeo who will also speak this weekend, and who are anxious to carry the mantle of Trump voters, if Mr. Trump decides not to run in 2024...

Office of the City Council President

Tom Hall's guest for the hour today is the president of the Baltimore City Council, Nick Mosby.

He leads a progressive council at a perilous time for our city, as we confront a public health crisis, an economic downturn, and a continued epidemic of serious and deadly crimes.

President Mosby has been a vocal critic of Governor Larry Hogan, accusing the state government of “a deliberate pattern of inequity” in its distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.  

Mosby has promised to improve the oversight of city contracts by the Board of Estimates, and he has changed the structure and make-up of council committees. The Council has passed one bill so far, restricting restaurant delivery fees, that has been signed into law.

Today, as part of Midday's regular series of check-ins with leaders of local government, a conversation about the City Council president’s legislative priorities, and his vision for our city.

Columbia Global Reports

On today's Midday, a conversation with the award-winning author and ethicist, Harriet A. Washingtonabout the human costs of unethical medical research.

In the current national debate about vaccine hesitancy among people in communities of color, people point to distrust of medical research that is premised on the experience in two famous cases:  one is Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman who died of cancer in the 1950s, and whose extraordinary cells were harvested for research by doctors at Johns Hopkins without her consent.  Those cells are still used for research today.  The second is the case of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which men who were infected with the disease were left untreated.  

The unethical and deadly behavior of researchers in the Tuskegee Study was revealed in 1972.  And for more than a decade, Johns Hopkins has honored the legacy of Henrietta Lacks, and used her story to study its implications for informed consent in medicine.   Harriet Washington's award-winning 2007 book, Medical Apartheid, documents the medical abuses that have been visited on people of color for centuries.

So, does that mean that research without the fully informed consent of participants a vestige of the past, and that current practice has what is necessary to safeguard against any future abuse?...

Johns Hopkins University Press

Last night, President Biden addressed the nation as we passed the grim milestone of 500,000 deaths from illness related to COVID 19.  A candle lighting ceremony at the White House commemorated the loved ones who have been lost.  Flags will fly at half-mast for the next five days. 

Because of the pandemic, most of the deceased were denied the honor of a memorial service or funeral that included extended family and friends.  The pandemic has changed many things, including how we grieve.   

The pandemic has perhaps also forced our attention on the need to anticipate and navigate end of life issues in a way we weren’t focused pre-COVID.  The conversations about how to plan for the end of our lives, and the lives of those we love are conversations that many of us are reluctant to have.  

We talk a lot about the wonders and joy birth.  Books that celebrate the critical and life-changing step into parenthood abound.  Birth is, of course, a fundamental dimension of the human experience.  But so is death.  And our timidity and queasiness to talk about it are understandable.

But we can have agency when it comes to decisions surrounding our final passage.  Tom's first guests today have written a book about those decisions.  Dr. Dan Morhaim is an emergency medicine physician who served in the MD legislature for 24 years.  Shelley Morhaim is a filmmaker, and a therapeutic music practitioner for hospice and hospital patients.  Their new book is called Preparing for a Better End: Expert Lessons on Death and Dying for You and Your Loved Ones.

Yale University Press

As President Biden noted in his national address last night, we are struggling to comprehend the incomprehensible – that half a million of our fellow Americans – and another two million more people around the globe -- have lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus over the short span of a year.  We have also lost, in many cases, the traditional ways of grieving these tragic deaths. 

Office of the Inspector-General

Tom's Newsmaker guest today is Baltimore City's Inspector-General, Isabel Mercedes Cumming. She was appointed in 2018.  Since then, her office, which was established as an oversight authority to investigate allegations of misconduct by City employees and contractors, has grown from four to 17 employees, and the number of complaints received on the OIG hot line has increased exponentially. 

The Office of Inspector-General recently released its Annual Report for 2020.   One of the most controversial of its recent investigations was a 7-month probe into travel by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.  When questions were raised about Mosby’s travel, much of which was paid for by entities outside of city government, Ms. Mosby requested an investigation by the OIG

photo by Mike Morgan for BMoreArt

Tom's next guest is Cara Ober, the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of BMoreArt, an online and biannual print journal devoted to the local art scene.   She joins us on Zoom.

Ms. Ober, who is also an artist and curator, was one of eight 2019 recipients of the Maine-based Rabkin Foundation Arts Writer Award, the largest grant of its kind, given annually to visual arts journalists deemed "essential" to the arts in their respective communities.  BMoreArt was also selected by the Rabkin Foundation last September as one of nine arts journals around the country to receive grants to help mitigate the adverse economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Michelle Branca Lee

Tom's guest is the award-winning author Chang-rae Lee.  He is the author of six novels.  His first, Native Speaker, earned the 1996 Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award for First Fiction.  The Surrendered, which he published in 2008, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.  A subsequent novel, On Such a Full Seawas a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the winner of the 2015 Heartland Fiction Prize...

Yale University Press

(Originally aired January 22, 2021)

We begin today with an interview from the Midday archive.  It’s a conversation Tom had last month with a scholar from Loyola University Chicago about angerIf you haven't read her fascinating chronicle of emotional history, it might not have occurred to you that anger, or any emotion, could have a history.

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, Anger is number six, behind pride, greed, lust, envy, and gluttony.  Sloth is the only sin, according to Pope Gregory and Thomas Aquinas, that is listed after anger on their famous hit parade. 

So, maybe anger isn’t so bad in the general scheme of things?  And how might its ranking have changed over the millennia?  Dr. Barbara Rosenwein, a historian and professor emerita at Loyola University Chicago, has thought a great deal about these questions. In her latest book, Anger: The Conflicted History of an Emotion, Dr. Rosenwein observes that anger doesn’t come pre-loaded into the human psyche.  It must be learned.   Buddhists try to avoid anger altogether.  The ancient Roman Stoics said we should actively resist it, because if we don’t, we lose our capacity for rational judgment...

Round House Theatre

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom Hall again today with her reviews of two new virtual productions now streaming for ticketed audiences. 

The first is The Catastrophist, a COVID-19-inspired drama by Lauren Gunderson that's based on the life and work of esteemed virologist Nathan Wolfe, who is also the playwright's real-life husband. The world premiere is a virtual co-production by Round House Theater and Marin Theater Company, directed by Jasson Minadakis and starring William DeMeritt in the title role.  

Maryland State Archives

On our program today, another update from Annapolis and the 2021 General Assembly.  We’re going to concentrate on tax policy.  Last week, the legislature overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of legislation that passed last year to impose a tax on Digital Ads.   A well-funded coalition of business owners called Marylanders for Tax Fairness strenuously oppose the digital ad tax, calling it a tax on small businesses.

Later in the program, we’ll be joined by Ned Atwater, a business advocate and restaurateur who runs a group of six restaurants here in Baltimore.   

But Tom’s first guests today are Delegate Stephanie Smith from Baltimore and Delegate Vaughn Stewart from Montgomery County.  They are both Democrats, and they are part of the Maryland Fair Funding Coalition, which supported the digital ad tax.  The coalition is also working on a few different pieces of legislation that will change the state tax code.


Last summer, many people pointed to California as a model for how states handled the spread of the Coronavirus.  But by the beginning of the new year, California had become the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.  We turn now to Dr. Jen Chang, an HIV primary care physician working in the Department of Infectious Diseases at Kaiser Permanente at the Los Angeles Medical Center.  Dr. Chang is also a sub investigator for the Pfizer vaccine trial. 

Oxford University Press

Our topic today is in-laws, and how the relationship between children who are married, and the families of their spouses, are affected and informed by a number of different factors.  Parents of the person you hold dear matter while you’re dating, they matter while you’re married, they matter when you have kids yourself, and they matter when those parents are of the age when they need care from you. 

A new book looks at those different stages, as well as the effects of age, gender, sexual preference and other factors that influence the nature and success of these relationships.  

The book is called In-Law Relationships: Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, and Sons.  Tom's guests today are the authors: Dr. Geoffrey Greif, professor; and Dr. Michael Woolley, associate professor, on the faculty of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, part of the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Senate Television via AP

Going into the final stage of the US Senate's second Trump impeachment trial on Saturday morning, most observers expected closing arguments from both sides, and a vote to acquit that would surprise no one.  There was about an hour or so of drama when that script wasn’t followed, and House Managers introduced the possibility of calling witnesses, but that was sorted out fairly quickly, and they proceeded to a vote.  More Republicans voted to convict Donald Trump than many had anticipated would, but despite a 14-vote margin, House Managers were 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction.

Today, on this President’s Day edition of Middayanalysis of what happened, and what it means for the presidency and our republic, moving forward.  

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Today on Midday on the Arts, we’re going to talk about the impact of the pandemic on one part of the creative economy: classical music. 

The Brookings Institution estimates that 2.7 million jobs and $74 billion dollars in wages have been lost in the fine arts overall.  More than $150 billion dollars in sales have vanished into the ether since the onset of the coronavirus.  

Like their counterparts in jazz, pop music and the theater world, classical musicians and the organizations they work with have been contending with months of COVID-induced cancelations, and it’s widely expected that theaters and concert venues will be among the last to open once the virus has been curtailed to the point when it’s safe to congregate in crowds again.  What will musicians and musical organizations need to do, to bounce back from the body blow that has been COVID 19?

Yale Law School

Former president Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, on charges of incitement to insurrection, is set to begin in the U.S. Senate tomorrow (February 9). For a preview, we turn to an esteemed constitutional scholar and presidential historian whose work has been cited in Supreme Court opinions more often any other active legal scholar's.  Akhil Reed Amar is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University Law School.  He has won awards from both the American Bar Association and the Federalist Society.  He hosts the podcast, Amarica’s Constitutionand he is the author of the forthcoming book, The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840, to be published this May. 

His most recent opinion piece -- suggesting some potent witnesses for the Senate trial -- appears today in the New York Daily News.

Baltimore Ceasefire 365

Letrice Gant joins us once again.  She is a co-organizer of Baltimore Ceasefire 365.  Four times a year, the community-led organization holds a Ceasefire Weekend, to honor those who have died of violence, and to reach out to those who perpetuate the violence, acknowledging the troubles they often face that lead them to harm or kill others.  

Tamzin B. Smith Portrait Photography

Tom's guest today is Celeste Headlee.  She is an award-winning journalist, a consultant on diversity and inclusion, and the author of two books, including We Need To Talk: How To Have Conversations That Matter.  Her Tedx Talk has been viewed more than 23 million times, and she is heard frequently as a host on NPR and American Public Media.  

Celeste Headlee is an expert at moderating difficult conversations around matters of race and inclusion.  

We’re going to have one of those difficult conversations today.

The Mayor's Office

It’s Midday with the Mayor.  Tom's guest for the hour today is the Mayor of Baltimore, Brandon Scott.

On Tuesday, Mayor Scott sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan expressing his great impatience with the pace of vaccinations so far, complaining that the state’s vaccine rollout has been, in Scott’s words, “uncoordinated to say the least.”   And yesterday, Democrats in the MD Congressional Delegation sent the Governor a letter complaining about inefficiency and inequity and calling for a “course correction.”

What can Baltimore do to get shots into arms, given the shortage of doses?  And, what is the city doing to convince those who are hesitant to take the vaccine that it is in their best interest, and the city’s overall interest, for all of us to get inoculated?


Our Newsmaker guest today is Cheryl Bost, a former Baltimore County Teacher of the Year (2003) who serves as the president of the Maryland State Education Association, a 75,000 member union (affiliated with the National Education Association) that represents teachers and other education employees across the state.  Ms. Bost joins Tom to explain the MSEA's perspectives on safe school re-opening.

As Tom discussed on this program yesterday with Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises, Baltimore City and Baltimore County are planning to send teachers and students back to the classroom over the next few weeks.  Is it safe to do so, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across the state? Governor Hogan and school leaders say it is.  Teachers unions say, “not so fast.”

Cheryl Bost joins us today on Zoom. 

Stanford University Press

Now, a conversation with Dr. Niloofar Haeri, a linguist and a professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University and the author of several books on language and culture.  Her latest is a fascinating study of the prayer practices of women in the Islamic state of Iran, and the inextricable relationship between prayer and poetry in Iranian culture.  The book, Say What Your Longing Heart Desires: Women, Prayer and Poetry in Iranraises profound questions about what it means to be religious and how religiosity affects and informs society at large...