On The Record | WYPR

On The Record

Weekdays, 9:30 to 10:00 am

Catch On the Record, hosted by Sheilah Kast, weekdays from 9:30 to 10:00 am, following NPR’s Morning Edition. We’ll discuss the issues that affect your life and bring you thoughtful and lively conversations with the people who shape those issues -- business people, public officials, scholars, artists, authors, and journalists who can take us inside the story. If you want to share a comment, question, or an idea for an interview you’d like to hear, email us at ontherecord@wypr.org.

Theme music created by Jon Ehrens.  Logo designed by Louis Umerlik.

Ways to Connect

Melissa Gerr with Jamyla Krempel

Does the commandment ‘Love Your Neighbor’ ask that we show the same level of kindness and consideration to a stranger ... as we do to a friend? Does it implore action … or intention? … does that matter? We ask philosopher and theologian Rabbi Shai Held his thoughts about the weighty mandate … Then, we ask some of our Baltimore neighbors what they think it means to love your neighbor.

Rabbi Shai Held is scholar-in-residence at Beth Am Synagogue Fri-Sun Nov. 15-17. All events are open to the public, for more information visit this link.

Basic Books

Almost 300 murders in Baltimore this year, nearly all by bullet. In the face of years of devastating loss, curtailing the city’s homicide rate feels like an unsolvable puzzle. Harvard senior fellow Thomas Abt sees a way forward. His new book, “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence - and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets,” offers evidence-backed tactics to reduce homicides, such as interventions with potential shooters, led by social workers, police, and leaders in the community. The message they are to deliver is clear: Stop the shootings.

Update: Since this rebroadcast aired, Baltimore has reached 300 homocides. 

centro güel / Flickr Creative Commons

From migraines to lower backaches or knee troubles, chronic pain affects one in five Americans. This persistent misery takes a physical, emotional, and financial toll.

Susan Dorsey, co-director of the University of Maryland Center to Advance Chronic Pain Research, walks us through how the body’s pain response can go rogue. And Dr. Beth Hogans talks about moving away from opioids as a long term strategy for relief.

Click here for details about the Fifth Annual CACPR Symposium on November 22nd. Learn more about chronic pain here.


Nov 11, 2019
Simon & Schuster

How could five boys, walking free in Philadelphia in the summer of 1825, be kidnapped, forced into the hold of a boat, chained and beaten, brought to the Eastern Shore, and then transported south?

Historian Richard Bell, chronicled how the boys were enslaved, and how that happened to thousands of other free African Americans--what he calls the Reverse Underground Railroad. Most who were snatched never saw their families again. But something surprising happened in this case, laid out in Bell’s book, "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home".

Stoop Storytelling Series

Monday is Veterans Day, so this morning we’re sharing a Stoop Story from Marine Corps veteran Rich Blake, about a moment that could have been his last.

You can listen to more stories, and learn about Stoop shows and The Stoop podcast--all at stoopstorytelling.com.

"A Real Whole Lot" Facebook Page

Baltimore native Phil Kane enlisted in the Army in 1941. During WWII, he sent hundreds of letters home to his new bride, Jack. We hear their love story from their daughter, Jacqueline Kane, who collected their letters in the book, "A Real Whole Lot".

Creative Commons/agilemktg1

A parent’s role today may still hold the same job description -- taking care of the kids and instilling values. But new obstacles -- like screen time and solo parenting -- have thrown many moms and dads into uncharted territory. Certified parent coach Cindy Shuster talks about helping attain happiness in the home. Plus, author Jane Isay talks about her book Unconditional Love: A Guide to Navigating the Joys and Challenges of Being a Grandparent Today.

Jane Isay will talk as part of the Jewish Literature Festival, more information here.

K. W. Barrett / Flickr Creative Commons

In Maryland, about 100,000 students-almost one in eight-are in special education classes. Do they all belong there? Longtime public-education advocate Kalman “Buzzy” Hettleman’s latest book is, “Mislabeled as Disabled: The Educational Abuse of Struggling Learners and How We Can Fight It”. Hettleman says one reason failing students are placed into special education is that they don't receive reseach-based instruction to help them catch up to their peers.

Sonia Purnell / Viking

Virginia Hall, daughter of an upscale Baltimore family, turned herself into one of the most daring spies of World War II. Biographer Sonia Purnell recounts Hall repeatedly eluding capture and death while helping the French resist Nazi occupation.

Purnell will speak at Hall's alma mater, Roland Park County School, tomorrow evening. Details here.

Kennedy Krieger

People with neurological differences, like autism or dyslexia, often face barriers getting a job. But some employers are taking steps to recruit and hire neurodiverse workers.

Jamell Mitchell, of Ernst and Young, describes simple adaptations, like noise-cancelling headphones, to make an office more inclusive. Stacey Herman, of Kennedy Krieger Institute, breaks down misconceptions about the work that people with disabilities can do. Plus, Nygil Sims, who works at Kennedy Krieger’s spinal cord injury center and has a developmental disability, tells about challenges he’s faced.

Learn more about Project SEARCH here. Details about this week's Neurodiversity in the Workplace conference here.

Gormley Gallery and Theresa Clower

Artist Theresa Clower lost her son Devin to an opioid overdose. To cope with the loss, she created in graphite a portrait of him, that felt like connecting with him. Then she reached out to 40 other families bereaved by addiction, and made portraits of the loved ones they had lost. She tells us about her exhibit ‘Into Light: Through Art, Honoring Those Who Have Died From Drug Addiction.’ She talks about her process, how it helped manage her grief and why creating this body of work was so important to her. 

For information about the local exhibit at Gormley Gallery at Notre Dame University Maryland, visit this link.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here's a Stoop Story from Erin Fostel about going above and beyond for a loved one. You can hear her story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

Brilliant Baltimore starts today! The combined Baltimore Book Festival and Light City celebration runs from today through Nov. 10. Hundreds of authors and poets, culinary events and dazzling illumination--like the 3-D drone light show Friday and Saturday night in the skies above the Inner Harbor. 

Lorie Shaull / Flickr Creative Commons

A tiny knife, a miniature bloodstained blanket.

Bruce Goldfarb, of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office, tells us about the tiny clues staged by Frances Glessner Lee, considered the mother of forensic science. During World War II, Lee designed scale models of unexplained deaths as a tool to teach detectives unbiased observation. Seventy years later, her models are still in use. Hear more about Lee's models at a panel discussion tonight at the Maryland Historical Society. Ticket information here.

Brennan Linsley / AP Photo

Suicide by gun kills twice as many Americans as murder by gun. How can people with access to firearms be aware of the risk factors for suicide? Retired Marine Greg Reuss, of the Maryland chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, tells how he connects with local gun owners and retailers. Find out about upcoming events here

If you or someone you know needs help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Crisis Text Line is: 741-741.

Then: shaking up the conversation about guns in America. Filmmaker Sue Hilderbrand previews her documentary, “American Totem”. And political philosopher Firmin DeBrabander argues a broad reading of second-amendment rights imperils the first amendment. Details about tonight's screening here.

Baltimore Speakers Series/Stevenson University

We ask the editor-in-chief of The Economist magazine, Zanny Minton Beddoes, whether the world is heading for a recession, why she says she’s “optimistically paranoid” about the journalism business and what she expects after Britain eventually figures out how and when to exit the European Union.

Plus, WYPR reporter John Lee gives an update on what’s at stake with legislation to require landlords in Baltimore County to accept federal housing vouchers.

For information about the Baltimore Speakers Series, visit this link.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here's a Stoop Story from Day Al-Mohamed about her fencing triumph. You can hear her story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

Jewish Museum of Maryland

To help us rethink our obsession with throw-away, one-use, disposable products, the Jewish Museum of Maryland is taking a deep dive into the history of reuse. Museum director Marvin Pinkert tells us about the overlooked army of scrap collectors featured in the new exhibit: ‘Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling.’ And curator Zachary Paul Levine explains that the history of scrap metal families actually tells a bigger story.

For information about Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling and related events, visit this link.

Hedwig Storch/Wikimedia Commons

You’re in the privacy of your home ... talking with your children or discussing family matters with your spouse … is there someone -- or something -- listening?

Voice-assisted technology, or conversational artificial intelligence -- such as smart speakers -- has made it easier for millions of people to perform daily activities and access information. But are there dangers in that scenario? 

We ask Amy Webb, founder of the ‘Future Today Institute.’ She has her finger on the pulse of emerging technologies.

Royal Collection / Wikimedia Commons

The creativity and talent of Leonardo da Vinci is still staggering five centuries after his death.

Da Vinci scholar Jonathan Pevsner describes the Renaissance man’s insatiable drive to learn about the human body, while juggling many other projects. Read Pevsner's recent Scientific American article on da Vinci.

Then, Francesco Legaluppi of the Italian Cultural Center of Maryland tells us about da Vinci’s ‘bridge of safety’--a bridge that could be quickly assembled during wartime--and an exhibit of art inspired by the genius.

Melissa Gerr

Zion Church of the City of Baltimore was founded in 1755 by German immigrants. It still holds services in German, and even offers German language classes. But like many venerable religious institutions, Zion is trying to figure out how to remain relevant as it honors the past.

Stoop Storytelling Series

Our thoughts are on the many ways Congressman Elijah Cummings fought for residents of Baltimore. Here is a Stoop Story he told in 2010 about the integration of Riverside Park Pool in South Baltimore. 

You can hear more stories, and the Stoop podcast at stoopstorytelling.com.

John Clark Mayden / JHU Press

For nearly fifty years, John Clark Mayden has viewed life through a distinctive lens. His black-and-white photographs capture ordinary moments--passengers riding the bus, weary workers pausing for a break-and spark our curiosity. When was this photo taken? Where are these people now?

Mayden tells us how he got his start, and how his style changed over time. 

You can see Mayden's photos at the George Peabody Library, now through March 1, 2020. There is talk celebrating the exhibit and a book launch at Peabody on Sunday, Oct 27, at 4:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public.

Or you can check him out at the Baltimore Book Festival on November 3rd at 3 pm at the Ivy Bookshop stage.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Like everyone in Maryland, On the Record is saddened by the loss of Democratic Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, who died early this morning. We extend condolences to his wife, Dr. Maya Rockymore, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party, and the rest of his family.

Melissa Gerr

Wait! Don't squash that spider crawling inside your kitchen sink! Studying the creepy crawlers can lead to important findings about our environment. Two entomologists weigh in: Professor James Young, from the Natural History Society of Maryland, discusses the value of insect collections and Fred Paraskevoudakis praises their worth as ecological harbingers. Plus, filmmaker Allison Otto talks about her documentary “The Love Bugs." It's a moving portrayal about the ‘love of nature’ and the ‘nature of love.’

The Love Bugs will be screening at the Natural History Society of Maryland followed by a lecture about insect collecting. For more information, visit this link.


Two or three million people in the U.S. are living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder--more, if you add in the half-million children and teenagers coping with OCD. Their brains are sending danger warnings about some recurring thoughts, and they try to calm their anxiety by repeating some procedure or ritual. We’ll hear from two therapists: Hannah Breckenridge has been dealing with OCD herself since she was a child. And Jon Hershfield, who’s written books about it, heads the OCD and Anxiety Center of Greater Baltimore.  

Acroterion / Wikimedia Commons

160 years ago this week, the abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the army arsenal at Harpers Ferry hoping to arm slaves who would rise in rebellion. We ask historian Martha Jones what drove Brown, and how history views him.

Then, author Ed Maliskas tells how the farm in Washington County Maryland, where Brown and his men planned their raid, was bought by the Black Elks fraternal organization as a landmark of freedom, and then drew crowds of young people for concerts by R&B giants. 

RubyT / Flickr Creative Commons

Imagine being a youngster in the fight of your life against cancer--or the parent of such a child--and learning the medicine your doctor says would help … is not available. This happens a lot.

Holly Kamm Wahl’s teen-aged son David is being treated for leukemia. She describes how they’ve had to cope with inadequate doses of certain drugs, including an essential pain reliever. Pediatric oncologist Dr. Yoram Unguru has been raising the alarm about medication shortages for years. He says it’s getting worse. Original air date: June 24, 2019.

Read more about drug shortages here:
In Short Supply
Drug shortages jeopardize the lives of children with cancer
Pediatric oncologist urges solution to public health crisis caused by drug shortages

Stoop Storytelling Series

Here is a Stoop Story from Shawna Renee about her early start as a restaurateur.

The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins

The late P.M. Forni, the Italian literature scholar who put civility on the map in Maryland, still inspires his fans. Dan Buccino, a psychotherapist who succeeded Forni as head of the Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins, says he learned from Forni that humans have always struggled to find a civil way to deal with each other.

Flickr/Esther Max

Where can those on the frontlines of healthcare turn for emotional support? Bonnie DiPietro interim president and CEO of The Maryland Patient Safety Center, tells us about an effort called ‘Caring for the Caregiver: Implementing RISE: Resilience In Stressful Events,' created in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins RISE Team and supported in part by the Josie King Foundation. We also meet Mindy Ralls, an intensive care nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She’s trained as a first responder in RISE, assisting colleagues who experience extreme stress on the job. She explains that ultimately, the goal is patient safety.

For more information about RISE, visit this link or this link.