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

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.

Susan Sermoneta/Flickr via Creative Commons

Many people in the Baltimore region have a tough time keeping a roof over their heads. Rents have increased sharply in Baltimore in recent years, with no comparable rise in incomes. As a result, fully a third of Baltimore City residents pay more than half of their income for housing, according to a recent Abell Foundation report. We discuss a ballot initiative that may have escaped your notice in this dramatic election season: Question J on the Baltimore City ballot. It would establish what is known as an “affordable housing trust fund.” How would that work? How would it differ from the city’s current inclusionary housing program? How have similar efforts worked in other cities? Rachel Cohen, a freelance journalist and senior writing fellow at the monthly The American Prospect, joins us. Last week, In These Times published Rachel’s feature on affordable housing ballot initiatives, including the one in Baltimore.

Time for another installment in our weekly feature from the Stoop Storytelling Series. Annette March-Grier tells us what it was like to grow up in a funeral home, and how her unusual upbringing influenced her life. Her family opened Roberta’s House nine years ago as a community-based nonprofit that aims to address the grief of high-risk families and youth in Baltimore City. November is Children’s Grief Awareness Month. You can listen to more stories, and learn about Stoop shows and The Stoop podcast--all at stoopstorytelling.com

It’s been a year and a half since the unrest of April 2015 following the death of Freddie Grey, who was critically injured in police custody. The police trials are behind us, and much of the media attention. But MICA has a new exhibition that aims to ignite a conversation about the roots of Baltimore’s discontent: the social, political, and racial rifts that led to the uprising. Tony Shore, the chair of MICA’s painting department, gives us a tour of Baltimore Rising.

Plimoth Plantation

An early effort to convert Native Americans to Christianity produced a translation of the Bible into the language of the Wampanoag tribe. That translation preserved the language, and in the 20th century, the tribe’s descendants used it to revive the dialect. This is one of many examples Peter Manseau, curator of American religious history at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, points to as evidence of America’s rich religious past. We discuss Native American spiritual traditions, Muslims brought to the Americas as slaves, Maryland’s start as a Catholic enclave, and why fears about religious minorities are not new.

Children in foster care may bounce around to different placements and different schools. But some of Maryland’s 4,700 foster children can count on a court-appointed volunteer to be a dependable presence in their lives. How does that work? We’ll hear from a volunteer, a mother whose son she worked with, and Ross DiEdoardo, executive director of the nonprofit CASA of Harford County.

The Baltimore Rock Opera Society’s new show is "Brides of Tortuga", a 17th-century feminist adventure on the high seas.


Thread, the nonprofit known for constructing extreme support groups for troubled kids, is branching out into a Conversation Thread, sewing strangers together across Baltimore. We’ll talk to Thread’s founder, Sarah Hemminger, and one of the new participants, Imhotep Simba of Concerned Black Men National.

Javier Romero Otero / Flickr via Creative Commons

What does our newfound ability to handle vast amounts of data mean for the future of medicine? Healthcare is likely to become more tailored to the individual. This has become known as ‘precision medicine.’ What will it mean for our health?

Courtesy of Stoop Storytelling Series

Time for the fourth installment in our weekly feature from the Stoop Storytelling Series! Bridget Cavaiola shares a story about nuns, a dead bird, and the value of neighbors. Her story has been edited for brevity. The full version is available here

Peter Favelle / Flickr via Creative Commons

Maryland has too many deer. They cause tens of thousands of car accidents every year and over-browsing by hungry deer damages native ecosystems. The state typically tries to keep the population down through hunting. But some animal-rights advocates believe wildlife managers should explore other methods. We hear from Brian Eyler, Deer Project Leader at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and Enid Feinberg, president of the Baltimore County nonprofit Wildlife Rescue, Inc. She spearheaded a deer sterilization projects in the county.

Library of Congress

By the time Maryland got around to ending slavery, 152 years ago next week, the Confederacy was within months of collapsing, black people in the District of Columbia had been free more than two years  and President Lincoln had declared emancipation in the South more than a year and a half earlier. What took Maryland so long? Historian C.R. Gibbs explains how Maryland’s elites split over what course to follow, how heroic fighting by black soldiers in the Union army affected public opinion, and, once a new state constitution to abolish slavery was put to referendum, how close the vote was.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

What does it mean to “eat the rainbow”? Why do nutritionists crusade for eating more fiber? We speak to Lynda McIntyre, a clinical dietitian specialist with Johns Hopkins Medicine and a nutrition cancer specialist at Sibley Hospital in Washington, about the power of diet in achieving good health. She’ll be discussing "Power Foods" and "Meatless Mondays" at the Johns Hopkins' annual Woman’s Journey conference next week.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

If you think inflammation is generally a scratchy spot that’s not very significant, you should know researchers are working to understand the connection between inflammation and chronic diseases, including heart disease and cancer. We’ll learn about inflammation and how to reduce it. Our guest is Dr. Lisa Christopher-Stine, associate professor of medicine & neurology and director of the John Hopkins Myositis Center. She will be presenting at John Hopkins Medicine's annual Woman’s Journey seminar next week. 

Jimmie/Flickr via Creative Commons

Fall is here and the school year is well under way. But some parents don’t have to worry about packing a lunch or getting their kids to the bus stop on time. They are homeschoolers, and nationwide, they’re a growing demographic. In Maryland, there are about 27,000 homeschooled kids. What motivates parents to homeschool? Is homeschooling possible in households with working parents? What are the benefits, and the challenges? 

Baltimore Speakers Series

Ehud Barak is one of those statesmen whose Wikipedia entry stretches for pages. He was Israel’s tenth Prime Minister, from 1999 to 2001. That was after he had been Foreign Minister, and before several years at Defense Minister. Ehud Barak is coming to Baltimore tomorrow for the Baltimore Speaker Series.

"The Perpetual Line-Up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America" / Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law

Half of American adults may not know it, but their photos are in face-recognition databases used law enforcement, according to an investigation by a think tank at Georgetown Law. Police can compare millions of mug shots, driver’s license, and ID photos against images of unknown suspects. This technology is less accurate in identifying African American, younger, and female faces. And because African-Americas are more likely to be arrested, they are overrepresented in the databases. We talk to David Gray, law professor at the University of Maryland, who says this face-recognition technology raises questions about our right to privacy.

Time for the third installment in our weekly feature from the Stoop Storytelling Series. Today Congressman Elijah Cummings tells the story of the integration of Riverside Park Pool in south Baltimore, and how the experience affected him. His story has been edited for brevity. You can listen to more stories, and learn about Stoop shows and the Stoop podcast at stoopstorytelling.com

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Artist Joyce Scott, of Baltimore’s Sandtown neighborhood, crafts jewelry and sculptures that explore issues like racism, sexism, and war. Last month she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, also known as a genius grant. We hear her thoughts on politics as performance art and on what this award means to her. “The idea that I could be that girl from two blocks from where Freddie Gray started the end of his life, that I could receive and make art," she says, "That is a giant thing that I must be responsible for.” 

yvonne slazar/Flickr via Creative Commons

We explore an unorthodox approach to preventing violence in the community. We’ll talk to Maryland shock-trauma surgeon Dr. Carnell Cooper, who for two decades has been intervening in the emergency room, as victims of violence recover, to help them change the patterns that led to that violence.  "We have an opportunity to save their lives," he says. "In fact we have maybe even a little bit of an obligation to try and do something beyond just patching them up.” Then, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen fills us in on plans to expand the city’s Safe Streets outreach program into numerous city hospitals, beginning with Johns Hopkins Hospital.

H&S Bakery

John Paterakis Sr., the Baltimore-born baker, businessman, developer, political donor and philanthropist, died on Sunday, aged 87. We reflect on John Paterakis’s impact on Baltimore with WYPR’s senior news analyst Fraser Smith, who profiled Paterakis for the Baltimore Sun, and M. Jay Brodie, who headed the Baltimore Development Corporation for many years.

Garry Knight / Flickr via Creative Commons

Can social media posts, even hashtags and emojis, be analyzed to prevent violent crime? The victims of gun violence are often young people, and young people are also loyal users of social media. Desmond Patton, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Columbia University and an affiliate with the research group Data & Society, says social media provides a forum for teens to express pain and grief, but those conversations can escalate into real world violence. 

Sheilah takes a guided tour of a new exhibit at the George Peabody Library on East Mount Vernon Place. The exhibit is called The Enigmatic Edgar A. Poe in Baltimore and Beyond and it features highlights from the Susan Jaffe Tane Collection of Edgar Allan Poe, one of the finest private collections of Poe materials in the world. Her guide is the exhibit’s curator, Gabrielle Dean. Gabrielle Dean is curator of Literary Rare Books and Manuscripts for the Sheridan Libraries of Johns Hopkins University. 

Jack Lyons/Flickr via Creative Commons

This weekend the Maryland Historical Society is screening "Maryland on Film III," two and a half hours of footage exploring the geography of our state. The screening includes some archival gems: a 1961 meditation on screen painting; a documentary about Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium; and “Little Castles,” a 1997 film about Formstone, the fake stone found on so many Baltimore rowhouses. Joe Tropea, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Maryland Historical Society, joins us to discuss the event. And Skizz Cyzyk, director of “Little Castles,” fills us in on the history of Formstone. 

Maryland’s jails hold hundreds of people who judges say could be released on bail, but the defendants haven’t come up with the cash to pay the 10% bail fee. This month Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh issued an opinion that it’s probably unconstitutional to hold defendants in jail because they can’t afford to pay.  Frosh says the system upends the lives of many charged with minor crimes -- and doesn’t make Maryland’s citizens safer.

And we talk to a bail bondsman who agrees bail should be set so people can pay, but thinks most people awaiting trial in jail should be behind bars.

Read the opinion from Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Time for the second installment in our weekly feature from the Stoop Storytelling Series! Andrew Stephenson didn’t always want to be a lawyer. Growing up in Dublin, Ireland, Andrew learned a lot in the kitchen from his mother and dreamed of owning his own restaurant. After high school, he began working in kitchens. Eventually Andrew moved to London to start law school, but continued cooking, taking a job at a restaurant in a posh neighborhood called Primrose Hill. His story has been edited for brevity. 

Josh Koonce/Flickr via Creative Commons

Baltimore’s mayor is asking the state to chip in $30 million for police reforms she expects to be mandated by a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. That court-enforceable decree is still being worked out, but our guest tells us these changes are costly because cities like Baltimore have put off reforms for decades. Years of neglect mean that the remedies - such as a warning system to spot troublesome behavior by officers - will be expensive. Criminal justice expert Samuel Walker is Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska. He has written more than a dozen books on policing and criminal justice, and has advised police departments across the country. 

We discuss a new novel about bootleggers, mobsters and baseball players -- specifically, the greatest player of all time, Babe Ruth, born and raised in Baltimore. The book is "The Babe Ruth Deception," and it’s the third book of fiction by historian David O. Stewart. His nonfiction works include books about James Madison, Aaron Burr, and the Constitutional Convention. David O. Stewart joins us to discuss the book. 

Google Maps

A long-awaited $23--and-a-half million-dollar development broke ground in East Baltimore last month. If all goes as planned, a dilapidated former pumping station will soon transform into the Baltimore Food Hub, a central location for food endeavors ranging from an urban farm to commercial production kitchens to a market. The Food Hub is a project of American Communities Trust, a national community development organization that works in low-income communities. China Boak Terrell, the CEO of American Communities Trust, joins us to talk about the Hub. 

GQ, The Nation, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Esquire -- just a few of the publications that publish drawings by the celebrated political illustrator and satirist Steve Brodner. Brodner will be in Baltimore Thursday night to deliver a lecture at the Maryland Institute College of Art at 7pm, at the Fred Lazarus Center. He joins us to discuss what it's like to cover the current presidential campaign.