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.

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

Ways to Connect

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. 

summerbl4ck/Flickr via Creative Commons

Most of us have read or heard about the spread of the Zika virus: the serious birth defects, like microcephaly, that can result if a pregnant woman becomes infected, and the pressure to develop a vaccine against the virus. What many of us may not have given any thought to is whether such a vaccine would be tested on pregnant women. Because for the most part, pregnant women are not included in clinical drug trials for fear of the potential harm to the fetus. As a result, scientists just don’t know how safe most medications are for pregnant women. A group of bioethicists is pushing for change. They argue that neglecting to research the safety of drugs in pregnant women is unethical.  Carleigh Krubiner, a Faculty Research Scholar at the Johns Hopkins’ Berman Institute for Bioethics, joins us to explain. 

Julia Sergina/Flickr via Creative Commons

Roberto Busó-García heads a new Johns Hopkins film fund with a special focus on Baltimore. He joins us to tell us about it. Those who make the cut for the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media get mentoring from experts in the industry, as well as cash, in some cases. The fellows include artists with in-depth experience and some who have never made a film. Have a great idea? You’re eligible. 

Do classical musicians have a role to play in advancing social justice? We talk to composer Judah Adashi, who is on the faculty of the Peabody Institute. Adashi is teaching a new workshop at the Peabody on Art and Activism, and he frequently takes on social issues in his work. He talks with us about art, activism, and the delicate balance between social critique and propaganda.  

The Best Medicine

Oct 10, 2016

Mental illness and comedy may seem like an unlikely combination, but a group of local improv performers has taken on the challenge. “The Best Medicine," coming this weekend to Baltimore’s Single Carrot Theatre, pairs improvisers with true stories solicited from the community. All the stories have something to do with mental illness. Ticket information available here.

Across the country, health insurers are raising rates or pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges. Could a single-payer system solve some of the problems? How would that work? What IS a single-payer system, anyway? Who wins, who loses? Dr. Bradley Herring, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, breaks it down for us.

Now we’re going to hear the first installment of a new weekly feature on our show, a true tale from Baltimore’s Stoop Storytelling Series. Our first storyteller is Kate Pratt, a certified eye-bank technician and transplant coordinator. Her job is to surgically remove eye tissue from donors who recently died for use in transplants and research. In this story, edited for brevity, Kate describes the case of a teenager who died in a skateboarding accident. Out of more than a thousand procedures, this one stayed with her. We join the story just after Kate Pratt has been called to the hospital.

Preservation Maryland

Ellicott City’s historic Main Street reopened yesterday. It’s been closed since flooding devastated the area in July. One of the challenges property owners face is rebuilding in a way that meets the requirement of the historic district. We talk to Jennifer Johnson, owner of two storefronts that were saved from demolition, and Nicholas Redding, executive director of Preservation Maryland.

Frank Harris III, a journalism professor at Southern Connecticut State University, traveled the country talking to people of all different backgrounds about their experience with a highly controversial term: the N-word. His film is playing locally this weekend as part of the Baltimore Black International Film Festival at the Murphy Fine Arts Center, 2201 Argonne Drive, on the campus of Morgan State University. The film will air at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. For more on Frank Harris' project, visit his Tumblr page. 

The Justice Department’s critique of the Baltimore Police Department accused city police of systematically under-investigating reports of sexual assault: failing to collect evidence, interview witnesses, or test forensic evidence. We talk to Jacqueline Robarge, founder of Power Inside and an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse, about what police misunderstand about victims of trauma and what changes the city should make.

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

Not long ago, civil rights activist Laura W. Murphy discovered a bundle of papers tied with a ribbon. They turned out to be letters between her great-grandparents, written when they were courting in Reconstruction-era Baltimore. They provide a glimpse into what life was like for a particularly successful African-American family in Baltimore, just a few years after the end of the Civil War. 

Courtesy the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture is exhibiting a stone once used as a slave auction block in Hagerstown. We discuss slave auctions of enslaved and free blacks in western Maryland and the fissures still felt from those sales. Our guest is Mary Elliott, a museum specialist at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. She helped research, conceptualize, and design the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition at the museum, where the auction block is housed.

Special Collections, Sheridan Libraries / Johns Hopkins University

Fifty years ago a team headed by Johns Hopkins sociologist James Coleman got a congressional mandate to figure out how to make educational opportunity more equal. They surveyed hundreds of thousands of students. One conclusion: that a child’s family has more bearing on academic success than school. We’ll talk to three experts, including one who helped write the Coleman Report.

Scanned from "Thomas Eakins: Volume II" by Lloyd Goodrich. Harvard University Press, 1982. / Wikimedia Commons

Mercury. Today we think of it as a dangerous poison, but during the Civil War, medicinal mercury was used in varied forms to treat many illnesses. The National Museum of Civil War Medicine’s annual conference this week reminds us that what we know about health care today is shaped by the past. We’ll also hear about a syndrome affecting Civil War soldiers and veterans; with symptoms like rapid heart rate and tunnel vision, a medical historian tells us it looked a lot like what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder.

Baltimore City government

Baltimore’s Civilian Review Board aims to provide a check on police misconduct by allowing citizen representatives to review the public’s complaints against police. Last month, the Justice Department’s report noted the board’s effectiveness was limited by a lack of resources. We speak to Kisha Brown, director of Baltimore City's Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, which oversees the CRB, and Keisha Allen, chair of the board, about how the board investigates complaints and the obstacles it faces.

Simon & Schuster

The young adult novel “All-American Boys” takes on police brutality from the perspective of two teenagers: one black, one white. Jason Reynolds, who is black, and Brendan Kiely, who is white, wrote the book as a call to action. We’ll talk to the authors about how their conversations about race brought them together and what action they hope will be sparked by their depiction of two teens coming to grips with a police beating.

UB School of Law

True crime procedurals like the Netflix documentary "Making a Murderer" have shone a spotlight on the problem of wrongful convictions. How true-to-life are these stories? How hard is it to overturn a wrongful conviction? And what’s it like to serve time for a crime you didn’t commit? We talk to a man who served five years for murder before he was exonerated, and to his lawyer, about the hard road to proving your innocence once you’re no longer presumed innocent.

Penguin Random House

Baltimore ranks second in the country - behind Detroit - in the number of tenants threatened with eviction. In any given year, about 6 percent of Baltimore’s renters face eviction; most likely of all are black women with children. We’ll talk to Zafar Shah, staff lawyer with the Public Justice Center, and Karen Wabeke, senior staff attorney with Homeless Persons Representation Project, about how public policies work against tenants in rent court, what’s changed recently and what changes they’d like to see.

Wikimedia Commons

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the first in this season’s Baltimore Speaker series, shares his thoughts on what it takes to compromise.

Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

Around the world, 65 million people have been forced from their homes by wars and other disasters--the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II. Humanitarian agencies are calling for a new approach to aiding refugees. We’ll talk to Sean Callahan, incoming president of Catholic Relief Services, one of the international nonprofits based in Baltimore which took part in a meeting this month at the United Nations.

Early this summer more than 80 people were being held in county and city jails in Maryland, even though courts had said they needed in-patient mental-health care. Now the number is about a dozen. We ask Van T. Mitchell, Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene, what changes have made it more likely detainees will get mental-health services, and what challenges lie ahead. Does the state have enough mental-health workers, and enough beds to meet its obligations? We also talk about Maryland’s growing epidemic of overdose deaths related to heroin and fentanyl.

Paula Poundstone, Emmy-Award winning stand-up comedian and a regular panelist on the weekly news quiz show "Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me!", will cruise through Maryland this weekend as part of her current stand-up tour.  Sheilah chats with her about her new book and what running for class president in the 6th grade taught her about politics.


Today we get the backstory from the co-founders of The Stoop Storytelling Series, live performances in which ordinary people in Baltimore tell true stories from their lives. The Series is about to start its eleventh season. What makes for a good story? What makes for a good storyteller? Do you have to be an extrovert? Jessica Henkin and Laura Wexler will share their thoughts. 

What kind of movie can a filmmaker put together in just one month? You can find out this week at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore. More than two dozen short films shot and edited in just 29 days will premiere. Now in its eighth year, the 29 Days Later Film Project is a competition meant to inspire local filmmakers and get their work in front of an audience. We chat with local filmmaker Bob Rose, a longtime participant and former grand prize winner, about the appeal of the competition and what makes for a good short. And we'll discuss the bizarre short Bob made for last year's competition, titled "Black Jeans Whoa." 

smysnbrg/Flickr via Creative Commons

Emails of the Democratic National Committee were leaked this summer. Last year, a Chinese hack of the US Office of Personnel Management exposed the personal data of millions of Americans. So, how safe is the ballot box? Cybersecurity expert Dr. Richard Forno, Assistant Director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity, walks us through the potential vulnerabilities of voting systems in America.

Within a decade of its launch by Arunah Abell in 1837, the Baltimore Sun was so dominant that the U.S. president learned from the Sun--not from the War Department--that the U.S. had won its war with Mexico. In the 20th century, the Sun was one of three daily newspapers that FDR devoured with breakfast. The new book, "The Life of Kings," contains recollections by dozens of Sun writers and recalls the Sun’s reach and independence. We look back at the Sun's heyday with Stephens Broening, the Sun’s first op-ed page editor and co-editor of the book, “The Life of Kings: The Baltimore Sun and the Golden Age of the American Newspaper.” We’ll also hear from former Sun reporters Fraser Smith and Antero Pietela about their most memorable assignments and the future of print journalism.

On the first “On the Record,” with technology replacing more and more jobs, there’s more talk of a universal basic income--the idea of the government giving a minimal income to everyone, no strings attached. We speak with former labor boss Andy Stern. He and others, from the right and the left, are pushing the idea of a universal basic income, in which the federal government would pay everyone a monthly stipend, no strings attached. Stern's new book is: “Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream.”