Midday Podcast | WYPR

Midday Podcast

Photo Courtesy / Wyatt Oroke

Tom’s guest is Wyatt Oroke, an English teacher at City Springs Elementary and Middle School in East Baltimore, and City School's 2020 Teacher of the Year.   

In addition to teaching English at City Springs, Mr. Oroke coaches boys basketball and girls volleyball and is active as a faculty leader.

Oroke is the recipient of several state and national awards for his teaching, including honors from Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland State Senate. 

As the Baltimore City Teacher of the Year, Mr. Oroke will now advance to the 2020 Maryland State Teacher of the Year competition.  He is one of 7 finalists in that competition.  The Maryland State Department of Education will announce the winner next week.     


Columbia Global Reports

Tom's guest is journalist John Judis, an editor-at-large at Talking Points Memo and the author of many books.  He’s just out with the third in a trilogy of books he's written for Columbia University's Columbia Global Reports that examines three potent political movements that have shaped, and continue to shape, the world we live in: populism, nationalism and socialism. Judis' first book in the trilogy, The Populist Explosion, was published in 2016. He followed it with The Nationalist Revival in 2018.  And coinciding with another election cycle, the third book, published today, is called The Socialist Awakening: What’s Different Now About the Left.  

photo courtesy Mfume for Congress

Today, it’s another installment in our series of Conversations with the Candidates.  

Tom's guest is Congressman Kweisi Mfume, who represents Maryland’s 7th District .  Mfume won a special election in April to fill the vacancy left by the death of his long-time friend, Congressman Elijah Cummings.  He bested a large field of Democrats in a June’s primary and now, as he did last spring, Congressman Mfume is running against Republican nominee Kimberly Klacik.  He won their last race decisively. 

Congressman Mfume previously represented the 7th district  from 1987 to 1996, before leaving Congress to head up the NAACP.  The seat he vacated in 1996 was filled by Elijah Cummings. 

Rep. Mfume will turn 72 years old next month.  He is married to Dr. Tiffany McMillan, an Assistant Vice President at Morgan State University. They live in Southwest Baltimore.

Congressman Kweisi Mfume joins us on Zoom.

Listeners are welcome to join the conversation.  


Tom's guests now are two activists in the LGBTQ+ community who have organized a unique event to fund organizations that are helping their community to cope with COVID 19.  Jon Adler Kaplan is the development chair of the LGBTQ+ Fund at the Baltimore Community FoundationFranklin McNeil is the co-chair of the Fund.

AP Photo

It’s the Midday Newswrap.  The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to make history.  She is lying in state at the Capitol at this hour, the first woman to be so honored. 

President Trump is expected to announce his nominee for Justice Ginsburg’s replacement tomorrow.

Last night, in Baltimore, and in cities around the country, protests continued expressing outrage over the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville last March. 

And on Wednesday afternoon in the White House Briefing Room, in an astonishing statement, President Trump would not commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the election in November.  His comments, made in an exchange with Playboy Magazine reporter Brian Karem, have raised a political furor and stoked new fears that America's constitutionally guaranteed presidential transition process could be in for a rough ride this November.

Joining Tom via Zoom to discuss the controversy is Paula Reid, who covers the White House and the Justice Department for CBS News.

Flickr / Upaupa4me

As coronavirus metrics continue to improve in Maryland and growing numberrs of parents are heading back to workplaces, many are struggling to find child care. 

Tom talks with Anita Hilson, Executive Director of the non-profit child care provider Open Door, about the challenges area parents are facing in accessing safe and affordable childcare amid the continuing pandemic.  

You can find more information about Baltimore County’s Child Care Scholarship (CCS) Program on the Baltimore County Government website.

Singel Carrot Theatre

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom today with a review of new works by two established theater companies who've taken novel approaches to their pandemic-proscribed craft. 

In Single Carrot Theatre's "Keep Off the Grass: [a guide to something]" the itinerant company has found a way to do a real-live theater production without violating COVID-19 public health restrictions. Single Carrot describes the piece, devised by the ensemble and co-directed by Alix Fenhagen and B. Kleymeyer, as "an outdoor, walking audio play [that] weaves original folktales with visual performances (at a distance) to delve into the ethical questions that we grapple with..."

Playwright Lola Pierson, with Acme Corporation, an innovative Baltimore theater company, has written and produced an unusual piece called The Institute for Counterfeit Memory: A play in a box. Each ticketed audience member receives a small box to open at home. The box contains various items, including a tiny mp3 player with audio files and earbuds, a music box, a mirror, some printed cards, a candle jar to illuminate a photographic slide, and other objects which are meant to be used according to the audio instructions.  The interaction provides the user with a unique and moving narrative experience...

City Lights Books


We begin today with a news update from Louisville, Kentucky.  Yesterday afternoon, Daniel Cameron, the Attorney General of Kentucky, and a judge, announced that a grand jury had decided NOT to indict two of the police officers who killed 26 year-old Breonna Taylor last March. News of the grand jury decision sparked loud protests in Louisville, and many other cities across the nation.  Two Louisville police officer were reported to have been injured by gunfire Wednesday night, and the city remains under a 9pm-6:30am curfew.  For a live update on the situation, we’re joined by Jared Bennett. He is a reporter with Louisville Public Media’s WFPL (89.3 FM) and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. Bennett joins us on the phone from Louisville.


Then, Tom spends the rest of the hour remembering Julian Bond, a civil rights icon and an influential and compelling voice for equality and justice.  He had a long career as an activist, a legislator, and a teacher.  Bond was a prolific writer and speaker, and it is striking to read his work from the 1960s on, and realize that, as with the case of Breonna Taylor, so many of the issues Julian Bond organized around for more than 50 years remain unresolved today...

Flickr / Park City

It’s been six months since restaurants in Maryland were forced to shut down because of the coronavirus. The cessation of in-person dining lasted through most of the spring.  Some restrictions were eased at the end of May. As of last week, restaurants are allowed to have 75% capacity in their dining rooms. 

But despite their best efforts, much damage has been done.  Thousands of restaurants have permanently closed their doors, leaving millions of restaurant workers unemployed.   As the industry focuses on recovery, what will the future of dining-out look like?  

Tom’s guest is Chef and author John Shields. He is the proprietor, along with John Gilligan, of Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen at the Baltimore Museum of Art.     


AP Photo by Susan Walsh

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away from cancer last Friday, is lying in repose at the Supreme Court at this hour.  On Friday, Justice Ginsburg will lie in state at the Capitol.  She will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next Tuesday, the day after Yom Kippur.

And on Saturday, President Trump will announce his nomination for her replacement on the court.  It does appear now that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has enough votes among Republicans to move that nomination forward, over the objections of Democrats who say that, in accordance with public opinion polls and given the proximity of the election, the choice should be made by whoever wins in November...

Tom’s guest is Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings.  She’s a political consultant and the widow of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, who served in Congress for two and a half decades, and who called Maya his soul mate, in his words, “for 11 years of marriage and an eternity of connection.”   

In the final year of his life, before he passed away last October, Elijah Cummings worked on a memoir with the writer James Dale. It’s called We’re Better Than This: My Fight for the Future of Our Democracy.


AP Photo by Cliff Owen

The battle lines are being drawn around the timing of a Senate vote to confirm a nominee for the Supreme Court to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away from cancer last Friday.  The iconic jurist will lie in repose at the Supreme Court tomorrow and Thursday.  On Friday, Justice Ginsburg will lie in state at the Capitol.  She will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery next Tuesday, the day after Yom Kippur.

And on Saturday, President Trump will announce his nomination for her replacement on the court.  It does appear now that there is enough support among Republicans to move that nomination forward.

Tomorrow on Midday, I’ll speak with Andrew Grossman, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.  He’ll argue that the Senate should move ahead with the confirmation of President Trump’s nominee to the High Court and not wait until after the November 3rd general election.  Today, we hear from a legal scholar who argues that the Senate should wait until after the election, which is just 42 days away.

Ronald Weich is the Dean of the School of Law at the University of Baltimore.  He’s held that post since 2012.  Before that, he served as an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department during the Obama Administration.  Dean Weich joins Tom on Zoom to discuss his view, which he articulated in a weekend OpEd piece in the Baltimore Sun, that the Ginsburg vacancy on the Court should be the next president's to fill.

US Senate Collections

Today on Midday on Politics, we assess the state of Senate races around the country, in light of the death on Friday of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  How will her passing and the fight over her successor affect the composition of the United States Senate, and the 2020 presidential election?  

Twenty-one Republican incumbent senators are on the ballot.  There are three open seats currently held by Republicans.  Eleven Democratic incumbents face re-election.  There’s one open seat currently held by a Democrat, in New Mexico. 

If Democrats win three or four seats currently held by the GOP, they will take control of the upper chamber.  Two Democrats, Doug Jones of Alabama and Gary Peters of Michigan are considered vulnerable, and if they lose, the magic number for Democrats is possibly higher.

Some polls suggest that Republicans in North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Montana, Iowa, and elsewhere could be displaced come November. 

Tom's two guests today help us take a closer look at these battleground contests for Senate control, and examine how the outcomes may be influenced by the epic Senate battle ahead over the new vacancy on the Supreme Court. 

Whose Baltimore do we see on TV and in film?  In her new book, historian Dr. Mary Rizzo examines how our city’s long-standing racial and economic divide has influenced the art that comes from here, and how public policy shapes the way artists choose to depict Baltimore in their work.  It’s called Come and Be Shocked: Baltimore Beyond John Waters And The Wire.

Mary Rizzo will be part of the Enoch Pratt Library’s Writer’s Live Series next Tuesday. You can find more information on the Enoch Pratt Library website.  

Dr. Mary Rizzo, is a cultural historian at Rutgers University, who has a special interest in how cities are represented in media and the arts.   

Jerry Seib

It’s the Midday Newswrap, our review of the week's top news developments.  On Tuesday night, President Trump left the safe cocoon of Fox News and submitted to a nationally broadcast Town Hall meeting on ABC television. At Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an audience of undecided voters and host George Stephanopoulos challenged the President, who often contradicted his own previous statements on a number of issues.  At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the President directly contradicted the Senate testimony of Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, about the prospects for a vaccine. 

Last night, CNN hosted a drive-in Town Hall with the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, at a minor league baseball field in Scranton, PA.  Polls show Biden still in the lead, but the race is tightening. 

Tom's guest for the Newswrap today is Jerry Seib.  He’s the Executive Washington Editor and columnist for the Wall Street Journaland the author of We Should Have Seen it Coming: From Reagan to Trump-A Front Row Seat to a Political Revolution.

Jerry Seib joins Tom on Zoom.

Robert B. Reich

Tom's guest today is Robert B. Reich.  He’s a busy and distinguished guy.  He served in three administrations, including as Labor Secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency.  He’s a professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a columnist for Newsweek and The Guardian, an award-winning filmmaker, the founder of the non-profit educational enterprise called Inequality Media, and a frequent presence on television and in the blogosphere. 

He’s also the author of 18 books, the latest of which is called The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix ItIt's a kind of open letter to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of the largest bank on Wall Street, JP Morgan Chase.  Dimon is also the Chair of the Business Roundtable, a group of nearly 200 of the nation’s most powerful and influential CEOs.  Mr. Dimon and his fellow bankers were largely responsible for the economic catastrophe that gripped the US and the world in 2008, in which the total net worth of American households dropped by $11 trillion dollars...  

MK Asante is the author of the critically acclaimed 2013 memoir, Buck, which traces his rise from North Philly hustler to distinguished professor. 

Six years on, he remains on the cutting edge of how people are telling the story of the Black experience in America. In his latest endeavor as the host and executive producer of two Snapchat original series: While Black and Free Tuition Asante harnesses social media to create a forum for Black youth to discuss the issues of their day including, police brutality, politics, and education.

MK Asante joins Tom for the hour on Zoom, from his home in Baltimore.

Wallace for Mayor Campaign

There are 49 days to go until the November 3rd elections. Among the many contests voters will be deciding will be the race for Baltimore mayor.  In addition to Brandon Scott, the Democratic nominee, and Shannon Wright, the Republican, voters will also have a Working Class Party candidate, David Harding, and a former Republican who is running as an independent, Baltimore businessman Bob Wallace.  The 63-year old Cherry Hill native, who founded and runs three local companies, says he wants to become Baltimore's "mayor-preneur," and to give Baltimoreans a real choice in leadership after a half-century of Democrat control of City Hall.

Today, Bob Wallace joins Tom for the hour on Zoom to discuss his independent mayoral campaign, in another of our continuing series of Conversations with the Candidates.  We also welcome calls, emails and tweets from listeners with comments and questions for Mr. Wallace.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Today on Midday: economic inequity in business and in housing.  The Coronavirus has been a double whammy Black and ethnic communities.  A disproportionate number of people of color have been infected and have died from illness related to COVID 19. 

Economic assistance to Black-owned businesses has lagged far behind the help given to White firms.  The Baltimore Business Journal reports that 600 businesses in predominantly Black areas of Baltimore received forgivable loans in the Payroll Protection Program.  But only 45 were minority owned.

Tom speaks with Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities; and  Andre Perry, a Brookings scholar and the author of, Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.


Flickr/Shearer Family

Black youth are incarcerated at rates that are significantly higher than white kids, who are more likely to be directed to community service and counseling programs.

Today on Midday, Tom's guests discuss their efforts to re-direct young people who are entangled in the criminal justice system, and to provide alternative pathways for Baltimore’s high-risk youth:

Sam Abed is the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services.   Eric Ford is the director of UMBC’s Choice Program, which works to prevent the disproportionate incarceration of minority youth through advocacy and community engagement.

Sec. Abed and Mr. Ford join us on Zoom.

Tom’s guest is the best-selling author, Sue Miller.  She’s written a dozen novels and a memoir which have been translated and published in more than 20 countries around the world. 

Her latest novel  Monogamy is a portrait of a decades-long marriage, a marriage full of passion, and problems.  It’s a trenchant take on the complications that attend all relationships, the fragility of family, the complexities of friendship, and devastating consequences when closely-held secrets are revealed.  

Simon & Schuster Publishers

Excerpts from Bob Woodwards new book, Rage, have raised harrowing questions about President Donald Trump’s prevarication to the public about the lethality of the COVID-19 virus, and his lack of action to control the pandemic. As the book reveals in great detail, Mr. Trump knew as early as late January just how serious and how transmissible the virus is, even as he downplayed the virus' threat in his public statements.

That shocking revelation -- coming as the US death toll from COVID-19 nears 200,000 -- also raises questions about Woodward’s decision to withhold the information he had about the virus, and important national security matters, until now.  Others have done the same thing.  Is it the right thing to do?

Erik Wemple, the media critic for the Washington Postjoins Tom on Zoom to discuss the issues surrounding Woodward's controversial new exposé of the Trump presidency.

Kathleen Lyon/Senator Theater

It's another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly look at films and filmmaking. Tom is joined today on Zoom by our movie maven regulars: Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post and author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Moviesand Jed Dietz, founding director of the Maryland Film Festival and a leading player in the restoration of the historic Parkway theater on North Avenue.

Among the new films spotlighted today are Tenet and The Personal History of David Copperfield (both showing on the big screen this week at The Senator); and these virtual (theatrical streaming) films: Palm Springs; Bill and Ted Face the Music; I'm Thinking of Ending Things; Kajillionaire; and the documentaries, The Fight, A Thousand Cuts, Desert One, and Coup 53.

A little later in the hour, Tom talks with Kathleen Lyon, the co-owner of Baltimore's venerable Senator and Charles Theaters, about the Senator's reopening last weekend, after being shuttered by the pandemic for the past six months. Lyon says plans are in the works for the re-opening of the Charles, which continues to host a virtual schedule of films. 

It’s the Midday Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen

Yesterday, representatives of nine major drug companies signed a pledge promising not to file for federal approval of a Coronavirus vaccine without subjecting their drugs to long accepted scientific and ethical standards and clinical trials.  

Usually, we put our trust in institutions like the CDC and the FDA to oversee the safety and efficacy in medicine and the food supply.  With nearly 190,000 pandemic deaths and 6.3 million infections nationwide, has that trust been eroded?

Dr. Wen is an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. She is a contributing columnist for The Washington Post and a CNN medical analyst. She served as Baltimore's Health Commissioner from 2015-2018.

Maryland State Archives

Today on Midday, it's another Reporters' Notebook edition, as Tom surveys some of the top local and regional news developments with two of the best journalists on the scene: Rachel Baye and Josh Kurtz.  

WYPR State House reporter Rachel Baye joins Tom first to discuss Maryland Governor Larry Hogan's plans to move the state to a Phase 3 reopening; how the governor's thinking on COVID-19 has evolved since the pandemic's onset in the spring; the sharp differences in the approach to pandemic reopenings being taken by Baltimore City and Anne Arundel counties, for example; and why a large number of Catholic school teachers say they are quitting...

University of Maryland

Now, another installment of Midday on Higher Education, our occasional series of conversations with the leadership of the region's colleges and universities. 

Tom's guest today is Dr. Darryll J. Pines.  He was appointed earlier this year to be the 34th President of the University of Maryland, an office he assumed on July 1st.  President Pines holds three degree in engineering, including a doctorate from MIT, and he’s been on the faculty at College Park for more than two decades, serving most recently as the Dean of the Engineering School. 

President Darryll Pines joins Tom on Zoom to talk about how the University of Maryland is confronting the twin challenges of the viral pandemic and the national reckoning on racial justice. Dr. Pines explains how the pandemic has delayed the start of in-person instruction until September 14, and how he hopes to implement his ambitious 12-point plan for the university's future.

Assoc. of Black Psychologists

 (This program originally aired August 11, 2020)

Today, we revisit a conversation Tom had in August with the woman who heads a group of African American psychologists whose approach to counseling and therapy is centered in the traditions of Africa and the African diaspora.  

 How do the mental health needs of African Americans differ from those of Whites and other ethnicities?  What approaches to treatment can be employed that address the particular challenges caused by COVID 19 in the Black community?  Can Black psychology be used as a tool to confront institutional and systemic racism?  Tom's guest is Dr. Theopia Jackson.  She’s a licensed clinical psychologist and the President of The Association of Black Psychologists.  She is Co-Chair of the Department of Humanistic & Clinical Psychology and Chair of the Clinical Psychology degree program at Saybrook University in Pasadena, California.  She recently relocated to Maryland after 30+ years of practice in the Bay Area.  Dr. Jackson joined us via Zoom.  

Crown/Penguin Random House Publishers

(This program originally aired August 4, 2020)


When the novelist, journalist, playwright and activist James Baldwin died in 1987, his place in the panoply of great American writers was assured.   He is remembered as one of the most eloquent observers of the Black experience, and an insightful and compelling critic of racial inequality.  He was prolific and provocative, and one of the most important and invigorating public intellectuals of his time. 


Dr. Eddie Glaude is one of the most important and invigorating public intellectuals of our time.  He is the Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, and a former president of the American Academy of Religion.  In addition to many scholarly books and articles, he enjoys a wide audience as a contributor to MSNBC, and for his essays in publications such as the New York Times, Time Magazine and the Huffington Post.


Eddie Glaude’s latest book draws on his imaginative reading of James Baldwin and his own trenchant observations about the current American moment, as a racist, demagogic president stands for re-election, and while protesters in cities across the nation cry out for the kind of equality Baldwin so eloquently demanded.  The book is called Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.  

Eddie Glaude joined us via Zoom…  

Wes Moore, Erica Green

The original version of this program aired on April 24, 2020.

Some call it “The Uprising.”  Some call it “the riots.”  Whatever your point of view, the paroxysm of destruction that followed the death in police custody of Freddie Gray, in late April, 2015, exposed old wounds, and created a host of new ones for our city.


Today, we revisit a conversation Tom had earlier this year with Wes Moore and Erica L. Greentwo thoughtful observers of Baltimore who examined what happened at that critical moment in our city's history in their new book, called “Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City.”   

Henry Holt and Co./Metropolitan Books

This program was originally broadcast live on July 22, 2020.

 In his provocative new book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, Thomas Frank contends that most of our notions about populism are wrong.  Today, “populism” is a term most often used to describe the racist and illiberal philosophies of Donald Trump and far right extremists in America and Europe.


But the real story of populism, says Mr. Frank, is rooted in a more enlightened and hopeful world view. In 1936, as the Great Depression ravaged American communities from coast to coast, the poet and Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg published a book called The People, Yes.  Thomas Frank describes Sandburg’s mostly forgotten 300-page poem as “a full-throated celebration of ordinariness,” and “the most eloquent evocation of Depression-era populism.”  Mr. Frank’s latest book is a full-throated defense of the wisdom of the common man and woman, and a sharp attack on those who have, since the 19th century, opposed and discredited Populism.