Midday | WYPR


AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

On Night Three of the 2020 Republican National Convention, Vice President Mike Pence used Fort McHenry here in Baltimore as the back drop for his re-nomination acceptance speech, in which he seemed to suggest that the country is being overrun with anarchy and violence.  President Trump attended the address, and greeted the invited crowd afterwards.  The President is slated to speak tonight, from the White House. 

Rep. Andy Harris (MD-1) joins Tom with analysis.  

Flickr/Mike Mozart

Today on Midday, an update on Coronavirus mitigation efforts including, what to know about getting your flu shot, and how a change to CDC testing guidelines could impact the fight against the virus. 

Dr. Lisa Maragakis is the executive director of the Hopkins Biocontainment Unit and the senior director of Infection Prevention at the Johns Hopkins Health System.  She’s also an Associate Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine.

Photo Courtesy / Kirsten D'Andrea Hollander

The lives of a group of African American girls from Baltimore are the focus a new documentary set to premier next week at the 2020 Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival

The film is called ‘Anatomy of Wings’ and it profiles 10 Dunbar Middle School students as they participate in a mentorship program called ‘Finding Your Wings.' 

Over the course of the film, we watch the teens grow into womanhood, meeting the challenges of their teenage years against a backdrop of poverty, violence and systemic inequity.  

Filmmakers Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander and Nikiea Redmond talk with Tom about their experiences making the film, and the bonds that were created.  


Tiffany Cross, Amistad Books/Harper Collins

The intersection of race, politics and media is a sticky and complicated place to be, and that’s precisely where Tiffany D. Cross plants herself in her terrific new book, Say it Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives and Saving Our Democracy.

Tiffany D. Cross is an on-air political analyst and cable news veteran and the founder of The Beat, DC. Now, she’s a resident fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

Ms. Cross joins Tom for a conversation about race, politics and the media.  And we welcome your questions and comments.

Flickr/ Ivan Radic

Earlier this month, Baltimore City Public Schools presented its plan for remote learning. The plan lays out the district's virtual learning model, and offers a look at future hybrid learning models that blend online and in-person instruction.

Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, joins Tom for the hour to discuss how the district will try to keep kids on track with their education, while keeping them, their teachers and their families safe.

And we welcome listener comments and questions.

Photo copyright by Ralph Alswang

As political pundits continue to size up last week's virtual Democratic National Convention, with its formal nominations of former Vice President Joe Biden for President and California Senator Kamala Harris for his vice-presidential running mate, the Republican National Convention kicked off today in Charlotte, North Carolina, with an in-person delegate roll call and appearances by both President Trump and Vice-President Pence that underscored the strong support the incumbent ticket enjoys within the Republican Party. WYPR will carry NPR's live coverage of the four nights of the Republican National Convention, beginning tonight at 9pm.


Tom's guest today is a seasoned veteran of both campaigning and governing.  Jennifer Palmieri served two Presidents over a period of 12 years in the White House, and she’s been part of five presidential campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s run in 2016, in which she was the Communications Director.

Like many other businesses, the business of politics is dominated by white men...

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Joe Biden accepted his party’s nomination to be their standard bearer in November on the fourth and final night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention.   

With less than 90 days left in the campaign, recent polls have Biden leading the President by a substantial margin. Will that lead hold, and will Republicans, who get their chance to make their case next week, be able to parry the Democrats’ attacks and tighten the race?


Bakari Sellers is an attorney and CNN Political Analyst. He is a former Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives, and author of the book, My Vanishing Country: A Memoir.


Everyman Theatre

It’s been more than five months since Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency because of the Coronavirus pandemic.  As we’ve discussed here on Midday several times, the arts have been particularly hobbled by restrictions related to COVID-19.  

 Today, we'll hear first about one of the ways Baltimore’s Everyman Theater has adapted to the new normal:  they’ve attached themselves to a city-sponsored film festival.  The Baltimore City Office of Equity and Civil Rights is hosting the Fair Housing Film Festival from August 24 to 28, and Everyman’s entry is a live theater event, The House That Holds Us, a virtual evening of theatrical readings, scenes, and monologues that examines the housing experience in Baltimore. 

Joining Tom via Zoom to talk about the new work is Vincent Lancisi. He is the founder and Artistic Director of the Everyman Theatre

 The House That Holds Us streams live next Friday, August 28, at 7:00pm. Follow the event link for more information on how to connect...

Amazon Operations

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the local and national economy.  Maryland’s unemployment rate stands at about 8%, much better than much of the rest of the country, but still, more than a quarter of a million Marylanders are out of work.

Some businesses, like airlines, restaurants, and entertainment venues, have suffered badly in the COVID 19 economy.  But other businesses are thriving.  Yesterday, for example, Apple became the first US company to reach a 2 trillion dollar market cap.  And as more consumers stay out of brick-and-mortar stores in favor of on-line shopping, Amazon has had a banner year.  Since March, Amazon stock has increased by more than $1,500 per share.  It’s currently selling at about $3,200.  And the grocery industry has fared well during the pandemic, too, with the region’s largest food retailer, European-owned Giant Food, enjoying steady growth in earnings since March.

Amazon and Giant Food are just two among scores of employers, large and small, now hiring aggressively in the Baltimore region and beyond...

Greg Gorman

Tom's guest for the hour today is the celebrated Baltimore-based artist, John Waters.  He’s the director of 16 films, the author of nine books, a visual artist with museum shows to his credit, a spoken-word artist, an actor, and most recently, a pitchman for haute couture. 

His latest book, published last year and now out in paperback, is called Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder.

It's part memoir, part advice column, and part peroration on the passing parade.  It’s a fascinating, funny, and insightful commentary on subjects as disparate as the nature of celebrity, and the snobbishness of restaurants, the art market and architecture, and it’s an often deeply personal take on the importance of family and friends.  Waters offers a behind-the-scenes look at the sausage-making of his movies, from his transgressive cult classics to his mainstream hits. And he ruminates unstintingly on his successes and his mistakes during a long career in which he has reinvented himself multiple times. 

John Waters joins Tom on the phone from Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Calls, emails and tweets are welcomed. 

Photo courtesy US Postal Service

Today on Midday, a conversation about the U.S. Postal Service, which is embroiled in a political and fiscal crisis unlike any in the service’s 228-year history.


 Shortly after our broadcast Tuesday, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy released a statement announcing that he is halting his controversial cost-cutting initiatives at the US Postal Service until after the November election.  The statement says he is canceling service reductions, reinstating overtime hours and ceasing the removal of mail-sorting machines and public collection boxes.

  As the COVID-19 pandemic persists and intensifies in many states, election experts are predicting record numbers of Americans will use the mail to cast their ballots in November.  Is the Postal Service prepared to process those ballots and assure that every vote arrives in time to be counted by local boards of elections? 

Late last month, the general counsel of the Postal Service sent letters to 46 states and the District of Columbia in which he answered that question, “No.”  He said there is a risk that mailed ballots may not arrive in time.  Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy – a Trump donor who took office in mid-June – has ordered sweeping staff and operational changes at the Post Office that have already significantly slowed nationwide mail service.  President Trump has said he opposes emergency funding for the Post Office because it will support voting by mail...  

It’s the Midday Healthwatch with Dr. Leana Wen. As the state of Maryland passes the 100,000 mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases, our state continues to see a low overall positivity rate for COVID-19 infections. Last week, the positivity rate in Baltimore City fell below 5%, according to the state Health Department. But the national picture is much more grim.  Last Thursday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, warned that without adherence to Coronavirus precautions, the worst public health crisis in US history could occur in the fall. 

Several hundred cases of Coronavirus have been reported around the country among students, teachers and staff at schools that have reopened, and worldwide, some 800 million children don’t have access to basic hand washing at school, according to the World Health Organization. School districts in and around Baltimore will be opening virtually for the first term. President Trump continues to state falsehoods about children and COVID-19 – and to urge schools to open for in-person learning. Testing, with results delivered accurately and quickly, remains the key to responding to super spreader events in schools and elsewhere.  And for children and adults who need to be tested, what’s the best kind of test to get? 

Dr. Wen is an emergency physician and the former Health Commissioner of Baltimore City. She’s also a columnist for the Washington Post and a visiting professor and a distinguished fellow at the George Washington University School of Public Health. 

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Today on Midday, a conversation about how school children and teenagers are taught the history of Black people, in America, and before they were enslaved here. 

Tom is joined by three scholars who are helping to change the way we teach African American history and contextualize the experience of Black Americans. 




Photo by Pawel Loj/Flickr Creative Commons

Today, Midday on Music: conversations with musicians across musical genres, to see how they are faring in a world where to gather in a large group is to put your life at risk. Instead, artists and arts organizations are adapting to an online-only world. 

Later in the show, Tom speaks with three pianists with local roots whose work has taken them to venues around the world:  Classical pianist Lura Johnson,  composer, producer and pianist Wendel Patrick and virtuoso jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut.

We begin with a look at Maryland’s largest arts organization, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The BSO’s performances, of course, have been put on hold -- except its online offerings. Brian Prechtl is a percussionist with the BSO, and the head of the Players Committee. Peter Kjome is the orchestra’s president and CEO. They join Tom on Zoom, like all our guests today.

During the show, we mentioned the following happenings by local performers and arts organizations, all of which are reaching audiences from a distance:

Cyrus Chestnut is appearing at Keystone Korner tonight through Sunday -- and helping NEA Jazz Master Todd Barkan celebrate his 74th birthday. The onsite concert is sold out. Virtual tickets are still available.

Sidewalk Serenades from Creative Alliance: Have a short performance delivered to your sidewalk, or send one to a friend.

Craig Alston and Friends Birthday Celebration: Streaming live from An Die Musik tonight at 7 pm!

Ken and Brad Kolodner and Friends: Streaming live this Saturday at 8 pm, part of the Creative Alliance’s Virtual Front Row series of concerts. 

The Social Isolation Song Series by Baltimore-based Dan and Claudia Zanes. For more than 150 days, they have posted a daily song.  Here’s their adaptation of “Which Side are You On?"

AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File

Last January, Senator Kamala Harris announced her campaign for President in front of a large, energized crowd in Oakland, CA. 

Yesterday, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee for President,  announced her as his choice for a running mate, in a text message.  This afternoon, Sen. Harris and Mr. Biden will appear for the first time as a team in Wilmington, DE. What does choosing Kamala Harris mean for the Biden campaign, for the Democratic Party, and for women of color?  Farai Chideya, an award winning journalist, author and scholar, joins Tom via Zoom. 

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The long running dispute between Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and just about the rest of the known universe concerning how to conduct the November elections appears to have been resolved.

Election officials from across the state had urged the Governor to conduct the election the same way we voted back in June: a mostly mail-in election, with a handful of polling places open for a limited number of voters who either didn’t want to vote by mail, or were unable to vote by mail... 

Assoc. of Black Psychologists

Does the conventional wisdom of the white dominated field of psychology make the wrong assumptions about the weight of racism and its impact on the psychological well-being of African Americans?

To answer that question, Tom speaks with Dr. Theopia Jackson, a licensed clinical psychologist and the president of The Association of Black Psychologists.  She serves as co-chair of the Department of Humanistic & Clinical Psychology and Chair of the Clinical Psychology degree program at Saybrook University in Pasadena, California.president of The Association of Black Psychologists

In her conversation via Zoom with Tom, Dr. Jackson explains how African- and Black-centered psychology embraces Afrikan traditions, and draws on the strength of community to meet the individual mental health needs of Black people.

Baltimore Ceasefire 365

More than 400 people in Baltimore City have died of illness related to Coronavirus.  More than 200 others have been victims of homicide.  

Ninety percent of those homicides are committed with guns.  While there have been slightly fewer non-fatal shootings this year than last, nearly 400 people have been shot so far this year.   Today, we’re going to talk with five people who’ve made it their life’s work to help the people at the epicenter of the epidemic of gun violence.

Later this hour we’ll meet two violence interrupters with the city's Safe Streets program, and we’ll touch base with a co-founder of Baltimore Ceasefire 365.  

Courtesy of the Office of the Inspector General

The Coronavirus has slowed down or shuttered businesses large and small, but one city department has been as busy as ever rooting out malfeasance by Baltimore elected officials and employees. 

Baltimoreans, sadly, know public corruption all too well. In the past decade, two of our mayors, Sheila Dixon and Catherine Pugh, have resigned amid corruption scandals. 

Tom's guest is the city’s top crusader against corruption. Isabel Mercedes Cumming is Baltimore’s inspector general. Before taking on that role 18 months ago, she served as Assistant Inspector General of Investigations for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, where she oversaw 200 investigations in six years.

She is the first woman to serve as the city’s top watchdog. Inspector General Cumming joins us from City Hall via Zoom.

Courtesy of Soulful Symphony

Tom's next guest is not only one of the most talented musicians of his generation, but one of the most thoughtful people when it comes to defining and re-defining the role that artists can and should play in shaping the conversation about society in good times and in bad times.   

Darin Atwater is a gifted composer, conductor, pianist and producer who has worked in film, recording, radio and television.  Twenty years ago, he founded the Soulful Symphony, an orchestra with vocals that is made up primarily of African American and Latinx musicians. 

The ensemble is the first symphony in residence at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. 

Darin Atwater also serves as the Artistic Director of the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. 

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

On today's edition of the News Wrap, Tamara Keith, NPR's White House correspondent and host of its Politics Podcast, joins Tom with her perspectives on a busy news week in Washington, with fewer than 100 days remaining before the November 3rd general election...

Warner Bros. Pictures

On today's edition of Midday at the Movies, two of our favorite movie mavens, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday and the Maryland Film Festival's founding director, Jed Dietz, join Tom for another of our monthly conversations about films and filmmaking. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep the nation's movie theaters shuttered, struggling film production studios and streaming services such as HBO, Hulu, Netflix and Amazon are keeping their audiences entertained with a steady stream of multi-part series, documentaries and new feature films. Among Ann's and Jed's  favorite new documentaries are The Fight, A Thousand Cuts, Red Penguins, and John Lewis: Good Troublethe timely new film about the late civil rights championFor multi-generational comedy fans, there's I Used to Go There and the quirky sci-fi rom-com, Palm Springs

We also spotlight the COVID-related financial problems afflicting the Walt Disney Company, and the news last week that  director Christopher Nolan'much anticipated new IMAX sci-fi opus, Tenet, will debut internationally starting on August 26, before opening in select U.S. cities over the Labor Day weekend on September 3rd. Nolan on Thursday tweeted a video message to Chinese audiences announcing that Tenet will open in China on September 4. 

And we take your calls, Tweets and emails...

Crown/Penguin Random House Publishers

In his latest book, Eddie Glaude draws on his imaginative reading of James Baldwin and his own trenchant observations about the current American moment.  The book is called Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own.   

Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. is the Chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, and a contributor to MSNBC.  

For years, an elite unit of the Baltimore Police Department, known as the Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF), operated an expansive criminal enterprise in which people were unlawfully arrested, money was stolen, drugs were sold, and the BPD was cheated.

In their new book, I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America’s Most Corrupt Police Squad, Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg chronicle the story of the GTTF, their victims, and the reverberations of their crimes on Baltimore's criminal justice system.


Photo © by Chris Hartlove

"The world lost one of its greatest musical minds and hearts on Sunday when the legendary pianist, conductor and teacher Leon Fleisher died of cancer at the age of 92.  I was proud to be one of the many people around the world privileged to call Leon a friend.  When I was working as a musician, I had the great honor of working with him at the Baltimore Opera Company and on several other projects.  I also had the pleasure of interviewing him here on WYPR and at other public events over the years.  He was a captivating artist, whose music making was suffused with unparalleled grace, and boundless passion.  And he was a mensch.  A funny, enlightening and wonderful guy whose company it was always a pleasure to keep...

Baltimore City Health Department

Today, on Midday with Tish the Commish, an update from Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa on the troubling rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Baltimore, throughout Maryland, and the country.  

Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the federal response to COVID-19, painted a somewhat dire picture of the state of virus containment.  She told CNN that what we are seeing today is different from March and April.  She said that the virus is extraordinarily widespread, and that it is affecting both rural and metropolitan areas throughout the country.

The number of cases of COVID 19 in Maryland has climbed steadily in the past several weeks.  Since the middle of July, the State Health Department has reported more than 500 new cases every day.  Over the past week, there have been an average of 933 cases per day -- 175 in Baltimore City alone --  an increase of 31 percent from the average two weeks earlier.    Friday was one of four days last week in which Maryland saw more than 1,000 new cases.  At least 9 new coronavirus deaths and 910 new cases were reported in Maryland on Aug. 2.  As of Monday morning, there have been at least 90,835 cases and 3,515 deaths in our state since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.

AP Photo/Steve Ruark


Last year, Baltimore had the unwelcome distinction of having the highest homicide rate of any US city of more than 500 thousand people – at 58 per 100 thousand residents. Most of those homicides were committed with guns.

Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was on Midday last week, and he pointed to a strategy of “focused deterrence” as the centerpiece of the BPD’s efforts to stop the violence.  Some variation of that strategy has been tried several times in recent years. But as the Department has begun to slowly implement reforms mandated by the federal Consent Decree, the murder rate remains high, while trust in police in Baltimore’s communities of color remains low.

That distrust is premised in large measure by what the DOJ called, in a 2017 report, a “pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.”  A new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research offers solutions.  It’s called Reducing Violence and Building Trust: Data to Guide Enforcement of Gun Laws in Baltimore.

Photo by Ronnie Larry Tucker for Catholic Relief Services

Today, a conversation about how the coronavirus pandemic is creating not only hotspots for the virus, but new epicenters of hunger in countries all around the world.  Millions of people, already suffering because of armed conflict, climate change, poverty and broken food supply systems, are now at greater risk for starvation.

The United Nations reports that there are nearly 60 million more people who are under-nourished now than there were in 2014.  Arif Husain is the chief economist at the UN World Food Program.  He estimates that by the end of this year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people experiencing acute hunger in the world could increase by as much as 80 percent, to more than a quarter of a billion people.  The relief group Oxfam says that could mean as many as 12,000 people around the world dying every day from hunger -- a death rate higher than that from COVID-19 alone. 


We are joined now by the acclaimed filmmaker and cinematographer, Louie Schwartzberg.  He is the creator of what critics have described as a “mind-blowing,” and “consciousness-shifting” film called Fantastic Fungi. Produced by Schwartzberg's innovative Moving Art production company, the documentary explores the surprisingly key role that fungi -- a.k.a. mushrooms -- have played in the earth’s evolution, and the hope they present for securing the earth’s future. The film features renowned scientists and mycologists such as Paul Stamets, and bestselling authors and healing advocates such as Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone and Andrew Weil, whose narratives guide us through the extraordinary complexity, beauty and importance of the fungi kingdom, and the solutions it might offer for humanity's most urgent medical, nutritional and environmental challenges.

Baltimore Police Dept.

Tom's guest for today's Newsmaker interview is Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison. 

A recent Baltimore Police Department report describes the status of the department’s five year plan to reduce violence and implement a court-ordered Consent Decree.  Crimes other than homicide are down, and the department claims improvements in managing resources, data, and technology.

But as is the case in many cities across the country, in many of the same Baltimore neighborhoods that have been afflicted by violence for generations, homicides are still part of daily life. 

Amid months of protests calling for defunding the police, the Baltimore City Council has cut $22 million from the department’s budget and suggested it’s time to "re-imagine" public safety. 

Police Commissioner Michael Harrison joins Tom via Skype for the hour to share his perspectives on the challenges of policing in the city of Baltimore.

We welcome your comments and questions for the Commissioner: Call 410.662.8780. email: midday@wypr.org.  Twitter: @MiddayWYPR.