Midday | WYPR


Photo Courtesy Flickr/ Master Sgt. Matt Hecht

Is social distancing possible for demonstrators who are demanding social justice?  Infections disease specialist Dr. Wilbur Chen joins Tom to discuss how the mass protests over the across the country could increase the spread of COVID-19.  

Dr. Wilbur Chen, is an infectious disease specialist at the University of MD Medical System, and a member of Governor Larry Hogan’s Coronavirus Task Force.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

A third night of protests in Minneapolis in the wake of the killing of 46 year-old George Floyd on Monday by a Minneapolis police officer erupted in violence and looting.  On Wednesday, the Mayor of Minneapolis called for the involved officers to be arrested. 

Earlier today, former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second degree manslaughter in Mr. Floyd's death.  

For more details on the developing story, Tom is joined by Washington Post reporter Robert Klemko in Minneapolis, and former LA Times journalist Ron Harris.  

Dr. Popular/Creative Commons

Tuesday is the deadline to mail-in your ballot in the statewide primary election for President and Congressional offices, and here in Baltimore, all three citywide offices, and members of the city council. 

In the handful of other states that had mail-in elections in place before the pandemic, switching from the ballot box to the mailbox involved years of planning.  But in late April, Maryland election officials quickly organized mail-in balloting in the special election for the Congressional seat in the 7th District, and now, just weeks later, they are conducting the primary by mail, statewide. Nikki Charlson joins us on the line from Annapolis with an update. She is Deputy Administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Public Theater

Now, an update on how the American theater world is creatively adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to keep its theaters and community stages dark.  Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck has been watching a steady stream of innovative online "virtual" productions by local and national companies, and she joins Tom via Skype to share a few recommendations...

Howard Co. Library/Creative Commons

Since the start of the pandemic several months ago, many of us have been working from home, ordering our groceries online, and Zooming with friends.  Kids are learning remotely.  It’s the new normal, right? 

If the pandemic has changed the way you do just about everything, consider yourself lucky. What about our neighbors who don’t have a computer or a reliable way to access the internet? They are more cut off than ever, and their children fall behind when teachers are livestreaming lessons and asking kids to upload homework.

Why is it that 40% of Baltimore residents lack broadband access to the internet?  In a city where red-lining in housing has a long history, has red-lining moved from the street to the internet? 

We begin with Dr. John Horrigan.  He’s the author of a new report for the Abell Foundation that describes the impact of Baltimore’s Digital Divide on low-income city residents. Dr. Horrigan is a senior fellow at the Technology Policy Institute. 

Then, Chrissie Powell and Andrew Coy join the conversation.  Powell is the Baltimore site director of Byte Back, Inc., a tech-inclusion nonprofit that offers free technical skills classes for adult learners.  Coy is the executive director of the Digital Harbor Foundation, which teaches coding and other computer and tech skills to K-12 students.  They are both leaders of the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition, which includes about 50 groups that are working together to reduce our city’s Digital Divide. 

Hopkins Center for Health Security

Even as the death count from the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States continues to climb, many local and state leaders across the nation, including here in Maryland, have pointed to gradual reductions in coronavirus hospitalizations to justify their decisions to begin lifting two-month-old quarantine restrictions. Over the Memorial Day weekend, some areas of the country saw a surge in mass public gatherings at reopened shops, on beaches and in public parks, where six feet of separation and masks seemed to be the exception, not the rule. 

But public health experts warn that the coronavirus threat is far from over, and that in order to prevent a surge of new infections, a rigorous program of testing and contact tracing will be essential.  What is contact tracing?  And how do you launch a national and international contact tracing program? ...


(Update: After Wednesday's weather delay, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule were launched into orbit at 3:22pm on Saturday, May 30.  Dragon's rendezvous and docking with the ISS was completed Sunday. Check the SpaceX or NASA websites for details)

At 4:33 this afternoon, if the weather and all systems are go, a SpaceX-built Falcon 9 rocket, carrying two NASA astronauts in a crew capsule called “Dragon," will lift off from Launchpad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and soar toward a rendezvous with the International Space Station.  The mission, dubbed "Demo 2," will be the first time a privately-built rocket will carry humans into space from US soil, and the first US-built manned spacecraft in a decade.  NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, both veterans of multiple missions aboard the now-retired Shuttle Orbiters, will dock the CrewDragon with the International Space Station and remain aboard the ISS for at least several weeks.

What will this launch mean for NASA’s bid to send humans back to the Moon by 2024 and to Mars in the coming years, and for the future of commercial space exploration?

W.W.Norton and Co., Publisher

Tom's guest today is the acclaimed journalist and author, David Ignatius.  For forty years, Ignatius has been a highly respected reporter on foreign affairs.  He joined the staff of the Washington Post in 1986 and he began writing his twice-weekly column in 1998.

Ignatius has also written 11 spy novels, the latest of which benefits mightily from his years of covering the CIA.  It’s a contemporary novel that transpires between 2016-2018 in locales all over the world.  Its protagonist, Michael Dunne, has a score to settle, and as we follow Dunne around the globe, we are brought into a world where technology is used to spread disinformation in ways one might never have imagined were possible.

That reality is as scary as this novel is exciting.  Cyber criminals continue to perfect a variety of ways to trick people into believing that which isn’t true, fundamentally destabilizing society and causing upheaval in global markets and deep division in democratic politics...

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Happy Memorial Day, and welcome to Midday.

The poet Langston Hughes asked “What happens to a dream deferred?” “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load,” he observed. “Or does it explode?” Five years ago, Baltimore did explode in a paroxysm of violence that has come to be known as “The Uprising.”

Today on this encore edition of Midday, we reflect on The Uprising with six people whose roots are in West Baltimore, who work with those who were most significantly affected in 2015 and who have been part of the positive change that the community has experienced, even as it continues to confront long standing challenges. This show originally aired on April 27, 2020.

A poll that was commissioned by WYPR, The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore indicates that all three city wide races in Baltimore are close, with perhaps as many as one in five voters yet to make up their minds.  WYPR's City Hall reporter Emily Sullivan joins Tom for a look behind the numbers. 


Photo Courtesy HarperCollins

 Bakari Sellers made history in 2006, when at the age of 22, he was elected to the South Carolina legislature, becoming the youngest elected African American official in the country.

Growing up in the rural south, Sellers father, Cleveland Sellers, was a civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King and other civil rights icons. 

In his new memoir, My Vanishing Country, Bakari Sellers writes that he sees his life as an extension of his father’s journey, writing compellingly about the particular challenges of small town Black communities that are far from the glare of urban centers. 



Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic two months ago, more than 43,500 Marylanders have been sickened by the coronovirus.  It has killed more than 2000 Marylanders, 270 of them residents of Baltimore County.  And while the rate of hospitalizations in the state has finally begun to decline, as of today there are still 1,375 people receiving intensive care for COVID-19, many of them at medical facilities here in Baltimore. 

Now, a story from the front lines of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, from Marian Grant.  She is a palliative care nurse practitioner at the University of Maryland Medical Center, and a policy consultant on health care issues with a DNP doctorate in nursing. And for the last several weeks, she has been working with COVID 19 patients, their families, and the medical teams in the UMMC's Intensive Care Unit.

She joins Tom via Skype phone from her home in Reisterstown, Maryland

Read Marian Grant's opinion piece in today's Baltimore Sun Op Ed section, here.


Today, the final installment in our pre-primary series of Conversations with the Candidates.  Tom's guest is Thiru Vignarajah, a veteran city and federal prosecutor and one of a crowded field of Democratic contenders in the June 2nd primary election for Baltimore mayor.

A WYPR/Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll released yesterday places Mr. Vignarajah just outside the group of three leading candidates in the race, but the poll also indicated that crime reduction is the top priority for a majority of likely voters.  Will Baltimore choose a prosecutor to lead the City in the fight against violence and a global pandemic?

Mfume for Congress

Today, our series of Conversations with the Candidates continues with the newest member of the Maryland congressional delegation, 7th District Congressman Kweisi Mfume. Rep. Mfume, who previously served five terms representing the 7th District from 1987-1996, before stepping down to head the NAACP until 2004, recently won back his old House seat in the April 28 special election held to fill the remaining term of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings.

Now, Rep. Mfume hopes to keep the seat for the next full term, and is campaigning for the Democratic primary election June 2 against a strong field.  He joins Tom on the line from his home in Baltimore to discuss the campaign, and some of the urgent issues now before the House. 


Today, a look at the road ahead for the millions of Americans who’ve lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.  

Over the past three months, as COVID-19 has taken the lives of more than 90,000 Americans and sickened over a million and a half others, it has also ravaged the US economy. Nationwide business shutdowns have produced levels of unemployment and business failure that haven’t been seen in the US since the Great Depression of the 1930s -- a crisis that prompted Congress to pass a series of multi-trillion-dollar financial relief measures.  Now, as the nation’s economy gradually begins to re-open, what are the job prospects for the legions of unemployed, both here in Baltimore and across America? 

Tom's guests today run two of the region’s most innovative workforce development and technology training companies.

Photo Courtesy / House Speaker Adrienne Jones

On May 6, MD Education Secretary Dr. Karen Salmon closed schools for the rest of the academic year, which means students and teachers across the state will have to rely on distance learning until schools are dismissed for the summer break. 

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones has urged Secretary Salmon and other education leaders to develop benchmarks for re-opening MD schools, and to address the problems that disparities in access to computers and Wi-Fi have created for many MD students and families.


Former Baltimore Police Department spokesman T.J. Smith is one of six Democrats who are considered leaders in the race for Baltimore mayor.

This is Mr. Smith’s first run for political office.  He is a former Anne Arundel County police lieutenant who joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2015, with the arrival of Commissioner Kevin Davis. Smith served as the BPD chief of communications until 2018. He then served as press secretary and communications adviser to Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr.

Note about a mayoral debate tonight: Baltimore mayoral candidates will share their perspectives on fair development, housing, transportation and zero waste in a free online forum tonight, Tues., May 19, from 6-8 pm, moderated by Baltimore Sun reporter Jean Marbella.

Confirmed participants include T.J. Smith, Sheila Dixon, Mary Miller, Brandon Scott and Thiru Vignarajah.  Watch this free event at:  Bit.ly/fairdevelopmentforum or by phone at 415-655-0001. The event access code is 472 484 895 and the password is 2020.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is a public policy consultant who holds a doctorate in political science.  She’s the former head of the Maryland Democratic Party and she worked for several years on Capitol Hill.  For a brief period, she was a candidate in the 2018 Maryland gubernatorial race.  She left that race when her husband encountered some serious health problems.  

Dr. Cummings placed 2nd behind Mr. Mfume in February, losing that primary by more than 25 points.  The field of candidates in that race numbered two dozen.  In this primary, that field has been whittled only slightly, to 19 candidates, all of whom also ran the last time.   

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is 49 years old.  She lives in Baltimore’s Madison Park neighborhood, on the west side.

The primary in two weeks will decide who the Democratic nominee is in the November election, for the term that begins in January, 2021. 

Courtesy of jillcarterforcongress.com

Maryland Senator Jill P. Carter is Tom’s guest. She is running for the 7th District Congressional seat that until last fall was held by the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. It’s now held by Kweisi Mfume, who won the Special Election last month to finish Mr. Cummings’ term.

Sen. Carter is one of the 19 Democrats running in the upcoming primary for a full term as a member of Congress from MD-7. After 14 years in Maryland’s House of Delegates, Sen. Carter has represented the 41st District in the Senate for the last two years. Sen. Carter is the daughter of the late Baltimore civil rights activist, Walter P. Carter. A lawyer, she’s 55 and lives in Hunting Ridge, in Southwest Baltimore. 

A reminder that Maryland’s primary election is being conducted mostly by mail. Ballots were mailed later than originally promised, but we are told to expect them in our mailboxes this week. If you are a registered voter and do not receive your ballot this week, please contact the Board of Elections to make sure they have your correct address. And if you’re not registered, there’s still time. The deadline for registering to vote is May 27.

Last Thursday Gov. Hogan vetoed more than 36 bills including funding for Maryland’s HBCUs and the Kirwan Commission’s education reforms.

State Senate President Bill Ferguson joins Tom to discuss how the legislature will move forward in light of the Governor’s vetoes of virtually all of the legislation passed in the abbreviated 2020 session that requires any additional state funding.

Viking Books

Now, a break from our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic: Tom welcome a best-selling author who has written a fascinating novel that takes place before COVID-19.  Way before.  

The plot unfolds in 1st-century Palestine and Egypt, in locales that are familiar to anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of Christianity and Judaism.  It is peopled with figures whose imprint on biblical history is indisputable, and it includes a gutsy and intriguing turn of imagination. 

In her new novel, The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd imagines a marriage between Jesus of Nazareth and a gifted young woman named Ana.  As Ana navigates the patriarchal and misogynist culture of the Biblical era, Ms. Kidd crafts a portrait of Jesus as a person, a delightful one at that, looking past his standing as a holy icon...

Courtesy of Miller for Mayor

Today, we continue our series of Conversations with the Candidates.  Tom's guest is Mary Miller, one six Democrats considered leaders in the race for mayor. 

This is Ms. Miller’s first run for political office. After a long career at T Rowe Price, she was appointed by President Obama to top jobs at the Treasury Department. She was the first woman to serve as Under Secretary for Domestic Finance.   For the last few years, she has been a Senior Fellow at the Johns Hopkins University 21st Century Cities Initiative. 

A reminder that the primary is being conducted primarily by mail. If you are a registered voter, you should be receiving your ballot soon. Remember that the ballot has to be signed and postmarked by June 2. If you are not yet registered to vote, there’s still time. The deadline to register is May 27. For more information about how to register to vote, click here.

The Holy Month of Ramadan is a time when Muslims around the world mark the Prophet Mohammad’s receiving of the first chapters of the Quran from Allah.  It is a time of reflection, prayer, and celebration. This year,  however, the coronavirus pandemic has made observance of Ramadan exceptionally difficult.

Joining Tom to discuss those challenges is Dr. Faheem Younus. He is an infectious diseases expert at the University of Maryland and a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Dr. Younus speaks to us by phone from his office.

Johns Hopkins Medicine

More than half of Maryland’s COVID-19 fatalities have been nursing home residents - a population that's especially vulnerable to this virus. At least six nursing facilities in the state have each reported 100 or more cases of COVID-19. Clearly, we need to protect them and the nurses, doctors, aides, therapists and others coming to work each day in America’s nursing homes.

To that end, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan last month announced the establishment of statewide “strike teams” to support nursing home facilities now struggling to keep the coronavirus at bay.  The teams are made up of members of the National Guard, representatives of local and state health departments and emergency medical clinicians, as well as doctors and nurses from local hospital systems.  Dr. Matthew McNabney is a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the medical director of Hopkins ElderPlus, a voluntary preventive and long-term healthcare program for independent seniors. As a member of Hopkins' Go Teams, he has taken part in several of the state's strike team missions to assist local nursing facilities. 

Dr. McNabney joins Tom on the line from his office at the Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.

Courtesy of the Arbery Family

On February 23, a young Black man named Ahmaud Arbery was jogging near his home outside of Brunswick, GA, when he was shot and killed by two white men. No arrests were made in the case until a video of the encounter came to light two months later.  Arbery, 25, was unarmed.  Was the killing of Ahmaud Arbery a modern day lynching?  

Tom's guest is Dr. Terry Anne Scott, Associate Professor of History and Director of African American Studies at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland. 


Brandon Scott for Mayor

  Brandon Scott was elected President of the City Council by his fellow members about a year ago, when then Council President Jack Young became Mayor after Catherine Pugh’s fall from grace. 

Mr. Scott was first elected to the Council in 2011 to represent the 2nd District.  Prior to that, he worked in the office of then Council President Stephanie Rawlings Blake as her representative in Northeast Baltimore. 

In 2018, Jim Shea picked Mr. Scott as his running mate in their unsuccessful bid in the Democratic Gubernatorial primary. 

Brandon Scott is 36 years old, which is, BTW, about the same age that Martin O’Malley was when he was elected Mayor, Johnny Olszewski, Jr., the Baltimore County Executive, and Pete Buttigieg, the former Mayor of South Bend Indiana, who ran for President.  

This year's primary election will be conducted almost entirely by mail. Voters should receive a ballot soon. The ballot is marked April 28th, but you’ll find instructions that remind you that the April primary has been moved to June. You must mail your ballot back to the Board of Elections, postmarked no later than June 2.

Heartly House, Inc.

Since Governor Larry Hogan issued a stay at home order for Marylanders on March 30, public health officials and protective services workers have noted a precipitous decline in police reports of domestic and child abuse.  And the state-run Child Protective Services agency in Maryland reports 70% fewer calls during the first week of April, compared to the same period last year.

But experts are concerned that vulnerable adults and children are actually more at risk during the Coronavirus pandemic than they were before it started. For vulnerable individuals living with an abuser, home isn’t a safe place. 

Today on Midday, a conversation about how COVID-19 has exacerbated the crisis of domestic violence, and what resources are available to victims. Tom's guests are two of Maryland's leading advocates for victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

photo by Rob Sivak/WYPR

Baltimore Ceasefire 365 is a community-based movement that soon will be marking the third anniversary of its campaign to reduce violence in Baltimore.  Throughout the year, and annually on four designated weekends -- including this past Mother’s Day weekend -- the group holds activities across the city designed, it says, to “promote peacefulness and celebrate life,” as it asks people in Baltimore, in essence, to stop killing for 72 hours. 

Tom is joined now by Erricka Bridgeford, one of the co-founders and leaders of Baltimore Ceasefire 365. She describes how the movement has carried on through the difficult days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you're interested in learning more about the Baltimore Ceasefire movement, visit its Website.

Courtesy of Sheila Dixon

Tom's guest is former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon, who is in a crowded field of Democrats running for the office she held from 2007 to 2010.

Ms. Dixon represented the 4th District on the City Council for 12 years in the late '80s and '90s. She served as president of the City Council from 1999 until January 2007, when she became mayor after Martin O’Malley became governor.  Ms. Dixon was elected to her own term later that year.  In 2010, she resigned following a conviction for embezzlement and an Alford plea in a separate case in which she was charged with perjury.  She ran for mayor again in 2016.  She narrowly lost the Democratic primary to Catherine Pugh, and she garnered more than 51,000 votes in the general election as a write-in candidate.

This year's primary election will be conducted almost entirely by mail. Voters should receive a ballot soon. The ballot is marked April 28th, but you’ll find instructions that remind you that the April primary has been moved to June. You must mail your ballot back to the Board of Elections, postmarked no later than June 2.

Office of the Mayor

It's another edition of our series of Conversations with the Candidates, and Tom's guest today is the Mayor of Baltimore, Bernard C. "Jack" Young, a veteran city lawmaker and former City Council President who stepped into the mayor’s job about a year ago when Catherine Pugh resigned.

Mayor Young has spent years in city government, and the year he has spent as Baltimore's mayor has been eventful, to say the least.  It began with a crippling ransomware attack on the city’s computer system and now, of course, the city is dealing with an unprecedented global pandemic.  More than 2,800 city residents have been infected with the coronavirus.  Nearly 150 Baltimoreans have died from COVID-19.  And, the longstanding problem of violence on city streets remains.  More than 92 people have been victims of homicide so far this year.