Midday | WYPR


photo from ICE.gov

Today on the Midday News Wrap, WYPR Morning Edition news anchor Nathan Sterner sits in for Tom Hall as we examine some of the week's top news developments.   First, a look at the continuing migrant crisis along the U.S. southern border, and the impending nationwide ICE raids on migrants with deportation orders.  Nathan talks with Seattle-based immigration attorney Minda Thorward -- whose private firm provides legal services to migrant families in the Northwest -- about the roots of the current immigration disaster. 

Then, Nathan is joined by AP White House correspondent Darlene Superville, who describes the Trump Administration’s controversial citizen-count efforts, its aggressive immigration strategies, and how it’s dealing with resigning Labor Secretary Alex Acosta's legal ties with the wealthy financier and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

And later, Nathan talks with Michael Fletcher, a writer with ESPN’s Undefeated, about the US Women’s Soccer Team’s high-profile quest for pay equity, on the heels of their remarkable 4th World Cup victory.

Toy Story 4 image courtesy Pixar Studios

It's the July edition of Midday at the Movies,  our monthly look at notable new films and trends in filmmaking. Today, we’re talking about the new crop of summer movies, and some of the exciting new animation technologies in films like Toy Story 4 and the Disney remake of Lion King (set for release on July 19).

Two of our favorite movie mavens -- Maryland Film Festival founding director Jed Dietz (on the line from Marfa, Texas) and Ann Hornaday, the film critic for the Washington Post and author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies -- join Midday senior producer and guest host Rob Sivak to discuss some of their favorite summer flicks, and we’ll ask YOU to tell us which films are brightening up your summer…

Photo by Stan Barouh

It's Thursday, and time for our weekly visit with theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Midday senior producer and guest host Rob Sivak today with her review of Roald Dahl's Matilda: the Musical, now on stage in an extended run at Olney Theatre Center, in Olney, Maryland.

An adaptation of one of the late British author's most popular children's stories, Matilda: The Musical  was written by Dennis Kelly, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin.  The production at Olney Theatre Center is directed by Peter Flynn,  with choreography by Byron Easley and music direction by Christopher Youstra.  The cast of more than 30 adult and child actors features Emiko Dunn in the title role, Felicia Curry as Miss Honey, and Tom Story as Miss Trunchbull.

Roald Dahl's Matilda: The Musical continues at the Olney Theatre Center through Sunday, July 28.

Still from the film "Rocket to Venus."

When you think of TV, film -- and Baltimore -- what comes to mind? Maybe Diner, Hairspray, Homicide, The Wire? What about House of Cards, which was set in Washington DC --  but we all knew it was filmed here.  According to the Baltimore Film Office, more than 90 TV shows and movies have been filmed in Baltimore.


Today on Midday, we're asking: What's next?  Guest host and Midday Producer Kathleen Cahill is joined by three filmmakers who have been recognized and funded by the Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund at Johns Hopkins University -- a local film incubator that hooks filmmakers up with funding but also with training and with mentors -- from Hollywood, from Sundance.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File

It's another edition of Midday Culture Connections with Dr. Sheri Parks, and guest host Rob Sivak.

Today we’re asking the question: what is courage?  From sacred texts to screenplays to the daily news, our culture is filled with references to courage as an element of character that makes a person worthy of respect.  We see courage in the physical bravery of soldiers and first responders. But courage is also the moral strength to do what’s right, when doing so can be hard, or dangerous.

Today, we’ll look for examples of courage in the Central American migrants now suffering at the southern US border…in political leaders who’ve put principle above party…and in victims who’ve found the strength to forgive great wrongs.

And we’ll ask: what does courage mean to you?

NASA via Associated Press

From 1969 to 1972, NASA landed 6 human missions on the moon – and then just as fast as things had gotten started… they stopped.  We haven’t been back there since.  But it looks like that’s about to change. We’re going to look at who’s likely to get us there again, and beyond. Guest host Aaron Henkin speaks with Oliver Morton.  He’s a senior editor at The Economist, and author of ‘The Moon: A History for the Future.’  Mr. Morton joins us from the studios of the BBC in London.

Christian Davenport is a reporter covering the defense and space industries for the Washington Post and the author of a 2018 book titled: The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos. He joins us from a studio at The Post.

Photo Courtesy John Urschel

(Originally aired on May 21, 2019)

Today, in this archive edition of Midday, Tom's guest is John Urschel, whose resumé includes great skill and high achievement in two areas that are not often, in fact, hardly ever, associated: football and mathematics.  He is a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens who retired from the NFL at the age of 26 to pursue a career in math. 

The book is called Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football.  He co-wrote it with his wife, Louisa Thomas.  They spoke about the book at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore back on May 21st, 2019.  

This conversation was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page.  You can watch the video here. 

Cover art courtesy James Cabezas

  (Originally aired on May 21, 2019)

In this archive edition of Midday, Tom speaks with  James Cabezas, the former chief investigator for the Office of the State Prosecutor here in Maryland and, before that, a Baltimore City cop. His new memoir is called Eyes of Justice: A Career Crime Fighter Battles Corruption… and Blindness.

It's a compelling, true-life account of a street cop who overcame his progressive blindness to become Maryland’s top political corruption investigator, and who was a player in the downfall of two Baltimore City mayors, Sheila Dixon and Catherine Pugh.  

Joining Tom and James in the studio is Joan Jacobson, the co-author of the book. She was a reporter for The Baltimore Sun and The Evening Sun for 28 years. 

They held a public discussion of the book  on May 21st at the Maryland State Library for the Blind in Baltimore, on Park Avenue, directly behind the Enoch Pratt Central Library. 

James Cabezas and Joan Jacobson will be speaking again about Eyes of Justice on Monday, July 15th, from 6-7pm in the Meeting Room at the Hamilton Branch Library, located at 5910 Harford Road, Baltimore 21214. For more information about the event, click here.

cover art courtesy W. W. Norton and Co.

  (Originally aired on May 15, 2019)

In this archive edition of Midday, Tom's guest for the hour is William Davies, a political economist and author who argues in his new book, Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reasonthat a decline of trust in scientific expertise has led individuals and governments to rely less on facts and increasingly on feelings -- especially feelings of  fear and anxiety.  The result, the author says,  is that we've entered an age of “nervous states,” both in our individual bodies and our body politic. 

Davies is a Reader in Political Economy at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he also co-directs the Political Economy Research Centre, which explores significant cultural and political perspectives on economic life.  He is the author of many books, and is a contributor to numerous publications, including The Atlantic and The New York Times.  

Laura Schneider / Creative Commons

It’s another edition of What Ya Got Cookin'? -- our occasional series featuring some of Baltimore’s best chefs and foodies, who take time away from their steamy kitchens to share with Midday listeners all manner of cooking tips. With July 4th looming, we’re zeroing in on that most American category of summer holiday cooking: the backyard barbeque.  What should you grill?  And how, exactly should you grill it?  Whether you’re a seasoned backyard cook or a newbie to the summer outdoor cooking scene, we’ve got your back. 

Our guests are John Shields a chef, an author and the proprietor, along with John Gilligan, of Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art; and Damian Mosley, chef and proprietor of Blacksauce Kitchen, a catering and mobile food business specializing in biscuits and barbeque.  We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  To watch the video, click here. 

Photography by Joan Marcus

As we prepare to celebrate America's July 4th Independence Day holiday tomorrow, it's fitting that theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us today with her review of a little musical that's rolled into Baltimore that tells the story of one of the nation's most celebrated Founding Fathers.

The touring production of Hamilton -- the multiple Tony Award-winning musical that was created and launched on Broadway in 2015 by Lin-Manuel Miranda -- opened June 25th at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.  Miranda's hit show, a sung-and-rapped-through musical bio that earned the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, was inspired by Ron Chernow's best-selling 2004 biography, Alexander Hamilton

On April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, seven Catholic peace activists cut fences and entered the King’s Bay Naval Base in Southeast Georgia, to protest the United States nuclear weapons arsenal.  King’s Bay is presumed to be home to several Trident Nuclear Submarines.  They called their protest a “Plowshares Action,” inspired by the book of Isaiah, from the famous passage, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.”   

The King’s Bay 7, as they have come to be known, were arrested, and held at the Glynn County Detention Center in Brunswick GA.

Four of the defendants accepted terms of release that allowed them to return to their homes while they awaited trial.  Three of the activists, Elizabeth McAlister, who lived for decades here in Baltimore; a Jesuit priest from New York, Fr. Steve Kelly; and an activist from New Haven, CT, Mark Colville, chose to remain in jail.

Fifteen months later, they are still there.  Pre-trial hearings were held last November.  Another hearing is scheduled before US Judge Lisa Godbey- Wood on August 7th.  If the Judge decides to deny the defense motion to dismiss, the case will go to trial.

Photo Courtesy Hachette Books/ Macmillan Publishers

Today, two conversations about the state of American conservatism. First, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author George Will discusses his latest book, The Conservative Sensibility. In it he argues for a return to the constitutional perspective of James Madison: limited government which simply exists to secure certain unalienable rights.

Then, Tom speaks with Thomas Frank, the author of the best-seller, What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of AmericaFrank wonders how it is that progressives have done such a poor job combatting Donald Trump’s brutish brand of populism, which he calls just the “latest chapter in an ugly story.” 

Photo courtesy Profiles PR

Tom's guest for the hour is LaFontaine Oliver, who today becomes WYPR's new President and General Manager.  Mr. Oliver succeeds Tony Brandon, who shepherded the station since the Your Public Radio Corporation purchased the broadcast license from Johns Hopkins University in 2002.  

Mr. Oliver, a veteran broadcaster who also serves as a director on the Board of National Public Radio, comes to his new post after six years as the general manager of NPR affiliate WMFE in Orlando, Florida.  Previously, he was general manager at Morgan State University public radio WEAA-FM here in Baltimore, from 2007 to 2013.

WYPR is one of 265 NPR member stations, nationwide, all of which are independent and locally owned.  About 90 of those stations, including WYPR, are not affiliated with a college or university, but are run by community-based boards of directors.

Photo Courtesy / Apprenctice House Press

Tom's guest is Maria Hiaasen. Her husband, Rob Hiaasenwas one of five staffers killed in a mass shooting at the Capital Gazette one year ago today. 

Rob was a beloved reporter, columnist and editor who was recently recognized with an award for mentoring scores of young journalists. Maria has overseen the posthumous publication of Rob's novel, Float Plan, as well as a collection of his columns called Love Punch.  

Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Rob Hiaasen were among 54 journalists around the world who lost their lives in 2018 while reporting.  

Photo by Damien Carter @dcarterphotography

Part One of today's edition of Midday on the Arts begins with a unique 2012 performance of the popular spiritual "Wade in the Water," featuring vocalist Mashica Winslow.

It's not the kind of arrangement, or the kind of symphony orchestra, that you’re likely to hear in most churches or concert halls.  Winslow was performing with the Soulful Symphony, an eclectic, 75-member orchestra founded nearly 20 years ago here in Baltimore by Tom's first guest today, Darin Atwater. 

Soulful Symphony is one of the few classical ensembles in the country whose artistic personnel is largely African-American and Hispanic.  On Saturday night, they are performing their first concert in their new home:  the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia.   For more information on Soulful Symphony's June 29 concert and their 2019 summer performance schedule, click here.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page; the video (which runs from 0:00 to 17:30 on the feed) can be viewed here.

photos provided by our guests

In the second segment of today's edition of Midday on the Arts, Tom welcomes to Studio A the legendary blues musician and storyteller, Guy Davis.  Davis is also an author, a playwright, a teacher, and an actor in films, television and on Broadway, and he's the son of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, the late, great actors and civil rights activists.  Guy has returned to this year's Common Ground on the Hill three-week workshop and concert series, which got underway this week in Westminster, Maryland.

Tom is also joined by Common Ground on the Hill's founder and executive director, Walt Michael, who is also a renowned blue grass musician and a master of the hammered dulcimer.   

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page; the video (which runs from 17:30 to 40:00 on the feed) can be viewed here.

Spotlighters Theatre/Shealyn Jae Photography

In the closing segment of today's edition of Midday on the Arts, theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio for another of her weekly reviews of Maryland's regional stage.  Today, she talks about the new production of  Steel Magnolias at Baltimore's Spotlighters Theatre.

Robert Harling's play, which premiered in 1987 at the WPA Theater, New York City's Off-Off Broadway mainstay, is a comedy-drama that explores the bond among a group of Southern women in northwest Louisiana.  Set entirely in a hair salon, the play is based on Harling's experiences surrounding his sister's death.

Directed at Spotlighters by Fuzz Roark (with Assistant Director Paul Saar), Steel Magnolias' all-female cast includes Suzanne Young as Truvy Jones, Valerie Lash as Louisa (Ouiser) Boudreaux, Karen Starliper as Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie, and Melanie Bishop as Mary Lynn Eatenton.

Steel Magnolias continues at Spotlighters Theatre until Sunday, July 14. For more info, click here.

Photo by Rene Clement

Tom's guest today is writer and advocate Irshad Manji.

In her new book, Don't Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times,  Manji examines the rhetoric we use when discussing “the other,” and how changing that rhetoric can lead to more understanding.  She writes that “Diversity itself does not divide; it's what we do with diversity that splits societies apart.” 

Quoting sources from Bruce Lee to Ta-Nehisi Coates, and drawing on her own experiences as a gay Muslim woman, she calls for a new formulation for cultural and political discourse.  

Irshad Manji the founder of the Moral Courage Project at the University of Southern California.  

Moral Courage TV: Should the Confederate flag still fly in Mississippi? 

photo courtesy Baltimore City Schools.org

On a Midday show back on August 15, 2018, we spoke with three teachers from the Baltimore City Public Schools about their career choices, their experiences in the classroom, and their plans, hopes and aspirations for the coming school year.  

Enrollment in city schools continues to trend down, but graduation rates are up, and hopes are high as the  recommendations of the Kirwan Commission on state education reform begin to get implemented. 

On this edition of Midday on Education, the same teachers are back to talk about how things went this year in their classrooms, and to share their take on what’s ahead for the system, and their students.

Tracy Hall

Today, it's another edition of Midday in the Neighborhood, an occasional series in which we've set out to spotlight the remarkable tapestry of communities that make up  the city of Baltimore.

Tom is joined in Studio A by representatives of three Baltimore neighborhoods: 

Greenmount West, located just north and east of Penn Station; 

Ridgely’s Delight, which is that historic little wedge downtown between Camden Yards, the University of Maryland Medical Center and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.; and

Canton, the large waterfront community just east of Fells Point.

Lauren Kelly-Washington is president of the Greenmount West Community AssociationBen Marks is the president of the Ridgely's Delight Association. Michael Woollen is a member of the Canton Community Association and the founder of Canton Canopy, a neighborhood tree planting program.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  If you missed it, click here to watch.

THSquared Photography

It's time again for Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who  joins us each week with her reviews of Maryland's regional stage. Today her spotlight is on Disaster!,  the 2012 musical comedy created by Seth Rudetsky and Drew Geraci, and co-written by Rudetsky and Jack Plotnick

The musical made it to Broadway for a brief run in 2016, and it's now getting a new staging at Cockpit in Court Summer Theater, on the campus of the Community College of Baltimore County, in Essex.

Photo by Heidi Sheppard/WYPR

Today, a special Juneteenth edition of Midday: Live from The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culturein downtown BaltimoreOur topic today: Reparations: Can America Atone for the Sin of Slavery?  

As this program aired, a House Judiciary subcommittee was holding a hearing about HR 40, a bill that would create "a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans."   

What would reparations look like?  With 68% of Americans, including more than a third of African Americans, opposing compensation for descendants of slaves, what is the political viability of reparations legislation like HR40?  Can America ever adequately atone for the sin of slavery?

Midday's expert panel today explores the moral, economic and cultural dimensions of reparations. 

Photo courtesy BCPS

As another school year comes to a close, it's a good time to check in again with Baltimore City Public Schools CEO, Dr. Sonja Santelises.

Dr. Santelises has made it a priority to increase the academic performance of city students. There is good news on that front: the high-school graduation rate is up for city kids, and the drop-out rate is down.

But the achievement gap between white students and students of color persists, and the system still faces challenges associated with dropping enrollment and aging infrastructure. 

On today's edition of Midday on EducationDr. Santelises joins Tom in the studio to discuss the progress made and the work still ahead to improve the city's public school system. She also addresses listener questions and comments.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.


On today's Midday on Transit, a check on how well the region is dealing with its transportation challenges, in Baltimore City and beyond. From Governor Hogan's controversial "Traffic Relief Plan" in the Washington suburbs, to a shake-up and critical oversight at the Baltimore Department of Transportation, our focus today is on what's working, and what isn't -- and how we can fix it.

To start things off, transportation reporter Katherine Shaver with the Washington Post, and Brian O’Malley, president and CEO of the Central MD Transportation Alliance, join Tom on the line to discuss the governor's plan to construct express toll lanes on I-495 and I-270. 

Then, Tom discusses the challenges facing Baltimore's bus, subway and light rail systems, with guests Kevin Quinn, CEO and administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration, Samuel Jordan, president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, Baltimore City Councilman Ryan Dorsey (D. 3rd Dist) and Klaus Philipsen, a Baltimore architecht and urban planner and founding partner in the firm ArchPlan, Inc. 

Photo Courtesy AP/ Alex Brandon

On today's News Wrap, Heather Caygle of POLITICO joins us for a look behind some of this week’s national headlines.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that Iran was behind the attacks on two ships in the Gulf of Oman yesterday, and for the second time in his Presidency, Donald Trump hoisted Norway into the spotlight this week. 

Here in MD, Delegate Robbyn Lewis tells us about her experience in the Transit Challenge.  And Justin Fenton talks about his new series in the Baltimore Sun which examines the massive criminal enterprise undertaken by an elite unit of the Baltimore City Police Department. 

Live in Studio A: Rajna Swaminathan & Ganavya Doraiswamy

Jun 14, 2019
Photo Courtesy / Rajna Swaminathan

Today, percussionist Rajna Swaminathan and, vocalist Ganavya Doraiswamy  join Tom in Studio A for a live performance. They are members of Rajas, an experimental music ensemble that explores resonances among Indian music, jazz and other improvisational traditions. Rajna and the Rajas are performing at Baltimore’s Creative Alliance this  Sunday at 7:30pm. 

This segment was streamed live on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch!   

Enoch Pratt Free Library

The official first day of summer - the Summer Solstice -- is June 21, and joining Tom today to help us put our summer reading list together is Heidi Daniel, the President and CEO of Baltimore's Enoch Pratt Free Library.

She also updates us on the many goings-on at our city’s wonderful library.  Those include the Pratt's new "Wash and Learn Initiative" that's bringing internet access to laundromats around the city; the annual Summer Challenge; the June 29 PrattCon at the SE Anchor Library, the library's version of Comic-Con that will celebrate graphic novels and comic book culture; and the nearly complete renovation of the Central Library.

Also today, Heidi Daniel shares her 2019 summer reading recommendations, which you can check out below...

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.

Photo by Tatiana Nya Ford

It's Thursday, and time for theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck's weekly review of a regional stage production. This week, she joins Tom to talk about the latest offering from Baltimore Rock Opera Society, a kid-friendly musical production called Welcome to Shakesville.

Conceived by Sarah Gorman, with book by Mark Martino and Bobby Harris and music by Trevor Shipley, Welcome to Shakesville tells the tale of a gifted young African American artist named Betty and her  journey toward artistic self-awareness.  As the BROS program puts it, it's a "hip and trippy" journey that's told, and sung, using the pop-culture imagery, puppetry, fantasy and multi-genre music that energized such iconic 60s and 70's TV shows and movies as H.R. Pufnstuf, The Muppet Show, and Yellow Submarine.  The BROS production, directed by Lucia A. Treasure, features lead performances by Jacquan Knox as Betty and Matthew Casella as Jimmy, the puppetry of Tatiana Ford, and the music of  a 10-man band called The Far Outs, under the direction of  bandmember Trevor Shipley.

Brigitte Lacombe

Tom's guest today is Adam Gopnik, who has been a staff writer for the New Yorker Magazine for the past 33 years.

His new book is called A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism. It is an homage to liberalism, in which he explores its roots in Montaigne and the Enlightenment, and traces its history through the present day.

Gopnik observes that liberalism was preceded by humanism and an affection for, and elevation of, a sense of community forged around shared choices. He calls it a fact-first philosophy with a feelings-first history.

While most people associate liberalism with a left-leaning world view, to Gopnik’s eye, it ends in the center, although it is not to be confused with centrism, and he distinguishes it not just from a conservative orientation on the right, but also from the more radical left. Liberalism favors reform over revolution. And it is premised in love and empathy. He writes that liberalism is “a belief that the sympathy that binds human society together can disconnect us from our clannish and suspicious past.”

Adam Gopnik joined us from the NPR's New York bureau.