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On today's edition of Midday at the Movies,  two of our favorite film aficionados -- Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday and Maryland Film Festival founder Jed Dietz  -- join Tom for a discussion of the widening impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the entertainment industry. 

Amid a steady stream of public health advisories warning people -- especially folks over 60 -- to avoid large, dense crowds and confined spaces to reduce their risk of infection -- a new survey shows many Americans have serious concerns about whether it's safe to attend public art performances or go to movie theaters.  Growing numbers of public art & film events across the country -- including all Broadway plays in New York City and the huge South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin -- have been canceled or postponed in the face of the spreading virus.  Late Wednesday, we learned that actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson, have tested positive for the virus. On Thursday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order prohibiting, until further notice, all social, community, religious, recreational, sporting or other events at which more than 250 people would gather.

Bruce F. Press Photography

It's Thursday, and theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland stage.  Today, she tells us about the new production of Constellations by Baltimore's Vagabond Players.

First produced on Broadway in 2014, Constellations is a mind-bending multi-dimensional romance by British playwright Nick Payne.  Starring Ryan Gunning and Christian Smith, the play is directed at the Vagabond Theater by Michael Byrne Zemarel.

Constellations is provisionally scheduled to continue at Vagabond Theater until March 22, but in light of possible theater closings due to the COVID-19 outbreak, those interested in the production should check the Vagabond Players website for theater-policy updates.

Writer and musician James McBride came to prominence 25 years ago with a beautiful memoir, called The Color of Water.  His novel, The Good Lord Bird, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2014. 

Last week, McBride published his new novel, set in a Brooklyn housing project in the 1960s.  It is an expansive, insightful masterpiece filled with fascinating characters and trenchant observations.  The book is called Deacon King Kong





AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

Today, a conversation about US immigration policy and its human and economic impacts.

President Donald Trump’s consistently anti-immigrant rhetoric and his efforts to fund and build a massive wall on the southern US border have raised the temperature in the national debate over immigration.

The president has imposed steep reductions in the numbers of immigrants admitted to apply for citizenship, and sharply curtailed US approval of refugee asylum requests — even as the number of people seeking entry to the US has risen.  Families have been forced to wait for months, sometimes years, for their cases to be heard in immigration court, and since last year, many have been sent to wait for their hearings in dangerous Mexican border towns.  Tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war, violence and poverty have been turned away.  The agencies charged with carrying out immigration policy — Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security, report stepped-up border apprehensions, undocumented immigrant arrests and deportations.

To help us understand the impact of these changes in US immigration policy, Tom talks today with four people who’ve been on the front lines of America’s immigration conflict...

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

As the fortunes of black quarterbacks in the NFL continue to rise, minority head coaches in the league are seeing their numbers decline.  70 percent of NFL players are minorities, but only three teams will be led by Black coaches at the start of next season. 

Michael Fletcher, senior writer at ESPN’s The Undefeatedand sports journalist Patrick Hruby join Tom Hall for a conversation about football’s diversity problem.

Governor Larry Hogan has announced two new cases of the coronavirus in Maryland, brining the total number of confirmed infections in the state to 5.  Washington DC has reported its first case, a Rector at a historic church in Georgetown.  And a DC public high school has been closed after a staff member came in contact with someone who has the virus.  There are 9 known cases in the Baltimore-Washington-Virginia region at this point.   

Dr. Wilbur H. Chen, an adult infectious disease specialist at the Unviversity of Maryland School of Medicine,  joins Tom to discuss the status of testing, and the prospects for a vaccine.   

Senator Ben Cardin

Tom's guest for today's Newsmaker interview is the senior U.S. Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin.  First elected to the Senate in 2006, he’s the Ranking Member of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee.  He is a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Environment & Public Works committees.  He also serves on the Senate Finance Committee.

Senator Cardin joins us to discuss a range of urgent topics facing Marylanders and the nation, starting with the response to the widening US outbreak of CoVID19, the new coronavirus disease that's now turned up in more than 20 states, including three new cases just reported in Montgomery County, Maryland...


We begin today with a look at the results of a new poll released this morning by WYPR, the Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore on the race for Baltimore City Council President.   This new voter survey comes on the heels of another WYPR/Sun/UB poll released yesterday that's given us one of our first insights into the status of the race for Baltimore mayor.  Tom is joined in the studio by WYPR's city hall reporter Emily Sullivan for a review of key findings in both polls.

The conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page.  Watch the video here, from the beginning until 08:45 into the feed.

Hsu photo by Adam Curtis/Catalyte; SkillSmart

Today, another edition of Midday on Business, with some interesting perspectives on Baltimore's employment marketplace. 

The city's overall unemployment rate has been steadily declining over the past decade. It’s currently at 4.2 percent, down from a high of 11.8 percent in 2010 at the height of the financial crisis.  By that measure, the city lags only slightly behind the Maryland and national average of 3.5%, but when viewed through the prism of racial equity, the city’s employment picture is less encouraging. 

According to a recent report by Associated Black Charities, African American workers in Baltimore City are largely employed in lower-wage industries and occupations, they tend to earn less than their white counterparts, and they experience higher job turnover. African Americans own nearly half of all businesses in Baltimore, but they employ only 2% of the city’s paid employees and account for only 1.4% of all sales.

Joining Tom in the studio are two men whose innovative private companies are working to change those workforce dynamics, here in Baltimore and around the country... 

photo by Gene Bruskin

It's Thursday, and time for theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck to join us with another of her weekly reviews of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she tells us about the musical play The Moment Was Now, a production of the Cultural Worker Ensemble that debuted in Baltimore last September and that's getting a reprise production at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church through Sunday, March 8.

A political fantasy set in post-Civil War Baltimore during a fateful turn in American history, The Moment Was Now imagines an 1869 meeting between civil rights champion Frederick Douglass and a high-powered group of Baltimore-based leaders of progressive social movements of the day -- all of whom actually knew one another. At this fictional meeting are women's voting rights evangelist Susan B. Anthony, black union organizer Isaac Myers, African American teacher and abolitionist Frances Harper, and white labor organizer William Sylvis.

Today, we continue our Conversations with the Candidates series with the two candidates who are running for Baltimore City comptroller, which is one of only three positions elected citywide. 

Joan M. Pratt has served as Baltimore City’s comptroller since 1995. Ms. Pratt is a Certified Public Accountant.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton Institute in Virginia, and a Master’s degree in Taxation from the University of Baltimore.  Comptroller Pratt began her career at the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand. She also served as Comptroller of the Baltimore Legal Aid Bureau. She is 68 years old and she lives in Homeland.

Bill Henry has represented District 4, in North Baltimore, on the Baltimore City Council since 2007.  Mr. Henry serves on the Council’s Biennial Audits Oversight Commission and the Budget & Appropriations Committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Public Policy from Johns Hopkins, and an MBA from Loyola University Maryland. He is 51 years old. He and his wife and their two daughters live in Radnor-Winston.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

Simon and Schuster, Inc.

One of the big "X factors" in the Super Tuesday primaries -- which are underway today from coast to coast, and even among Democrats living abroad -- is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg

He’s been a familiar name for decades, first as a highly successful businessman who created the Bloomberg Media empire, then as a billionaire philanthropist whose largess has been felt across a wide swath of society, from the arts and education to public health and the environment.

In 2001, on the heels of the 9/11 attacks, Bloomberg, who'd been a lifelong Democrat, was elected as a Republican to succeed Rudolph Giuliani as New York City's mayor. He self-financed two more successful mayoral elections in New York.  He changed his party afiliation to Independent in 2007. In 2012, Bloomberg endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election, and he supported Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign against Republican Donald Trump.  Since last November 24th, when he announced his intention to run for president, he has spent an unprecedented half-billion dollars of his own money on a campaign to win the Democratic nomination for the highest office in the land...

Courtesy of MPT and POLITICO

It’s Midday on Politics.

For analysis of Saturday’s South Carolina Primary, and the end of the road for candidates Pete Buttigieg and Tom Steyer, plus a preview of tomorrow’s Super Tuesday battle among the remaining Democratic candidates -- and where we might find ourselves on Wednesday morning -- Tom is joined by two skilled political observers:

Charles Robinson is the longtime political/business reporter for Maryland Public Television.  He is here in Studio A.

Zach Montellaro is a campaign reporter for POLITICO and the author of POLITICO’s Morning Score newsletter.  He joins us on the line from NPR in Washington, DC.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

Photo by Mark Barry

Sandra Magsamen is an artist and a best-selling author. 

She has sold more than 5 million books for both children and adults, and her greeting cards, clothing and gifts are available on line and in major stores all over the world. 

She grew up in Baltimore, and she has returned to the area to be the keynote speaker, tomorrow morning, at the Harford County Public Library's Third Annual Women's Summit.  The theme this year is "Living Artfully: Creating the Life You Imagine."  That event is now sold out. 

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to see the video. 

(AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh walked out of a federal courtroom yesterday with a three-year sentence after more than seven years of defrauding entities with business before the city and the state while she was a Senator and the Mayor, and evading the taxes she owed from the profits of that fraud.  She was also ordered to pay nearly $700,000 in restitution and forfeitures. 

US District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow announced the sentence to a hushed courtroom in downtown Baltimore after hearing from prosecutors, who argued Pugh should serve nearly five years, and from Pugh’s attorneys, who suggested that a sentence of a year and a day was appropriate.   The court allowed Pugh a little time to put her affairs in order, before she reports to federal prison.

For a legal analysis of the Pugh sentencing, Tom is joined in the studio by Baltimore attorney Steven Levin, a partner at the firm of Rosenberg Martin Greenberg and a former federal prosecutor with the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland; and Ronald Weich. He’s the Dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law.  Mr. Weich also had an extensive career in government, serving as an assistant US Attorney General during the Obama administration and as chief counsel to Senator Ted Kennedy and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page. You can watch the video here,  running from the beginning to 19:55 of the feed.

photo courtesy Keystone Korner

Lisa Fischer  (heard, in our segment open, performing one of her iconic Gimme Shelter duets with Mick Jagger in a live Rolling Stones concert in 1995) is one of the musicians featured in the Academy Award-winning movie 20 Feet from Stardom, for which Ms. Fischer won her second Grammy Award.  In addition to her celebrated career as a backup singer for the Stones - touring with the band from 1989 to 2015 - she's collaborated with Luther Vandross, Sting, Tina Turner, and many more huge pop and rock music stars, as well as classical music giants like Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang.   And she has enjoyed success, too, as a solo vocalist, earning her first Grammy in 1991 for her Number 1 R&B hit, How Can I Ease the Pain? and in recent years, touring with the three-man band, Grand Baton.

Lisa Fischer is in Baltimore tonight and Saturday, playing with Grand Baton at the Keystone Korner music and dinner club in Harbor East.   For ticket info and location, click here.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page. Watch the video here, from  20:45 - 42:45 of the feed.

courtesy BCGS

Joining Tom in the studio is the wonderful classical guitarist, Gabriel Rodriguez.  He’s performed in his native Puerto Rico, Spain, and the United States. Now he lives here in Baltimore, where he teaches in the Guitars for Change program, an initiative of the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society.  To remind us what a beautiful instrument the classical guitar is, Gabriel plays a lovely piece by Spanish composer Iván Ríjos, called Lágrimas de Jesús (Tears of Jesus).

Launched in the fall of 2018 in collaboration with “Centro de Ayuda” (Center of Help) in Annapolis, Guitars for Change identifies immigrant youth in the community who are at-risk, and provides them with free guitars and lessons in a structured after-school program.

The Guitar Society’s president and CEO, Asgerdur Sigurdardottir, also joins Tom to announce that the program will be expanding to a new, second location at the Clayhill Public Charter School, a new facility set to open this coming fall in Baltimore's Bayview neighborhood.

You can hear the students from the Guitars for Change program, as well as several other guitar ensembles from around the area, in concert a week from Saturday, March 8th in the Linehan Concert Hall on the campus of UMBC in Catonsville.  Click here for details.

St. Martin's Press

In 1999, Tracy Walder was a 20-year-old junior at the University of Southern California and a member of USC’s Delta Gamma sorority.  She was also a history buff and an avowed news junkie who planned to be a teacher.  Those plans were upended when she met a CIA recruiter at a job fair. After graduating from USC, she joined the CIA's global anti-terrorism operations. 

The story of Walder’s five-year service at the CIA, her globe-spanning work in the agency's post-9/11 pursuit of Al-Qaeda operatives, and her subsequent stint as an FBI counterintelligence agent, is compellingly told in her new memoir, The Unexpected Spy: From CIA to The FBI, My Secret Life Taking Down Some of the World’s Most Notorious Terrorists.  Published by St. Martin's Press, it's co-written with best-selling novelist Jessica Anya Blau.   Tracy Walder joins Tom in Studio A.

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page.  Watch the video here.

Troy Burton

[Near the end of today's live theater review, news broke of the sentencing of former Baltimore mayor Catherine Pugh. As he'd promised throughout the hour, Tom brought WYPR's courthouse reporter Emily Sullivan immediately on the line for a live update.  We've left the audio of Emily's 4-minute debriefer in place, beginning at 7:32 into the segment.]

It's Thursday, and time for another of theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck's weekly reviews of the Maryland stage.  Today, she talks with Tom about Purlie, the 1970 Broadway musical hit that's getting a spirited revival at Arena Players, the oldest continually performing and historically African-American theater community in Baltimore.

Set in the segregated, Jim Crow-era American South, Purlie tells the story of a charismatic traveling preacher named Purlie Victorious Judson, who returns to his small Georgia town in the hope of saving Big Bethel, the community's church, and freeing the indentured black cotton pickers who work under oppressive conditions on Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee's plantation.

AP Photo/Meg Kinnard

Low turnout among African American voters was a significant factor in Hilary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in 2016. In the 2020 election cycle, many of the remaining Democratic presidential hopefuls are struggling to connect with voters of color. 

Last night in Charleston, the Democrats made a final, desperate, and at times chaotic, appeal to black voters and others ahead of the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries.  

It’s the Midday Healthwatch, with Dr. Leana Wen

Today, we’re focusing on the politicization of healthcare on the campaign trail, and on the coronavirus, which has now spread to more than 30 countries.

Dr. Wen was Baltimore City Health Commissioner from 2015 to 2018 and then chief executive of Planned Parenthood.  She is now a visiting professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She’s also a distinguished fellow at the Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at GW. She joined Tom in Studio A.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch. 

Johns Hopkins University

And now, it’s Midday on Ethics.

The coronavirus doesn’t only pose epidemiological challenges. It poses ethical dilemmas as well, particularly as governments grapple with containing the epidemic.

Whenever science and health news raises potential ethical concerns, we turn to Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, who joins me now in Studio A.

Dr. Kahn is the director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. He is one of the co-editors of The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics.  And he has a recurring role in “Unnatural Selection” — a four-part series on Netflix about the possible uses of gene editing.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch. 

Courtesy of Mary Washington for Mayor 2020

State Senator Mary Washington joins Tom to discuss her campaign for Mayor of Baltimore.  After two terms in the House of Delegates, Dr. Washington was elected to the Senate in 2018, besting her former district colleague and longtime incumbent, Joan Carter Conway, by 492 votes. 

She is one of the most progressive legislators in the General Assembly.  One of her signature legislative victories came last spring when the House and Senate unanimously passed the Water Taxpayer Protection Act, prohibiting tax sales of homes or churches whose water bills are in arears. 

Sen. Washington holds an undergraduate degree from Antioch University, and Master’s and Doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University. 

She was first elected to the House of Delegates in 2010. She repreented the 43rd district in Baltimore City for two terms, before her election to the Senate. 

AP Photo/ Matt York

Today on the News Wrap, Democrats came out swinging on the debate stage Wednesday night in Las Vegas.  Michael Bloomberg took the most punches, but it remains to be seen if he sustained a knock-out blow.

After Congressional leaders were told that Russia would prefer that Donald Trump remain President in 2021, Mr. Trump showed his preference for a new Acting Director of National Intelligence.  Joseph Maguire is out.  Richard Grenell, the Ambassador to Germany with no intelligence experience, is in. 

Julie Bykowicz of the Wall Street Journal, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post and Paula Reid of CBS News join us for a look behind the headlines.

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Lawrence Brownlee is one of the most exciting and in-demand opera singers on the scene today.  The Grammy nominated tenor — hailed by The Guardian as "one of the world's leading bel canto stars" — will make his Baltimore debut this Sunday at Shriver Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University.

Brownlee and pianist Myra Huang  will present a new classical song cycle inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.  The program will include a pre-concert talk with Lester Green of the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts.  

You can find more information and purchase tickets on the Shriver Hall Concert Series website.  

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

As the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls barrel towards the Super Tuesday primaries in less than two weeks, President Donald Trump's re-election campaign continues to amass a huge war chest.  The Trump juggernaut plans to spend more than one billion dollars on his re-election. According to Tom's guest today, a lot of that money will be spent on a media disinformation campaign unparalleled in US political history.

photo by Teresa Castracane

It's Thursday, and Midday's theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, is back with another of her reviews of the Maryland stage.  Today, she tells us about a new work by the young playwright Noah Diaz called Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally, currently enjoying a world premiere at Baltimore Center Stage.

The play by Mr. Diaz -- a 3rd-year graduate student at the Yale School of Drama -- is a darkly comedic riff on the idealized "Dick and Jane" characters from those 1950s elementary school readers, with a modern family rife with dysfunction and dissembling, and dealing with the complexities of love, loss, disability...and a dog.  Taylor Reynolds directs the action, with a cast that includes Noah Averbach-Katz  (Spot), Michelle Beck (Jane), Jay Cobian (Dick, Jr.), Neimah Djourabchi (Richard), Treshelle Edmond (Sally), and Vanessa Kai (Mother).  Scenic design is by Stephanie Osin Cohen.

Photo by Ayyub Hanif / FourSight Studios

Today, another in our series of Conversations with the Candidates running in the 2020 elections for offices to lead Baltimore, the region and the nation.

This week, we've turned our attention to the race for Baltimore City's second-most-powerful post, after the mayor --  the office of City Council President. It's a job being sought by eight contenders — seven Democrats and one Republican.  One of those Democrats is Councilman Leon Pinkett, who was elected in 2016 to represent Baltimore’s 7th Councilmanic District in West Baltimore.

Leon F. Pinkett III was born and raised in Baltimore. He earned a degree in economics from Guilford College in North Carolina.  He was the senior economic development officer at the Baltimore Development Corporation, or BDC,  for nine years. He later joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration as Assistant Deputy Mayor in the Office of Economic and Neighborhood Development.

On the City Council, Pinkett serves as the vice chair of both the Budget & Appropriations Committee, and the Transportation Committee. 

Councilman Pinkett is 52 years old. He and his wife, Marika, have two teenaged children and they are long-time residents of the Reservoir Hill community. 

We welcome audience comments and questions for the candidate.

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

We apologize for the brief microphone problem at the beginning of today's interview.

Courtesy of Shannon Sneed

Councilwoman Shannon Sneed was elected in 2016 to represent Baltimore’s 13th Councilmanic District, where she’s lived since 2008. She is a Democrat and one of 8 candidates running for Baltimore City Council President.

Ms. Sneed holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a Master’s Degree in Communications Management from Morgan State University. 

Before she became involved in local government, Sneed worked in local journalism as a producer and editor for Fox45 and WJZ Channel 13.

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

James Patterson

Mississippi investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell is Tom's guest today. Mitchell's tenacious reporting on killings committed during the Civil Rights era re-opened cases that led to the convictions of men who, for decades, had literally gotten away with murder.

Mitchell’s efforts led to justice for Medgar Evers, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman Vernon Dahmer and the four young girls killed in a  1963 Birmingham church bombing.  Mitchell has chronicled each murder, from cold case to conviction, in his new book, Race Against Time: A Reporter Reopens the Unsolved Murder Cases of the Civil Rights Era.

Jerry Mitchell will be speaking live at the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Tues., Feb. 18th at 7 pm. For more information, click here.