These are photos I took looking out across an active mountain removal site on Kayford Mountain in West Virginia. It's hard to get a feel for the size of the mining site without being there. It's even harder to imagine what it looked like in its natural state, but look at the dark green, tree-covered hills all around it to get some idea.
We'll be bringing you more about what's happening on Kayford Mountain soon, but I wanted to get these images out there right away. Larry Gibson showed us around here. He grew up on Kayford Mt. and now the land his family and others lived on for generations is being irreparably destroyed. He came with his cousin that day to mow the grass in two family cemeteries that are here. We walked past them on the way to what is now a cliff over the mining site where I stood and took these pictures. Another of their cemeteries has already been destroyed by the mining company as they've blasted the mountain apart and carted away ton after ton of coal from inside of it.
Larry told us not to waste his time. He wasn't showing us around for no reason; he wanted to make sure we were going to do something about what we saw. Larry is for abolishing the use of coal altogether, despite having family members who work in the industry and are upset by his stance. Unlike many people we spoke to who expressed support for continuing mining in a responsible, less destructive manner, Larry told us he doesn't believe it's possible to mine and use coal in a way that is not harmful.
Over and over again last week, people mentioned supporting the Clean Water Protection Act as the most important thing anyone can do right now to help bring an end to mountaintop removal. Contact your Congressmen and make sure they support it!
We spent our first full day in West Virginia visiting people in their homes, taping interviews. People shared incredible stories with us that we'll be bringing back. I recorded about 6 hours of audio today alone. We saw a 90 year-old woman's fingers turn black with coal dust from running them across her tv screen. Again and again, people expressed their respect for the old ways of underground mining. At the same time, they spoke with outrage about mountaintop removal and the unprecedented level of destruction coal companies have caused in this area over the past 25 years or so.
Antrim took this picture of Patty Sebok and her husband Harry "Butch" Sebok in their kitchen. Patty is a community activist who works for Coal River Mountain Watch. Butch is a union miner who worked underground for almost 30 years. He was forced to retire when a doctor told him he risked paralysis if he continued working after an injury on the job that resulted in a herniated disk.
We'll be up bright and early in the morning to tape some more interviews before heading up Kayford Mountain to see an active mountaintop removal site and meet the last man holding onto his home as the mountain is destroyed all around it. I encourage everyone to do their own research to learn more about mountaintop removal and the history of coal mining in West Virginia and beyond. Please let us know if you have any questions or thoughts to share.
Hey folks - one of our interns, Christina Arrison, is in Indiana for the primary. She's going to be sending us first-hand observations and thoughts from there for the next few days. By way of an introduction, here's her first dispatch.
The best part about being on the ground for three important primary contests has been the chance to talk to and work with people who are experiencing this election on an individual and personal level – people who, many for the first time, feel a meaningful connection to Washington and the process that puts politicians there. It's a nice counterbalance to the Big Media view of the campaign – all scandal and spin and personal attacks and very little examination of what the election means to real people. It's been four decades since the last competitive Democratic primary in Indiana. From what I've seen, many Hoosiers are a bit bemused by all of the attention – voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania are used to the swarms of canvassers and scads of robo-calls and TV ads from past general elections, but in Indiana, a solidly red state, many people are experiencing the invasion for the first time. Overall, though, I think people appreciate the attention and genuinely believe that their voice matters. Every day when our canvassers get back from the field they give reports of talking to voters who say that this is their first time voting, and that for once they think an election offers them a chance to concretely improve their lives – by getting better healthcare or livable wages, by ending the war, and for countless other reasons. We hear heartbreaking stories like the Katrina survivor with AIDS who can't afford his pills, and asked our union volunteer to have the Obama campaign contact him to get him cheaper medication. But even if the personal connection to the campaign just involves a voter yelling at a canvasser to get off her property, or slamming down the phone on another prerecorded call, at least they are offered the chance to participate.
That being said, I am a little worried about the length and tone of the race. Even in just the three primaries I've worked on there's been a shift in voters' attitudes. When I knocked doors in Ohio, most of the Clinton supporters I talked to were firm in their choice, but polite. On the plane back to DC after the Ohio election, I was seated next to the president of the New York chapter of NOW, and we were able to chat relatively amicably about the election, she in her Clinton button, me in my Obama t-shirt. Canvassing in Pennsylvania, five weeks later, the tone had shifted. Lots more people yelled at me, balled up their flyers and threw them back, or slammed the door in my face. I remember walking up the driveway of one house just in time to hear the woman say to her neighbor "If I get ONE more thing from Obama I'm just going to-" I didn't quite catch what she was going to do, as I was doing my best to blend in with the trees as I backed away. I think a lot of people (including some campaign staffers I know who literally have not had a day off in 15 months) are ready for this to end.
Check out the first paragraph of this article:
FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS—someone is going to help me play music with whales instead of warning me that it’s against the law. According to the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act, all “harassment” of marine mammals is illegal, including my idea of playing live music to them just to see what happens. But there are still places beyond the grip of the law.
Before that, after the news at 1pm, join us to discuss genetically modified food. Seems like it was something that was really in the public eye, along with lots of outrage and uncertainty, a few years ago, but all of that has subsided a bit, here in the US, at least. It certainly didn't go away, though, as more genetically modified crops are being grown worldwide than ever, and the highest percentage of any country is right here in the States. Yes, if you're not sure, our food supply is flush with genetically modiefied ingredients. We'll discuss the details, focusing on the company at the center of it all, Monsanto, with Brian Hindo. He wrote the article Monsanto: Winning the Ground War in Business Week.
Every Thursday from 1-2pm for the past few weeks, we've been featuring interviews with the authors of articles that we've come upon and found particularly interesting. If you've caught any of these segments, what do you think? Would you like to see this continue as a regular, weekly feature on the show? Also, comment here with suggestions for articles that you've read and would like for us to consider featuring!
Living in Baltimore, I can't help but notice a lot of distinctly unhappy looking people around town. I know this is not exactly some kind of utopia, so is it reasonable to assume that people are, in general, happier elsewhere?
NPR Correspondent Eric Weiner will be joining us at 1pm today to discuss what he learned travelling the world purposefully seeking out happiness. Check out his book The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World.
Then-Mayor Martin O'Malley at an Earth Day Planting at Gilmor Elementary in 2005Before I came to work at WYPR, I worked at a documentary company called Soundprint. While I was there, they were working on a series of stories about urban forests that delved into the unique environmental issues that cities face. For the documentary Watershed 263, we attended an Earth Day planting ceremony at Gilmor Elementary in Baltimore. Gilmor was one of a dozen schools in Baltimore that had converted their parking lot into a garden. Things like parking lots and roads are terrible for the environment. When it rains, the rain gathers up all the oil and other pollutants that have been sitting on the pavement and then whooshes it all into a storm-water drain. That all ends up in the Chesapeake, of course, where it wreaks havoc. A garden, on the other hand, keeps that water right there, and puts it to good use. It's a lot of fun for the kids, too, to get a day out of class to get their hands dirty and have a beautiful spot to play. The purpose of that whole long story was to tell you that on that day, then-Mayor Martin O'Malley was at that school, and ceremoniously planted the first flower in the soil. I remember being impressed that he would find time in a busy schedule to visit a school, make a speech, plant a flower, and hang out with the kids for awhile. I left with the feeling that he cared about the environment. The impression I was left with would please the now Governor, and those who work to craft his image. He has very purposefully cast himself as a "Green Governer". But what does that term really mean? As the environmental crisis in the Bay and beyond seems to grow more urgent, how does the criteria for being an environmental politician change? What is the gold standard in environmentalism for a politician? What is the leading edge-and is O'Malley on it? We'll discuss this today with people who all care deeply and have devoted their lives to the environment. Join us, to share your thoughts on what you would like to see happen in Maryland. Poll: Do you think Governor Martin O'Malley is a Green Governor?
Here are some pictures courtesy of one of our guests today, Gerry Winegrad. His descriptions are below:
What role did the Walters Art Museum have in discovering the earliest surviving manuscript by Archimedes, which includes some previously undiscovered writings? Join us at 1pm today to find out, as we're joined by the authors of The Archimedes Codex: How a Medieval Prayer Book Is Revealing the True Genius of Antiquity's Greatest Scientist.
For more info in the meantime, check out this informative blog post by Dan Harlow.
I'm a huge Ravens fan, so I could go on and on about all of the trivial things that only another Ravens fan would care about. I had a bad feeling after we lost the first game of the season to The Bengals. We should have won that game, right? We were right there on the goal line....
That scenario repeated itself, in more and less similar ways, many times throughout the season, and it turned out to be a trainwreck of a season. What went wrong?
Now Billick is gone, and fans seem to have divided opinions, with many not being sure whether it was a good decision to fire him, or not. The questions we can ask now, as all we can do is look forward to next season, are endless, starting with who will be head coach. And the whole coaching staff was fired, so what about the other coaches? Who will start as quarterback? Will we ever have a strong offense?
Lots of questions, and we'll welcome your thoughts from noon to 1pm today on the air, or right here at any time.
Emily Martin, professor of anthropology and author of the book above joins us at 1pm today. She has a lot of insight to share on mania and depression, and we hope you'll join us with questions, and to share your own experiences with these common parts of our lives, as well.
I went down to southern Maryland last August and took this picture standing in the Chesapeake Bay at Calvert Cliffs, although maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Beautiful place, but the water didn't quite look as clean as it might have.
This hour we'll be talking about what really would need to be done to clean up the Bay. Is it realistic at all to see a cleaner Bay? Efforts have been made for decades, but results are less than hoped for so far.. What do you think?
Here's a picture from earlier this year of Governor O'Malley swearing Brenda Donald in as the new Secretary for Maryland's Department of Human Resources. With her job, comes the responsibility of running the state's foster care system.
About a month ago, we had a show looking at the foster care system, which I described at the time like this:
We’re starting off the hour with a look at Baltimore’s foster care system, which, no one would argue, is in need of some huge reforms. A class action suit was brought on behalf of 2,500 foster children in 1984. In 1988, the court entered a comprehensive consent decree requiring reforms, and nearly 20 years later we’re still waiting for those reforms. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but two decades is a long time by anyone’s standards. If you’re unfamiliar with this lawsuit, or the foster care situation here in general, a good place to start would be this article from Tuesday’s Sun.
Where are things now, another month later? Brenda Donald will be here at 1pm to let us know, and take your questions, as well.
What effect has the increased level of US troops, 'the surge,' had in Iraq? Statistics show decreased levels of violence, but does that constitute a success? There are still tragic amounts of daily violence, and a host of other problems, throughout Iraq. What would a "good" outcome to the war look like at this point?
Joining us today is Nancy Youssef, who just returned from Iraq where she reports for the McClatchy newspapers. Read her articles here. Also joining us is Adil Shamoo, who recently wrote an article supporting a military withdrawal from Iraq, which you can read here.
Does anyone remember this book, "Owl At Home?" I remember a lot of great books from my childhood, but this one has really stuck with me for some reason. I picked it up again a few years ago, and was struck by how emotionally evocative it was. Arnold Lobel, also the creator of the Frog and Toad books, is a genius.
What are your favorite kid's books? We had great response from our kid's books show a year ago, so we're bringing back the same guests today at 1pm for another round.
Children's Bookstore in Roland Park
Marion Nestle will be here at 1pm today, and looking at the cover of her most recent book above, you can see the some of the questions we'll be discussing. She's got a great blog - check it out here. And don't forget to let us know what you think as you listen to her on the air with us today. Continue the discussion with your comments here!
Dixon at yesterday's inauguration.. who's the guy in the suit?
Sheila Dixon was sworn in as Mayor of Baltiomore yesteday, after being Mayor for about a year already, since the guy in the suit left this small town for a nice position in Annapolis. Can't blame him, being Mayor is not an easy job.
Today we'll welcome two of the people Dixon has chosen to help her run the city:
Andrew Frank - Deputy Mayor for Neighborhood and Economic Development
Salima Marriott - Deputy Mayor for Community and Human Development
What would you like to ask, or tell, the people running this city? Call us between noon and one pm today, 410-662-8780, while we're on the air with Baltimore's Deputy Mayors.
When someone broke into Sean Taylor's home in the middle of the night and killed him earlier this week, was it a case of some trouble from Sean's past catching up with him, or a random crime? We don't know, yet, but if I had to guess, I would guess that he was targeted, given the past, public incidences of violence in his life. And not everyday violence, but things like an assault charge for threatening people with a gun, and being on the receiving end of a hail of bullets in his SUV.
There's lots of other incidents around the NFL, and sportsworld in general, of players who've been dragged down by connections to their sometimes turbulent past. Look at Michael Vick, Darrent Williams (Bronco's player killed in a drive-by last New Years Day,) or the jail time Jamal Lewis served while playing for The Ravens, and, of course, Ray Lewis, who was charged, along with 2 of his friends, with a double murder. Lewis accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice, and his friends were acquitted.
The thing is, this isn't particular to proffesional athletes by any means. Michael Wilbon said it better than I could in his column earlier this week. Here's an excerpt:
The issue of separating yourself from a harmful environment is a recurring theme in the life of black men. It has nothing to do with football, or Sean Taylor or even sports. To frame it as a sports issue is as insulting as it is naive. Most of us, perhaps even the great majority of us who grew up in big urban communities, have to make a decision at some point to hang out or get out.
The kid who becomes a pharmaceutical rep has the same call to make as the lawyer or delivery guy or accountant or sportswriter or football player: Cut off anybody who might do harm, even those who have been friends from the sandbox, or go along to get along.
Mainstream folks -- and, yes, this is a code word for white folks -- see high-profile athletes dealing with this dilemma and think it's specific to them, while black folks know it's everyday stuff for everybody, for kids with aspirations of all kinds -- even for a middle-class kid with a police-chief father, such as Taylor -- from South Central to Southeast to the South Side. Some do, some don't. Some will, some won't. Some can, some cannot. Often it's gut-wrenching. Usually, it's necessary. For some, it takes a little bit too long.
That's a lot to think about.. join us at 1pm today, and leave your thoughts here, as well.
Also, check out the Sports Illustrated article that helped get us thinking about all of these things today. It's called "The Road to Bad Newz" and written by one of today's guests, Farrell Evans, and George Dohrmann.
First, a disclosure. Having become vegetarian and then learned to cook, in that order, I've never cooked a turkey. Still, Thanksgiving is 3 days away, and at 1pm today we'll be talking about cooking all sorts of things, including turkey, I'm sure. What are your favorite holiday recipes and family traditions, when it comes to eating? Share them here and on the air today, and have a great holiday!
Baltimore's premier practictioner of the art of the human beatbox, Shodekeh, will be here at 1:30pm today. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, check out www.beatboxing.com for some background on beatboxing. Shodekeh has a page on there here that will tell you more about him. And check out his myspace page, as well, for some live videos, including one performing with KRS-1, and a piece on Shodekeh done by WYPR's own Aaron Henkin for The Signal.
Snoop is possibly the most terrifying character on The Wire. She looks like she's about 12 years old, she's completely androgynous, she's got the strangest, almost alien-sounding voice, and she kills people in a completely matter of fact way like it's nothing.
Felicia Pearson drew on her own experiences, which she documents in her new memoir, Grace After Midnight, to create the character she plays. Just how much of her own experiences? Well, she grew up with a foster family in East Baltimore, got involved in the drug game, and wound up in prison for murder. Her book is full of some real-life terrifying stories, like the first time she visited her real mom's house after being put into foster care. Her mom screamed at her, maybe 8 years old, to take off all of her clothes and then locked her in a closet. She cried until she passed out, and woke up to find out that her mom had taken her clothes and sold them for crack.
I'll leave the rest of the stories for her to tell today. She'll be here for an hour at 1pm.. do not miss..
What would you do if you realized your brother was the Unabomber? Not a question most people have had to answer, but you can find out what it was like from someone who has at 12:30pm today. After we check in on the goings on in Annapolis, as the special session heads toward a close as early as the end of the week, we'll be joined by David Kaczynski.
After the Unabomber's Manifesto was published in the NY Times and Washington Post, David recognized his brother's writing style and was faced with an agonizing decision, which would change the course of his life completely. Join us to find out what happened, and about the work that David is currently doing as executive director of New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty.
What does it mean to go to war? How does a society decide to go to war? Is there such thing as a good war? How about a necessary war? What is the cost of war to those who fight it, and those who survive it? Is an end to war a realistic thing to hope for?
What have we learned from struggles to wage war, and struggles to wage peace, in the past? What can we learn from today’s conflicts?We'll be reflecting on these questions, and maybe a few others, with veterans of war and veterans of the peace movement, and at least one person who is both of those things. -Justin
This picture was taken in a refugee camp in Kenya in 2003, where Sudanese refugees wound up after fleeing first their own country, and then refugee camps where they had settled in Ethiopia. For more on their story, see this article.
It's written by Charles London, who'll be joining us from 1-2pm today. Charles left Baltimore, where he grew up, to work for Refugees International. His experiences led him to write a book called One Day the Soldiers Came, in which he tells the stories of children displaced by war who he met over the past few years.
He was in Burma during the recent unrest there. He recorded his observations in a piece for the NY Times magazines; that piece is here.
One more thing to check out.. Charles was interviewed on All Things Considered recently; that interview is here.
Last month MICA and the Maryland ACLU teamed up to put together a rather unusual celebration for Constitution Day, a holiday that not many people bother to celebrate in the first place. They put together an event devoted to the First Amendment, and the right of free speech. Who better to speak on this topic than the trio of John Waters, Ralph Nader, and Helen Thomas? That's what someone thought, at least, and they were all brought together for a couple hours. It turned out great; the auditorium at MICA couldn't even fit everyone who tried to get in. So, for those of you that missed it the first time, we'll be playing it as a two hour special, from noon-2, on The Marc Steiner Show today. To hear the complete version, because we had to cut a little bit for time and edit a few words here and there, ironically enough, just go to www.wypr.org and download the podcast anytime in the next month.
Some interesting stats on vacant houses and property in Baltimore:
13% of the total property in the city is abandoned
there are about 30,ooo abandoned buildings and lots in Baltimore
the city owns about 1/3 of the abandoned property
the city owns about 4,000 abandoned buildings and 6,000 abandoned lots
the city owns about 25% of vacant buildings
All of these figures are taken from here, the Housing Authority's "A Plan to Create The Baltimore City Land Bank." Basically, the city is planning to sell many of its vacant properties cheaply as soon as next July. The city is also planning to acquire more vacant properties, with the intention of selling them, as well.
If you're wondering if and how you'll be able to buy a cheap house to fix up, tune in at noon today, when the author of the Land Bank Plan and the head of Baltimore Housing, as well as housing activist Michael Sarbanes, will be here to help us figure out how this is all going to work.
And for a look at a land bank program that has already been implemented in Flint, Michigan, another town full of abandoned properties, take a listen to this story from Morning Edition today.
You may have heard Marc interview Roger Kamenetz in the past. He's best known for two of his books, The Jew in The Lotus and Stalking Elijah. His newest book is all about interpreting dreams in the context of spirituality. It's called The History of Last Night's Dream.
It's crazy to think that we all spend about a third of our lives asleep, and who knows how much of that time dreaming, but most of us give it so little thought during the other two thirds of our lives, when we're awake. I rarely remember my dreams past the moment I wake up, but if anyone has had any interesting experiences with dreams lately, we'd love to hear about it.
Of all the people in the world who love to spout off about politics, few make a living doing it. Even fewer get paid to do it in The New York Times twice a week. This Paul Krugman must be a pretty smart guy.
He certainly has a lot to say. Click here to see his work for The NY Times, and also a link to Krugman on The Colbert Report! Click here for his own page with an extremely extensive archive of his writing. There is even an official Krugman site with tons of archives, other people's writing about Krugman, and much more. Click here for that.
And, of course, tune in at noon today to here Paul Krugman on The Marc Steiner Show, then share your thoughts right here.
Thanks to Webster's for the above definition. Impasse is the word of choice for the contract dispute between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the Baltimore City Public School System. If you are not a teacher or school administrator, you might be wondering what is such a big deal about some planning time that it is stalling the entire contract negotiation process, leaving teachers working without contracts.
I'm sure that our two guests today, BCPSS CEO Andres Alonso, and BTU President Marietta English can shed some light on the issue for you. We'd love to hear thoughts from parents, students, teachers, and school administrators about how they view this dispute, and how the impasse is effecting them. Call 410-662-8780 during the show at noon today, or leave your thoughts here on the blog!
If this picture triggers horrible flashbacks to your school cafeteria lunch days, I'm sorry. If this picture looks like your lunch today, I'm also sorry. If this picture is making you hungry and you're offended by the first two sentences, I'm sorry, as well.
I never had cafeterias in my elementary schools, so I always had to bring lunch to school. So, I don't have memories of frozen peas, carrots, corn, processed meat, cheese, white bread, boxes of milk, and whatever the hell is in the top right corner of that tray. Jello? Probably...
The contradiction between people's desires to raise healthy kids and the food we feed kids, whether in school or at home, is one of those things you might not ever think about, but once you do, it's hard not to wonder what on earth we're doing. If we want kids to be healthy, why are school lunches notoriously unhealthy? Why are kids menus full of fried, greasy, fatty foods like pizza, french fries, and chicken nuggets? Why do we assume these are the types of foods that kids naturally like?
At 1pm today, we'll talk about some different approaches to feeding kids, again, both in and out of school. For some interesting ideas, check out The Food Studies Institute, started by one of our guests today, Antonia Demas.
If you're a parent, what have your experiences been when it comes to feeding your kids? Are you happy with the food that they're given in school?
The Dalai Lama is in DC this week receiving the Congressional Gold Medal Award. Bush will become the first US President to appear publicly with the Dalai Lama, which is kind of funny in a twisted way, but not to the Chinese government.
Thomas Laird is going to be in DC for the occasion, and while he's there, he's making a trip up to Baltimore to join us in the studio at 1pm today. He has spent years living in Asia and written extensively about Tibet. His book The Story of Tibet is an oral history of the country as told to him by the Dalai Lama himself over the course of many visits to Dharamsala.
Funny side note: there is a small community of Tibetan Monks in East Baltimore, including one who fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama. We were hoping to have him and some of the others also join us for the show today, but they're all in DC with His Holiness.
Lots of people pitch show ideas to us all of the time. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they're not, but we only have so many hours in a week, and we could never get to them all even if we wanted to. The idea for his hour's show came to us from the Jewish Museum of Maryland, who want to promote a new exhibit they have opening on Sunday. In general, if someone is pitching an idea that is a thinly vailed promotion, I would politely decline. In this case, however, I realized this idea had some great potential for us. The exhibit is called "Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore." The idea of actually bringing together a group of people with deep roots in one neighborhood, so that we could explore the history of the neighborhood from a personal level, is what really appealed to me in putting this hour together. In a place like Baltimore, the combination of neighborhood histories and personal stories always makes for something interesting. If you, or someone in your family, grew up around East Lombard Street, have memories of the area at different times, or live there today, we'd love to hear from you. As always, you can call or email while we're on the air at 1pm today, and also leave your stories here. We're thinking about adding a new segment on the air in which we'll read emails and blog posts from listeners reflecting on shows that have already aired either later in the week or the following week. So, don't hesitate to keep writing after each show. Go here to see more pictures! -Justin
Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates Mike Busch joins us live from his office in Annapolis at noon today. Expect talk of balancing the state budget, O'Malley's plan which includes slots and tax increases, and maybe a few wild card questions. What would those be? You'll have to tune in to find out..
Are slots coming to Maryland? The Governor hopes so, because he needs to raise some money to cover the state's budget deficit, and the less he has to raise taxes, the happier we all are. Slots have been a politically divisive issue for years, though, and bringing them here is far from a done deal, yet.
Marc has been covering slots and gambling, discussing how, when, if, why, and where they might find a home in Maryland as long as he's been on the air, and today the debate continues. We're joined by Ron Wineholt from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Aaron Meisner from Stop Slots Maryland, and James Karmel, a history professor from Harford Community College with a new book on the way called Gambling on the American Dream: Atlantic City and the Casino Era.