A new Robert E. Lee biography and why it’s relevant today

Historian Allen Guelzo has written a biography: Robert E. Lee – A Life, that has a new relevancy today. A racial reckoning over the past two years and a nation that is re-examining its past has put Lee back in the news.

Lee was looked upon as an icon in the south and respected as a military leader after commanding the Confederate army in the Civil War. But Lee has come under scrutiny for leading an army that was fighting to maintain slavery and was a slaveholder himself.

Guelzo’s book addresses the question of whether Robert E. Lee committed treason against the United States when he resigned from the U.S. Army to join the Confederacy and take up arms against a country he had sworn to defend. The history books most often say Lee said he “couldn’t raise his sword against Virginia” his home state. Guelzo writes there may have been more personal thinking to Lee’s decision.

Dr. Allen Guelzo was featured in a virtual Midtown Scholar Bookstore event recently and is on today’s Smart Talk.

See video of the interview here.

Supply chain problems affecting economic recovery

For the second straight year, the holiday shopping season may be different than in the years before the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, COVID cases had begun to re-surge and many Americans were in the midst of the pandemic’s economic fallout.

This year, the problem is inventory. Many retailers’ shelves may not be stocked with the products consumers are used to seeing.

The supply chain of numerous products has been disrupted as cargo ships wait offshore unable to be unloaded or their products transported, businesses are short-staffed and there’s a high demand for goods.

Freeman College of Management professor Jimmy Chen, Ph.D., Bucknell University joins Smart Talk Thursday to discuss the problem and expectations for a fix.

Legislators spend millions on private lawyers with little transparency

A recent investigative report by Spotlight PA and The Caucus found that the Pennsylvania legislature spent almost $10 million on private attorneys over the last two years and often didn’t divulge what those lawyers were hired for. That’s even though the four legislative caucuses have attorneys on staff.

The investigation was able to identify some of the issues outside law firms were contracted to handle, including the death penalty, a pipeline, the state’s fireworks law, a ban on Medicaid funds being used for abortions and whether atheists can deliver the opening prayer on the House floor.

The investigative report by Spotlight PA and The Caucus also uncovered how politically connected law firms are hired for lucrative public contracts. The report points out that while the practice is legal, it can “foster a pay-to-play culture in which contracts are awarded to political allies.”

Investigative reporters Angela Couloumbis, Spotlight PA and Sam Janesch, The Caucus, appear on Smart Talk Thursday of offer details on their reporting.

“The State of Mental Health in America” report links access to care and mental illness as key metrics

As COVID-19 spread throughout the United States, it not only resulted in greater morbidity and mortality but it also had disastrous effects on the mental health of the nation.

The pandemic is different than other “calamities” that impacted the United States, in certain regions or populations. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire population of the country.

Mental Health America (MHA), released their annual report, “The State of Mental Health in America” for 2022 and President and CEO Schroeder Stribling appears on Smart Talk Wednesday to analyze their findings.

For more on mental health plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at Transforminghealth.org, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Radon gas is dangerous and extremely common in Pennsylvania, causing a significant health risk

You can’t smell it, see it or taste it, but radon gas could be in your home and putting occupants at serious health risk.

Radon gas is a byproduct of naturally-occurring uranium as the element breaks down underground, then enters through cracks or leaks in a home or building foundation.

It is estimated that 40 percent of Pennsylvania homes have radon levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s action guideline. Testing is essential to detect the gas but there are ways to mitigate the problem if it is detected.

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to highlight the danger are Robert Lewis, Radon Program Manager with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Kevin Stewart, American Lung Association Environmental Health and Mike Webster, M. Webster Construction, Inc.

Four-day work week gaining traction in the workplace

With the advent of online technology it is now possible for knowledge-based workers to log on and work from anywhere, at any time.

That is good news for both employees and employers, but it also increases the likelihood of worker burnout as the traditional work-life boundaries become blurred.

There are some organizations recognizing the need to better define employee work hours and construct an employment environment that benefits both the employees and employers.

The four-day work week is gaining traction, as anecdotal evidence and research studies show an increase in productivity and retention among participants. Smart Talk Tuesday will host several researchers who have studied the impact to both employers and employees. Joining the conversation are Ashley Whillans, Ph.D., assistant professor in negotiations, organizations, and markets unit at the Harvard Business School and author of Time Smart: How to Reclaim your Time and Live a Happier Life; Heidi Shierholz, Ph.D., president of the Economic Policy Institute and former chief economist at the Department of Labor under the Obama administration; and Kerri Nelson, Ph.D., Lead Researcher with the Society for Human Resource Management.

This Smart Talk is part of ‘Careers That Work’ project from TechLink, South Central PA’s Consortium for Career & Technical Education

‘Peace and Justice in PA’ to honor those who fight racism, discrimination

The PA Media Group is hosting a statewide virtual event in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission on October 19 called “Peace and Justice in PA.”

The is part of their “live journalism” series to examine Pennsylvania’s “current state of affairs around diversity, equity and inclusion.” They will discuss efforts to counter extremism and hate groups in the state and how to support the people and organizations that are leading the response.

Joyce Davis, Outreach and Opinion Editor for PennLive and The Patriot-News appears on Smart Talk Monday to offer details on the event.

What is behind the reports of a nurse shortage?

From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and other healthcare workers were lauded as heroes in the fight and held in high regard.

Now that the world is closing in on two years battling the virus those same workers are exhausted and, in some cases, leaving the profession because of burnout.

Healthcare providers are reporting nurse shortages at all levels of care, particularly at the “bedside.”

What is causing the problem and what can be done to improve the situation?

Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to share their perspective on the problem, and possible solutions, are Susan Comp, MBA, MHA, chief nursing officer, UPMC in Central Pa., Betsy Snook, CEO Pennsylvania State Nurses Association, and Noah Logan, Government Relations Specialist, Pennsylvania State Nurses Association.

For more on the state of nursing care plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at Transforming Health.org, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

The 2021 ‘Great Places in Pennsylvania’ award winners

The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association announced the 2021 award winners of the Great Places in Pennsylvania contest, sponsored by their organization.

To qualify for consideration, a place must fit into three categories: great public spaces, great greenways or trails and great streets. Eight places were designated this year and to date, 46 Great Places have been designated across the Commonwealth.

When selecting the winners the association judged nominees on criteria that considers if they are “unique, memorable places that display community planning best practices, have an exemplary character, and a sustainable vision for tomorrow.”

Pamela Shellenberger, AICP, with the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association appears on Smart Talk Friday to highlight the 2021 Pennsylvania Great Places designees.

Talking to kids about climate change and ocean health

Climate change is a complicated and often frightening concept. Talking to kids about it, while necessary, can be difficult for anyone.

Smart Talk Friday is joined by two guests who offer ways to present the problem through the lens of a beloved aquatic mammal named Kobee Manatee.

A new book in the Kobee Manatee® series, Climate Change and The Great Blue Hole Hazard by Pennsylvania-based author Robert Scott Thayer, shows how extreme weather is impacting the world around us.

Joining him on the program is scientist Tracy Fanara, Ph.D., Inspector Planet, Weather Channel correspondent and Science Channel MythBusters commentator. Thayer and Fanara collaborate to help readers understand how to talk with children about climate change and what they can do to empower themselves.