PA ranked 38th best state/Filmmaker Tracy Strain

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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, April 16, 2018:

U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best States rankings list Pennsylvania as the 38th best state to live in.  The report uses data to rank states in the areas of education, health care, economy, opportunity, infrastructure, crime and corrections, fiscal stability and quality of life.

Pennsylvania is 14th in opportunity and 44th in quality of life and there are a lot of factors that go into those rankings.   Sub-data is used to compute the final rankings.  The only category Pennsylvania was first in was child wellness visits..

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk is Deidre McPhillips, the data analyst at U.S. News and World Report.

Also, Lorraine Hansberry was the author of the iconic play A Raisin in the Sun – the story of African-Americans living in segregated Chicago.  Hansberry was the first black woman to have a play performed on Broadway.  Throughout her life, Hansberry was a civil rights and gay rights activist.

The documentary film Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart premiered on PBS’ American Masters series in January and will be part of a special program Tuesday night at the State Museum in Harrisburg.  The film’s director of filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain, a Harrisburg native, joins us on Smart Talk.

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Tracy Heather Strain, Director of Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart


Turnpike pursues unpaid tolls/Fair Districts unhappy with amended redistricting bill

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What to looks for on Smart Talk Friday, April 13, 2018:

A Lancaster County woman allegedly owes more than $91,000 in unpaid tolls to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.  The Commission claims she drove through the EZ Pass lane for years between Harrisburg and Mechanicsburg without paying a toll. She and others who have rolled up unpaid tolls and fees of more than $2,000 could face criminal charges for theft of services. 

The Turnpike Commission is cracking down after writing off the unpaid tolls for years.  A 2016 audit found up to $20 million a year in unpaid tolls.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss efforts to collect the tolls and fees are Ray Morrow, Chief Compliance Officer with Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and Carl DeFebo, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

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Carl DeFebo, Ray Morrow of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission

Also, the House State Government Committee fired another salvo earlier this week in the battle over how Congressional boundaries are drawn in Pennsylvania.  The committee amended a bill that would have created an 11-member commission — that didn’t include legislators – to draw up district maps. 

The amended version calls for six lawmakers – one from each caucus – and two agreed upon by the General Assembly – to develop the maps. 

In March, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted their own map and rejected ones submitted by the Republican-controlled legislature as too partisan.  This came after the court had ruled Congressional districts were gerrymandered to favor Republicans when adopted in 2011.  republicans are threatening to impeach the Democratic judges on the court for overstepping their Constitutional responsibilities.

The grass-roots group Fair Districts PA, that has campaigned for reforms in redistricting, was unhappy with the committee’s move.  Executive Director Carol Kuniholm is on Friday’s Smart Talk.

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Carol Kuniholm, Executive Director of Fair Districts PA


Holocaust Remembrance Day/Author Patrick Sharkey on falling crime

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, April 12, 2018:

On January 20, 1942, fifteen high-ranking Nazi party and government leaders assembled outside of Berlin, at a villa by a lake known as Wannsee. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the “final solution to the Jewish question in Europe.”

The “final solution” was the Nazi’ code name for the planned genocide of all European Jews.

After the Wannsee Conference, the Nazis began the planned, systematic deportation and murder of Jews from all over Europe. Ultimately, more than six million European Jews died; two-thirds of the known population.

Thursday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, the nation’s annual commemoration of the Holocaust. Remembrance Day was established by Congress to remember the victims and their suffering, and not allow the truth of what happened to fade into history.

Appearing on Thursday’s Smart Talk is Lt. Col (retired) Ray Millen a Professor of Security Sector Reform at the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, Carlisle Barracks. He will discuss the events that transpired at Wannsee and the “final solution” to the German plan.

Pamela Weinberg is a local author and educator, who’s parents survived the Holocaust. They met and married as refugees in the United States following the war, and she is in the studio to share their experience.

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Pamela Weinberg and Dr. Ray Millen

Also, violent crime has dramatically diminished over the last 30 years, even in cities that have a reputation of violence. In 1974, Chicago, for example, had 970 homicides. That number dropped to 650 last year and seems like it will continue to drop in years to come.

In the newly released book, Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence, author Patrick Sharkey delves into the reasons why violence in the country has dropped so much and if it will continue.

Patrick Sharkey joins us on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss his new book and current crime trends in the U.S.

Sharkey appears at Mid Town Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg Thursday night at 7.

Chronic Wasting Disease in Deer/Pennsylvania Industrial Heritage Exhibit

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 What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, April 11, 2018:

Chronic Wasting Disease is a contagious, always fatal disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE), which is the same type of disease as Mad Cow Disease. The disease causes brain cells to die, resulting in microscopic holes in the brain tissue and, ultimately death of the animal.

CWD spread throughout western states and the Pennsylvania Game Commission had been concerned about it for years.  In 2012, a deer on a deer farm in Adams County was the first to be diagnosed with the disease in Pennsylvania.  Since then, about a hundred free-ranging deer have been found to have contracted Chronic Wasting Disease.

In February, a deer on a deer farm in northern Lancaster County was confirmed to be infected. As a result, the farm and land within a 10-mile radius was ordered quarantined. The quarantine includes portions of Lancaster, Berks and Lebanon counties

CWD is threatening the $1.6 billion hunting industry and deer farms in Pennsylvania.

Appearing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk are two deer farmers who are with the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association — Glenn Dice Jr. and Jarrid Barry.

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Jarrid Barry, Glenn Dice Jr. of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association

Also, the State Museum of Pennsylvania is presenting a series of programs on the state’s historic landscapes using the hand-drawn, bird’s-eye views of Pennsylvania cities and towns by Thaddeus Mortimer “T.M.” Fowler.

The artist’s work is featured in the exhibit Every Thing of Interest Shown: T.M. Fowler’s Pennsylvania Bird’s-Eye Views, 1885-1905, currently on display at the museum.

When combined with other resources, these views can offer clues about how townscapes, residential and commercial buildings, and regional industries have changed over time.

Joining us is Senior Curator Curt Miner and Museum Director Beth Hager to discuss the series of programs featuring Fowler’s work.

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Curt Miner, Beth Hager of the State Museum of Pennsylvania

#MeToo: Divided Opinions

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, April 10, 2018:

Few issues have energized, and apparently polarized, Americans like the #MeToo movement; a social media phrase that ignited a firestorm of activism following sexual assault and harrasment allegations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein in 2017.

The hashtag acted as a propellant to the movement, which actually began in 1997 by a victim’s advocacy organization.

The #MeToo movement brought the subject of sexual violence and harassment to the center of the national dialogue and is influencing policy and education in the workplace.

Are there unintended consequences of the movement? Has the movement gone too far?

A Bucknell University survey reveals that in the months after the #MeToo movement gained national exposure, Americans are divided about the state of the movement and its impact.

While men and women vary somewhat in their views of #MeToo, the biggest differences are across political lines. Survey results indicate the #MeToo movement is a defining partisan issue.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk we’re joined by associate professor of political science Chris Ellis. He is the Director of the Bucknell University Survey Research Laboratory, who conducted the survey.

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Professor Chris Ellis

Also with us is Karen Baker, the Chief Executive Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

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Karen Baker

Is PA water clean?

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An example of a clean and picturesque stream in Pennsylvania at Rickett’s Glen State Park/Photo by Scott LaMar – WITF

What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday April 9, 2018:

Monday’s Smart Talk takes a look at how clean Pennsylvania’s waterways are.  A recent report from an environmental group found that Pennsylvania industrial facilities were second in the nation for violating their clean water permits.

According to a report done by PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center,Troubled Waters: Industrial Pollution Still Threatens America’s Waterway, industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Pennsylvania waterways 633 times over the span of 21 months. The report also shows that majority of the dumping went unpunished.

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk is Stephanie Wein, Clean Water and Conservation Advocate at PennEnvironment, to talk about the effects of water pollution.

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Stephanie Wein

Also, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission tries to control pollution with programs like Save Our Susquehanna. Save Our Susquehanna, or S.O.S., was started in 2015 and aims to fund water and soil conservation projects along the Susquehanna River. 

Joining us on Monday’s show is PFBC Executive Director John Arway to discuss the effects pollution have on aqautic life, the efforts being taking to stopping pollution and the opening of trout season.

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John Arway, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission

PA prepares for self-driving cars/Babies born addicted up 1000%

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, April 6, 2018:

“Pennsylvania is at the forefront of the vehicle automation revolution.”  That’s according to Roger Cohen, a senior advisor in the state Department of Transportation.  Cohen appears on Friday’s Smart Talk to explain how the state is preparing and testing for autonomous vehicles or as most people call them — “self-driving cars.” 

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Roger J. Cohen, PA Department of Transportation

Uber has tested self-driving vehicles on Pittsburgh’s streets for the last year.  Overall, the tests have gone well but it appears as though we still could be a few years away from driverless cars on the road.  Safety has to be of paramount importance.  A reminder of how far the technology has to go is a recent incident in Arizona where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a self-driving vehicle.

However, autonomous vehicles could contribute in many ways to the state’s transportation future like reducing the number of fatal crashes and being more efficient and thus reducing the need for more infrastructure.

We learn more on Smart Talk.

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Also, a new report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council finds that the rate of babies born in Pennsylvania suffering from drug withdrawal or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome increased more than 1,000% between 2000 and 2017.  

Those babies were often born premature, with a low birth weight and had trouble breating.

Joe Martin, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council joins us on Friday’s Smart Talk. 

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Joe Martin, Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council

Geography education and Bee/Drug-free workplace

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, April 6, 2018:

The Pennsylvania State Geography Bee is scheduled for Friday at the State Museum in Harrisburg.  Some of the brightest young people from throughout the state will be participating.  But when it comes to geography education in the K thru 12 grades, geography is often a forgotten subject.

In fact, nearly three-quarters of eighth graders tested below proficient in geography on the 2014 National Assessment of Education Progress.

Part of the explanation could be geography is not a required subject in most states.

We discuss the geography bee and geography education on Thursday’s Smart Talk with Daryl Wenner, co-coordinator of the Pennsylvania State Geography Bee and coordinator for the GeoChallenge and a Professor of Geography at Bloomsburg University.

We also will feature the first ever Smart Talk Geography Bee as host Scott LaMar, WITF Multimedia News Director Tim Lambert and WITF Radio Pennsylvania News Director Brad Christman answer geography questions.

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Brad Christman, Radio PA News Director, Tim Lambert WITF Multimedia News Director, Daryl Wenner, Professor of Geography at Bloomsburg University.

Read: Why geography matters

Also, the opioid crisis that is sweeping the nation is being fought on many different levels.  State-funded Drug Free Workplace PA’s goal is “to educate employers and employees about the dangers of substance abuse in the workplace.”

We’ll learn more on Thursday’s Smart Talk from Gina Riordan, the program superviser for Drug Free Workplace PA.

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Gina Riordan, program superviser for Drug Free Workplace PA

Road Trip to Hershey Story Museum

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, April 4, 2018:

Smart Talk is on the road again Wednesday, in Hershey at The Hershey Story Museum. We’ll explore the history of the “other” model town that Milton Hershey built in Cuba.

Hershey, Cuba, is named after Milton S. Hershey, who founded the town in 1916. He created a prosperous model industrial city on the Island nation, featuring a state-of-the art sugar manufacturing facility.

Along with the sugar mill, Hershey built schools, health clinics and a successful railway line running from Havana to the port.

After his death in 1945, Hershey’s Cuban assets were sold and continued to operate until Castro’s takeover of the Island in 1959. The mill eventually ceased operations in 2003 and the town, now called Camilo Cienfuegos City, lost its industrial identity and economic engine.

A new exhibit at The Hershey Story Museum, “Mr. Hershey’s Cuba: A Sweet Venture in Sugar, 1916-1946, tells the story of Hershey’s grand Cuban venture in sugar manufacturing.

Smart Talk is joined by Valerie Seiber, the collections manager at The Hershey Story Museum, along with Pamela Whitenack, manager of Hershey Community Archives.

Nester Gil will share his father’s experiences growing up in Hershey, Cuba, and working with the railroad.

Baseball was an important recreation in Cuba and we’re also joined by Thomas Goodman from the Caribbean Educational and Baseball Foundation.

Also, there’s been many changes to downtown Hershey in recent years.  On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, we’ll learn about economic development plans and projects. Lauren Zumbrun, Derry Township Economic Development manager joins the discussion, along with Susan Cort, Derry Township Board of Supervisors.

Starting Over after Maria — education and healthcare

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, April 3, 2018:

WITF’s Starting Over: Life in the Midstate After Hurricane Maria series continues Tuesday with a focus on education and healthcare — two unique challenges for displaced Puerto Ricans who have migrated to Central Pennsylvania after last fall’s storms.

Thousands of Puerto Ricans came to the region after Maria to stay with their families or make the midstate their home after the devastating hurricane destroyed homes and infrastructure on the island.  One of the areas impacted the most in Central Pennsylvania was the schools.  New students have enrolled in schools throughout the region.  Many of them don’t speak English or have no academic records.  They also have experienced a trauma.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk we’re joined by Amber Hilt, Coordinator of K-12 English as a Second Language and World Language at the School District of Lancaster and Jaime Foster, Chief Academic Officer in the Harrisburg School District.

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Also, the influx of Puerto Ricans into the midstate presents healthcare needs as well.  There’s the language barrier, few or no healthcare records and mental health is expected to be a major issue.

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk are Dr. Yesenia Colon-Rivera, Wellspan Philhaven psychologist, Dr. Paul Botros, a family physician with WellSpan Family Medicine in Lebanon,  Dr. Shanique Jarrett, a resident physician at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, and  Aida Pronko, a nurse at Hamilton Health Center in Harrisburg.

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Resources in Lancaster County:
Reynolds Refugee Center
Families in Transition
Refugees seeking help in Lebanon County