Eagles’ Nick Foles/Supreme Court future/Poison hemlock

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, June 29, 2018:

The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33 in one of the most exciting Super Bowls in NFL history last February.  The Eagles hadn’t won a championship since 1960 and were underdogs entering the playoffs after starting quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending injury.  But in stepped back-up and former starter Nick Foles, who played a game for the ages and was named the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Foles will be in Harrisburg Friday afternoon and he joins us on Smart Talk to discuss his just released book  Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement earlier this week effective at the end of July.  So what does this mean for the court and the nation moving forward?

Michael Dimino, Professor of Law at Widener University Commonwealth Law School.

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Michael Dimino & Kelly Sitch

Many Pennsylvanians stood up and noticed in the last few weeks with more attention focused on the poison hemlock plant.  With good reason, the plant is poisonous to humans and can actually cause blindness.

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Poison Hemlock flower and stalk

To tell us more about posiion hemlock on Friday’s program is Kelly Sitch, a botanist with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.



Evangelical support of Trump/25-year-old murder case solved

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, June 28, 2018:

Eighty-one percent of Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.  More than a year-and-a-half later, they overwhelmingly still support the president’s policies.  Many question how devout Christians can fall in line behind Trump, considering he has been married three times, been accused of having multiple extramarital affairs, has been documented to not always tell the truth, and labeled as racist and xenophobic.

John Fea, Chair of the History Department at Messiah College has written a new book entitled Believe Me — The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  It explains that Evangelicals support Trump out of a fear of a changing society, their distaste for Progressives, Trump’s pledge to appoint conservative and anti-abortion judges and promise to “make America great again.”

Fea, who says he is an Evangelical himself, appears on Thursday’s Smart Talk.

John Fea appears at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg Saturday at 6 p.m.


John Fea

Also, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman joins us to discuss how the 25-year-old murder of Christy Mirack was solved.  A well-known local disc jockey, Raymond Rowe was arrested and charged with strangling and sexually assaulting the 25-year-old elementary school teacher.  Rowe reportedly was never a suspect in the case but DNA evidence obtained from the crime scene and matched with genetic material submitted for genealogy research by a family member narrowed it down to Rowe.

It could be the first time genealogy analysis was used to crack a murder case in Pennsylvania.

U.S. Attorney David Freed on Central PA federal crimes/York parade

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, June 27, 2018:

The Federal Middle District of Pennsylvania spans 33 counties, from Pike County in the East to Cameron County in the West. It covers almost half of the state and includes about 3.2 million Pennsylvanians.

David Freed is the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. U.S. Attorneys are responsible for representing their districts in addition to serving as the administrative leaders. They are also the head federal law enforcement officers in their districts.

Drug trafficking has been a very significant issue in the Middle District Court recently. Other topics frequently addressed by the court include child pornography, financial fraud and firearms offenses. Often cases involve both drugs and gun violence.

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk, Freed joins us to discuss federal crime in Central Pennsylvania.  Illegal immigration is also a topic we’ll discuss.

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United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania David Freed

Prior to being appointed the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District, Freed was the District Attorney of Cumberland County.

Also, there may not be another St. Patrick’s Day parade in York without new community support.  Dan Reilly, president of the committee that stages the parade, is on Wednesday’s Smart Talk.

PA dairy farmers fighting for their livlihoods

Pennsylvania farms that produce dairy products have been one of the crown jewels of the state’s agriculture industry.  Pennsylvania has the second most dairy farms in the country — about 16% of the entire nation’s dairy farms.  That’s even though the state has lost about 800 dairy farms since 2010.

Pennsylvania dairy farmers are facing challenges on several fronts right now that is making it difficult to succeed.  There’s a glut of milk on the market while consumers are drinking less milk and are turning to alternatives to milk like soy, coconut or almond beverages — some of which refer to themselves as milk but as dairy farmers vehemently point out — isn’t milk.

Adding to the headaches for last month is the cancellation of contracts between milk distributors and dozens of dairy farms. Retaliation for tariffs placed on aluminum and steel imports by the Trump Administration may also have an impact on dairy farmers if other countries retaliate with tariffs of their own.

June is National Dairy Month and the dairy industry is encouraging the state’s consumers to buy Pennsylvania dairy products.

On Tuesday’s Smart Talk, we look at Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.

Appearing on the program are David Smith, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association, Jayne Sebright, Executive Director at the Center for Dairy Excellence and Lolly Lesher, Way-Har Farms near Bernville in Berks County.

Opioid treatment scams/Overdose hospital admissions

More than 71 hundred Pennsylvanians went to out-of-state drug and alcohol treatment facilities according to a 2016-2017 survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.  Most went to Florida.  Those seeking treatment may or may not have been treated successfully.  But the Insurance Department and the state’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs are raising a warning about out-of-state group homes that are taking advantage of the opiod crisis and people who may be vulnerable.

Often there are sales people that tell those misusing drugs or alcohol that their insurance companies will pick up the cost of travel or medical bills.

Monday’s Smart Talk looks into this scam with Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman and Secretary of the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Jennifer Smith.

Also, a report by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council found that hospital admissions for heroin overdoses increased by 12.7% in 2016-17.  That’s the lowest increase in recent years.

Overdoses for pain medication actually decreased by 2.2%.

Almost 10% of those hospitalized for heroin overdoses died in the hospital.

We’ll get details of the report on Monday’s Smart Talk from Joe Martin, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.


On-time budget, behind-schedule redistricting

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What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, June 22, 2018:

In a departure from about ten years of unhappy tradition, Pennsylvania lawmakers are on the brink of passing a budget before the June 30th deadline.

Their proposal has made it through the House and, as of Friday morning, is awaiting final Senate consideration. It’s a mostly status-quo bill–spending $32.7 billion, or about 1.7 percent more than last year’s plan.

That extra cash doesn’t come from any new revenue (there’s none in the plan) but instead, from strong returns in the 2017-18 fiscal year, healthy projections next year, and some internal transfers. Plus, election year pressures are giving lawmakers extra incentive to agree to a plan and get out of Harrisburg fast.

The new money largely goes toward pension and healthcare obligations, plus a bump in education spending, including a new $60 million fund for school safety.

WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer leads a discussion on the ins and outs of the budget plan with Capitolwire Bureau Chief Chris Comisac and Marc Levy of the Associated Press–plus explains why all budget numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Chris Comisac and Marc Levy

We’ll also provide an update on lawmakers’ long-awaited congressional redistricting overhaul, which seems increasingly unlikely to pass the House in time to impact the 2021 redistricting process.

PA impacted by Supreme Court inaction?/Parkinson’s Disease

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, June 21, 2018:

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court sidestepped two cases — without ruling on whether they are Constitutional — related to how Congressional districts are drawn.  Many had hoped the Court would provide an answer to whether maps in Wisconsin and Maryland were gerrymandered.  Instead, the justices ruled unanimously that the plaintiffs didn’t have standing or couldn’t show they were negatively affected by the districts and sent the cases back to a lower court.

Will there be an impact in Pennsylvania that has been at the epicenter of a redistricting battle this year?

Political science professor Dr. Kyle Kopko of Elizabethtown College appears on Thursday’s Smart Talk to analyze.

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell announced publicly earlier this week that he is battling Parkinson’s Disease.  Rendell indicated he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s three years ago and is being treated.

So what is Parkinson’s Disease?

It’s a neurodegenerative disorder that affects about one million Americans and 10 million people around the world. Symptoms develop over time and can include tremors, difficulty balancing, apathy and depression.

The disease is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease, but medication and surgical treatments can ease its symptoms. New research is looking into potential ways to better treat the disorder.

On Thursday’s Smart Talk, we’re joined by neurologist Dr. Thyagarajan Subramanian of Penn State Health’s Hershey Medical Center.

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Dr. Thyagarajan Subramanian

Tavern games not popular with taverns

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What to look for on Smart Talk Wednesday, June 20, 2018:

When the state decided five years ago to allow bars and taverns to expand the number of games of chance in their establishments, it was estimated that about two thousand bars and taverns would seek licenses to offer games such as pull tabs, raffles and daily drawings. 

Those games would return an estimated $93 million to state coffers each year.  Instead, fewer than 50 bars and taverns have licenses and only about one and a half million dollars goes back to the state annually.  What happened?

Tavern owners say the cost of the licenses are too high and they have other concerns as well.

Appearing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk are Chuck Moran, Executive Director, PA Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association and Jim Delisio, owner of Racehorse Tavern in York.

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Chuck Moran and Jim Delisio

Also, the documentary film Justice in Chester airs Thursday night at 8 on WITF-TV.  The film documents the history of the grassroots struggle to stop the clustering of commercial waste facilities in the city of Chester, just south of Philadelphia.  The documentary addresses the issue of environmental justice.

On Wednesday’s Smart Talk we discuss the film and environmental justice with Ulysses Slaughter, program manager for the “Chester Made” project and Dr. Diane Sicotte, author of the book From Workshop to Waste Magnet: Environmental Inequality in the Philadelphia Region.

Should fatal DUI be a felony in PA?

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What to look for on Smart Talk Tuesday, June 19, 2018:

Eighteen-year-old Meredith Demko was killed in a Lancaster County car crash in July, 2014.  The driver of the other vehicle had been arrested twice previously for driving under the influence and was driving with his license suspended.  His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit and he had heroin in his system at the time.  Even though the driver’s actions resulted in a death and he had multiple offenses, he wasn’t automatically charged with a felony that would result in a longer prison sentence.  Pennsylvania is one of just a handful of states where fatal DUIs aren’t treated as automatic felonies.

In fact, Pennsylvania is considered to have some of the most lenient DUI laws in the country.  But a few lawmakers and parents who lost children to drunk or impaired drivers are trying to change that.

Meredith’s father and mother, Chris and Susan co-founded the group Pennsylvania Parents Against Impaired Driving and have fought a passionate battle to make DUI laws tougher.  Chris Demko is on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.  Also with us are Republican State Senator John Rafferty and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman.

In Pennsylvania, first-time DUI offenders don’t automatically have their driver’s licenses suspended or serve time in jail.  The severity of the penalty often depends on the driver’s blood-alcohol level.

Repeat offenders account for about 40% of all fatal DUI-related crashes and tens of thousands continue to drive without a vaild license.

Should DUI laws be toughened in Pennsylvania? 

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Susan and Chris Demko

F&M poll shows voters want reform

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What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, June 18, 2018:

The latest Franklin and Marshall College Poll that was released last week shows that almost three out of four Pennsylvania voters want real change and reform in how their state government operates and would like to see a Constitutional Convention formed to review the fundamentals of government.  However, at the same time, the poll indicates almost half of the registered voters surveyed said they felt the state was moving in the right direction — one of the highest figures in recent years.

Large majorities of voters support changes in campaign finance laws, the structure and operation of the legislatures, redistricting and state and local government financing.

The F&M poll also finds that more than a third believe President Donald Trump is doing an excellent or good job as president.  Republicans and conservatives are much more likely to think so compared to Democrats and liberals. 

Another result of the poll is that the incumbent governor — Democrat Tom Wolf leads Republican Scott Wagner 48-29% with 23% undecided.  Wagner’s campaign criticized the poll afterwards saying more Democrats than Republicans were surveyed. 

Franklin and Marshall College political analyst and pollster Dr. G. Terry Madonna appears on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss the poll results.