Preserving Pennsylvania’s oldest historical documents

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Image courtesy of Cumberland County Archives

What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, May 15, 2019:

“History may not repeat itself, but the present often rhymes with the past.” And in order to understand the past, preserving old documents and records is key.

Cumberland County archivists recently received a grant to preserve documents that are older than the United States. These records include pieces from signers of the Declaration of Independence, among other works of historical significance that give a glimpse of Pennsylvania’s past.

“Preservation is education,” says one Pennsylvanian archivist. By preserving local history, archivists can contribute to the rich history of our nation and educate those about the importance of old records. One of the original thirteen colonies, Pennsylvania is the source of critical points in United States history, like the Battle of Gettysburg and its founder William Penn.

Also, as technology continues to evolve, local counties are noticing a shift from the traditional ways to catalogue documents to ways in which archivists can electronically “preserve” documents in an online format. This allows residents and visitors easy access to the past.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss the importance of preserving historical documents are Barbara Bartos, Cumberland county archivist, Andrew Dalton, Adams County Historical Society‘s assistant collections manager, and Jesse Crooks, a librarian at the Mercer Museum in Bucks County.

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Barbara Bartos, Cumberland County Archivist, and Andrew Dalton, Adams County Historical Society Assistant Collections Manager

Smart Talk Road Trip to the York Rail Trail

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What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, May 14, 2019:

Tuesday’s Smart Talk makes a road trip to the York County Heritage Rail Trail at Hanover Junction Station.

Hiking, biking or riding horses on Pennsylvania’s many rail trails are some of the most popular outdoor recreational activites in the state. Pennsylvania leads the nation in the number of rails-to-trails construction and more projects are ongoing all the time. In fact, a new stretch of the York County Heritage Rail Trail just opened earlier this month and the Trail will be 28 miles in length when completed next year — making it one of the largest in the state.

Those who use rail trails say there are several benefits, including health and exercise. But rail trails also have conservational, educational and transportation benefits, as well.

The York County Heritage Rail Trail at Hanover Junction has a long history, too. Confederate troops made the North Central Railroad, which ran on what is now the trail, a prime target before the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln stopped at Hanover Junction on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address in November 1863.

On Smart Talk, we’ll discuss rail trails and why they’re so popular in Pennsylvania.

Guests include Diane Kripas, Division Chief for DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Tom Sexton, Northeast Regional Director, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Silas Chamberlin, Author of On The Trail: A History of American Hiking, Gwen Loose, Executive Director, York County Rail Trail Authority and Frank Kempf, York County Rail Trail Authority Member.

Hamburger Hill 50 years later and Congressional candidate Marc Friedenberg

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A wounded U.S. paratrooper grimaces in pain as he awaits medical evacuation at base camp in the A Shau Valley near the Laos border in South Vietnam on May 19, 1969, following the 10-day battle known as Hamburger Hill. (AP Photo/Hugh Van Es)

What to look for on Smart Talk Monday, May 13, 2019:

Fifty years ago this week, a bloody battle raged on a 3,000-foot-tall peak in Vietnam.

American Army forces, along with a South Vietnamese regiment, assaulted Ap Bia Mountain to destroy multiple battalions of dug-in North Vietnamese troops.

The battle earned the nickname “Hamburger Hill, and marked the beginning of our nation’s slow and protracted exit from Vietnam.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss Operation Apache Snow and the Battle of Hamburger Hill is Dr. Conrad C. Crane, the Chief of Historical Services for the Army Heritage and Education Center at Carlisle Barracks.

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Dr. Conrad C. Crane

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Ho Khoa, 61 years old and a former major with North Vietnamese defenders, sits in the town of Aluoi, Vietnam, Tuesday, April 25, 2000. Ho, who fought with North Vietnamese Communist forces remembers the battle for what became known as “Hamburger Hill” as one of the most brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Ap Bia, as it is known locally, can be seen in the background. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)

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A wounded U.S. paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division is helped through a blinding rainstorm by two medics after being evacuated from Dong Ap Bia during the 10-day battle for Hamburger Hill, May 1969. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces eventually dislodged communist forces from Dong Ap Bia, but the action touched off further political controversy in the United States. (AP Photo/Hugh Van Es)

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Operation Apache Snow (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Military History Institute)

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Operation Apache Snow (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Military History Institute)

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Operation Apache Snow (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Military History Institute)

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Operation Apache Snow (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Military History Institute)

Also, Pennsylvania will hold a special election on May 21 for the 12th District position vacated by U.S. Congressional Representative Tom Marino. He announced in January his decision to leave following his re-election to a two-year term last November.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss his campaign is Marc Friedenberg, Congressional candidate for Pennsylvania’s 12th District.

The 12th Congressional District is located in central and northern Pennsylvania and includes Perry, Juniata, Mifflin, Snyder, and Union Counties and parts of Northumberland and Montour Counties in the WITF listening area.

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Marc Friedenberg

‘Super Mad at Everything All the Time’ author Alison Dagnes

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, May 9, 2019:

The new book Super Mad at Everything All the Time — Political Media and Our National Anger is described as exploring the polarization of American politics through the collapse of the space between politics and culture, as bolstered by omnipresent media. It seeks to explain this perfect storm of money, technology, and partisanship that has created two entirely separate news spheres: a small, enclosed circle for the right wing and a sprawling expanse for everyone else. This leads to two sets of facts, two narratives, and two loudly divergent political sides with extraordinary anger all around.

Based on extensive interviews with leading media figures and politicos, this book traces the development of the media machine, giving suggestions on how to restore our national dialogue while defending our right to disagree agreeably.

Author Alison Dagnes points out in the book that every controversy, insult, or conspiracy theory is magified because each can be read, heard or seen on devices that fit into the palms of our hands — 24-hours-a-day — produced by a source that may or may not have an agenda.

Alison Dagnes is a political science professor at Shippensburg University.

She appears on Thursday’s Smart Talk.

Confronting climate change


Photo courtesy of Carolyn Beeler

What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, May 8, 2019:

Activists and ordinary citizens are confronting climate change everyday.

On Smart Talk, we’ll hear from people taking on this massive, existential issue. Here in central Pennsylvania there is a legal scholar who published a new book on potential climate solutions.

John Dernbach of Widener University Commonwealth Law School has co-edited a book called “Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States.” He calls it a ‘playbook’ for how to deal with climate change and it includes over 1,000 things that can be done on a local, regional, and national level.

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John Dernbach and his book, “Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States”

Also joining the discussion, Olivia Shumaker is a 16-year-old activist from Lancaster County, who is organizing school strikes to demand climate action.

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Olivia Shumaker, a 16-year-old activist from Lancaster County

Finally, appearing on Smart Talk is Carolyn Beeler, a reporter with PRI’s “The World.” Beeler recently traveled to Antarctica, spending two months aboard a research vessel covering scientists studying a massive glacier that’s at risk of collapsing.

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Carolyn Beeler

Industrial Hemp is creating a buzz in PA


What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, May 7, 2019:

Industrial hemp is creating quite a buzz in Pennsylvania and around the country.

Touted as America’s “next big cash crop,’ the 2018 Farm Bill fully legalized the cultivation of hemp–and farmers are taking notice.

Industrial hemp has a long history in the U.S. as a textile. It was also a common crop in Pennsylvania, mainly produced for rope and sailcloth before the invention of lighter synthetics.

Modern uses for industrial hemp are expansive. Products ranging from clothing to compression moldings — food products to biofuel.

The applications for industrial hemp are seemingly unlimited. So, why has it taken the government so long to remove the barriers?

Today’s Smart Talk is an encore presentation on how Pennsylvania growers are responding to the opportunity, with Alyssa A. Collins, Ph.D., Director, Penn State extension Southeast Agricultural Research & Extension Center, Mark O’Neill, communications director with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and grower Scott Brown of Brown Hill Farms in Wyoming County.

NPR Correspondent Melissa Block discusses the role of media

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Photo by Allison Shelley

What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, May 6, 2019:

Melissa Block has seen a lot of change in the more than 30 years she has worked for NPR. She began her career in 1985 as an editorial assistant for All Things Considered and rose to become senior producer, and eventually host from 2003 to 2015.

Block covered some of the most important people and stories of the last three decades. Her reporting following the attacks of September 11, 2001, helped earn NPR a Peabody Award, as did the coverage of the massive earthquake in Sichuan, China, in 2008. Block happened to be there and reported events as they took place.

Last year, she completed a project called “Our Land,” profiling communities to capture how people’s identity is shaped by where they live. Block also recently completed a project on gun rights versus gun control for suicide prevention, and how to find a middle ground.

On Monday’s Smart Talk, is an encore presentation of Melissa Block and her thoughts on the role of independent media in America today.


The Presidents by C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb and Susan Swain

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WITF Smart Talk host Scott LaMar with C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb and Susan Swain./Photo Art Titzel

What to look for on Smart Talk Friday, May 3, 2019:

For the past 40 years, the cable TV network C-SPAN has televised floor sessions from Congress and other public affairs venues. Often, C-SPAN’s programming includes interviews with newsmakers, historians and authors.

Some of those interviews have been made into books.

The latest book is The Presidents by C-SPAN Founder and chairman Brian Lamb and Susan Swain, C-SPAN’s Co-CEO.

In a book that was published just a few weeks ago, America’s 44 presidents are ranked from one to 44. Current President Donald Trump is not ranked since he is still in office. The rankings are based on 10 categories with points assigned to those categories. C-SPAN updates their Historian Survey on Presidential Leadership after presidents leave office.

There are short stories about each of the presidents taken from interviews on C-SPAN with historians or those who have written biographies of a president.

Not surprisingly, Abraham Lincoln is ranked number one and Pennsylvania’s only president James Buchanan is considered the worst U.S. president, according to the historians.

Lamb and Swain recently appeared at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg where they talked about The Presidents. That conversation makes up Friday’s Smart Talk.

This is a previously recorded segment and, therefore, we are not able to take listener calls and emails.

Best-selling author Mark Bowden on his latest book/Chasing Cosby author

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What to look for on Smart Talk Thursday, May 2, 2019:

Thursday’s Smart Talk includes conversations with a best-selling author discussing his latest book and also the author of a new book that chronicles how entertainer Bill Cosby was brought to justice after being convicted of sexual assault charges.

Chasing Cosby — The Downfall of America’s Dad was written by journalist Nicole Weisensee Egan. As a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, Egan began reporting on sexual assault allegations made against Cosby in 2005. Cosby settled a civil suit out-of-court with his accusor Andrea Constand in 2006. The then Montgomery County (PA) District Attorney decided against filing criminal charges because he said there wasn’t enough evidence.

A new DA did bring charges on Cosby in 2015. In the ensuing years, more than 60 women came forward to say Cosby had sexually assaulted or raped them. It took two trials but Cosby was convicted and is serving time in a Pennsylvania prison today.

Egan’s book is probably the definitive narrative of the Cosby criminal case.

Also, author Mark Bowden — who wrote best-sellers Hue 1968, Killing Pablo and Black Hawk Down joins us on Thursday’s Smart Talk.

His newly published book — The Last Stone — details how the 40-year-old kidnapping and murder of two young sisters was solved through interviews police had with the killer himself — even though the man wasn’t a suspect in the crime.

Both authors are in Harrisburg at Midtown Scholar Bookstore this week. Egan speaks Thursday night and Bowden is there Saturday evening,

PA Legislators advocating for criminal justice reform


What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, May 1, 2019:

Last legislative session, Pennsylvania’s General Assembly came to a rare, bipartisan consensus on criminal justice and passed the Clean Slate Act–a measure that helps former inmates get their records expunged.

Now, the House and Senate are trying to move the needle on other criminal justice bills.

This morning on Smart Talk, we’re spending the hour with a panel of Democrats who–among other things–have been central to negotiations on cutting down on the commonwealth’s long probation times, regulating the way criminal defense is funded, and making it easier for inmates to reintegrate after serving sentences.

We’ll hear from Democratic State Representative Jordan Harris and Senator Anthony Williams–both of whom serve as minority whip in their chambers, and are members of the Legislative Black Caucus.

We’ll also hear from two former inmates–newly-appointed Board of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood, and onetime House Speaker Bill DeWeese.

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Board of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood, State Rep.Jordan Harris, State Sen. Anthony Williams, and former House Speaker Bill DeWeese.