Labor numbers and job training / Author with unique Lincoln book


What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, July 31, 2019:

Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was at a record low of 3.8% in June.

That’s according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s June report. State records date back to 1976.

The national unemployment rate went up one-tenth of a percentage point from May to 3.7%.

The employment numbers are so good that many employers are having trouble filling positions. However, there is another issue — some employers can’t find workers with the skills they need to adequately perform the jobs they have open.

South Central PA Works funds employment and training programs across the region and helps businesses build talent pipelines to fill workforce demands.

Joining Wednesday’s Smart Talkto discuss job growth and training initiatives are Eileen Cipriani, deputy secretary for workforce development at the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Jessie McCree, CEO of South Central PA Works, and Jeff Newman of the Center for Workforce Information & Analysis.


(Left to right) Jeff Newman, Jessie McCree and Eileen Cipriani

Also, Abraham Lincoln left a legacy of persuasion and decorum.

Joseph Roda’s book Abraham Lincoln and Making a Case: The Story of a Master discusses Lincoln’s rise to presidency and his unique ability to captivate audiences with speech. It dissects the effects of Lincoln’s “masterful use of fact, logic and emotion.”

Roda appears on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to share his insights about a unique aspect of Lincoln.

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Joseph Roda

What it takes to start a business / Black bears wandering into populated areas

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A black bear in a tree in Harrisburg looks at nearby people. (Brett Sholtis/WITF News)

What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, July 30, 2019:

A new generation of businesspeople at Bucknell University is helping Pennsylvania entrepreneurs and small businesses get on their feet.

Students at Bucknell’s Small Business Development Center have provided free, confidential consulting to an array of businesses, from pharmacies to restaurants.

This year Bucknell’s College of Engineering will work with sports company Gilson Snow to develop a water sports line. Gov. Tom Wolf awarded a $70,000 grant through the Manufacturing PA initiative to Gilson Snow for the project.

Bucknell mechanical engineering professors Craig Beal and Nate Siegel and up to five students will be working with Gilson Snow to develop and test wakeboard designs through summer 2020

The Bucknell College of Engineering and SBDC first partnered with Gilson Snow in 2013 to launch a line of skis and snowboards.

Joining us on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss entrepreneurism and small business projects in the region are Steven Stumbris, director of the Small Business Development Center at Bucknell University and Nick Gilson, CEO of Gilson Snow.


(L to R) Bucknell mechanical engineering professor Craig Beal; wakeboard project lead Aurelia Glass, a rising mechanical engineering senior at Johns Hopkins University; and Bucknell mechanical engineering junior Matt Rulon examine the initial wakeboard prototype, which was just tested on water last week. Photo by Bucknell University

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Nick Gilson (L) and Steven Stumbris (R)

Also, a 2015 population estimate showed approximately 20,000 black bears living in the commonwealth.

Bears have been spotted in parks, neighborhoods and communities around Pennsylvania and seem to be wandering into populated areas more often. Is the range for bears growing or are there other factors in play?

The best way to discourage bears from visiting your backyard is to avoid leaving food out. Black bears will eat human food, garbage, bird feed, pet foods, fruits from trees or gardens, and livestock feed. They also raid cornfields and beehives. Once a bear finds food, it’s likely to return determined to find more. You can take steps to avoind bears like cleaning your trash bins with hot water and chlorine bleach.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss why we’re seeing more bears outside the wood is Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Mark Ternent, who will also address what to do if you come face to face with a bear.

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Mark Ternent

Marijuana’s place in health care / New dean at Penn State’s Dickinson Law


What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, July 29, 2019:

The possibility of legalizing marijuana has been a hotly debated topic across Pennsylvania.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman traveled the state this year on a listening tour to gather input about recreational legalization. Gov. Tom Wolf said in December state legislators must take a serious look at the possibility of recreational legalization.

But with little research on the drug, people are hesitant to get on board with even the now-legal medical marijuana use. A new partnership aims to change that.

Penn State College of Medicine announced in June a collaboration with PA Options for Wellness for medical marijuana research. The goal of the partnership is to develop a medical model focused on the patient, research, outcomes, compliance and quality of life.

Penn State College of Medicine and PA Options for Wellness will work together to investigate the potential benefits and risks of using marijuana extracts to treat a variety of health issues.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss the marijuana research partnership and findings is Dr. Kent Vrana of the Penn State Department of Pharmacology and Tom Trite, president and CEO of PA Options for Wellness.

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Tom Trite (left) and Dr. Kent Vrana (right)

Also, Penn State’s Dickinson Law has a new dean. Danielle Conway stepped into the role of dean on July 1. Conway is Dickinson Law’s first person of color and first woman to serve as dean.

Originally from Philadelphia, Conway spent her career as dean of the University of Maine School of Law and on the faculty at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s William S. Richardson School of Law. She also served in the U.S. Army and retired as a lieutenant colonel after 27 years.

Conway specializes in public procurement law, entrepreneurship and intellectual property law. She is admitted to the bars in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Conway succeeds Gary Gildin, who served as dean of Dickinson Law since November 2016. Gildin directs the Center for Public Interest Law and Advocacy and will remain on the Dickinson Law faculty.

Conway joins Smart Talk to discuss her first month as dean and plans for Dickinson Law.


When Planning for Retirement,Timing is Everything


What to look for on Smart Talk, Friday, August 2, 2019:

Sixty-five years old is the traditional retirement age milestone for most American workers. That’s when we are supposed to retire and ease into our golden years.

But for a surprising number of Americans, age 65 does not mean it’s time to give up their paycheck. A recent survey of workers shows that roughly 25% plan on working past the traditional retirement age.

Some need to keep working for financial reasons. Others may want to keep working because it’s important to their emotional well being.

What’s the right age for retirement? How much money will you need? What can you do to get on the right track, financially and health-wise?

Apearing on Smart Talk to discuss these and other retirement-related issues are Andy Soergel, Journalism Fellow with the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Center at the University of Chicago Center, Dr. Noel Ballentine, internal medicine physician with a specialty in geriatric medicine from Penn State Health and the Milton Hershey Medical Center, and Rick Rodgers, financial retirement specialist and president of Rodgers & Associates.


Noel Ballentine (L) and Rick Rodgers (R)

Dogs become integral tool in classrooms


What to look for on Smart Talk, Tuesday, July 23, 2019:

Schools are using therapy dogs to enrich students’ lives, from everyday programs to emotional support after a disaster. Districts in Lancaster, York and Dauphin counties are adding furry staff to fill a range of needs.

Guest host Valerie Pritchett of ABC27 fills in for Scott LaMar to discuss dogs in the classroom ahead of a new school year.

How are dogs trained and certified? What benefits are there to students? What is the cost to schools and taxpayers, and what is the return on investment?

We will also explore the differences between service, facility, therapy and emotional support dogs.

Joining Smart Talk are Deb Tack, partner coordinator at Susquehanna Service Dogs, Doug Hopwood, executive director of Keystone Pet Enhanced Therapy Services, and Kristin Glass, school psychologist at Lampeter-Strasburg High School.

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(Left to right) Doug Hopwood, Kristin Glass and Deb Tack

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Mali of Susquehanna Service Dogs in the WITF studio

PA Sen. Bob Casey / legislation impacting physicians / 2020 Census

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Sen. Bob Casey

What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, July 22:

The political battles brewing in Washington may lead many to ask about the progress being made to address the many problems facing the nation and Pennsylvania. Access to health care, immigration and the economy are areas highlighted recently by Pennsylvania Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey as areas he is focused on. Sen. Casey appears on Smart Talk to talk about his priorities.

Also, with health care topping many legislative priority lists, there are three actions drawing the attention of Pennsylvania medical providers. The first is a bill requiring they obtain approval from insurers before prescribing medicine or performing certain tests. The second bill denies providers the authority to refuse to treat an unvaccinated child or by requiring their caregivers sign a waiver as a condition for care. A third bill would eliminate the state’s religious and philosophical exemptions for student vaccinations.

Dr. Danae Powers, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society, joins Smart Talk to discuss where the society stands on these issues.

Finally, the U.S. Constitution mandates the nation conduct a population count every 10 years. The next census is planned for 2020 and with it comes many questions. Why do we count? What information is collected? How do the numbers impact federal dollars, policy and political representation?

Joining Smart Talk to address these and other questions are WITF Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer and Micah Sims, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania.

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Human trafficking in Pennsylvania / Author Nathaniel Philbrick


What to look for on Smart Talk, Thursday, July 18, 2019:

Financier Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest on sex trafficking charges has reignited a debate over a 2008 plea deal in which he received immunity from federal prosecution in exchange for pleading guilty to state prostitution charges. The political fallout has been in the spotlight as Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, who was the prosecutor that signed off on the 2008 deal, resigned amid a public furor at what was viewed as an overly lenient agreement.

What has received less attention, however, is the underlying issue of human trafficking, which is prevalent nationwide and in Pennsylvania. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which people profit by exploiting others using fraud, force, or coercion to manipulate victims into committing sex acts or labor. The victims are often children; any situation with a minor that involves elements of prostitution is a form of human trafficking. Frequently, human trafficking becomes intertwined with drug addiction, a particular problem given the ongoing opioid crisis.

Nearly 200 cases of human trafficking in Pennsylvania were reported to a hotline in 2018, but, since the Commonwealth passed a comprehensive human trafficking law in 2014, fewer than 50 people have been convicted or have convictions pending. Appearing on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss the scope and impact of the problem in Pennsylvania is Shea Rhodes, director of the Villanova Law Institute to Address Commercial Sexual Exploitation, and Susan Mathias, CEO of Transitions of PA.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also text 233733 (text “HELP” or “INFO”).

Also, George Washington is known as America’s first great general, leading the Continental Army to decisive victories at places like Trenton and Princeton. In a new book, historian Nathaniel Philbrick argues that the fate of the American Revolution rested on Washington’s ability to coordinate with the French Navy at sea. Philbrick joins Smart Talk to discuss his latest book In the Hurricane’s Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown.


Challenges facing rural Pennsylvanians


What to look for on Smart Talk, Wednesday, July 17:

More than one in four Pennsylvania residents live in one of the Commonwealth’s 48 rural counties. On average, Pennsylvania’s rural population is on the decline as death rates exceed birth rates, but more people are moving into rural Pennsylvania counties than are moving out.

The aging rural population and other structural factors, including significantly lower income levels, lack of public transportation, poor infrastructure and slower broadband speeds, pose a range of challenges. These challenges are heightened for rural Pennsylvanians, particularly in areas like health care and emergency services, housing and workforce development.

But the news is not all discouraging. Rural school district graduation rates tend to exceed urban counterparts, and money from the Commonwealth’s impact fee on drillers is helping to fund infrastructure projects.

What are the most pressing issues in rural communities? What is the state legislature doing to help address them? What don’t people know about rural Pennsylvania?

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Barry Denk (L) and Senator Gene Yaw (R)

Appearing on Wednesday’s Smart Talk to tackle these questions are Barry Denk, director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), who represents five rural Pennsylvania counties in the northeastern part of the state and chairs the Center for Rural Pennsylvania’s Board of Directors and the Senate Committee on Energy & Environmental Resources, and Indiana County Commissioner Sherene Hess.


Center for Rural Pennsylvania

Smart Talk Road Trip to the North Museum of Nature and Science


Astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon, July 20, 1969

What to look for on Smart Talk, July 16, 2019:

50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the moon.

As the 50th Anniversary of the historic mission approaches, WITF’s Smart Talk Road Trip visits The North Museum of Nature and Science in Lancaster.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the 50th anniversary of the moon landing as well as the United States space program today and tomorrow are Dr. David Fisher, Professor of Physics & Astronomy and spaceflight historian at Lycoming College, Tom Usciak, a photographer of missions since Apollo, and Axel Diaz, Solar System Ambassador at NASA.

Then, we’ll pivot to discuss the North Museum’s planetarium and stargazing in Pennsylvania. Joining that conversation are “Cosmic Mike,” Senior Astronomy Educator at the North Museum, and Lane Davis, President of the Astronomy Enthusiasts of Lancaster County.

This Smart Talk Road Trip is supported by Roof Advisory Group, Michael’s Motor Cars, and The North Museum of Nature and Science.

The state of gerrymandering in PA and preparing for earthquakes


What to look for on Smart Talk, Monday, July 15, 2019:

Last year, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the Commonwealth’s legislative district map as a violation of the State Constitution and imposed its own as a substitute. But with the 2020 census on the horizon, the process of drawing new congressional districts will soon begin anew.

Under current law, the Pennsylvania state legislature is responsible for developing and approving the map, but a proposal circulating at the Capitol calls for a different approach, establishing an independent commission to draw new lines. Similar proposals have languished in recent years, though a similar proposal passed the State Senate last session.

What is the current status of gerrymandering in Pennsylvania? What will the process to draw the lines look like after the upcoming census?

PA Post reporter Emily Previti recently examined this topic, and she joins Smart Talk to share her analysis.


Emily Previti

Also, earthquakes have rekindled a place in the public consciousness after a pair of tremors – magnitude 6.4 and 7.1 — struck California last week. The quakes have sparked conversation about the preparedness of American infrastructure to withstand future events and what people should do to make sure their families are prepared.


Map of aftershocks from California’s earthquakes (Map courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

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Helen Delano

Helen Delano, Senior Geological Scientist at the Pennsylvania Geological Survey with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, appears on Smart Talk to discuss the prevalence of and preparedness for earthquakes in Pennsylvania.

Earthquake Resources

DCNR page on earthquakes in Pennsylvania

Map of latest earthquakes from U.S. Geological Survey

Building codes toolkit from FEMA

Seismic events in Pennsylvania from Penn State Seismic Network