The nation feeling the full-effect of the flu season

The flu season arrived with a vengeance and health officials are saying the U.S. outbreak this year is the worst they have seen in decades.

In the U.S., the season typically begins in October and can last as late as May, with most activity peaking in February. But this year the season started early with some cases appearing in July.

Children have been hit especially hard because of an unusual viral strain that is predominant among the reported cases. Thirty-two children have died since the flu season began; more than any recorded at this stage since the CDC began tracking data in 2004.

Also, there always seems to a question about the efficacy of the flu vaccine and that is true again this year.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the flu outbreak and vaccination effectiveness is Secretary of Health for Pennsylvania Dr. Rachel Levine, M.D.

Also, health officials point out that the first three months after a pregnancy are a critical time for maternal health. Calling it the fourth trimester, it is a time when mental health and physical health may intersect.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss this critical phase in a woman’s reproductive health are Dr. Nazanin Silver, M.D., Gynecologic Psychiatrist with UPMC Pinnacle Women’s Behavioral Health Specialists, along with Secretary of Health for Pennsylvania Dr. Rachel Levine, M.D.

Dr. Rachel Levine, M.D. and Dr. Nazanin Silver, M.D. appear on Smart Talk on January 17, 2020.

Dr. Rachel Levine, M.D. and Dr. Nazanin Silver, M.D. appear on Smart Talk on January 17, 2020.

For a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare, check out WITF’s Transforming Health, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

For anyone dealing with mental health concerns or in crisis can call the National Suicide Hotline at: 1-800-273-8255.

Click here for UPMC Pinnacle Maternal Health Awareness event.

Health of the herd and other PA wildlife issues

A healthy deer population is critical to sustaining Pennsylvania’s economic and natural resources. The health of the herd impacts the state’s forests, and the vibrant billion-dollar hunting industry.

Sustainable deer management is the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, who recently approved an earlier start to the firearm deer-hunting season. The move broke a long-standing tradition of starting deer season on the Monday after Thanksgiving. So, what’s feedback from hunters?

Also, the Commission has been monitoring Chronic Wasting Disease for several years. CWD is a contagious, always fatal disease that affects deer, elk and moose.

CWD has spread throughout western states, is the disease progressing in Pennsylvania?

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss these and other game management issues are Biologist Chris Rosenberry, Ph.D., head of the Deer and Elk Section, and Travis Lau Pennsylvania Game Commission Communications Director.


Chris Rosenberry, Ph.D., and Travis Lau appear on Smart Talk on January 16, 2020.
Chris Rosenberry, Ph.D., and Travis Lau appear on Smart Talk on January 16, 2020.

Also, wildfires are devastating the countryside throughout Australia. Lebanon County native Jordan Brown is studying in Australia and joins us on Smart Talk with his personal observations and photos of the bush fires.

All photos: Jordan Brown for WITF

Local perspective on Iran

Tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated markedly over the past several weeks following the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone.

The Trump administration initially said Soleimani was targeted because he was planning imminent terrorist attacks. Now, the administration says the killing of Soleimani was part of a strategy to fight worldwide threats against U.S. interests. There was great concern in the aftermath of his death that the two nations could go to war.

Then, global attention shifted to Iran after Iranian forces shot down a passenger jet, killing all on board and drawing world-wide condemnation. Iran says the plane was shot down accidentally. Demonstrations against the government have followed in Iran leading many to hope this is a sign of mass public dissent.

The situation with Iran remains very unstable even while the broader threat of war appears to have dissipated.

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to help put the events into context are Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, Ph.D, Professor of International Affairs at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and PA Post reporter Joseph Jafaari.

Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, Ph.D and PA Post reporter Joseph Jafaari appear on Smart Talk on January 15, 2020.
Dr. Mehdi Noorbaksh, Ph.D and PA Post reporter Joseph Jafaari appear on Smart Talk on January 15, 2020.


Healthy living combines nutrition and physical activity

It’s a new year and maybe you have set a few resolutions. Perhaps you’ve decided to make a resolution not to make any more resolutions?

In either case, health and wellness are always top of mind after the holiday season and all the indulgences.

Maybe you plan to start a new exercise plan or purchase a gym membership? There are many fitness programs and activities available in Central Pennsylvania. There outdoor activities, of course, in addition to fitness boutiques that are new on the scene. How do you know what the best options are for you and your lifestyle?

Joining Smart Talk to discuss fitness trends and the benefits of an active lifestyle at any age are Brittany Holtz, registered yoga instructor and founder of Studio B Power Yoga with studios in Annville, Hershey and Mechanicsburg, and Laura Deitch, owner of Pure Barre in Mechanicsburg and Lancaster, and a certified Pure Barre Instructor.

Also, if you are committed to being active and healthier in the New Year that may mean taking a closer look your nutrition and diet.

There are a lot of buzz words out there like Keto, anti-inflammatory, no carbs, and intermittent fasting. What does it all mean and how should you eat for a healthy and active lifestyle?

Appearing on Smart Talk to shed some light on healthy eating as part of a healthy lifestyle are Mary Swindlehurst, registered nurse and diabetes educator with WellSpan Health and Peggy Lovelace, Dietitian, also with WellSpan Health.

Mary Swindlehurst, Peggy Lovelace and Laura Deitch appear on Smart Talk on January 14, 2020.
Mary Swindlehurst, Peggy Lovelace and Laura Deitch appear on Smart Talk on January 14, 2020.


How prepared are Millennials for retirement?

The Millennial generation often gets a bad rap.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, or simply Gen Y, are the generation after Baby Boomers and Gen X, generally individuals born between 1981 to 1996.

They are sometimes characterized in popular culture as lazy, entitled ‘snowflakes;’ disrespectful labels that carry over into the workplace.

The Millennial generation faces more than just pervasive stereotypes, they also deal with an employment climate that is much different than their parents. Gone are the days of full-retirement pensions, theirs has been called a do-it-yourself retirement system.

They may also bring with them a distrust of the financial sector. When Millennials entered the job market it was the height of the recession and all the “rules” had changed.

Now that Millennials make up the largest portion of the U.S. labor force they also bear the tax burden for older generation’s pension benefits – benefits they will never enjoy.

So, given the changing climate, how are Millennials preparing for retirement?

Joining Smart Talk to provide insight on retirement and career planning for Millennials are Jonathan Turner, author of Stop Faking It Start Making It, James Honchar, senior Human Resource Business adviser with PHEAA and Catherine Azeles, investment consultant with Conrad Siegel, a Retirement, Investment, and Healthcare employee benefit and investment advisory company.

Smart Talk Road Trip to Pa. Farm Show

Smart Talk makes a road trip to the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show for Friday’s program.

Agriculture has been described as Pennsylvania’s number one industry because it has such an economic and cultural impact on the state. So, any change in policy, the economy, weather and climate or consumer tastes affects Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding appears on Smart Talk with Scott LaMar on January 10, 2020.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding appears on Friday’s program to describe the “state of agriculture” in the Commonwealth. Topics to be addressed include a new farm bill signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf and the on- going trade war with China and other nations that impacts farmers.

Also, the state’s dairy farmers are hurting. Consumers are drinking 40% less milk since 1975 and milk prices have been low for a long period of time. Dave Smith, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association joins us on Smart Talk.

Finally, a growing and thriving business in Pennsylvania is craft beer. The state leads the nation with production of 3.7 million barrels of beer a year. We’ll learn more about craft beer and a Farm Show Beer competition on Smart Talk.

Dairy Farmer Justin Risser of Meadow Vista Farm and Dave Smith, ED PA Dairyman’s Association appear with Scott LaMar on Smart Talk on January 10, 2020.

Legislative update and stories to watch

It’s been a busy week at the State Capitol in Harrisburg with the start of a new legislative session.

WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer hosts Smart Talk to provide an update and insight into several high-profile issues and pieces of legislation.

Appearing on Smart Talk is PA Post reporter Joseph Jafaari, who has spent weeks tracking down the prices for religious texts and other materials in Pennsylvania’s county jails. He found that religious materials are relatively expensive in prison commissaries—and that Qurans almost always cost more than Bibles.

Joining the conversation is fellow PA Post reporter Ed Mahon to discuss how Extreme Risk Protection Orders—or Red Flag laws—are used in other states, and why they’re in legislative limbo in Pennsylvania.

Also, only one week into the new year and there have already been two U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Last year there were 134 fallen officers. Their work is dangerous, and often thankless.

Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a call to action asking citizens everywhere to demonstrate support for law enforcement.

The concept behind the initiative that began in 2015 is to show officers that their sacrifices are recognized and appreciated. A simple thank you will go a long way to ease the negativity often directed toward police officers and troopers.

Joining Smart Talk to convey the risks and sacrifices of law enforcement officers is David Kennedy, Pennsylvania State Troopers Association president.

Dave Kennedy appeared on Smart Talk on January 9, 2020.
Dave Kennedy appeared on Smart Talk on January 9, 2020.


Why are some U.S. Army’s posts named to honor the enemy?

The soldiers and families who call Fort Bragg, North Carolina, their home, live and work on one of the nation’s most prestigious military installations.

Home to elite Army units like the 82nd Airborne Division, the base has trained troops for battle since World War II to the present-day conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fort Bragg also stands out for another, more controversial reason. It is one of ten U.S. Army posts named for Confederate military officers.

Confederate General Braxton Bragg led units in many notable Civil War engagements and was certainly responsible for the killing of U.S. Army soldiers in battle.

Why, then, would the Army choose his name to honor what would one day become one of its most prestigious training posts?

The debate over memorializing the Confederacy in the American Armed Forces will take center stage on January 9 at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle. This is the first in a lecture series on provocative topics and how perceptions of history are reflected today.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the history behind the current debate is Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, Professor Emeritus of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Also joining Smart Talk is Geoff Mangelsdorf, Director of the US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, to talk about the Provocative Topics series and topics for future programs.

Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule appears on Smart Talk January 8, 2020
Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule appears on Smart Talk January 8, 2020. (photo courtesy of Ty Seidule)






Geoff Mangelsdorf, Director of the US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle
Geoff Mangelsdorf, Director of the US Army Heritage and Education Center, appears on Smart Talk on January 8, 2020.


The following links were provided by a  listener to add to the conversation about Confederate memorials:  Southern Poverty Law Center report: “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” and a digital initiative by the Southern Poverty Law Center.