Smart Talk Tuesday: Farmers opting against tilling; Taking steps to protect pollinators

The healthiest soil is the soil that has never been disturbed.” That sentiment was made at the Pennsylvania Farm Show last January by a former state Agriculture Department official who advocates for no till practices.

But how can seeds be planted and crops grown without disturbing the soil?

The Pennsylvania No Till Alliance is made up of a group of farmers that employ planting and crop growing methods to maintain or improve soil quality and are better for the environment, including waterways.

Appearing on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss no till farming (and gardening) are Jim Hershey, President of the Pennsylvania No-Till Alliance and a farmer in Lancaster County; Lisa Blazure , Soil Health Coordinator with the Stroud Water Research Center, and Steve Groff, a farmer in Lancaster County, who is a cover crop/hemp educator.

National Pollinator Week is just ending. With all the challenges facing the world today, honeybee colony collapse may not be near the top of a list of priorities.

But considering one-third of the world’s food supply depend on pollinators and more than 20% of honeybees died from colony collapse last winter, maybe it should be.

Steps are being taken to protect honeybees and other pollinators including a move by Giant Food Stores to set aside seven acres at their Carlisle headquarters for pollinators.

Joining us on Tuesday’s Smart Talk are Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred Strathmeyer and State Apiarist Karen Roccasecca.

Smart Talk Monday: Defunding State Police?; Andrew Johnson to blame for today’s racial inequality?

As state and local governments across the country work to enact police reforms in the wake of the George Floyd killing while in Minneapolis police custody last month, one proposal that may actually occur is defunding police departments. In most cases, defunding means moving money away from police departments and using those funds for social programs.

Pennsylvania’s largest police department is the Pennsylvania State Police. The State Police is in a unique position. That’s because many municipalities – about 1,700 of them — rely on State Police for coverage. A lot of those townships and boroughs disbanded their own police departments completely.

The concept of community policing that counts on officers patrolling a regular beat and getting to know the community has been hailed as one way to reduce racial injustice. That would seem to be difficult with State Police covering large geographic areas.

PAPost reporter Joseph Darius Jaafari has written about police funding and appears on Monday’s Smart Talk.

Also, many historians say America had the opportunity to eliminate or greatly reduce racial injustice and inequality when the Civil War ended. However, decisions made by President Andrew Johnson after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln may have led to discrimination, Jim Crow laws and violence against African-Americans and never allowed them to achieve equality.

Joining us on Monday’s Smart Talk is Prof. Matthew Pinsker, Ph.D., Dickinson College, Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History.

The House Divided Project is an initiative of Dickinson College to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction in America.

Smart Talk Friday: Attorney General Shapiro on police reforms, fracking, child abuse; Child abuse reports down during pandemic

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro appears on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss several topics.

They include police reforms, fracking and funding for child abuse investigations.

Pennsylvania is one of many state and local governments to legislate new rules and laws for police departments to adhere to in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody last month. Floyd’s death has resulted in nationwide protests and calls for racial justice and equality.

The Pennsylvania House and Senate have each passed separate bills that would require employment background checks on those looking to become a police office or join another department and also improve training.

Also, a two-year Grand Jury report found there were systematic failures on the part of Pennsylvania regulators — including the Department of Environmental Protection — to guard against negative health effects of fracking at natural gas drilling sites.

Finally, Attorney General Shapiro and the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association are asking Congress for $1.5 billion in anticipation of an increased number of child abuse investigations after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile Angela Liddle, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance is on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss child abuse reports being down during the pandemic and the expected increase once the state re-opens or children go back to school this fall.


Smart Talk Thursday: Lung Association questions EPA on pollution regs; Baseball will be played this summer

Last April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the agency was going to retain a piece of legislation called the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Particulate Matter without changes. The move has been heavily criticized by environmental advocates.

Fine particulate pollutants or particulate matter are made up of particles (tiny pieces) of solids or liquids that are in the air. These particles may include dust, dirt, soot, smoke or drops of liquid. Particle pollution has been associated with heart attacks, asthma, and respiratory problems such as inflammation, coughing or difficulty breathing.

Historically, the Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Lebanon regions have had some of the highest levels of particle pollution in the country, although there has been improvements recently.

Kevin Stewart, Director of Environmental Health at the American Lung Association appears on Thursday’s Smart Talk to explain why he thinks not updating particulate matter regulations is a bad idea.

Also, there will be Major League baseball this summer after details were worked out between team owners and players this week. The season will include 60 games, many new rules to keep players safe from COVID-19 and no fans in the stands.

Journalist Andrew Linker, who has authored books on baseball and covered baseball for decades is on Smart Talk to discuss what it may look like.

Finally, Harrisburg Senators President Kevin Kulp joins us to address minor league baseball this season and in the future.


Smart Talk Wednesday: Questions persist over DOH data reports; how to travel safely during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything about how we live and work. The impact of the disease is often put into the context of numbers, or data, to illustrate this. The Pennsylvania Department of Health publishes data every day; number of positive tests, deaths, and even recovered.

But numbers without context can be misleading. A Spotlight PA review of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health data found that while there is no evidence of data manipulation, there are certainly DOH practices that have created confusion.

Spotlight PA Reporter Sara Simon joins Smart Talk to share the findings from a review of the ‘death data.’

With summer in full swing and restrictions easing, many people are planning trips and travel.

Craig Haberle, certified travel consultant with Central Penn AAA, appears on Smart Talk to share, for better or worse, what people will experience on the road, in airports and at hotels.

Also, joining Smart Talk is Ashley Ritter, PhD, CRNP, nurse practitioner and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Nursing to explain how travelers can mitigate exposure to the virus and what precautions you should take.

Smart Talk Tuesday: COVID-19 questions answered

It has been almost four months since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. Since the end of February, 2.3 million people have tested positive for the virus with 122,000 dying from it. In Pennsylvania, more than 82,000 have contracted the virus and 6,400 have died.

We have learned much about COVID-19 over the past four months including about symptoms, how the virus is spread and who is at risk. However, many people still have questions about the virus, how to avoid exposure and what to do if you experience symptoms.

Dr. Gerald Maloney, DO, is the Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Hospitals and he joins us on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to answer questions about COVID-19 and stopping the spread.

Dr. Maloney was on Smart Talk in early April to answer questions about the virus. His appearance Tuesday will be a good indicator of how much has changed and what has been learned about the coronavirus.

Smart Talk Monday: Contact tracing moves forward with varying success and helping refugees is one woman’s life’s work

Contact tracing is a key strategy touted by Pennsylvania health officials as an integral part of stopping, or mitigating, the spread of the coronavirus.

The process of tracking the contacts of an infected person is a disease control measure that is also used by public health officials to prevent the spread of other infectious diseases, like the measles and sexually transmitted diseases. The challenge is in the resources it requires to track accurately.

Many counties in Pennsylvania have moved forward with reopening plans, even without the resources and trained personnel in place to conduct the tracing. The result could be a resurgence of infections.

Spotlight PA reporter Aneri Pattani investigated the “patchwork” system that is in place right now, and she joins Smart Talk with more details.

The Lancaster branch of Church World Service is part of a larger organization and network of faith-based humanitarian agencies. Their role in the community is to assist refugees, immigrants, and asylum-seekers who are seeking safety and new lives in the United States.

Sheila Mastropietro has spent the past 33 years overseeing the resettlement of literally thousands of refugees in Lancaster County as part of CWS. At one point, there were more resettlements there per capita than anywhere in the country earning Lancaster the title of “refugee capital of America.”

Sheila Mastropietro appears on Smart Talk to share her experiences upon retirement.

Smart Talk Friday: Woman living with mental illness suffers in jail; HS sports plan comeback from shutdown

Last year, WITF’s Transforming Health reporter Brett Sholtis told the story of then 27-year-old Kimberly Stringer — a Bucks County woman who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in high school, but was refusing to take medication or see a therapist — claiming she wasn’t mentally ill.  Kim lived a metal shed even though she had an apartment, drank water from streams rather than from the tap or a bottle and scoured garbage dumps collecting items in a shopping cart. Brett’s story provided details on Kim’s parents’ numerous efforts to get treatment for their daughter even if it mean having her committed to a treatment facility involuntarily.

Last week, Brett began receiving collect phone calls from inmates at the Bucks County Jail — telling him that Kimberly has been confined to a bare cell, “completely naked,” with only a soiled blanket and a smock given to patients who are on suicide watch, which she rarely wears.

She urinates and defecates on the floor and on herself.

She has gone without a mattress at times and has no books or possessions.

She is covered with bruises, and at times has hit her head or punched herself.

She hasn’t had a shower in weeks.

After Brett updated Kim’s struggles this week, she was transferred to a hospital for treatment.

Kimberly Stringer’s experiences provide a sad example of what happens when someone living with mental illness goes to jail instead and the difficulty of getting treatment for someone who doesn’t want it.

Transforming Health’s Brett Sholtis appears on Friday’s Smart Talk.

Also, the Wolf Administration released guidelines last week for high school and youth sports, along with other outdoor activities to resume from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joining us on Friday’s Smart Talk to provide details are Melissa Nash Mertz, Associate Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA), Jeremy Flores, Director of Athletics for the Chambersburg School District, and Justin Rose, Associate Executive Director of the Carlisle Family YMCA, who will address how their YMCA is preparing for summer camps, and hosting current day camps under the Pennsylvania guidance.

Smart Talk Thursday: WITF’s Toward Racial Justice engagement series; Economic recovery efforts after pandemic

Systemic problems require systemic change. WITF presents a bi-weekly summer series of virtual community conversations to address systemic racism and injustice.

The series will be a forum for essential conversations about race and racism — its effects on housing, education, finance, healthcare, relations with police and inequality.

Appearing on Smart Talk to share details is series moderator Charles Ellison, executive producer and host of Reality Check, a daily public affairs program on WURD radio in Philadelphia. Joining him is Major Kristal M. Turner-Childs-Director, Bureau of Forensic Services, Pennsylvania State Police & WITF Board Member.

As states begin to ease coronavirus-related restrictions the economy is sending signals of a potential recovery. Some experts are saying the numbers show what could be a slow and prolonged rally.

Michael Horrigan, president of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research authored an article for the PEW Charitable Trust and he’ll join Smart Talk to discuss what current economic data says about jobs and a recovery.

One Central Pennsylvania county is working to provide tools for small businesses to jump start a recovery there.

Lancaster County is one of only seven in the state to have received direct CARES money from the federal government. County leaders established a grant application program designed to help small businesses reemerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa Riggs, President of the Lancaster county Economic Development Company and Tom Baldrige, President and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, appear on Smart Talk to share details about the Lancaster County Economic Recovery Plan.

Smart Talk Wednesday; A community celebrates pride and protests find common ground

Nearly 51 years ago, New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular club in Greenwich Village with a mostly gay clientele, who were accused of serving liquor without a license.

Raiding gay clubs in the city was not uncommon at that time, but this one sparked a riot that led to days-long protests and violent confrontations with police.

What is now known as the Stonewall Riots is largely considered the catalyst for the Gay rights movement in the United States.

June is Pride month and the outgrowth of the 1969 Stonewall uprising. Joining Smart Talk to share what this means to the LGBTQ community are William Burton and Barry Loveland, authors of Out in Central Pennsylvania: The Story of an LGBTQ+ Community, which is being released this month.

And with people now mobilizing around the country in support of Black Lives Matter, some are drawing parallels between these protests and the Stonewall legacy.

Smart Talk will examine the connection between the two movements with the  Ismail Smith-Wade-El, President of Lancaster City Council, and Kimeka Campbell, Ph.D., cofounder of Young Professionals of Color (YPOC) in Harrisburg.