Smart Talk Tuesday: Reparations for descendants of enslaved people? Should Confederate Memorials come down?

The Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the past three weeks and subsequent attention on discrimination, inequality and violence toward African-Americans may re-open a conversation that up until now has not gained widespread national support — reparations for the descendants of enslaved people in America.

There is near universal agreement today that kidnapping Africans and enslaving them was wrong and immoral. But there never has been agreement on how to or even to apologize for slavery. Over the years, there have been rare occasions when an institution or company offered reparations to descendants of enslaved people. But fewer people have supported providing monetary reparations to the descendants of the enslaved.

Beyond questions of actually whether to provide reparations, logistics arise like how does one prove their enslaved ancestry and where would the money come from?

Democratic state Rep. Chris Rabb of Philadelphia has proposed a reparations bill and explains on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.

Also, statues and memorials commemorating Civil War Confederate soldiers, slave owners and others who are thought to have played a role in the nation’s racist past are being removed either by protestors or local and state governments.

Those who oppose eliminating the memorials or the Confederate battle flag often say they honor their heritage or history.

Professor Scott Hancock, Ph.D., associate professor of History and Africana Studies at Gettysburg College appears on Tuesday’s Smart Talk with his thoughts.

Smart Talk’s books for summer reading

At the beginning of every summer, Smart Talk produces a program that focuses on books to read on the beach or during vacation. This year is different. During the coronavirus pandemic, many people are home — either not working or not going on a getaway vacation.

Many people haven’t used the opportunity at home to read more books so this summer’s program will have suggestions for books to read while you’re at home or if you do go on a vacation.

Smart Talk welcomes a panel of area wordsmiths to share their summer book recommendations, from popular new releases to literary classics, even pandemic fiction and racial nonfiction. These books will keep you entertained for the summer to come.

Image of Black Lives Matter books on Catherine Lawrence’s list
Image of pandemic books included on Catherine Lawrence’s book list.

We’d also like to hear about a few of the books you’re reading this summer. Call the program at 1-800-729-7532 or email us at

Joining Smart Talk Monday are Catherine Lawrence, a writer and owner of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Travis Kurowski, an assistant professor of English and coordinator of creative writing at York College of Pennsylvania and Carolyn Blatchley, Executive Director of Cumberland County Library System.

Reading Lists:

Catherine Lawrence book list

Travis Kurowski book list

Carolyn Blatchley book list (digital list forthcoming)

Listener and host book recommendations

Smart Talk Friday: African Americans face disproportionate risk of COVID-19; Battle brewing over the state’s lockdown

African Americans are more likely to encounter the coronavirus, less likely to be tested for it, and more likely to die from it. They are also less likely to have jobs that allow them to work from home, to have high-speed internet to access telemedicine and online education, and to live in the types of low-density residential environments most conducive to social distancing.

These realities are fueled by what panelists at a state Senate hearing last week said is a pandemic of racism that has afflicted American public policy for decades in areas from education and employment to housing and health care. As a result, these experts say, African Americans face a disproportionate risk both to contract the virus and to have underlying health conditions that exacerbate its effect.

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday is state Sen. Art Haywood, a Democrat who represents parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties and was one of the senators to call for last week’s hearing, as well as two of the experts who testified: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia pediatric attending physician and National Medical Association officer Dr. Priscilla Mpasi, MD, and former Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Calvin Johnson, MD.

A legal battle is brewing in Pennsylvania over the Disaster Declaration by Governor Tom Wolf that effectively shut down the state to manage the coronavirus outbreak.

Republican lawmakers say the declaration has damaged the Pennsylvania economy unnecessarily because restrictions were placed over the entire state, rather than in counties with large outbreaks. Wolf did extend the emergency declaration earlier this month, and while Republicans have conceded that the declaration was warranted in the early days of the crisis, it is not any longer. They are demanding an immediate repeal, but Wolf plans to extend the state of emergency, along with dozens of emergency executive orders that came after.

Joining Smart Talk to analyze how the fight may play out in the court is state and federal constitutional law expert Bruce Ledewitz, J.D., professor of law at Duquesne University School of Law. Duquesne University Law School offers a resource for information on the text, history and meaning of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Smart Talk Thursday: Pa. education chief talks school this fall; How many hours to work to pay rent; Seniors play ball

Since Pennsylvania schools closed their physical buildings last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been speculation about whether classes would begin on time in August and September and, if so, how they would be different.

Plans are being made for a fall opening of classes with dozens of guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Among the many issues that schools will have to address are transportation to and from school while maintaining social distancing, monitoring the health of students and staff, limiting the number of students and staff in a classroom, extracurricular activities like sports and band and attendance.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera and Deputy Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Matthew Stem appear on Thursday’s Smart Talk to discuss what changes are coming.

Also, we’ll examine a new report by Self Financial that pinpoints how many hours of work it takes in order to pay rent in Central Pennsylvania’s metro areas.

Pennsylvania is the 28th least affordable state according to the survey. A person making the median income of $39,490 a year would have to work 34.9 hours to afford a one-bedroom apartment and 43 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom. Self Financial’s Vice President Jeff Smith is on Smart Talk with more details.

High School baseball and softball players who missed their senior years due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being invited to play in an invitational this summer at People’sBank Park in York. York Revolution President Eric Menzer joins us to explain.



Smart Talk Wednesday: Dental care resumes in Pa., but how to safeguard patients and providers?

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, dental care for most non-emergency procedures was deemed non-essential and many providers closed their doors.

Because the virus is most frequently transmitted through direct contact and respiratory droplets, the decision to stop routine dental treatments was considered imperative.

The danger is in the aerosols that are created in the treatment room. Dental equipment generates aerosols because of the high-speed rotation that is part of certain procedures. An aerosol is a tiny liquid particle that is suspended in the air for anywhere from seconds to hours. Dental patients, as well as providers, are then at risk of inhaling the contaminated air particles.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently released guidance for dental providers under the Governors phased reopening plan so that non-urgent dental procedures can resume.

Joining Smart Talk on Wednesday is Dr. James Tauberg, DMD, President of the Pennsylvania Dental Association to talk about the state’s guidelines and protocols to keep patients and providers safe.

Routine teeth cleaning also stopped when dental providers closed their doors in March. Regular cleanings are just one component of oral health and advocates point out that not everyone has equal access to dental care in Pennsylvania, let alone regular cleanings.

Appearing on Smart Talk to address these and other aspects to community dental care are Helen Hawkey, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Coalition for Oral Health and Kelly Braun, RDH, MSDH, the Dental Delivery Systems Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, Pennsylvania State University.

Smart Talk Tuesday: Sewage tested for COVID-19 show more cases in Dauphin County; Rural real estate sales explode during pandemic

Dauphin County may have had at least ten times more COVID-19 cases than reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. That’s one of the findings of tests being conducted on sewage by an MIT research firm — Biobot Analytics.

Capital Region Water is one of about 400 systems across the country participating in the research.

The virus can be detected in human waste and that includes those who may have contracted the coronavirus but didn’t show any symptoms. The first two samples from Dauphin County in May indicated infection rates of 4.5% and 5.6% — ten times higher than those being reported by the state.

The data collected may help identify hotspots for the disease.

Appearing Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the sewage research are Charlotte Katzenmoyer, CEO of Capital Region Water; Jess Rosentel, Director of Wastewater Operations, Capital Region Water; and John Quigley, Former Secretary of both the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and currently the Director for the Center for Environment, Energy & Economy with Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Also on Tuesday’s Smart Talk, rural real estate sales are booming in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are looking to rent short-term, buy second homes, or relocate altogether to somewhere with a smaller population.

Joining us on Smart Talk are Jessica Lautz, Ph.D., Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights at the National Association of Realtors and Sandy Stevens, a realtor with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services in Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.





Smart Talk Monday: Police reforms proposed in Pa.; What does HIPAA cover?

The death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers and subsequent protests against police brutality and racial injustice have prompted calls for more oversight of police departments across the country and in Pennsylvania.

Police reform legislation has been resurrected that was proposed in Pennsylvania in 2019 after an East Pittsburgh police officer shot and killed an unarmed African-American teenager. That teen was suspected of being involved in another shooting and ran from police when he was shot. The officer was charged with murder but acquitted.

The proposals include barring the use of choke holds by police officers, allowing access to body-camera video under the state’s right-to-know law and establishing an independent review process after a civilian has been injured or killed by police.

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk to address police reform is Democratic State Representative Jordan Harris of Philadelphia, a member of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus.

Also, last month Republican Rep. Andrew Lewis of Dauphin County announced he had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, but Democrats who may have come into contact with Lewis said they weren’t notified. A spokesman for House Republicans responded that medical privacy laws kept him from identifying other legislators who may have been exposed.

HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is most often thought of as a law to protect the privacy of patients’ health information. But does HIPAA apply to instances when a healthcare professional or organization isn’t involved?

We learn more on Monday’s Smart Talk about HIPAA from John DeLorenzo, director of legal services and associate general counsel, UPMC Pinnacle.

Smart Talk Friday: Using the military to enforce domestic laws and a healthier commute may be on the horizon

When President Trump suggested the use of active military forces to quell the violence that has erupted in some cities the past two weeks, it raised questions about the legal role of the military.

The military has unique capabilities that can be used, under certain circumstances, to support civilian law enforcement. Missions like counter-drug operations, disaster assistance, or search and rescue operations are areas where the military has historically assisted local authorities.

There are other circumstances when state law enforcement and government leaders might request military support, but those events are infrequent and some say unconstitutional.

Joining Smart Talk on Friday is Professor Bert Tussing, retired Marine Corps Lt. Col., and instructor at the US Army War College, who will talk about the laws that govern military involvement in domestic law enforcement. We will also revisit historic events when military support was used.

If you are working from home due to pandemic restrictions your commute is probably what you miss the least. An article published in the May National Geographic magazine gives hope to commuters everywhere that their post-pandemic travel might be very different.

Journalist and National Geographic contributor Emily Sohn joins Smart Talk to share her vision of a healthier, future commute.

Smart Talk Thursday: What have we learned about COVID-19?

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth month in Pennsylvania, scientists and doctors are still learning about the virus and how to the treat the illness that comes along with it.

Two Penn State Health medical specialists appear on Thursday’s Smart Talk answering questions about what we thought we knew and what we know now about the novel coronavirus. Joining us are Dr. Ami DeWaters, Associate Division Chief of Hospital Medicine and Dr. Ian Ross, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Hospital Medicine, both at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Several of the topics to be addressed are how treatment options have changed during the pandemic, whether the antiviral drug remdesivir is one of those treatment options, antibody testing, and how to protect ourselves as mitigation strategies like stay-at-home orders are loosened.

As of Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported more than 73,000 COVID-19 cases and almost 5,800 deaths.

For more on COVID-19 and 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.

Smart Talk Wednesday: Analyzing an election like no other

The day after a primary election is usually pretty straightforward in Pennsylvania. Normally, the votes would have been counted and Pennsylvanians would know which Democrats and Republicans would be competing for the offices they’re running for in the November general election.

However, the 2020 primary wouldn’t be like previous ones anyway after mail-in voting became law last year. Those votes wouldn’t have been counted until after the in-person polls closed so results may not have been known officially the next day.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic that pushed the original April primary date back to June 2. Voters were encouraged to vote by mail, many voters stayed away from polls out of fear of contracting the virus, many poll workers didn’t want to go to the polls for the same reason and some polling places were changed.

Against that backdrop, Wednesday’s Smart Talk focuses on the primary.

Appearing on the program are Dr. G. Terry Madonna, Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, political analyst and pollster at Franklin & Marshall College and PA Post reporter Emily Previti, who covers election-related issues extensively.