The Capitol prepares for possible demonstrations ahead of the Inauguration

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A week after insurrectionists breached the U.S. Capitol, the FBI is warning law enforcement agencies that armed protests have been planned in all 50 state capitals.

Harrisburg Police Sgt. Kyle Gautsch said his department is aware of the FBI’s memo, but that officers are not on any special or heightened alert at this time.

Sam Dunklau is the WITF Capitol Bureau Chief and he, along with Anthony Orozco, Latino communities reporter for WITF, are covering the security situation in Pennsylvania and Harrisburg. They join Smart Talk Friday to discuss their reporting.

Social Media and First Amendment rights come under scrutiny

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended his company’s ban of President Donald Trump’s Twitter account by saying the risk to public safety created an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” for the company, essentially leaving them no choice.

Conservative groups are crying foul over the social media cancellations saying the actions are an infringement of free speech. But are they?

Robert D. Richards, Esq., is the John & Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies, and Founding Director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Penn State University. He appears on Smart Talk Friday to analyze the issues.

Vaccinations soon available to most, but can employers require it?

The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan is underway around the country and in Pennsylvania. Health officials have said that any American who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by early summer.

There are certainly some people who, though offered a vaccine, will choose not to take it. But what if you don’t want a COVID-19 vaccine, or object to it for some reason, can your employer or even a travel provider require you take it? Is it possible in the future that you might be refused service for not being vaccinated against the Coronavirus?

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to unravel the complexities behind this issue is Andrew Levy, Esq., McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC.


Smart Talk: Farm Show creates a virtual experience for visitors

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*Smart Talk will be preempted today for NPR coverage of the Congressional impeachment process/deliberations/vote. The Farm Show conversation will be recorded to air later, as long as the Congressional deliberations are complete and we return to regular programming

After the holiday rush is over each year many Pennsylvanians look forward to the annual Farm Show in Harrisburg. The event is billed as the largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof in the nation and at more than 100-years-old, it is certainly one of the oldest.

This year’s Farm Show is different in many respects. The sights, sounds and smells are replaced by online panel discussions and vendor maps with featured links. The popular Pennsylvania Dairymen’s association milkshakes are “on the mooove” at pop-up locations around the area. Things are different this year, but a lot of work has gone into “making hay” out of the pandemic-caused disruption.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding appears on Smart Talk Wednesday to highlight the changes to the 2021 show, and current issues and challenges facing the industry. Joining him are Jeff Moyer, CEO of Rodale Institute, an organic farming and research organization, along with Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi, Ph.D., Clinical Professor and Head of Microbiology at Penn State University. This discussion will include how research is transforming the agriculture industry and sparking innovation.

Then, Margaret Brittingham, Ph.D., Professor of Wildlife Resources Extension Wildlife Specialist and Calvin Norman, Penn State Extension forestry and wildlife educator join Smart Talk to offer ways to create wildlife habitats in your own back yard.

Smart Talk: COVID-19 questions answered

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It has been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. Since that day at the end of February, more than 22 million people have tested positive for the virus with more than 370 thousand dying from it. In Pennsylvania, more than 700 thousand have tested positive and nearly 18 thousand have died.

We have learned much about COVID-19 in the past year; how the virus is spread, who is at risk and the role of face masks. However, many people still have questions about the virus, how to avoid exposure, what to do if you experience symptoms and the impact of gatherings and keeping children in school.

The availability of a vaccine is now raising hopes that life might return to normal soon, or at least head in that direction.

Dr. Eugene Curley, MD., is an infectious disease specialist with WellSpan Health and he joins us on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to answer questions about COVID-19 and slowing the spread.

Smart Talk: Young Pennsylvanians don’t know much about the Holocaust and genocides

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The Holocaust, Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur – all genocides that have occurred over the past century. Genocide is defined as the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.

Even though millions of people were murdered just because of their religious, ethnic or racial backgrounds, many Americans – especially younger – Americans don’t know many of the basic facts about what have to be considered some of the greatest tragedies in human history.

For example, a survey conducted by the PEW Research Center last year found that only 38% of American teenagers knew that six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

Penn State University is working with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and other non-profit organizations on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Initiative to educate students about the events.

Appearing on Monday’s Smart Talk to provide details are Neil Leifert, Lecturer in History and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Jewish Studies, Penn State Harrisburg, Eliyana Adler, Associate Professor in History and Holocaust Scholar for the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative at Penn State University and Boaz Dvir, assistant professor in the Bellisario College and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative at Penn State University.

New air filtration technology that can eliminate COVID

Also on the program, the COVID-19 pandemic has spawned technology to help mitigate the virus.

LifeAire Systems developed an air filtration system that can kill infectious airborne pathogens, including the coronavirus, and the company also applied this technology to create portable, rapid decontamination units for N95 masks that kill COVID-19 and other pathogens within all layers of the mask.

Joining us on Smart Talk to discuss the new technology are Kathryn C. Worrilow, CEO and Founder LifeAire Systems, Laura Eppler, Chief Marketing officer, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Doug Engler, Lehigh Valley Regional Manager, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Smart Talk: Overdose deaths rise significantly during pandemic

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While the world watches COVID ravage communities and families, another epidemic is taking its toll unabated.

The disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to people’s lives has hit those with substance abuse disorders particularly hard, leading to a significant increase in opioid overdose deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that over eighty-one thousand overdose deaths occurred in the US in the 12 months ending in May 2020. This is the highest number ever recorded in one year.

Joining Smart Talk Friday to discuss the impact in Pennsylvania are Jennifer Smith, Pennsylvania Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs and the York County Coroner Pam Gay.

For treatment help, call 1-800-662-HELP

Pharmacists an essential part of vaccine distribution

As COVID-19 vaccines begin to trickle into communities and hospitals around the state it is clear that pharmacies will play an instrumental role administering the shots.

Independent and chain pharmacies are an important health resource for Americans so it makes sense they would be a crucial component to vaccine distribution, too.

Appearing on Smart Talk to underscore the role played by community pharmacies are Erik Hefti, PharmD, Ph.D., Executive Director and Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, along with Chuck Kray, R.Ph., President of the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association and a pharmacist with the Hershey Pharmacy.

Smart Talk: U.S. Capitol breached as Congress is counting electoral votes

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What started as a mass demonstration against what the protestors falsely called a fraudulent 2020 presidential election turned into chaos and a dangerous attack on the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Wednesday. A joint session of Congress was meeting to count the votes certified from the states that would have elected Joe Biden as president.

Before what Washington Metro police called a riot, President Donald Trump spoke at a rally where he again falsely claimed he won the election. Many blamed Trump for inciting the protestors.

Members of Congress were evacuated before the vote was completed.

Rioters broke through security gates, broke windows, confronted police and wandered around the floors of the House and Senate and in the offices of members of Congress. Four people are reported killed.

Some 140 Republican House members, including eight from Pennsylvania, and 13 Republican Senators planned to object to several states’ electoral votes being accepted. Most denounced the violence but none said their objections led to the attack on the Capitol.

Thursday’s Smart Talk focuses on a historic and infamous day in American history with Shirley Anne Warshaw, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science and Director of the Fielding Center for Presidential Leadership Study at Gettysburg College, Fletcher McClellan, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science at Elizabethtown College, and Simona Kralova, editor on BBC Monitoring, to gauge international reaction to events.


Smart Talk: The urban and rural divide; how wide is the gap?

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Pennsylvania boundaries have changed very little since the state was admitted into the union in 1787. Within the boundaries, however, a lot has changed over the last 233 years.

The state still boasts ample forested and agricultural lands in the most of it’s six geographical regions, but as the fifth most populous state, cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia bear little resemblance to other more rural communities.

Urban and rural areas here are quite different in ways other than population density and composition. Access to healthcare and economic opportunities and the availability of certain services, like broadband, further divide how Pennsylvanians live and work.

It is clear that rural and urban residents vote differently, as well. In the most recent Presidential election, the state’s electoral votes went to President elect Joe Biden after claiming just 13 of the states 67 counties.

So, how can rural and urban Pennsylvania bridge the divide?

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to share data and analysis of rural and urban Pennsylvania are Kyle C. Kopko, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania with the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Daniel J. Mallinson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration, School of Public Affairs, Penn State Harrisburg.

Also on the program are Cheri Rinehart, CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers and Eric Kiehl, Director of Policy and Partnerships for PACHC, who will look at healthcare access and the impact of the pandemic to the different communities. Finally, Pennsylvania State Senator Democrat Wayne Fontana of Allegheny county will appear on Smart Talk to discuss how to balance policies that represent both urban and rural areas.

Smart Talk: Homeless Pennsylvanians suffer as the temperatures drop

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Finding a place out of the cold for homeless Pennsylvanians is always a challenge as the winter months set in. Now with the pandemic restrictions in place, the challenges have become more acute.

Social distancing guidelines have cut available shelter space significantly, forcing many to remain instead in the homeless encampments scattered around the city of Harrisburg. Advocates fear the situation will get worse with potential winter storms and the surging virus.

Appearing on Smart Talk Tuesday to share their perspective on the homeless situation are Mike McKenna, President Tabor Community Services, Jen Koppel, Executive Director, Lanc Co MyHome and the Lancaster County Coalition to End Homelessness and Anne Guenin, Executive Director of the Downtown Daily Bread, a soup kitchen and shelter offering services to the homeless.

Low income Pennsylvanians bear unfair burden in the legal system

A comprehensive study by the ACLU of Pennsylvania looked into the impact of court fines and costs on low-income earners in the state. The findings highlight the disproportionate impact that some face in the criminal justice system.

The study looked at the average amounts imposed in court cases, how long it takes defendants to pay the money, and how long court debt remains uncollected.

Mary Catherine Roper is the Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and she appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss the social implications of their findings.


Smart Talk: A fat tongue and its affect on sleep

If you were to conduct a web search on how to get a good nights sleep, you’ll get back literally millions of hits. There are tips and suggestions ranging from the proper temperature of the bedroom to limiting screen time, cutting mid-day naps and avoiding caffeine.

There is certainly plenty of wide-ranging advice out there to steer a nation of insomniacs toward the elusive restful night’s sleep. But one solution may be closer to home — inside of your mouth.

Sleep experts at the University of Pennsylvania evaluate and diagnose many different conditions impacting sleep, one of which is sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea is marked by abnormal breathing during sleep and is one of the most common sleep disorders. A recent study led by University of Pennsylvania researchers suggests that losing weight can reduce or cure the condition.

Dr. Richard Schwab, MD, is the Chief of Sleep Medicine at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and he joins Smart Talk Monday to explain how a fat tongue and weight loss plays a role.

Pa renters and owners lose access to safety net

Housing advocates unsuccessfully petitioned the Governor and state legislature for months to extend the temporary moratorium on evictions that expired on September 1.  A federal order through the end of the year banned most evictions, stalling what many fear is a future wave of homelessness as it expires.

A recent Spotlight PA investigative report found that more than half of the Federal CARES dollars earmarked to help both Pennsylvania tenants and homeowners was not distributed because it was too difficult to access.

Charlotte Keith is an investigative reporter with Spotlight PA and she joins Smart Talk Monday to discuss what caused the funding problems.