Smart Talk: Pa Attorney General targets illegal guns and who can get them

Two mass shootings and the momentum behind the new Biden administration are reviving the debate on gun control in the United States.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wasted no time jumping into the issue by announcing an agreement reached with one of the state’s largest gun show promoters to halt the sale of ‘ghost gun’ kits at their gun shows.

Shapiro took the issue one step further by leading a coalition of 18 states that are requesting U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland close a loophole in the interpretation of the federal Gun Control Act. The loophole allows people who are prohibited from purchasing firearms to buy ‘ghost guns,’ which are then assembled into untraceable weapons.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro appears on Smart Talk Wednesday to discuss this initiative, along with a call for expanded background checks.

Changes coming to Minor League Baseball

At one time, minor league and semi-pro baseball teams could be found in almost every town in America. Semi-pro teams that often played “barnstorming” Major League clubs went away decades ago. And this year, Minor League baseball is undergoing perhaps its biggest change ever.

Five levels of Minor League baseball are being whittled down to four. Whole leagues are being disbanded and 43 teams will not be affiliated with the Major Leagues, including the State College Spikes and Williamsport Crosscutters in Pennsylvania.

Andrew Linker, author, blogger and former beat reporter for the Patriot-News covering baseball appears on Smart Talk Wednesday with insight on the upcoming baseball season and changes to Minor League teams.


Smart Talk: Solar power initiatives highlight industry growth

The Wolf administration recently announced a commitment to solar energy by agreeing to buy power from seven new solar projects in the state.

This purchase agreement amounts to about half of the state government’s electricity and fulfills part of the Governor’s 2019 executive order on climate change.

Patrick McDonnell is the Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and he appears on Smart Talk Tuesday, along with Julien F. Gaudion, Deputy Secretary for Property and Asset Management, Pennsylvania Department of General Services, to discuss details of the recent announcement.

Solar options expanding for Pennsylvania business’s and schools

Industry advocates say that while the state is living up to its pledge to move to more renewable energy sources, they are also encouraging solar development in Pennsylvania.

Executive orders by Governor Wolf can only take the initiatives so far, though. To move Pennsylvania toward more renewable energy options it will require legislation and a commitment from the state legislature. Joining Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss expanding solar power access is Katie Rever, Director of Legislative Affairs, IGS Energy and member of the coalition of the PA Chapter of Solar Energy Industries Association.

Also on Smart Talk Tuesday are Doug Neidich, CEO of GreenWorks Development and Rick Musselman, Superintendent Midd-West School District, Middleburg, Pa., to talk about how schools can also benefit from solar energy initiatives.



The legacy of kid activists – From family trees to crime solving

Some of the most significant and historic changes in America came as the result of protests, demonstrations and voices raised by young people under the age of 18.

For example, fifteen-year-old Barbara Johns, who in 1953 organized a school strike protesting the poor conditions of her all-Black high school, paved the way for Brown v. Board of Education and began the process of school desegregation. More recently, students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting three years ago, started a worldwide movement for stricter gun laws that resulted in more than 50 across the country.

In his just published book, Kids on the March, author Michael G. Long writes about 15 different instances where young people led the charge to make changes.

Long talks about his book on Friday’s Smart Talk.

From family trees to crime solving

When Eric Schubert took his personal interest in genealogy research and transitioned it to a part-time job, he never thought it would take on another angle.

Now, the Elizabethtown College sophomore is using those skills to aid law enforcement organizations with unsolved cases.

Schubert, originally from Medford Lakes, NJ, joins Smart Talk Friday to share his story and how his hobby turned into crime-solving.


Smart Talk: How people really feel about telework

The Coronavirus outbreak has changed the way Americans work.

Before the pandemic, about 20 percent of Pew Research respondents say they worked from home. A year into the pandemic and now a whopping 71 percent are teleworking.

Love it or hate it, most people consider themselves fortunate to be able to do their jobs from home. But, as state restrictions are eased and Pennsylvanians receive their vaccinations, what is the future of work?

Bucknell University recently surveyed teleworkers and asked, among other questions, if respondents are satisfied working from home. Eddy Ng, Ph.D., James and Elizabeth Freeman Professor of Management at Bucknell University joins Smart Talk Thursday with some surprising results.

Ng invites workers who have transitioned to working remotely to continue participating in the survey through this link.

Pandemic fuels home-cooking surge

The “great toilet paper scare” of 2020 has passed, thankfully, but it will certainly go down as one of the more confusing aspects of American’s response to pandemic restrictions.

But what about the troubling yeast shortage or the frustrating popcorn deficit, have we recovered from those events? As restaurants closed and people spent more time at home, consumers became acquainted with their home kitchens and began trying new things, like baking bread.

Kim O’Donnel is a food writer with LNP, a trained chef, cookbook author and former food columnist with the Washington Post and she appears on Smart Talk to discuss the home-cooking trend and what might happen as restrictions are eased

Lancaster online published a Stay-Put Cookbook that can be accessed here.

Smart Talk: Social workers hired to bridge gap for Lancaster police

Not every call to police is a law enforcement emergency. Some calls for help are from members of the community needing a different kind of aid, sometimes involving situations that law enforcement are not trained to provide.

Every day, police officers find themselves responding to a wide variety of situations — from domestic disputes to traffic tie-ups. Not every call requires a police response, in fact, fewer than one in 10 involves violent event or crime.

So, who should answer a distress call involving mental health issues or non-violent family situations?

Joining Smart Talk Wednesday to highlight the Lancaster City Police Department‘s approach to this question are Sgt. Donald Morant with the Community Engagement Office of the Lancaster Bureau of Police, Leilany Tran, MSW, Police Social Worker with the Lancaster City Police Department, and Grace Mentzer, BSW, Police Social Worker with Lancaster City Police Department.

Sweet dreams and the science behind them

When we spend a third of our lives sleeping it makes sense that at least part of that would be spent dreaming.

Some dreams are so vivid they feel like they actually happened. Others, a clouded and indistinct memory that are difficult to recall.

What is the science behind our dreams and is there a way to analyze them?

Appearing on Smart Talk to share her expertise on this topic is Adriane Soehner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Center for Sleep and Circadian Science.

Smart Talk: COVID questions answered — what is new in the pandemic

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. Since that day at the end of February 2020, nearly 30 million people have tested positive for the virus with more half a million dying from the disease. In Pennsylvania, close to one million have tested positive and nearly 24 thousand have died.

We have learned a lot about COVID-19 in the past year; how the virus is spread, who is at risk and the role of face masks and other mitigation tactics. However, many people still have questions about the virus, how to avoid exposure, risk and efficacy of the vaccines, and the impact of gatherings and getting children back to school.

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

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, the vaccine efficacy and continuing to slow the spread.



Smart Talk: A conversation with global traveler and PBS host Rick Steves

Rick Steves is a popular public television host and best-selling guidebook author. As the founder and owner of Rick Steves’ Europe, his travel business brings more than 30,000 people to Europe annually.

Over the past year, intercontinental travel has ground to a halt but that hasn’t stopped Steves from making plans for future trips. In a normal year, he spends about four months in Europe — researching guidebooks, fine-tuning his tour program, and filming his TV show.

WITF presents A Conversation with Rick Steves on Wednesday March 24 at 7pm. He joins Smart Talk Monday with a preview of that conversation and a look at what life is like at home and some of his behind-the-scenes adventures while traveling through Europe.

Thieves targeting vehicle parts for fast money

It may only take about two minutes and a wrench for a thief to steal your catalytic converter. Not bad, for a possible 200 dollar payoff.

Thieves target catalytic converters because they contain precious metals, like platinum, palladium or rhodium, that are valuable to metal dealers.

With the lure of an easy hit, how can a vehicle owner protect their car from being a target? Steve Wheeler, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Auto Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) appears on Smart Talk Monday to offer insight.

Smart Talk: Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra celebrates milestone event

In a normal year, the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra brings thousands of visitors to concerts, boosting hospitality businesses and adding to the cultural appeal of the region.

But this isn’t a normal year but the HSO has found a way to deliver world-class music to their audiences through technology. While many orchestras are shut down completely, the HSO continues to bring music to the region.

This year, in particular, is significant for the HSO’s “season like no other,” as they celebrate a milestone 90th birthday.

Maestro Stuart Malina, who is marking his 20th year as music director and conductor, will join Smart Talk Friday, along with Matthew Herren, the orchestra’s Executive Director, to share news of the March Masterworks concert.

Area family to hit the trail and raise funds for a debilitating birth defect

More than 170-thousand children are born each year with a birth defect called clubfoot. Left untreated, club foot can lead to a lifetime of hardship and disability.

Clubfoot can be treated and corrected with simple casts and braces, but for people in the developing world the cost of a several hundred dollar treatment is often insurmountable.

A local family will hike the Appalachian Trail this spring to raise funds and awareness for Hope Walks, a charity that offers treatment for the disorder. Brian Long, owner of a Gettysburg-area business, will team up with daughter McKenzie, and two nieces, to hike the nearly 2,200 mile trail. The Longs join Smart Talk Friday to outline their fundraising plan.

Brian and McKenzie Long

Book details local author’s Himalayan adventure

Tracy Pawelski is a wife, mother of two, and a universally-respected and well-liked communications professional in Central Pennsylvania and in the halls of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. But she also is an adventurer, who hiked the remote Annapurna Circuit in Nepal – accompanied by just a guide and porter.

Pawelski describes an unpredictable and often dangerous journey in her book, One Woman in the Himalayas: Not every idea is a good idea, but you don’t know until you try.

Tracy Pawelski appears on Friday’s Smart Talk.


Smart Talk: Redistricting reform takes on greater importance during Census year

The boundaries between U.S. states don’t change, but voting district boundaries within each state do and are redrawn every 10 years to coincide with the U.S. Census count.

The expectation is that districts within the state must have populations that are roughly equal to one another. The potential is that when districts are redrawn, gerrymandering may occur.

Gerrymandering is the drawing of the boundaries in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage over other parties. This year there are several factors compounding the risk of gerrymandered districts, including incomplete and delayed Census data and proposed legislation to change how judges are elected.

To highlight the issues on Smart Talk Thursday are Carol Kuniholm, Fair Districts PA Chair and David Thornburgh, President and CEO, Committee of Seventy.

Public utilities vulnerable to cyber threats

It is a frightening report. In early February a Florida water system operator noticed his computer cursor moving around on the screen, independent of his actions. A cyber hack was underway with the intruder altering the chemical levels involved in the water treatment.

That event, which is now under investigation, alarmed state and local utility officials around the country.

How vulnerable are Pennsylvania public utilities and water systems to a cyber threat?

Nils Hagen-Frederiksen is the Press Secretary for the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission and he appears on Smart Talk Thursday to address system safeguards.

Smart Talk: Pa health officials still failing to collect key race data

Reports from around the country point to a disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 virus on minority communities.

That warning was sounded in Pennsylvania early in the pandemic, but data was not readily available through the Department of Health reporting system to make a conclusion. When the data was eventually reported, it confirmed that Black Pennsylvanians were disproportionately impacted, but because of some missing racial data, there were still no conclusions reached as to why it was occurring.

Now that vaccinations are underway, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is facing the same challenge to accurately report who is and is not receiving the vaccine.

Spotlight PA reported on the missing data and appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to draw attention to the issue are reporters Jamie Martines and Eseosa Olumhense.

Political refugee to CEO

When Hagir Elsheikh, began advocating for democratic rule in her native Sudan, she found herself in the crosshairs of the ruling Sudanese government of Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

More than twenty years later, Elsheikh is in a very different place both literally and figuratively. Hagir Elsheikh joins Smart Talk Wednesday to share her personal journey to Central Pennsylvania and her transition to business owner and community advocate.