Recommended summer reads for enjoying the season

Pennsylvanians are starting to emerge from pandemic restrictions and take much-needed weekends away or vacations with family.

This is a great opportunity to talk about summer reading and books for the beach (if you’re fortunate to head that way).

Every summer, Smart Talk produces a program that focuses on books with a panel of area wordsmiths to share their summer book recommendations; from popular new releases to literary classics, fiction and nonfiction. These books will keep you entertained for the summer to come.

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

Joining Smart Talk Thursday are Catherine Lawrence, a writer and owner of the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Travis Kurowski, Ph.D., 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

Listener book recommendations


The U.S. Army preparing to exhume the remains of 10 Indian School students from Carlisle Barracks Cemetery

Carlisle Barracks was more than one hundred years old by the time the U.S. Army relinquished the central Pennsylvania Army post to the Department of the Interior in 1879.

What followed there became known as the Carlisle Indian Industrial School; an experiment to assimilate American Indian children into white, American culture. It was the first government run boarding school for native children and by the time the school closed nearly forty years later, thousands of children representing more than 140 native tribes attended the school.

At the Claremont Road entrance to present day Carlisle Barracks sits the small cemetery that is the final resting place to 186 children who died while at the school. The U.S. Army has taken the mission to repatriate the remains of children who have been positively identified and whose families have requested their return.

Carlisle, PA, USA – June 26, 2016: Graves of Native American youths that attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle.

It is a painstaking process that the Army has completed three other times and will repeat again in June at the request of two Indian nations: the Rosebud Sioux Nation and the Alaskan Aleut Nation. In total, the Army will exhume the remains of ten students.

Renea C. Yates is the Director of the Office of Army Cemeteries and she appears on Smart Talk Wednesday to share details of the plan. Joseph Cress is an historian and education reporter with the Sentinel and he will join the conversation to offer details about the students who are buried in the cemetery.

Carlisle, PA, USA – June 26, 2016: The Historic Marker at the gravesite of Native Americans that attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.



Employers struggling to find workers cite continued federal benefits as the cause – Attention to alcoholism lost during the pandemic

There are currently more job openings in the U.S. right now than before the pandemic hit in March 2020. But with fewer people in the labor force, businesses are struggling to attract workers.

There are different theories as to why this problem exists, and persists. Fear of the virus has kept some people at home or avoiding jobs in the service sector where it is more likely they could come into contact with infected persons. A lack of childcare is another reason cited, particularly relevant while some schools still in virtual learning mode.

The reason for the hiring disconnect that gets the most attention is that many people are receiving more in unemployment benefits than they would earn in the jobs that are available.

Joining Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss how businesses can navigate through this hiring challenge are Jon Anderson, SHRM-CP, Human Resources Director, Knoebels Amusement Resort near Elysburg, Pa. and Greg Moreland, State Director in Pennsylvania, with the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).

Attention to alcoholism has been lost in the pandemic fight

Attention to alcoholism has waned during the pandemic, but the problem has not gone away.

Alcohol is still the most used and abused drug in the U.S., accounting for nearly 90 thousand deaths, millions of injuries, and untold lives destroyed.

Unfortunately, the stress of the past year has not been easy for people battling alcoholism. Karie Batzler is a Behavioral Health Director with Capital BlueCross and she appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to highlight how the pandemic has fueled alcohol abuse.

For more on public health issues plus a deeper look at the changing tide of healthcare–check out WITF’s Transforming Health. Online at, a partnership of WITF, WellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross.

Dissension within the GOP growing as power players threaten to leave the party

The fallout from the 2020 General Election, the January 6 Capitol attack and the demotion of Congresswoman Liz Cheney from House Republican leadership continues to have repercussions.

A group of influential members of the GOP have officially called on their party to fall back on its founding principals and rise up against political extremism. The group consists of national, state and local Republican leaders who are breaking from the pack to organize what they say is a “Call for American Renewal.”

Miles Taylor is a co-founder of the initiative called REPAIR and a former Homeland Security Official in the Trump administration. He is best known now as the then anonymous author of a New York Times column and book critical of Trump while working in the administration. Taylor appears on Smart Talk Monday to layout the organization’s call for change.

Boat sales and permits spiked during the Pandemic raising concerns for boater safety

Boating safety on Pennsylvania waterways is under the microscope following an increase in sales and launch permits during the past year.

In 2020, there were 11 boating fatalities, and none of the victims were wearing life jackets. So far in 2021, there have been three boating fatalities, and none of the individuals were wearing life jackets.

The unofficial start of summer begins this Memorial Day weekend and appearing on Smart Talk Monday to discuss boating safety are Laurel Anders, Director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Bureau of Boating, along with David Nihart, Chief of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Division of Fisheries Management. They will also offer a look at fishing prospects for anglers this season.




Primary election results signal a response to governor’s handling of pandemic – Experts make case for “sound and sustainable” spending of federal stimulus funds

In the May 18 primary, Pennsylvania voters approved two constitutional amendments largely viewed as a referendum on the governor’s handling of emergency powers during the pandemic.

And in the Harrisburg mayoral race, Democrat voters selected City Council President Wanda Williams over the two-term incumbent Mayor Eric Papenfuse to run in the fall. This was a surprise to many, but not to the residents who believe Papenfuse does not represent the city’s best interests.

Smart Talk on Friday will analyze these and other primary results with G. Terry Madonna, Ph.D., Senior Fellow in Residence, Millersville University.

Experts make case for “sound and sustainable” spending of federal stimulus funds

Two months ago, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. The plan will infuse states with a total of $195 billion in flexible funding, in addition to money earmarked for specific areas, such as education.

That significant infusion of cash is certainly welcome to states and municipalities who were experiencing dramatic revenue shortfalls due to the pandemic.

Experts caution that without careful planning, and careful spending, states could risk creating future shortfalls.

Josh Goodman, a Senior Officer with The Pew Charitable Trust, appears on Smart Talk Friday with recommendations to avoid future funding gaps.

Climate report predicts six degree temperature rise and storms to intensify

The state paints an alarming picture of Pennsylvania in the latest Climate Impacts Assessment.

The report recognizes that climate change is affecting Pennsylvania now, but warns that if nothing is done to halt that impact, temperatures in 2050 could be six degrees warmer than they were in 2000. Storms could also become more extreme. There could be more flooding but also more droughts and sea levels could rise on the southern part of the Delaware River and on Lake Erie.

The 2021 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment reviewed current scientific findings to identify climate risks, but it is not a comprehensive wrap up of all the potential climate risks and impacts to the state.

Appearing on Smart Talk Thursday to break down the report are Cindy Adams Dunn, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Patrick McDonnell, Secretary Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Allison Acevedo, Director of Environmental Justice, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Landscaping with native plants is something citizens can do to mitigate climate change. Visit here for suggestions by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation of Natural Resources.

Urban agriculture programs spread roots in communities

The term “urban agriculture” might seem like an oxymoron, particularly if you believe that agriculture can only thrive within vast green space not typical of most urban areas.

Agriculture can find a home almost anywhere; in compact community gardens, on rooftop buildings, and in pop-up alley-way markets. To see the possibilities it takes people with vision, some expertise, and a goal to bridge the healthy food divide that permeates some urban communities.

York and Reading are home to two organizations working to offer healthy food options to communities with limited access. Joining Smart Talk Thursday to highlight their urban agriculture operations are Bruce Manns, President and Farm Manager with York Fresh Food Farms and Levi Landis, Executive Director, GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, Reading.

A York Fresh Food Farms van delivers fresh produce to a market near York City.

Pennsylvania’s new Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson, MD

The number of new positive coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania is slowing down, but so are the number of Pennsylvanians getting vaccinated against the virus.

The state Department of Health reported 1700 new cases Tuesday and say 5.5 million people have received their first vaccine shot and 4.2 million are totally vaccinated. The number of vaccinations may pick up with approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 through 15.

But have we finally turned a corner in the pandemic? Will we ever reach herd immunity and do we need to? Will kids go back to school in person next fall? Are masks a thing of the past? Our guest Wednesday can address those and other questions.

Dr. Denise A. Johnson, MD., is the acting Physician General of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and she joins Smart Talk Wednesday to offer her vision of the state of health in Pennsylvania.

Dickinson College’s House Divided Project explores the struggle for freedom in the US

Freedom is a word we’ve heard often over the past year.

But freedom means different things to different people. Much of one’s view of freedom is shaped by their life’s experiences, ethnic or racial background and history. Dickinson College’s House Divided Project, helps K-12 classrooms learn more about the American Civil War, with special attention paid to efforts to abolish slavery.

As part of the House Divided project, Dickinson is launching a three-week summer program for low-income high school seniors and first-generation college students from the mid-state that focuses on the historic struggle for freedom in America.

Appearing on Smart Talk Wednesday to share project details are Matthew Pinsker, Ph.D., Professor of History and Pohanka Chair in American Civil War History, Todd Mealy, assistant director of the program grant and a teacher at Penn Manor High School in Lancaster County and Safronia Perry, the executive director of Hope Station in Carlisle, Pa.

A statue of Dickinson College founder Benjamin Rush stands on campus.

The FDA expands vaccine eligibility to kids, but uncertainty remains

All Pennsylvanians age 12 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and trials are underway to gauge their safety on kids as young as six.

As schools wrap up for the summer break planning will begin for the next school year, as most, if not all schools, go back to in-person learning.

With rapidly changing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding vaccines and masking, it is no wonder that parents have questions about the best course of action for their families.

Dr. Jessica Ericson, MD, is a Pediatric Infectious Disease specialist at Penn State Children’s Hospital and she appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to answer questions about the COVID vaccine and keeping kids safe.

Counties grapple with a decline in community emergency services

County commissioners in Pennsylvania are calling the lack of emergency medical services a crisis situation. They hope that by banding together to draw attention to the problem they might find solutions.

One solution includes a regional approach to deliver services and identifying a sustainable funding source. Emergency Medical Services Week in Pennsylvania highlights the need for partnerships and appearing on Smart Talk Tuesday to offer details are Lisa Schaefer, Executive Director of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and Kevin Boozel, President of CCAP and a Butler County Commissioner.

On a tour of the energy facilities in Salem Township, Forbes Road Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Rosatti stops at a Mariner East 2 construction site. The Slickville Volunteer Fire Department would have jurisdiction over an incident here, but the Forbes Road department — just six miles south — would provide mutual aid, Rosatti said.

Conflict in Israel and Gaza – State Sen. Franklin Kury

A growing conflict in Israel and Gaza has entered its second week with no de-escalation in sight.

More than 180 people have died since the fighting began, including 55 children. The fighting surprised many Americans who are mired in pandemic news, but it was not a surprise to those who follow news in the Middle East and relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Chris Bolan, Ph.D., Professor of Middle East Security Studies with the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, follows the region closely. He appears on Smart Talk Monday to offer an update of the situation there, as well as an analysis of the Biden administration’s response.

50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states to recognize environmental quality as a basic civil right.

Fifty years ago, a legislator named Franklin Kury wanted to guarantee Pennsylvanians the right to clean air and water, and the Pennsylvania Environmental Rights Amendment was born.

State Senator Franklin Kury appears on Smart Talk Monday to measure how far we’ve come as a state. Kury will also share his new book “The Constitutional Right to Save the Planet: The People’s Right to a Healthy Environment.

Join WITF, StateImpact Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Parks & Forests Foundation for a free virtual documentary screening and panel discussion in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the state’s Environmental Rights Amendment on Tuesday, May 18 at 7pm.

Hidden costs of Pa. Legislature – Cicadas

Pennsylvania legislators are among the highest paid in the country but spend taxpayer dollars on transportation, meals, offices and other perks with little documentation.

That’s according to a year-long investigation by Spotlight PA and The Caucus, an LNP watchdog publication, found more than 200 million dollars in spending over a four-year period that is difficult to track down.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss details of the reports are two of the investigating journalists Brad Bumsted, Bureau chief and state government reporter and Sam Janesch, Investigative reporter, both with The Caucus.

The 17-year Cicadas are preparing to make an appearance

It’s a beautiful day in Central Pennsylvania. Not a cloud in the sky, an almost perfect 66 degree air temperature. But just below the ground’s surface, a brood of cicadas are preparing to emerge and ruin the view.
That is unless you like hoards of flying insects and don’t mind the cacophony of a trillion of them as they sing, en masse, loudly from the trees while searching for a mate.


Cicada (Brood X) – Several hours after shedding it’s skin, a cicada waits for it’s shell to harden on a tree branch (iStock)

The brood X cicada arrival is expected to happen the last two weeks of May and into early June. It is estimated there may be 1.5 million cicadas per acre materializing from the ground.

Marten Edwards, Ph.D., is an Entomologist and Professor of Biology at Muhlenberg College and he will join Smart Talk Friday to share what nature-lovers can all look forward to with their arrival.

To track cicadas in your area visit the Cicada safari website.