Childcare industry facing unprecedented challenges

Childcare options in Pennsylvania essentially evaporated in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most providers closed their doors for at least a while at the beginning of mitigation efforts, dealing many centers a financial death blow that is hampering any hopes of industry recovery.

Providers are now facing the same labor shortages that are plaguing other parts of the service sector. This is leaving limited care options for families.

The federal government earmarked American Rescue Plan funds to help stabilize the childcare industry, and Pennsylvania has also made financial commitments of support. But is it too late?

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to discuss ways to support the childcare industry are Tracey Campanini, Deputy Secretary for the Office of Child Development and Early Learning, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services; Diane Barber, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Child Care Association; Ruby Martin, Chief Child and Youth Programs Officer, YWCA York; and Kim Shearer, owner and Executive Director, Tender Years, Inc., a multi-site, family-owned business with centers in Camp Hill, Hershey, and Mechanicsburg.

Franklin & Marshall Poll: Pennsylvanians weigh in on Biden, election review, abortion, masks

Thursday’s Smart Talk analyzes results of the October 2021 Franklin and Marshall College Poll.

President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have been going down nationally in the last few months after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, price inflation and infrastructure and budget plans that are stalled in Congress. The F&M poll provides data on how Pennsylvania voters view the president.

One of the most contentious issues this fall as students returned to school was whether they should be wearing masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 and whether they should be required to wear masks. It’s a question Pennsylvania weighed in on in the poll.

Texas recently enacted a law restricting abortions after a heartbeat is detected which usually is at about four weeks of pregnancy. Critics point out that’s before many women know they’re pregnant. What do voters think about a similar law in Pennsylvania?

The poll also explores voters’ thoughts on the legislature’s plans to conduct an investigation and review into the 2020 election.

Berwood Yost, Director of the Center for Opinion Research, Franklin and Marshall College appears on Smart Talk to share and analyze results of the F&M Poll.

Invasive plants and an overpopulation of deer are decimating Pennsylvania’s forests

The threat to Pennsylvania’s forests might not be what you think.

Uncontrolled development is often cited as the greatest threat to the state’s wilderness and forested areas. But the threat is also coming from within.

Researchers say that invasive plants and bugs are what is really threatening urban forests and are a “catastrophe in the making.

Ryan Utz, Ph.D., an assistant professor of water resources at Chatham University, and Walter Carson, Ph.D., an associate professor of plant community ecology at the University of Pittsburgh, are researching the causes and possible solutions to the growing problem. Both join Smart Talk Wednesday to offer their thoughts on how to combat the damage caused by invasive plants and the deer population.

Inflation fears plaguing economic recovery

Anyone who shops for food or fills their gas tank knows that higher prices are affecting their pocketbook.

Economists are now forecasting that higher prices may be here to stay, as the U.S. is running at a 13-year high of 5.4 percent inflation.

Rising food and housing costs accounted for more than half of the inflation jump in the past year, which analysts see as a sign that supply chain glitches and worker shortages are spreading to other parts of the economy.

Heather Long is a Washington Post economics correspondent who has reported on inflation and the economy and she appears on Smart Talk Thursday to discuss the economic forecast.

Interview with author Nicholas Crane and a tale of adventure and scientific discovery

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Award-winning writer and journalist Nicholas Crane has traveled extensively and perhaps this is what drew him to write about one of the world’s greatest scientific expeditions.

His bookLatitude; The True Story of the World’s First Scientific Expedition’ follows a group of twelve European adventurer-scientists in the mid-eighteenth century. The team spent years in South America, scaling volcanoes and traversing jungles before they achieved their goal of establishing the exact shape of the Earth by measuring the length of 1 degree latitude at the equator.

Their discovery opened up the “possibility for safe, accurate navigation across the seas” and enabled the accurate accounting of future expeditions.

Author Nicholas Crane appears on Smart Talk Tuesday to share this inspiring true story.

What is the definition of consent?

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What does it mean to consent to sexual contact with another person?

It depends on who you ask and, frankly, where that contact or interaction takes place because not every state defines consent the same way.

In Pennsylvania, defining consent and applying that definition in a court setting is left to the jury. There were jurors during deliberations in Bill Cosby’s 2018 trial on sexual assault charges who were shocked to learn that Pennsylvania does not have a legal definition of consent.

Jennifer Storm, former Pennsylvania Victim’s Advocate, author and victim’s rights expert joins Smart Talk Tuesday to talk about the initiative to legally define consent in Pennsylvania. Joining her on the program is Joyce Short, author of “Your Consent- the Key to Conquering Sexual Assault,” and the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Consent Awareness Network (CAN).

Domestic violence awareness; working to end the cycle of abuse

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To help individuals who are experiencing domestic violence it is important to first identify what defines that behavior.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.

The abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or can include psychological actions or threats of actions. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.

Domestic violence is broadly defined and there is no one solution to solving or stopping the problem.

Julie Bancroft, is the Chief Public Affairs officer, Communications, Government Relations for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence and she appears on Smart Talk Monday to elaborate on the topic as part of Domestic Violence Awareness month.


Gas prices continue to rise, fueling sticker shock at the pump

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Gas prices are at a seven-year high, and still rising. 

The highest fuel prices in the country are in California and Hawaii, but Pennsylvania is not far behind them with an average price of $3.53 per gallon of regular. Drivers here are paying about $1 more per gallon now, compared to this time last year.

Home heating energy is also expected to rise significantly, too.

So what is behind the rising cost of fuel? Mike Butler is the Mid-Atlantic Director of Consumer Energy Alliance and he appears on Smart Talk Monday to offer perspective on what is causing the pain at the pump.

A new Robert E. Lee biography and why it’s relevant today

Historian Allen Guelzo has written a biography: Robert E. Lee – A Life, that has a new relevancy today. A racial reckoning over the past two years and a nation that is re-examining its past has put Lee back in the news.

Lee was looked upon as an icon in the south and respected as a military leader after commanding the Confederate army in the Civil War. But Lee has come under scrutiny for leading an army that was fighting to maintain slavery and was a slaveholder himself.

Guelzo’s book addresses the question of whether Robert E. Lee committed treason against the United States when he resigned from the U.S. Army to join the Confederacy and take up arms against a country he had sworn to defend. The history books most often say Lee said he “couldn’t raise his sword against Virginia” his home state. Guelzo writes there may have been more personal thinking to Lee’s decision.

Dr. Allen Guelzo was featured in a virtual Midtown Scholar Bookstore event recently and is on today’s Smart Talk.

See video of the interview here.

Supply chain problems affecting economic recovery

For the second straight year, the holiday shopping season may be different than in the years before the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, COVID cases had begun to re-surge and many Americans were in the midst of the pandemic’s economic fallout.

This year, the problem is inventory. Many retailers’ shelves may not be stocked with the products consumers are used to seeing.

The supply chain of numerous products has been disrupted as cargo ships wait offshore unable to be unloaded or their products transported, businesses are short-staffed and there’s a high demand for goods.

Freeman College of Management professor Jimmy Chen, Ph.D., Bucknell University joins Smart Talk Thursday to discuss the problem and expectations for a fix.