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.

Smart Talk Tuesday: Lancaster protests; Philadelphia reporter arrested at protest; Poll shows public supports COVID-19 response; Counties want mental health funding

Protests continued across the country last night against police brutality and racial injustice in the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis last week.

In Lancaster, several members of the police department marched with the protesters Monday. Sunday’s demonstration in Lancaster was more heated as protesters screamed at police and several were arrested. Police used pepper spray to subdue a few protesters.

Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace says “outside agitators” may have been behind Sunday’s testy standoff.

Lancaster City Council President Ismail Smith-Wade-El, who has been involved in the Lancaster community for years, appears on Tuesday’s Smart Talk to discuss the protests and the issues raised by the Floyd incident.

Also on Tuesday’s program, WHYY radio reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent was arrested during a demonstration in Philadelphia on Sunday, even after clearly stating he was a journalist. He’s one of a growing number of media members who have been injured or arrested during the protests. Wolfman-Arent describes what happened on Tuesday’s show.

Smart Talk‘s coronavirus coverage on Tuesday includes results from the Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos nationwide poll that finds more Americans’ priorities are shifting towards the economy and away from health — compared to a poll in March — even though almost two-thirds of those polled say government’s priority should be preventing the virus from spreading. David Schleifer, Ph.D, Director of Research for Public Agenda, is on Smart Talk with details.

Finally, Pennsylvania counties say the need for more funding from the state for mental health treatment and support is even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clinton County Commissioner Jeff Snyder, President of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania joins us on Smart Talk.




Smart Talk Monday: Black people feel under siege after recent violent deaths and incidents

The death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck as Floyd said repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe, has set off a wave of protests and outrage across the country. The anger has escalated into violence in Minneapolis over what protestors see is ongoing police brutality against African-Americans.

It’s not just incidents of police involvement either. A black jogger in Georgia was shot and killed in a struggle with a white man, who armed himself after he and his father thought the jogger could be a suspect in a string of burglaries. A white woman called the police saying she was being threatened by an African-American man, who was bird watching in New York’s Central Park. The man he had nothing more than telling the woman to follow the park’s rules and put her dog on a leash.

These three recent incidents have raised questions about racism and why black men especially are often the victims of violence — sometimes at the hands of the police and in American society as a whole.

It’s the topic of our discussion on Monday’s Smart Talk.

Appearing on the program is Sandra Thompson – a York area attorney and president of the York County chapter of the NAACP. Ms. Thompson was one of five African-American women playing golf at a York County course last year when the owner called the police after a dispute over slow play arose. Also on the program are Rev. Dr. Frank Hairston-Allen, President of the Harrisburg Area NAACP, Chief Dean Esserman, National Police Foundation Senior Counselor, and Dr. Todd Mealy, founder of the Equity Institute for Race Conscious Pedagogy, and the author of Race Conscious Pedagogy: Disrupting Racism at Majority White Schools.

The coronavirus on Smart Talk Tuesday: Small business lifeline, banks inundated with loan applications and a push to restart construction projects

The coronavirus pandemic is having a devastating impact on small businesses throughout Pennsylvania and the country.

When the federal government approved the first stimulus plan it included a safety net for small businesses in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loans.

The plan is for businesses to apply for the loans through participating lenders, who have subsequently been inundated with calls for loan applications. The “system” is overwhelmed leaving small businesses looking for help.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the situation is the National Federation of Independent Businesses State Director Gordon Denlinger.

Also joining Smart Talk to discuss how lending institutions will manage the program and meet the needs of the small business community are Duncan Campbell, president and CEO of the PA Bankers Association, along with Centric Bank President and CEO Patti Husic.

When Governor Wolf ordered all nonessential businesses to close in mid-March, construction and road work stopped as they were deemed nonessential.

State legislators are now pushing for exemptions to reopen construction projects, as Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites.

Joining Smart Talk to talk about proposed bills being introduced is PA Post reporter Ed Mahon.


The coronavirus on Smart Talk Monday: End of life decisions and survey finds Americans on ‘common ground’

At a time when thousands of Americans are sick and dying from the COVID-19 virus, many are contemplating their mortality. As a result more people are making end-of-life plans and drawing up wills if they didn’t have one before.

Discussing end of life decisions is never an easy topic to bring up, but during the community health crisis the issue has taken on a new urgency.

More than 500 Pennsylvanians have died of complications related to COVID-19.

Healthcare organizations, particularly those whose focus is on end of life care, are encouraging these conversations take place before a family is in crisis.

Joining us on Smart Talk Monday to discuss advance directives and wills are Dr. Maria Olender, DO, Associate Medical Director Hospice of Central Pennsylvania and Attorney Andrew Rusniak, Esq., from the law firm of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC, Estate Planning practice group.

Also, a recent survey found that while Americans have divergent opinions about the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, there is strong evidence they stand on common ground about many issues, too.

Appearing on Smart Talk to analyze this survey by America Amplified is David Schleifer, Vice President, Director of Research with Public Agenda, a research and public engagement organization.




The coronavirus on Smart Talk Tuesday: security of the food supply, vaccine trials and helping aging Pennsylvanians

While many businesses in Pennsylvania have closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Governor Tom Wolf and First Lady Frances Wolf reminded Pennsylvanians that this does not include grocery stores and food suppliers.

Governor Wolf said that all Pennsylvanians should have faith in our food system and that if everyone only buys what they need there will be enough for everyone.

Since the outbreak began there have been shortages of certain products, like toilet paper and cleaning supplies, leaving some uneasy about the reliability of the food supply.

Representing the Pennsylvania Food Merchant’s Association, Scott Karns, CEO of Karns Quality Foods, and Joe Fasula, owner of Gerrity’s Grocery Stores appear on Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss food network security.

Meanwhile, there is no cure for COVID-19. The first clinical trials for a vaccine to protect against the virus began just over a week ago. Public health officials say it will take a year to 18 months for a a potential vaccine to be fully tested.

University of Pennsylvania Professor of Biostatistics, Medical Ethics and Health Policy Susan Ellenberg, PhD. is an expert on clinical trials and medical product safety. She’ll appear on Tuesday’s Smart Talk.

Also, there are certain people and age-groups who are at greater risk for the coronavirus.

Robert Torres, Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging, is on Smart Talk to discuss how older adults and especially those with underlying medical conditions are the most vulnerable during the outbreak and how the state is continuing to offer services and support.

The PA Link to Community Care website is designed to help persons with disabilities and seniors find information that will connect them to supports and services in their community, or call 1-800-753-8827. 

For individuals who would like to volunteer for emergency disaster response visit here. 

Patient assistance clearing house call 1-800-955-0989. 

For suspected elder abuse or abuse of an adult with a disability call 1-800-490-8505.

The coronavirus on Smart Talk Monday: human services, domestic violence concerns, how PA businesses are dealing with closures, and a look at what happened during the 1918 flu pandemic

Childcare centers around the Commonwealth are facing a tough choice; close their doors or get permission from the state to stay open.

They can’t operate without a waiver since Governor Tom Wolf issued a blanket shutdown order to thousands of “non-life-sustaining” businesses across the state.

The decision for some centers is based on the population they serve. For others, they are weighing the risk of COVID-19 against the needs of their employees and the parents who use their service.

Secretary of the Department of Human Services Teresa Miller joins Smart Talk on Monday to discuss the departments guidance during the COVID-19 emergency. Waiver information for day care centers can be accessed by calling 1-877-4PA-KIDS.

Also, when families are asked to quarantine at home those who fear or experience domestic violence are suddenly thrust into a potentially dangerous situation.

The Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence is spotlighting the need to remain vigilant and safeguard programs that support victims. Julie Bancroft is the Chief Public Affairs Officer with the PCDV and appears on Monday’s Smart Talk.

Since Governor Wolf ordered all non-essential businesses to cease operations to limit the spread of the coronavirus, more than 10-thousand business have sought waivers to remain open. Gene Barr is the President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry and will appear on Smart Talk to discuss what happens next.

Finally, one-hundred-years-ago, the 1918 flu claimed the lives of an estimated 50 million people worldwide and 675,000 in the United States.

Dr. Michael Neiberg, Ph.D., joins Smart Talk to talk about what happened a century ago. He is a Professor of History and Chair of War Studies in the Department of National Security and Strategy, United States Army War College.

**The Pennsylvania Department of Health has added a link to a coronavirus self-checker guide to help people make appropriate decisions about their medical care. Users are advised that it is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition**

The Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence offers this information: To find your local domestic violence program and hotline.

National Domestic Violence Hotline or 1-800-799-7233 or Text LOVEIS to 22522

PASafeLaw (this hotline is not for crisis situations) – 1-833-727-223


Starting school later – possible solution to kid’s sleep deprivation crisis?

Any parent who has attempted to roust a sleeping teenager for school will tell you it is not always an easy task. Teenagers, it seems, really like to sleep.

According to experts, teenagers also need to sleep and there is science to back it up.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly commissioned a report in 2019 called, “The Case for Delaying Secondary School Start Times.” The report raised the alarm by calling sleep deprivation among teenagers a public health crisis and recommending districts move school start times to 8:30 or later.

The American Academy of Pediatrics made the same policy recommendation more than five years ago, saying that later start times would better align with children’s changing sleep patterns.

Dr. Gail Karafin and Superintendent Joe McFarland appear on Smart Talk on February 18, 2020.
Dr. Gail Karafin and Superintendent Joe McFarland appear on Smart Talk on February 18, 2020.

While it appears that many school districts around the country and in Pennsylvania, have considered the recommendations, the average high school start time remains unchanged since 2011. The majority still start classes before 8 a.m.

If student health and achievement is improved with later start times, why does it seem so difficult for districts to make the change?

Joining Smart Talk on Tuesday to discuss the science for later start times and how some districts are making the change are Gail Karafin, Ed.D., School Psychologist and PA Statewide leader of Start School Later, Orfeu Buxton, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Health, Pennsylvania State University and Derry Township School District Superintendent Joe McFarland.

On Wednesday, February 26, at 9pm, WITF TV will air a NOVA broadcasts on ‘The Mysteries of Sleep’ exploring the benefits of sleep including memory retention and emotional regulation.