Smart Talk Road Trip to Pa. Farm Show

Smart Talk makes a road trip to the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show for Friday’s program.

Agriculture has been described as Pennsylvania’s number one industry because it has such an economic and cultural impact on the state. So, any change in policy, the economy, weather and climate or consumer tastes affects Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding appears on Smart Talk with Scott LaMar on January 10, 2020.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding appears on Friday’s program to describe the “state of agriculture” in the Commonwealth. Topics to be addressed include a new farm bill signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf and the on- going trade war with China and other nations that impacts farmers.

Also, the state’s dairy farmers are hurting. Consumers are drinking 40% less milk since 1975 and milk prices have been low for a long period of time. Dave Smith, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Dairymen’s Association joins us on Smart Talk.

Finally, a growing and thriving business in Pennsylvania is craft beer. The state leads the nation with production of 3.7 million barrels of beer a year. We’ll learn more about craft beer and a Farm Show Beer competition on Smart Talk.

Dairy Farmer Justin Risser of Meadow Vista Farm and Dave Smith, ED PA Dairyman’s Association appear with Scott LaMar on Smart Talk on January 10, 2020.

Legislative update and stories to watch

It’s been a busy week at the State Capitol in Harrisburg with the start of a new legislative session.

WITF’s Capitol Bureau Chief Katie Meyer hosts Smart Talk to provide an update and insight into several high-profile issues and pieces of legislation.

Appearing on Smart Talk is PA Post reporter Joseph Jafaari, who has spent weeks tracking down the prices for religious texts and other materials in Pennsylvania’s county jails. He found that religious materials are relatively expensive in prison commissaries—and that Qurans almost always cost more than Bibles.

Joining the conversation is fellow PA Post reporter Ed Mahon to discuss how Extreme Risk Protection Orders—or Red Flag laws—are used in other states, and why they’re in legislative limbo in Pennsylvania.

Also, only one week into the new year and there have already been two U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

Last year there were 134 fallen officers. Their work is dangerous, and often thankless.

Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, a call to action asking citizens everywhere to demonstrate support for law enforcement.

The concept behind the initiative that began in 2015 is to show officers that their sacrifices are recognized and appreciated. A simple thank you will go a long way to ease the negativity often directed toward police officers and troopers.

Joining Smart Talk to convey the risks and sacrifices of law enforcement officers is David Kennedy, Pennsylvania State Troopers Association president.

Dave Kennedy appeared on Smart Talk on January 9, 2020.
Dave Kennedy appeared on Smart Talk on January 9, 2020.


Why are some U.S. Army’s posts named to honor the enemy?

The soldiers and families who call Fort Bragg, North Carolina, their home, live and work on one of the nation’s most prestigious military installations.

Home to elite Army units like the 82nd Airborne Division, the base has trained troops for battle since World War II to the present-day conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fort Bragg also stands out for another, more controversial reason. It is one of ten U.S. Army posts named for Confederate military officers.

Confederate General Braxton Bragg led units in many notable Civil War engagements and was certainly responsible for the killing of U.S. Army soldiers in battle.

Why, then, would the Army choose his name to honor what would one day become one of its most prestigious training posts?

The debate over memorializing the Confederacy in the American Armed Forces will take center stage on January 9 at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle. This is the first in a lecture series on provocative topics and how perceptions of history are reflected today.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss the history behind the current debate is Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule, Professor Emeritus of History at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Also joining Smart Talk is Geoff Mangelsdorf, Director of the US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle, to talk about the Provocative Topics series and topics for future programs.

Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule appears on Smart Talk January 8, 2020
Army Brig. Gen. Ty Seidule appears on Smart Talk January 8, 2020. (photo courtesy of Ty Seidule)






Geoff Mangelsdorf, Director of the US Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle
Geoff Mangelsdorf, Director of the US Army Heritage and Education Center, appears on Smart Talk on January 8, 2020.


The following links were provided by a  listener to add to the conversation about Confederate memorials:  Southern Poverty Law Center report: “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” and a digital initiative by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

Healing the spiritual wounds of war

War wounds are not always physical.

Psychological wounds caused by the traumas of war can be equally debilitating. And because the injury is not visible to friends and loved ones, those suffering often deal with it in silence or behave out of character.

A mental health condition caused by trauma is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, frightening or dangerous event or experiences. PTSD can affect anyone, not only veterans. First responders, and even abused children, can suffer from PTSD.

In past wars, PTSD was called shell shock or combat stress. Symptoms of the disorder can be characterized as heightened anxiety, feeling constantly on edge or experiencing extreme or unreasonable anger during routine situations. PTSD can manifest itself in different ways, for different people.  It might affect a person for a few months, or their entire life. It doesn’t always go away entirely; like the tide, it may ebb and flow.

There are local Vietnam veterans who found that the only way for them to move forward, was to go back. Back to Vietnam.

Joining Smart Talk to discuss their experiences and path to healing are Vietnam War veterans Bob Smoker, Edgar Hardesty, Ph.D., and Charles Lee. Also joining the conversation is Afghanistan War veteran Aaron Lax, who participates in a program geared toward healing combat veterans and their families, called Reboot Combat Recovery.

Wounds of war
Bob Smoker, Ed Hardesty, Aaron Lax and Charles Lee appear on Smart Talk on December 16, 2019.


The Smart Talk guests offered these details of their military service:

Former Army Capt. Aaron Lax served in the U.S. Army for nine years. During that time, he served with the 1st of the 26th Infantry regiment “Blue Spaders,part of the 1st Infantry Division, from 2010-2012 and deployed with them to eastern Afghanistan. Lax next served with 1st battalion of the 320th Field Artillery Regiment “Top Guns,” part of the 101st Airborne Division, from 2012-2017. He deployed with the 101st to Afghanistan from September 2013 through February 2014.  

Bob Smoker was drafted into the U.S. Army in May 1969.  After basic and then infantry training, he arrived in Vietnam in early October 1969 and turned 20-years- old later that month. Smoker was assigned to Charlie Company 2nd Battalion of the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.  Smoker participated in the nearly five month-long battle for Fire Support Base Ripcord.  The battle heated up on July 2, 1970 when two platoons and the company command post were attacked atop Hill 902. Smoker was part of the command post, which suffered heavy casualties. You can learn more about the battle at the Ripcord Association website.

Former Air Force Staff Sergeant Ed Hardesty was the non-commissioned officer in charge of weapons and munitions for the 37th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, an air rescue helicopter squadron out of Danang Air Force Base, Vietnam, from 1968 through 1969. Their mission was to rescue downed pilots, extraction of deeply inserted teams and medevac. 

Former U.S. Army soldier Charles Lee deployed to Vietnam in 1970 at the age of 19, right after marrying his first wife. In Vietnam, Lee was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery, on a track vehicle known as a Duster. The Viet Cong called them “Fire Dragons,” because their high volume of fire and tracer ammunition gave the appearance of a dragon’s breath. Their U.S. Army crews called them “Dusters,” due to the large clouds of dust they created as they sped across the dirt roads of Vietnam. The Duster mission was as an anti-aircraft gun, but Lee said they often used it as an anti-personnel weapon.




What Pa. voters are saying in latest F&M poll

The latest Franklin and Marshall College poll released this week indicates most Pennsylvanians favor an impeachment inquiry into President Trump and don’t believe Trump should be re-elected. Not surprisingly, the poll results fall along political party lines.

On the Democratic side, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the race to take on President Trump in next year’s election. That’s even though national polls have shown Warren pulling even with Biden.

Legalization of marijuana and red flag laws that would affect gun owners deemed to be a danger to themselves or others are two other high profile issues that are addressed in the poll.

Franklin and Marshall College political analyst and pollster Dr. G. Terry Madonna appears on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss the poll results and provide perspective.

Terry Madonna
FILE PHOTO: Dr. G. Terry Madonna appears on Smart Talk.

Reforming Pennsylvania’s probation system

Probation reform is making headlines in Pennsylvania and around the country.

Nationally-known and celebrity advocates are part of the reason. Rapper Meek Mill brought attention to the reform movement this summer when he successfully petitioned Philadelphia prosecutors to change a decade old plea agreement. The plea deal kept him under court-ordered probation supervision for more than 10 years, which is not unusual under Pennsylvania law.

Changes to the current system are gaining momentum and have bi-partisan support in the state legislature. In fact, reform is one of the few issues where both liberals and conservatives agree.

Jessica Jackson
Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer of the Reform Alliance, October 28, 2019.

Joining us on Monday’s Smart Talk to discuss probation reform initiatives is Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer, the Reform Alliance and David Safavian, general counsel and deputy director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform with the American Conservative Union.

David Safavian
David Safavian, general counsel and deputy director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform with the American Conservative Union, appears on Smart Talk, October 28, 2019.


Also, when President Trump took office, renegotiating U.S. trade deals was one of his priorities. Trade negotiators revised the 25-year old NAFTA agreement in 2018, and it is now officially known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Mexico ratified the terms last summer and Canada is reportedly ready to sign the deal but is waiting on U.S. Congressional approval.

So, why is it taking so long for Congress to act?

Appearing on Smart Talk Monday to provide an industry perspective is Linda Dempsey, Vice President of International Affairs policy for the National Association of Manufacturers.

Linda Dempsey, Vice President of International Affairs policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, appears on Smart Talk, October 28, 2019.



Shining a spotlight on PA campaign spending

A year-long investigation by journalists with Spotlight PA and The Caucus uncovered an uncomfortable truth behind Pennsylvania campaign finance laws. The truth is that while candidates must keep records of their expenses, they don’t have to offer any spending details unless specifically asked.

The implication is that hiding in the law’s ambiguity are questionable financial transactions, according to the reports. The investigation found high-price dinners, liquor, sporting events and even club memberships listed as campaign expenses.

Sam Janesch and Angela Couloumbis
Sam Janesch and Angela Couloumbis appear on Smart Talk on October 29, 2019.

Joining Smart Talk Tuesday to provide background on the investigative series are reporters Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA and Sam Janesch of The Caucus.

Also, the York County History Center will feature acclaimed historian and Presidential author H.W. Brands, Ph.D., as part of their Distinguished Speaker Series next month.

Brands will present on Ronald Reagan, the subject of one of the author’s many books.

H.W. Brands will appear on Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss his books and role in numerous documentaries.

Election coverage on WITF is supported by the law firm of Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr.

H.W. Brands
Historian and author H.W. Brands, Ph.D., appears on Smart Talk October 29, 2019.

Recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania – what happens next?

Recreational marijuana is a hot-button issue in Pennsylvania.

Governor Wolf recently came out in favor of legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Wolf arrived at this position following Lt. Governor John Fetterman’s 67-county listening tour. As part of the tour, Fetterman participated in town-hall style meetings to gauge the support for legalizing marijuana and found that of those who “voiced their opinions, the majority supported legalization.”

Lt. Gov

Justin Kocis

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, appears on Smart Talk, October 18, 2019.

The tour results are consistent with a March Franklin & Marshall College Poll that shows 59 percent, or nearly seven in 10 voters, support the idea of legalizing marijuana.

Already there are 33 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized marijuana use in some form. Many of these states, like Pennsylvania, allow for limited medical use.

Not everyone is on board the legalization train. Many organizations have voiced their opposition, like the American Lung AssociationCenters for Disease Control, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who cite statistics showing the impact of marijuana on physical and mental health. Their position is that just because it is legal in many states, doesn’t mean it is safe.

This week, two Pennsylvania Democratic state senators introduced legislation that would legalize adult marijuana use. Any legislation could face a roadblock in a Republican controlled senate.

Appearing on Smart Talk Friday to discuss the administration’s support for legalizing recreational marijuana is Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

Lt. Gov

Justin Kocis

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, appears on Smart Talk, October 18, 2019.

Should college athletes be paid?

Today’s college athletes are considered amateurs. They are not paid for their performances on the field or court. At the same time, many of the universities and colleges they represent rake in millions of dollars through TV contracts and ticket sales.

Last month, California became the first state to make it legal for college athletes to be compensated for the use of their names, images and likenesses. Athletes will also be allowed to hire agents to represent them to seek out deals.

Almost a dozen other states have quickly followed up, including Pennsylvania.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association is vehemently opposed to allowing athletes to be paid. Opponents of so-called “Fair Pay to Play” say student athletes already are compensated with scholarships, meals and room and board that can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over four years.

Appearing on Friday’s Smart Talk to discuss their proposal to allow athletes to be compensated are Democratic state Representatives Dan Miller and Ed Gainey, both of Allegheny County. We’ll also hear from former All-America football player Adam Breneman and youth coach Archie Smith, Jr., who also played college football.

What will your obituary say about you?

Losing a loved one can be a difficult time for everyone.

When a family member or friend passes away, capturing their memories can be a challenging process. Obituaries are an essential part of someone’s life and an important way to continue someone’s legacy. However, are we prepared to write an obituary?

Obituaries today often are different than just a few years ago when just the basics of the deceased were listed. Those kinds of obituaries still exist but often there are those that talk about how the person died, what kind of personality they had, what they enjoyed doing, what was unique about them and even their quirks.

Appearing on Smart Talk to discuss writing an obituary is Alan Foster, Adjunct Professor of Journalism, Department of English, Millersville University.

Also, September is Hispanic Heritage Month. It’s a time when one of the fastest growing populations in Pennsylvania celebrate their culture and contributions but zero in on challenges they face, as well.

On Friday’s Smart Talk, we discuss the heritage and challenges with members of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs — Executive Director Luz Colon, George Fernandez and Delma Rivera-Lytle.