Smart Talk


WITF's Daily Public Affairs programMore from Smart Talk »

Most Recent Episodes

Smart Talk 02/05/2016: Zika in PA? Super Bowl commercials

Spread of the Zika virus in Brazil and other Latin American countries has raised concern in the United States. Florida Gov. Rock Scott declared emergencies in four counties in his state after nine people were found to have the virus. All are thought to have contracted the virus outside the U.S. Those with the Zika virus present with flu-like symptoms most often and can recover quickly. However, pregnant women who have the virus have delivered babies with birth defects. The virus is spread by a certain type of mosquito. Could Zika make its way beyond Florida into the United States and maybe even into Pennsylvania? Dr. John Wallace, a medical entomologist and Pofessor of Biology at Millersville University tells us on Friday's Smart Talk. Also, many of you will be watching the telecast of Sunday's Super Bowl for the commercials. Since the broadcast typically has the largest audience of the year, advertisers run their best commercials during the game. What makes a successful or memorable Super Bowl commercial? Messiah College professors Keith Quesenberry and David Hagenbuch lay out their theories on Friday's program. Finally, WITF's Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson provides insight into Gov. Wolf's request for an additional $200 million in education spending in next year's budget. That's on top of the $400 million Wolf asked for in the budget that wasn't completed this year.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 02/04/2016: Taking politicians out of redistricting; Early childhood education ...

We live in a partisan society politically. Some say the Congress is as polarized along party lines as any time in our history. How did we get that way? Many point to Congressional reapportionment practices by states like Pennsylvania as one of the culprits. Using U.S. Census population statistics that are collected every 10 years, the state legislature in Pennsylvania gets to draw the state legislative and Congressional district boundaries. The majority party in the legislature wields a lot of power over what those final maps will look like. Often, the districts are developed or gerrymandered in a way that would make it easier for candidates from the majority party to be elected or re-elected to office. Democratic State Senator John Wozniak is proposing taking redistricting out of the hands of lawmakers and setting up a commission to draw the district lines. Wozniak describes his plan on Thursday's Smart Talk. We often hear that early childhood education - learning in a structured setting before a child enters kindergarten - is one of the keys to a child growing up to be a good student. Research also indicates early children education is especially important for children living in poverty. The Joshua Group is a non-profit that operates a program for kids in Harrisburg's Allison Hill. Kirk Hallett, founder and director of the Joshua Group joins us on Thursday's program

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 02/03/2016: Researcher explains bee decline

The decline of the nation's bee population was a great mystery for a long time — so much so that a presidential order was issued in June of 2014 to investigate the state of bees. It's important because much of our food supply depends on the pollination of bees. We've heard that honey bees are in danger, and it turns out they aren't alone. In recent years, wild bees, another type of pollinating bee, have also faced a plight of population decline. A study, co-published by a Franklin and Marshall professor, maps the decline of wild bee populations. The study, which is the largest of its kind, tracked the status, trend and impact of wild bees across the United States. How large was the population loss, and what could it mean for the future of the food supply chain, honeybees and human life? Dr. Eric Lonsdorf, co-publisher of the wild bee study and Franklin and Marshall professor of ecology and Clair Kauffman, Orchard Manager at Kauffman's Fruit Farm & Market in Lancaster appear on Wednesday's Smart Talk to discuss why wild bees are important, why they're disappearing and how farmers and homeowners can help combat the population decline and destruction of wild bee habitats.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 02/02/2016: The history of medicine

In a historical hotspot like Pennsylvania, many pride themselves on local and national history knowledge; but what do you know about the history of medicine? Moreover, what do you know about the history of medicine specific to Central Pennsylvania? This is type of history you won't find in typical textbooks. We'll learn more about this history of medicine and focus on its relationship to Central Pennsylvania on Tuesday's Smart Talk. The Edward Hand Medical Heritage Foundation was founded in 1982 in Lancaster. Since then, it has been studying, cataloguing and curating historical artifacts. The foundation, which also has a virtual museum, has focused on medical history as a whole, but has specifically targeted its surrounding Lancaster County, preserving priceless historical artifacts for years to come. Joining us on Thursday's Smart Talk are Donna Mann, the museum's curator, and Dr. Nikitas Zervanos, the president of the Edward Hand Medical Heritage Foundation, to discuss the history and taking questions about the past and future of medicine.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 02/01/2016: Kids' dental health; Iowa Caucus report

Actual voters will begin choosing presidential candidates tonight at the Iowa Caucuses. It's the first in the country after months of debates, campaigning in small town diners and a campaign like we've never seen. No more polls — only the numbers that count. NPR political reporter Scott Detrow has spent weeks in Iowa leading up to the Caucuses and joins on Monday's Smart Talk. February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Monday's program answers questions about dental health and not just for kids and provides tips on how to make sure children grow up with healthy teeth and gums. Appearing on the show are Philip Goropoulos, president of Catholic Health Initiative's CHI St. Joseph Children's Health in Lancaster County and dental hygienist Laura Myers.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 01/29/2016: Impact of juveniles sent to prison for life getting sentences reviewed

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-to-3 decision that juveniles sentenced to life in prison as teenagers must be retroactively granted the opportunity to argue that they should be released from prison. The ruling an expansion of the 2012 Supreme Court decision that eliminated mandatory life terms without parole for juveniles, What does that ruling mean for Pennsylvania — a state with about 500 inmates who could be affected — the most of any state in the country? It is the focus of Friday's Smart Talk. Appearing on the program are David Arnold, Lebanon County District Attorney and President of the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association, Pennsylvania's Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, an attorney from the Juvenile Law Center, the sister of a teenager murder by her 15-year-old boyfriend and Cindy Sanford, a woman who befriended Kenneth Carl Crawford, an inmate at the State Correction Institution in Greene County, who was convicted for his involvement in a double murder in Luzerne County in 1999 when he was 15.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 01/28/2016: Radon a hazard throughout PA; The swashbuckling Frederick Burnham

Some 20,000 Americans die each year from lung cancer related to exposure to radon gas according to the American Cancer Society. It is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer. However, radon is a danger we don't hear about too often. Maybe it's because there are so many other health threats we face every day or that radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas we can't see. The Department of Environmental Protection estimates that almost half of Pennsylvania homes are affected by radon. As a result, DEP is encouraging homeowners to get their homes tested for radon and if levels are above recommendations, take steps to fix the problem. Thursday's Smart Talk focuses on radon — what it is, how to test for it and what to do if radon levels are too high. Our guests are Pennsylvania Secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection John Quigley and Robert Lewis, Program Manager of the Bureau of Radiation Protection with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Also, Steve Kemper, author of the newly published book, A Splendid Savage, The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnhamjoins us. Burnham was a gold prospector and scout who fought Apaches then went to Africa to find his fortunate and was a warrior there too. Be sure to tune in.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 01/27/2016: Open enrollment for health insurance deadline Sunday

There could be a crush of Americans signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as the open enrollment deadline approaches this Sunday, January 31. At least that's the hope of the Obama Administration. The law was designed to reduce the number of uninsured and it has in the first three years the healthcare exchanges have been available. Another component though was that more people were needed to enroll in order to keep costs down. Critics point out that healthcare cost still have gone up. Young people, who are uninsured, are being encouraged to sign up for insurance. Many were weighing whether to purchase a plan or pay a fine if they go without insurance. The fines increase this year to $695 for an adult and $347 per child up to $2,500 or 2.5% of family income, whichever is greater. We're also marking a year since Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf expanded Medicaid for low income individuals and agreed to accept money from the federal government to do so. Appearing on Wednesday's Smart Talk to answer questions about health insurance and Medicaid are Pennsylvania's Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller and Lynn Keltz, a health insurance navigator. Need help from Insurance Marketplace Navigators? Call 1-855-274-5626 (toll free) to make an appointment or speak with a Navigator. This program is part of WITF's Transforming Health project covering health news and in depth analysis of today's evolving Health Care landscape. Visit us at Transforming Health is an educational partnership of WITF, Penn State Hershey Medical Center and WellSpan Health. To learn more about health insurance in Pennsylvania, explore the online Transforming Health tool Getting Covered. It's an easy-to-use guide for understanding year three of Pennsylvania's new healthcare system, how to access health insurance, and how to make the most of your plan to ensure positive health outcomes for you and your family.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 01/26/2016: Which state issues are most important to you?

On Monday's Smart Talk, we talked with you and many others about the national issues that you felt were most important right now. On Tuesday's program, we'll do the same with issues facing Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians. There has been a lot of negative political news surrounding Pennsylvania over the past few months — the state has been without a complete budget for seven months, Attorney General Kathleen Kane faces criminal charges while a State Senate committee could decide to remove her from office, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is getting deeper into a scandal that included pornographic, sexist and racist emails. Those issues may not have an impact on your day-to-day lives but what does? What about property taxes, education, pensions, infrastructure or crime? We'll open the phones to ask the question — what state issue is most important to you right now? Between 9 and 10 a.m., call 1-800-729-7532 or email to get in on the show. Joining us are WITF's Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson and political analyst and pollster Dr. G. Terry Madonna of Franklin and Marshall College.

Listen to the Episode

Smart Talk 01/25/2016: What issues are you anxious about?

"The mood of voters is one of the most important political factors in an election year. And this year voters are anxious, frightened and angry." That's the basis of a national conversation NPR is promoting this week that focuses on three themes: Economic uncertainty — the shrinking middle class; Terrorism — are we secure?; and Demographics — a changing national identity. What may be contributing to this anxiety? The share of income held by middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down from 62% in 1970; Americans are more fearful of a terrorist attack than any time since 9/11; and from 1965 to 2015, immigrants and their descendants added 72 million people to the U.S. population and are projected to add another 102 million within the next 50 years. Several presidential candidates have played upon voters' anxieties and are doing well in the polls to the surprise of many experts and pundits. WITF's Smart Talk program is participating in the NPR project and wants to hear your opinions. On Monday's program, we're looking for you to tell us what issue is most important to you or that you are moxt concerned with this year. Comments may be forwarded to NPR for use nationally. Call 1-800-729-7532 during Monday's show, send an email to, post a message on WITF's Facebook page, or comment below.

Listen to the Episode

Back To Top

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from