Ben Kieffer

River to River and Java Blend Host

Ben Kieffer joined Iowa Public Radio in 2000 and is host of IPR’s daily noon talk show River to River, which he also helps produce. Since 2001, he has hosted and produced IPR’s weekly, live music program which features artists from around the state and the country called Java Blend.

Prior to joining IPR, Ben lived and worked in Europe for more than a decade. He reported firsthand the fall of the Berlin Wall and covered the Velvet Revolution in Prague. Ben has won numerous awards for his work over the course of more than 20 years in public media.

Ben holds an adjunct faculty position at The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he teaches courses on interviewing and radio news. He is a native of Cedar Falls and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Ben’s favorite public radio program is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Ways To Connect

J. Stephen Conn

An unusual question is being asked this week in an Iowa courtroom in Garner. When is a previously consenting spouse who is suffering from dementia no longer able to say yes to sex?

After a four year battle with Alzheimer's, Donna Rayhons died in a nursing home last August. She was just a few days away from her 79th birthday. A week later her husband, Henry Rayhons, was arrested. He was charged with sexual abuse. State prosecutors accuse him of having sex with his wife while she was incapacitated by dementia.

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In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" from 2013 host, Ben Kieffer chats with local Iowa City group, The Beggarmen.

Download the podcast to listen to a full hour of Celtic roots and Irish music.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Deborah Maynard, leader of the Cedar Rapids Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, became the first Wiccan Priestess to give a blessing before the Iowa House of Representatives yesterday. She says her goal was to show that freedom of religion exists in Iowa and in the United States.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

In her first speech on the Senate floor, Joni Ernst proposed the "Prioritizing Veterans' Access to Mental Health Care Act." It would allow veterans to immediately access mental health care from outside the VA if they have significant barriers to care through the agency.

Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy for president this Sunday. David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Obama, says she is wise to take some time to get her ducks in a row before announcing her campaign.

"You want to be prepared when you come out of the box. You want your campaign to be prepared in every aspect to move forward: from your communications and media to your fundraising to your nascent field operations."

He says now, though, that time has run out.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

The University of Iowa’s museum on wheels is gearing up for another summer on the road, this year with new exhibits.  

2014 exhibits focused on the natural history of Iowa and the human body. This year visitors will find exhibits about Iowans in space, World War II and water.

JC Gillett travels with the 38-foot converted RV.

Gage Skidmore / flickr

This week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul threw his hat into the 2016 presidential ring.

"The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped,” Paul said in his announcement speech.

On this politics day edition of River to River, political analysts Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University join host Ben Kieffer to talk about the appeal and position of Rand Paul.

Courtesy of John Little

Between the ages of 55 and 62, John Little completed 15 Ironman triathlons. For the last three years, he could only power-walk the leg of the race where he was supposed to run due to the pain in his knees.

“I finally went in and had my knees x-rayed. My surgeon told me, ‘I don’t understand how you’re walking right now.’”

Daniel Silliman / flickr

In 2012, a landlord in Iowa City was arrested for spying on tenants through peepholes he created in his apartment complex. The landlord, Elwyn Gene Miller, spent a couple weeks in jail, paid fines, and is still a landlord in Iowa City.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, a victim of that peeping landlord, Ruth Lapointe, talks about why invasion of privacy laws need to be strengthened.

"The code currently requires that a perpetrator be aroused by spying on their victim and that their victim be at least partially nude," says Lapointe.

Dustin Smith and the Sunday Silos

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" from 2013 host, Ben Kieffer will chat with Des Moines-based folk rockers, Dustin Smith and the Sunday Silos.

Download the podcast to listen to tracks off their latest album, Northerner

Michael Sauers / Flickr

Iowa's driver's licensing laws set it apart from most of the country. Teenagers can get learner's permits at fourteen, permits to drive to school after six months of instruction, and fairly unrestricted licenses at sixteen. But that may be putting young Iowans at risk.

Anne McCarte is Senior Vice President for Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. She says teens' inexperience, coupled with their propensity to take risks, causes a disproportionately high rate of crashes.

Wikimedia Commons

The deadline for outlining a deal with Iran regarding the nation's nuclear weapons program has been extended. 

According to Grinnell College political sciencist Wayne Moyer, that deadline is important. "When it comes to international negotiations, it's only a deadline that causes anything to be done." 

Moyer talked with Iowa Public Radio's Ben Kieffer today during River to River. He also commented that in order for a deal with Iran to have any chance of winning over Congress, it's going to have to contain specifics. 

Photo by John Pemble

McCoy, You’re Going Straight to Hell – that’s the title of State Senator Matt McCoy’s new book. In it, Iowa’s highest-ranking openly gay elected official shares personal stories and opinions sent to him on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.

"Not only was I going straight to hell, but I was bringing the souls of innocent Iowans with me...all these souls that would be lost as a result of marriage equality," he says.

In this River to River interview, Ben Kieffer talks with Sen. McCoy about the book, as well as his future political ambitions.

John Pemble

Iowa has a law mandating life in prison without parole for teen killers, but this law is deemed unconstitutional by both the U.S. and the Iowa Supreme Courts.

A proposal moving through Iowa’s legislature would modify the state’s current law mandating life in prison for juveniles convicted of murder. The legislation gives judges three sentencing options. One of those options is still life in prison without parole.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" join host Ben Kieffer as he chats with Des Moines-based pop artist, Damon Dotson. 

Damon Dotson is a singer/songwriter based out of Des Moines, IA and originally from Northwest Iowa.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Last night, swimming history was made in Iowa City. David Nolan of Stanford swam the fastest 200-yard individual medley in history. It took him only one minute and thirty nine seconds to swim eight lengths of the pool doing four different strokes. 

For the first time in decades, Iowa is host to the NCAA men's Swimming and Diving Championships. On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Marc Long, University of Iowa's men and women swimming and diving coach about the significance of the event.

Nepal Gateway Trekking / Flickr

Marijuana is often branded as harmless by its proponents, but according to the 2012 Iowa Drug Report, 26% of Iowans seeking drug treatment cite the plant as their drug of choice. Ned Presnall, keynote speaker of the upcoming Governor's Conference on Substance Abuse, says decriminalization has led to decreased perceptions of risk.

Emily Woodbury

March is Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) awareness month. TBI has been called a silent epidemic. In many cases, resulting injuries are not visible to others, and it affects more than 95,000 Iowans.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Ted Cruz officially announced his presidential bid Monday.

"Over and over again when we faced impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge. You know compared to that, repealing Obamacare and abolishing the IRS ain't all that tough," Cruz said.

Tim Lucas / flickr

"We gain so much more when we focus on people’s positives," says lawyer, speaker, and freelance disability consultant, Matan Koch.

Koch will speak at Coe College the evening of March 24. Ahead of his appearance, Ben Kieffer talks with Koch about how to encourage the talent, purchasing power, and experience of the disability community.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate is unlikely to take up the issue of collective bargaining, so why did the House debate it until 10 PM last Tuesday?

State Rep. Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City, felt that the bill was a distraction from the bigger issue of school funding.

"They are waiting to know what their funds will be for this upcoming school year and we felt like this entire bill was a distraction and that's why we totally opposed it," Steckman says.

But State Rep. Greg Forristall, a Republican from Macedonia, says that these processes sometimes take years. 

What do you hear when you think Americana?

Red Rock Hill's music is exactly what you want to hear out of good Americana with a local perspective. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" join host Ben Kieffer while he chats with the group about their latest album, Fine Line.

Sarah Boden/Iowa Public Radio

Does the Iowa Constitution protect the right to a so-called telemed abortion? That’s a question currently before the Iowa Supreme Court.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Todd Pettys, Associate Dean for Faculty and H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa College of Law, and Ryan Koopmans, attorney at Nyemaster Goode law firm in Des Moines.

Whatsername? / flickr

Iowa ranks as one of the highest binge drinking states in the country.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the yearly cost from excessive alcohol consumption in Iowa is about $2 billion.

Sarah Viren

Imagine you are married and have a daughter. When your spouse gets a job in another state, you plan for everything - including the fact that your new state does not recognize your same-sex marriage.

Today on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Sarah Viren about her move from Iowa City to Lubbock, Texas, recounted in her essay, “How to Unmarry Your Wife."

In this episod of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" host, Ben Kieffer chats with The Delta Routine about their latest album, You and Your Lion.

Have you ever wondered which songs your state representative puts on repeat?

Iowa Public Radio’s Bob Dorr asked himself that question after State Representative Scott Ourth from Warren County reached out to him through social media.

Wikimedia Commons

The 2015 Cancer in Iowa report released today shows a drastic jump in the number of cases of skin cancer in the state.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

This week, 47 GOP senators, including Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst, signed an open letter to Iran saying any nuclear deal struck with the US would be “nothing more than an executive agreement.”

Photo by Kris Krüg / Pop!Tech

Laurie Garrett says that when Thomas Duncan came down with Ebola in Texas, national media coverage became "over the top."

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