IPR/Tony Dehner

Christmas will be here before we know it, and we firmly believe it's not too early to celebrate. Join IPR at the Basement venue of the Des Moines Social Club on December 3rd for A Conquered Christmas!

Iowa singer-songwriter Christopher The Conquered will be the host for this event, featuring classic songs of the season, along with new songs celebrating thankfulness, unity and love. There will be lots of surprises, including special guests that Chris hasn't even told us about yet!

On this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City's own Soul Phlegm takes the stage with their special brand of "blues roots outlaw funk." 

Listen in to hear host Ben Kieffer catch up with the band on their upcoming project, as well as tracks from their debut EP, "Phlourish." 

Photo by Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

Earlier this year, Des Moines, Iowa, made news when the city announced it would sue farmers in a legal battle over fertilizer. The city's water supply from the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers often surpasses the legal limit for nitrates (10 mg/L), which commonly appear in water contaminated by runoff from farm fields.

Tim Sackton/Flickr

Despite the bird flu epidemic that devastated Midwest turkey farmers this spring, the price of a turkey this Thanksgiving is a little cheaper than last year.

This year's turkeys are ringing up one cent less per pound than in 2014, according to the USDA's most recent numbers.

Charity Nebbe / Iowa Public Radio

On this Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe speaks with Jan Weismiller and Paul Ingram of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City and Nancy Simpson-Brice,  associated with Book Vault in Oskaloosa about their favorite books of the year and recommendations for gifts this holiday season.

Paul’s Picks

Finials: A View of Downtown IC by Marybeth Slonneger

Photo by John Pemble / IPR

The Branstad administration is planning to shift Iowans who benefit from Medicaid to private management on Jan. 1, a move that would impact more than 560,000 recipients.

The governor contends that private management companies can offer more efficient service and save money, while those who rely on the program are worried, including Iowa City resident Heather Young.

“My husband and I are doing everything we can to keep the ship afloat," Young says. "Even with our best efforts, if this thing goes through, this ship is going to get torpedoed."

Clay Masters / IPR

A new poll suggests Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz is gaining support among likely Iowa caucus-goers.  Quinnipiac University poll results released Tuesday show Cruz passing retire neurosurgeon Ben Carson to claim second place behind Donald Trump.  The same poll had Cruz with 10-percent support a month ago.  It now gives him 23-percent.  That’s a statistical tie with Trump’s 25-percent showing.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

About 50 people rallied outside the State Capitol Tuesday afternoon, in response to Gov. Terry Branstad’s order blocking Syrian refugees from settling in Iowa.

"Mr. Branstad I ask you to find it in your heart, to find the courage, and to stop being afraid of people that are different from you," said Samantha Thomas, the one of the rally's organizers and executive director of Global Arts Therapy, which does work with youth and refugees.

Versaland /

In his new book, author Courtney White points to the seemingly intractable challenges faced on earth: the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising food demands from a population that’s projected to rise from the current 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050, and the dwindling supply of fresh water.

Pat Blank/IPR

The Iowa Turkey Federation wants consumers to know that it’s safe to eat their product.

This summer’s avian influenza outbreak wiped out about 25 percent of the state’s turkey production facilities. The USDA has declared the emergency over and producers have begun re-populating their barns.

Turkey Federation Executive Director Gretta Irwin says people were never in danger because sick birds never entered the food chain.

Iowa Public Radio / Sarah Boden

Iowa clergy submitted a letter to Gov. Terry Branstad’s office Monday afternoon, condemning what they call discrimination against Syrian refugees “on the basis of religion," and to "reject fear and cruelty" by welcoming them to the state.


Iowa Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer says the state is proceeding with a controversial plan to privatize the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled, in spite of a legal challenge by unsuccessful bidders for the contract. 

An administrative law judge will rule on complaints of irregularities in the choice of four companies to manage the more than four-billion dollar Medicaid program.     

Palmer says they’re proceeding with what they know.

“We'll operate from whatever we need to in response to that decision,” Palmer says.  

Taysaev / Wikimedia Commons

The terrorist attacks on Paris sparked an outpouring of support for people affected. The attacks in Beirut that day before did not. Why?

Daryl Cameron, assistant professor of social psychology and director at the Iowa Morality Lab at the University of Iowa, says it’s because we don’t respond to the people living in those places in the same way.

“We can imagine what its like to be someone in Paris going through this. It’s harder to think about what it’s like to be someone in Beirut,” he explains.

Rachel Knickmeyer/Flickr

If you receive a parking violation in Cedar Rapids during the next month, it could benefit a needy family or a homeless person. Cedar Rapids is now dismissing parking fines in exchange for gifts to homeless shelters and family service centers.

Downtown Parking Board Director, Doug Neumann, says the gifts should match the fine.


Governor Branstad Monday opened the door to the possibility of settling Syrian refugees in Iowa if a bill before Congress to tighten screening procedures becomes law.  

The bill would require that the director of the FBI and other top security officials approve all applicants from Syria and Iraq and assure they pose no threat.   

Otherwise, Branstad says letting the refugees in is not safe.

“If instead we're working as a country I'd feel much safer and more willing to do that,” Branstad says. 

Flickr / Vicki DeLoach

The Salvation Army kicked off its Red Kettle season on Friday. Bell ringers will collect spare change until Christmas Eve at 62 locations throughout metro Des Moines, and at many locations around Iowa.

The Christian charity organization hopes to raise $1.1 million over the next month in central Iowa.  The drive generates about 40-percent of its overall budget. Last year's kettle drive was disappointing, and the Salvation Army  had to dip into rainy-day reserves.

Blitzen Trapper have told different tales regarding the origin of their name, but the most plausible in the one about vocalist/guitarist Eric Earley's Junior High girlfriend.  She had a Trapper Keeper (loose-leaf binder) in school with pictures of Santa and his reindeer on it.  Her favorite reindeer was Blitzen.  Earley thought "hmmm, good name for my future band."  Actually, when the group began in Portland, Oregon in 2000 they had a totally different name- Garmonbozia.  By 2003 they had come to their senses and became Blitzen Trapper, self-releasing an album with that title.


Christian conservatives are weighing their options as the campaign  continues in Iowa for the Republican nomination for president.   Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson leads in Iowa polls among evangelicals.  Some pastors are shaking their heads that a non-politician is in the lead.   

Ron and Michelle Lovelein came to Des Moines Friday night from Eau Claire, Wisconsin for  a forum sponsored by the Christian conservative group The Family Leader.    They are keen on Ben Carson.

UK Department for International Development / Flickr

Governor Terry Branstad is one of more than 25 governors who have said no to helping Syrian refugees. That didn't stop Mayor Chris Taylor from proclaiming Wednesday that the eastern Iowa town of Swisher welcomes them.

National Weather Service

National Weather Service Meteorologist Jeff Zogg in Johnston describes the criteria for determining if weather events will be storms or if winter weather advisories are more appropriate. He gives advice about driving in the first snow and offers a look ahead to what travelers may expect for Thanksgiving.  


The federal government has reindicted three former Ron Paul staffers, in charges related to secret payments to former Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson for his endorsement of Paul for president in late 2011, shortly before the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucuses. A trial last month ended in a hung jury and a new trial for the staffers is set for December 14. 

Iowa State Center

Ring in the holidays with the arts! This month’s Iowa Arts Showcase features:

Kelly Cookson / Flickr

On this Horticulture Day edition of Talk of Iowa Charity Nebbe speaks with Richard Jauron, Iowa State University Extension Horticulturist, and Cindy Haynes, Associate Professor of Horticulture at Iowa State University about caring for plants indoors during the winter months.  They discuss holiday plants, traditional house plants and outdoor plants that can be over wintered in the home.  Bringing plants in from outdoors can pose some challenges.  

Iowa Public Radio / John Pemble

The Iowa Supreme Court on Thursday heard the appeal of an Iowa woman who was denied unemployment benefits after missing work and subsequently losing her job as a medical assistant because she was in jail. Sondra Irving missed more than three weeks of work after being held at the Johnson County Jail in late 2013, in part because she couldn’t make bail which was set at $17,500.

University of Iowa photo

Football fans attending this Saturday’s University of Iowa Hawkeye football game with Purdue will encounter security changes.            

The UI’s interim security director, David Visin, says items that had been permitted to be carried into the stadium are now prohibited.

Photo by John Pemble

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. River to River host Ben Kieffer spoke with him Thursday, November 19 in advance of a campaign trip to Iowa City.

BK: Senator Paul, welcome to our program.

RP: Glad to be with you.

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the number of heroin overdose deaths in Iowa has increased from three in 2007 to 20 in 2013.

“Six years ago we didn’t see heroin cases, just didn’t see it,” says Nicholas Klinefeldt, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. “Now we have heroin cases; we have heroin overdose deaths. It’s here, and I think the problem is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Wikimedia Commons

In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, many have been quick to condemn the group calling itself ISIS, and many have also been quick to condemn Islam.

Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with more than one billion believers worldwide. Imam Hassan Selim of the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids  says it’s unfair to characterize all Muslims as terrorists.  

Photo by Amy Mayer

Many corn and soybean farmers in the Midwest are receiving their first government payments under the new Farm Bill enacted last year, and taxpayers are spending more than projected.


John Pemble / Terrace Hill

Plans are underway to recover a part of Iowa's lost history buried next to the governor’s mansion in Des Moines, known as Terrace Hill. Administrators are preparing to exhume the old swimming pool which was built long before Iowa's first families moved in. 

Several thousand visitors tour the Victorian mansion every year. Among the sightseers this fall was a group of students from Runnells, with a volunteer guide pointing out the highlights.

"Okay, this is the moose. We call him Fred. Now that’s a big moose isn't it?"