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

Courtesy of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center

After 171 years of statehood and 40 previous male chief executives, Iowa has it’s first female governor. Kim Reynolds took office yesterday as former Governor Terry Branstad leaves to take office as U.S. Ambassador to China.

Dianne Bystrom is the director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women in Politics. Now that the state has a female governor and has a woman serving in Congress, Bystrom says it’s not unlikely we’ll see more women getting elected in the statehouse by way of a phenomenon political scientists call “the multiplier effect.”

Kirkwood Community College

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and former Governor Terry Branstad have marked 2017 as the "Year of Manufacturing." But what is the state of manufacturing in Iowa?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer explores the future of advanced manufacturing and skilled labor in Iowa.  

Nathan Thornton, a second year welding student at Kirkwood Community College, says he has an optimistic outlook for his career path.

John S / Flickr

Anonymous sources have played a big role in the flurry of reporting and rapid-fire revelations surrounding the Trump administrations and investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and possible collusion with members of the Trump campaign.

Emily Woodbury

This broadcast originally aired in June 2015.

Humans have now had access to the sky for more than a century thanks to engineering and ingenuity, but the evolution of the human brain has not kept up with its creations.

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

In Iowa, the craft beer industry has been booming. New breweries have been opening everywhere from Clear Lake to Iowa City to Des Moines. J. Wilson is minister of beer at the Iowa Brewers Guild.  He says the growth is a return to what the beer industry looked like before prohibition.

WNPR - Connecticut Public Radio / Flickr

The Republican Senator Bob Corker says the Trump administration is “in a downward spiral”

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Rachel Caufield of Drake University and Dave Andersen of Iowa State University. They give their analysis of a White House reportedly in chaos, discuss the reaction from Congressional Republicans and Democrats, and take calls from Trump supporters who see what’s going in the White House differently. They also talk about who will lead the FBI and why it matters.

BKL / Flickr

"Constitutional crisis" is a phrase heard a great deal in the news lately. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch about what constitutes a constitutional crisis.

Walch also discusses several instances when the U.S. government threatened to break down - during the Civil War in the 1860s, the Great Depression in the 1930s and during the Watergate crisis in the 1970s.

Pig Fit Bit

May 12, 2017
Martin Cathrae

When Matthew Rooda began working on a pig farm, he very quickly discovered one of the biggest problems facing pork producers was large sows rolling over and killing their piglets.  This news buzz edition of River to River, we hear how Rooda's new invention keeps track of health data about pigs and prevents piglets from being crushed. Rooda is the C.E.O of SwineTech and is a University of Iowa student graduating this spring.

Ben Kieffer/IPR

In this special edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer takes a tour of a new exhibit at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum that opens this weekend. Museum Director Tom Schwartz gives some insight into American Presidents as people.

Get ready to groove! 

On Friday, May 12th at 2 P.M., Eastern Iowa funkers Meteor Cat will perform on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Drop in and boogie as the group powers through a full-hour set of original music and discusses their unique band configuration with Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

What is time? Why does it always seem to move forward? Why is the earth made of matter and not of anti-matter? Are there really just three dimensions? Are we alone in the Universe? How big is the Universe? 

The short answer is, "we have no idea," and that's the point of a new book by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Cham and Whiteson about their new book We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe. 

Night Owl? It's In Your Genes.

May 8, 2017
Ed Yourdon / Flickr

Deep sleep is something that is more and more important as we age. New research shows that it's an important part of keeping a healthy memory, and that listening to pink noise might help in that process.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Eric Dyken, a neurologist and director of the University of Iowa's Sleep Disorder Center. 

In addition to talking about pink noise, Dr. Dyken also talks about new research showing there is actually a gene that could determine whether you're an early riser or a night owl. 

Stanford EdTech / Flickr

Yesterday House Republicans, with the help of all three of Iowa GOP members (Rep. Rod Blum, Rep. David Young, and Rep. Steve King), passed a bill to repeal-and-replace the Affordable Care Act.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Pete Damiano, Director of the Public Policy Center and the Health Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa, about what the new healthcare proposal might mean for Iowans.

Photo by Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad answered questions posed by members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, moving one step closer to his confirmation as the next U.S. Ambassador to China. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds also inched closer to becoming Iowa's first female governor as Branstad's successor.

In this edition of politics day on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dennis Goldford of Drake University and Chris Larimer of the University of Northern Iowa about the challenges facing Branstad and Reynolds as they make these transitions.

Kelli Andresen / UIPPC

In this special edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer co-moderates a discussion with Lynn Hicks of the Des Moines Register. The conversation features a panel of guests with expertise in U.S. China relations. The event, "China, Iowa and Diplomacy in the Trump Administration," was sponsored by the University of Iowa Public Policy Center, IPR and the Des Moines Register, and came just a day after Governor Terry Branstad faced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to China.

Johnathon Choate / UI College of Public Health

After a spike in gun violence in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines over the last few years, the state of Iowa is moving towards approaching violence as a public health issue, following the example of cities like Baltimore.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Leana Wen, health commissioner for the city of Baltimore, who has been approaching Baltimore's issues with poverty, gun violence, and addiction as public health issues, rather than criminal justice problems. 

Iowa's own master songwriter Chad Elliott will once again bring his talents to the Java Blend stage this Friday, May 5th. 

Stop by The Java House in downtown Iowa City at 2 P.M. to hear Elliott discuss his many creative projects, tell stories from his time on the road, and play tunes off his forthcoming record, "RINGGOLD." 

Jordan Mayland and the Thermal Detonators rip through a set of infectious tunes in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." The Des Moines group— one of Mayland's many musical projects— released a new record, This Mess, in March.

Download the free podcast to listen to a live, stripped down version of the Detonators. Studio One's Ben Kieffer hosts. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Since 2013, gonorrhea infections have risen 75% in Iowa. To explore why that is the case, in this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with George Walton, STD Program Manager for the Bureau of HIV, STD, and Hepatitis for the Iowa Department of Public Health and Emily Wentzell, who is an anthropology professor at the University of Iowa. 

Walton says the reason for the increase include increased testing and encouragement of providers to test patients for infection at multiple places on the body. 

The Federal Communications Commission last week revealed a plan that would roll back net Obama era neutrality rules. These are the rules that make it illegal for internet service providers to slow down or speed up your access to a certain website. During this River to River conversation, host Ben Kieffer talks with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai about net neutrality and the role of the FCC in a changing media landscape. 

Pai says the rule change is necessary to encourage internet service providers to expand access to rural areas. 

Barry Dale Gilfry / Flickr

The 2017 Iowa legislative session was historic in the sense that Republicans held a state government trifecta for the first time in 20 years, and the session carried some major themes including labor issues and family planning services.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with statehouse reporters across the Midwest to see what plans and proposals are being considered in their neck of the woods, as well as the political dynamics of their chambers after the 2016 election.

Gage Skidmore

On this special "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River, Iowa Public Radio's Ben Kieffer co-hosts a discussion with Gazette opinion page editor Jennifer Hemmingsen.

Thursday evening, they gathered at NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids to talk politics with columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman, as well as political reporter James Lynch of The Gazette. They discussed President Donald Trump’s first one-hundred days, as well as the main takeaways of the 2017 Iowa legislative session.

Behind the Blots: Hermann Rorschach's Ink Test

Apr 27, 2017
Penguin Random House

We’ve all heard references to the “Rorschach test,” but when you hear that term these days, it’s more likely a cultural reference than a clinical one.  In his new book The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing, award-winning translator and Guggenheim recipient Damion Searls tells us about the little known life of the man who created that test -- Hermann Rorschach.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Des Moines psych-folk singer Extravision brings his mesmerizing 12-string guitar work and existential lyrics to the Java House stage. 

Download the free podcast to hear host Ben Kieffer navigate Extravision's ambitious lyrical topics and distinct delivery. 

Iowa City's favorite Heartland rock group, Crystal City, will be gracing the Java Blend stage this Friday, April 28th, at 2 P.M. at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Stop by to catch an intimate performance with Crystal City's entertaining "duo" installation, comprised of Dave Helmer and Sam Drella, all hosted by IPR Studio One's Ben Kieffer. 

Casey Reyner

On this special edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on presidential power, recorded Tuesday, April 25 at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch. 

Opinions in the audience varied, but as one participant noted: "[I] can't remember the last time we were in an auditorium talking about politics and the entire crowd didn't think just like me. We had a civil discussion with those that think differently. It can happen. There is hope."

John Pemble

For the first time in 20 years, Republicans held majorities in the Iowa House, Iowa Senate, with a Republican in the governor’s office.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on what was accomplished this legislative session with panelists: Kathie Obradovich of the Des Moines Register, James Lynch of The Gazette, Barbara Rodriguez of the AP, and Iowa Public Radio statehouse correspondent, Joyce Russell.

John Pemble / IPR

The launching of U.S. cruise missiles at Syrian air bases drew praise from U.S. Senator Joni Ernst at a constituent meeting in Elkader. But, should President Trump want to take further action, the message was clear - he needs congressional approval. "Anything further, if there were further actions that would happen, the president needs to come to Congress and explain that," says Ernst.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

While President Trump has been touting the accomplishments of the first 90 days of his administration, two Iowa political scientists say the celebration may be premature. Hans Hassell is assistant professor of politics at Cornell College and Rachel Caufield is associate professor of political science at Drake University. Both say most action taken by Trump is in the form of executive orders.

The Java House stage in downtown Iowa City will be full of seasoned, top notch musicians this Friday, April 21, at 2 P.M. The Nic Arp Band, led by one of Iowa City's finest and most storied songwriters, will play tunes from throughout Nic's prolific writing career. 

Stop by Friday afternoon to catch this special performance from IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," with host Ben Kieffer. 

Pages