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.

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DayTrippin US

Dianne Bystrom is the Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. When she came to Iowa in 1996, she had been studying a big year in politics for women: the 1992 election, which brought a huge increase in women holding political office. 

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Carl Wycoff

The U.S. House's attempt to pass a farm bill failed this morning.  A number of Republicans were trying to leverage votes for a conservative immigration bill first.

Congressman David Young from Iowa's third district voted for the bill, and he says that he is confident that there will ultimately be a farm bill.  But he says it's tough for farmers especially in light of other trade policies.

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Immigration officials arrested 32 people in Mt. Pleasant Iowa last week as part of a raid on a concrete factory. 

During this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Reverend Trey Hegar, who is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant. The church has been trying to help families in Mt. Pleasant who are now worried about being able to pay their rent next month with the breadwinner for the home in ICE custody. Juana Barrios, whose father was arrested as part of the raid, also joins the conversation.

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On the same day the U.S. Embassy in Israel moves to Jerusalem, over fifty Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military. On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer gets analysis of the conflict in Gaza.  Other foreign policy is covered including the latest on the Iran nuclear deal, a meeting with north Korea might be in jeapordy, and what CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel's views on torture mean for the United States. 

Also, the guests discuss what Tuesday’s midterm primaries may mean for control of Congress and Trump’s rising poll numbers. 

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The Iowa Supreme Court has considered several questions recently, including: When do hugs between a student and a school employee add up to illegal sexual contact? Also, if a neglected property becomes an eyesore, can the city take it without paying the owner a dime?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal expert Todd Pettys about the stories behind several Iowa Supreme Court cases. Pettys also shares his thoughts on whether Iowa’s new fetal heartbeat law will be struck down.

Pettys is the H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Cases discussed this hour include:

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Jill Meadows v. Kimberly K. Reynolds ex rel. State of Iowa and Iowa Board of Medicine

More information: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-oral-argument-schedule/case/17-1579

The Fair Housing Act is marking its 50th anniversary this month. It was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in April of 1968, and it prohibits discrimination based on the race, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability of the person wishing to buy or rent a home.

The White House

Dr. Ronny Jackson has been a White House physician since 2006. He's also a United States Navy rear admiral who has been nominated for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are numerous allegations against him concerning his ability to lead, as well as an allegation that he's mishandled prescription drugs. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Dave Andersen and Jim McCormick of Iowa State University. 

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Teresa Hafner would not be alive today if she had not received a new heart through the Iowa Donor Network. She lives because of a motorcycle accident that killed a 26-year old woman. During this hour of River to River, she talks with host Ben Kieffer about being the recipient of a heart transplant. 

"Back in 2006, I flat-lined while I was at work and had to have a pace maker and a defibrillator placed at that point. I was fine for a while, and then I went into heart failure," she says. 

RebelAt (Missouri); Carol M. Highsmith (Nebraska); Vijay Kumar Koulampet (Wisconsin); McGhiever (Minnesota)

On this edition of River to River, while Iowa lawmakers work on closing a budget deal that would end this year’s session, we learn about what other statehouses around the Midwest have been tackling this year.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with statehouse reporters and hosts from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri, where allegations of sexual assault and blackmail against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens have dominated the political landscape.

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During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal analysts Todd Pettys, H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation and law professor at the University of Iowa, and Tony Gaughan, Professor of Law and Drake University Law School about prominent cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Along with some other courts news, here are some of the cases they discuss:

Benisek v. Lamone and Gill v Whitford  – Both are gerrymandering cases.

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In this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Keiffer is joined by Steffen Schmidt, Lucken Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College.

The analysts cover recent political news including recent airstrikes in Syria, a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, and a remembrance of former First Lady Barbara Bush.

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On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Hans Hassell, assistant professor of politics at Cornell College and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University about this week's political developments. Stories include Paul Ryan’s planned retirement, the recent chemical attack on Syria, and Mark Zuckerberg's Congress hearings.

On this "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer co-hosts with Gazette investigative reporter Erin Jordan. They ask panelists to discuss the latest in national and state politics, including what is likely happen before the end of the Iowa legislative session.

"They're going to do tax cuts, they're going to do the budget, and that might be it." says panelist and politics reporter for The Gazette, James Lynch. "Usually the hundredth day, when their money runs out, is an incentive to wrap things up."

Harper Collins

Robert de la Rochefoucald was captured by the Nazis three times during World War II. He was an aristocrat, educated in Europe's finest schools, turned Special Operations Executive in the French resistance. The stories of his escapes sound like something straight from an Ian Fleming novel, except they're true.

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Train derailments, oil spills, bankruptcies, medical errors, and data breaches - every week, the news gives us glaring examples of how mistakes in these complex systems can blossom into massive failures. 

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with Chris Clearfield, the co-author of MELTDOWN: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It. In the book, he reveals the surprising ways in which these occurrences of modern life are connected, as well as how to prevent these sort of breakdowns. 

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In the aftermath of WWII, the court system in Germany underwent a dramatic shift as the Allies launched an initiative to rid German and Austrian society of any remnants of national socialism. This process was called denazification. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Judy Hamilton Crockett, whose father Clarence E. Hamilton was head of all civil courts and prisons in Nuremberg after WWII.

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A bill moving through the Iowa legislature would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell and host Ben Kieffer explore various perspectives from Iowa lawmakers and advocates. 

This program originally aired 6-19-17.

Proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration have scientists at the Ames Laboratory on the campus of Iowa State University concerned. The smallest of the national laboratories receives 90 percent of its funding from the Department of Energy. The director of the Ames Lab, Adam Schwartz, says President Trump’s proposed budget would harm scientific research.

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Students across the nation are taking to the streets Saturday for what they’re calling the March for Our Lives. The main event is in Washington, D.C., but satellite rallies are taking place in cities such as Des Moines.

In this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with one of the Iowa organizers, Isabella O’Connor, a junior at Roosevelt High School. She says young people want changes made to the country’s gun laws.

In 2014, Bassem Yousseff, commonly described as the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, was forced into exile after being accused of and arrested for criticizing the Egyptian government. His show "El Bernameg," which translates to "The Show" ran from 2011 to 2014; before that, he worked as a heart surgeon. 

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Every year, thousands of fires destroy millions of acres of wilderness.

“It sounds like a freight train going through the woods,” says wildland firefighter Nathan Weiner, describing the experience of fighting one of his first wildfires.

“We get plugged in off the side of the road, we’ve got aircraft flying overhead, and there’s a hundred foot flames screaming up the hill. It’s just that wild moment where you realize how small you are in the world.”

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bill making its way through the Iowa legislature directs local governments and police departments to comply with federal immigration authorities or risk losing state funding.

On this edition of River to River, legislative day co-hosts Ben Kieffer and Joyce Russell talk with lawmakers, law enforcement, an immigration advocate, and the mayor of Iowa City about their views on the proposal and how it may impact Iowa communities.

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Gil Cranberg passed away on Sunday at the age of 93. His career as an editorial writer for the Des Moines Register spanned 33 years. He will be remembered as an ethical newsman whose work focused on civil rights, inequality, and criminal justice. 

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It's been another whirlwind week in politics. President Trump fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Twitter, to be replaced with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The president is also backing off of his promise to have a conversation about gun control; and the Stormy Daniels saga continues.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Rachel Caufield, associate professor of political science at Drake University, and Steffen Schmidt, university professor of political science at Iowa State University.

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When polls rank America’s first ladies, the top spot often goes to Eleanor Roosevelt.

“She was the person who really embraced the role of the first lady and made it more public,” says political scientist Dianne Bystrom of Iowa State University. “She was the first first lady to give her own press conferences, she built the first lady staff […] and she was a spokesperson on African American and civil rights.”

Presidential historian Tim Walch adds, “She really was an exceptional individual – a real paradigm shift among our first ladies.”

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Iowans say mental health services are among their top concerns when it comes to state-supported issues, and lawmakers’ comments on mental health make the issue appear bipartisan.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR reporter Joyce Russell talk with lawmakers about how they are working to address concerns regarding mental health care in Iowa, as well as fielding calls from Iowans who have tried to get themselves or their loved ones care.

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There has been lots of movement at the Iowa Statehouse this week. An omnibus energy bill that discussed earlier this week on River to River passed in the Senate and is now heading to the house. There's also a bill that would make it so the Iowa Supreme Court would require a super majority to vote a law unconstitutional that remains a live wire.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa Public Radio's Joyce Russell and the Des Moines Register's Bill Petroski about what you need to know this week about what the legislature is doing. 

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President Donald Trump has announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Does that mean the U.S. is on the verge of a trade war? It's also been a week of departures for staffers at the White House, and Vice President Mike Pence visited Iowa.  During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jim McCormick of Iowa State University and Dennis Goldford of Drake University about the week in politics. 

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The human brain has substantially different dietary needs than other organs, and new research suggests that diet may play a large role in the development of dementia, obesity, and even ability to sleep.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with neuroscientist and nutritionist Lisa Mosconi, whose new book, Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power, explains how diet affects brain power and health.

Mosconi says that if she had to pick one food that’s best for brain health, she would say caviar.

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A bill being discussed at the statehouse, Senate File 2311, could mean major changes in Iowa when it comes to energy. Opponents say it would end Iowa’s energy efficiency programs, the ones that provide rebates to customers for buying energy efficient appliances and doing things like energy audits and installing new insulation.

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