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

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Iowa and 12 other states have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a California law that restricts eggs sold in the Golden State to come from hens that have room to extend their limbs.

Missouri’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit this week on behalf of the 13 states, including Iowa, which is the largest egg-producing state in the country. It’s the latest challenge to the California regulations.

On this new buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks about the lawsuit with Neil Hamilton, director of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University.

City of Cedar Rapids

During the 1930s, there was a mural commissioned by a depression-era arts program in what was then a district courthouse. Today, that mural has been restored and is now on display in Cedar Rapids' city hall. During a recent city council election, that mural became the center of a conversation about what kinds of art are appropriate to display. 

Amos Ben Gershom GPO

Today, President Trump announces his formal recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer asks political analysts about the president reversing nearly seven decades of resisting such policy.  Joining the conversation: Dennis Goldford of Drake University and Dave Andersen of Iowa State University.

They also talk about the tax overhaul, the possibility of a government shutdown, and the accusations of sexual harassment and assault involving several national politicians.

Russia’s relationship with China has strengthened in recent years following Moscow’s escalating tensions with the West after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with geopolitical scholar Sharyl Cross about the changing world order. 

"Both Moscow and Beijing share the position that they oppose what they perceive as U.S. hegemony in the international system. They believe that the United States needs to have a counterweight in terms of influencing the international community," says Cross.

Photo Courtesy of NASA

On September 3, Iowan Peggy Whitson returned from her most recent mission to the International Space Station. She has spent a total of 665 days in space during three separate missions. That's more than any other woman worldwide and more than any other American. 

Whitson grew up in Beaconsfield where her parents farm, and she says she's still proud to be an Iowan. During this River to River conversation, she talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

During this hour of River to River, it's a special Pints and Politics edition of the program, recorded before a live audience at CSPS in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, November 30. 

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President Trump is rapidly reshaping the judiciary. On this River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about how Republicans are systematically filling vacancies in the federal court system with young, conservative judges.

Joining the conversation is former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Kevin Techau and Todd Pettys of the University of Iowa College of Law. 

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Should taxpayer-funded settlements involving sexual harassment allegations against members of Congress be made public? On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by political scientists Rachel Caulfield of Drake University and Tracy Osborn of the University of Iowa.

Osborn says what's happening now is an indication of new attitudes.

"It shows a cultural change," Osborn says.

Autonomous Future

Nov 27, 2017
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Imagine a world in the not too distant future where human car and truck drivers are the exception rather than the rule. In this segment of River to River: life after driving. Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa computer scientist Dan Reed to look at ways our society would change when we leave the driving to machines and become mere passengers.

Reed is generally optimistic about the future use of this technology, but says it will change economic models and allow companies to collect more data.

Kristofor Husted/Harvest Public Media

This weekend, U.N. climate negotiations that were held in Bonn, Germany ended. The two-week talks were aimed at laying the groundwork for faster action to curb climate change and deal with its impacts. The first public draft of the 4th National Climate Assessment was also released earlier this month.

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

Mazahir Salih, an immigrant from Sudan and resident of Iowa City is thought to be the first Sudanese-American elected to government in the United States. Earlier this month, she was elected to the Iowa City city council. She's a full-time community organizer and founder of the Center for Worker Justice in Iowa City, and during this River to River interview, she talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

Neil Turner

On this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts conversations on various Iowa news of the week:

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It was one of the defining moments of the 20th century with repercussions up to the present day. On this River to River program, we remember the Russian Revolution one hundred years ago. Drake University historian and native Russian Natalie Bayer and University of Iowa political scientist Bill Reisinger join the conversation.  They talk through the fall of the Tsarist autocracy and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union.  It's a story that threads through to the present day in Putin’s Russia. 

Gage Skidmore

President Trump returns from Asia to political turmoil. 

On this edition of River to River, political analysts Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University and Scott Peters of the University of Iowa discuss: Republican efforts to stay focused on a tax overhaul; the House and Senate visions for tax reform and the latest effort as part of it to repeal the health insurance mandate; Jeff Sessions' testimony on Russia meetings; and the Justice Department weighing a Clinton investigation. 

bird flew / Flickr

Thomas Olander of Louisiana has been a shrimper and fisherman for about 40 years. He says his livelihood and way of life is dying out because of the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The guys that drag across that area, they absolutely cannot catch anything alive,” he says. “Nothing lives in it.”

 

Alex Hanson/IPR

New technology has dramatically changed how we communicate and interact, and Michael Bugeja says that in doing so, it may slowly be eroding some of our core principles.  Professor Bugeja of Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication joins host Ben Kieffer during this hour of River to River

City of Manchester

In this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with one of the longest serving mayors in the country, Milt Kramer.  He was just reelected and has been elected 14 times since the early 1970s.

Also on this program, we hear about the theft of pension funds from Iowa's public employees retirement fund; the 2018 Iowa Teacher of the Year Aileen Sullivan; a State Historical Society project gathering WWI photos; and the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.

Joe Hall/Flickr

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Northern Iowa political science professor Chris Larimer about the results of Iowa's municipal elections that took place on Tuesday this week. Several larger cities in the state either have new mayors or will host run off elections. 

Clay Masters/Iowa Public Radio

Scientists serving as advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency are finding out from news stories that they’ve been removed or demoted.

Many of these scientists come from academia, and they say they’re being replaced by scientists from industries regulated by the EPA

Professor Peter Thorne heads the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health. Until recently, he also chaired the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, the agency’s most prominent advising body.

United States Department of Defense / Wikimedia Commons

The first criminal indictments mark a new phase of the Russia investigation. It's not the first time a presidential administration has been touched by criminal activity or indictment.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Cary Covington, associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa, and Tim Walch, former director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Museum and Library about other scandals throughout history. 

Walch says that Watergate was the turning point when the American public started to distrust politicians. 

It's been called the last great American witch trial: the story of journalist, muckraker and agitator Anne Royall. In 1829, she was convicted as a common scold, essentially for being critical and outspoken. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with author Jeff Biggers about Royall, and one of the most bizarre trials in our nation's history. 

Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, AmeriHealth Caritas, one of four private health care companies charged with managing Iowa's Medicaid system, announced they would be terminating their contract in Iowa. For a portion of Iowans who receive health insurance through Medicaid, that's a major headache. 

Beverly Louk lives in central Iowa and is the mother of a daughter who is disabled and receiving health care through AmeriHealth. She's very concerned about what happens now. 

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Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is open through December 15 of this year.

"There's lots of mixed messaging and we don't have the advertising dollars to set the record straight," says Nicole Kock, a health insurance navigator with Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa. But, she adds, "The marketplace is here. We've got an insurer that's committed to Iowans for 2018."

Clay Masters / IPR

A terror attack in New York, new revelations about the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russian officials, and a stalled plan for tax reform are all covered on this edition of Politics Day on River to River

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College, and Tim Hagle, University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science. 

Hagle says that even though George Papadopoulos may have been an unimportant figure in the Trump campaign, his guilty plea does not look good for the Trump campaign. 

John Pemble/IPR

Governor Kim Reynolds has been in office for five months.  In the first half of this River to River program, host Ben Kieffer asks Reynolds about health care, opioid abuse, partisan politics, and the upcoming legislative session.

To start, Reynolds says she had a number of topics to offer Iowa's congressional delegation. 

She says that she thanked them for support of the Renewable Fuel Standard, and work on healthcare.  Her priorities for next legislative session are getting a water quality bill and having a competitive bushiness environment.

The Science of Fear

Oct 31, 2017

Halloween is here, and with it comes a number of frights and scares. This leaves many people wondering, what exactly happens in the brain and body when somebody experiences the sensation of fear?

On this River to River segmenthost Ben Kieffer speaks with Professor of Neurology & Brain Sciences at the University of Iowa Dr. Daniel Tranel, fifth year doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Iowa Kelsey Spalding, and owner/operator of Slaughterhouse in Des Moines Ian Miller.

In the 1500s, the largest settlement in the United States was in Northwest Iowa. It was a settlement of more than 6,000 residents from various Native American tribes. A new documentary Good Earth: Awakening the Silent City tells the story of the once great city in Lyon County. 

"It's part of a national historic landmark," explains the film's director Kelly Rundle. "If you think about the year that we are depicting in the film, which is around 1650, Boston had maybe 2000 residents, and Good Earth had between 6-10,000 residents 

Photo by John Pemble

This week, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that enforcement of a new Iowa law requiring a three-day waiting period for an abortion will remain on hold.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with law professor Todd Pettys, H. Blair & Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa, about what the court is considering.

He says that one of the issues before the Iowa Supreme Court is the question of whether the Iowa Constitution provides more protection for women than the U.S. Constitution.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa's U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she’s hopeful lawmakers will pass legislation she says will help people facing steep premium increases for individual health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act.

About 72-thousand people in Iowa face increases of nearly 60% after the state withdrew its proposal for a stopgap plan that would have provided relief. In this interview with River to River host Ben Kieffer, Ernst says the current situation puts a lot of Iowans in a bind.

Get Better Sleep

Oct 24, 2017
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A seven-year-old Kentucky boy recently slept for eleven days straight. This hour, hear about the medical mystery that has doctors baffled. On this River to River program, host Ben Kieffer talk with sleep expert and neurologist Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics about the boy's dangerous slumber. 

Dyken says there is limited information about this case, and he does not have the medical records that would allow him to know more.  But he compares this with a case he did see in Iowa which was a case of viral encephalopathy.

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