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

Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump comes to Iowa today for the first time since his inauguration. He will be visiting Kirkwood Community College followed by a campaign-style rally tonight in Cedar Rapids.

In this politics day on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University, and Bruce Nesmith, Joan and Abbot Lipsky professor of political science at Coe College. 

Photo by Tim Schoon / University of Iowa

The first injuries and house fires caused by fireworks, recently made legal in Iowa, are on the books.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with researchers, injury prevention specialists, and medical professionals about avoiding injury and death when dealing with fireworks and other summer time hazards.

The show starts with a conversation with University of Iowa hand surgeon, Dr. Andrei Odobescu, about the many cases of hands and fingers severed by fireworks mishaps that he’s treated.

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.

"If the President's budget is passed, there would be dramatic reductions in staff, not only at the Ames Laboratory, but all of the national laboratories," he says.

International Jugglers' Association

The 70th International Juggler’s Association Festival is set to take place at Cedar Rapids’ Paramount Theater on July 10-16th. The festival will include technical training workshops, a juggling history museum, a youth showcase performance, and a free ‘learning zone’ for aspiring jugglers.

The festival will open with a Welcome Show on Tuesday and close out with a show by the Cascade of Stars on Saturday, which is comprised of professional juggling and circus acts from around the world.

cwwycoff1/Flickr

A study in the Journal of Rural Health shows suicide rates among farmers remain high long after the farm crisis of the 1980s. The research is co-written by an assistant professor at Des Moines University, Wendy Riddenberg. She says agriculture workers today have few places to turn for counseling when times are tough.

“After the 80s, there were some mental health services that were created and provided specifically for farmers and agricultural workers. A lot of those are no longer in existence," she says. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Startups are eyeing the market for space tourism, and NASA is discovering habitable planets. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the co-authors of Vacation Guide to the Solar System, a book that imagines an interplanetary vacation.

In the book, co-authors Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich take real data from NASA and other sources to create a whimsical and accurate picture of what it would really be like to travel our solar system.

Early today, a gunman open fired at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Donna Hoffman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa says while tragic, the event is not unique. 

"It’s important to remember in times like this that America often has violent events like this," she says.

Wikipedia

Scientists have recently determined that humans were present in all parts of Africa as early as 300-thousand years ago.  

Is this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Bob Franciscus, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa.

Courtesy of Blank Park Zoo

So far this year, Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines has welcomed 12 new babies, including 2 camels, 1 black rhino, 2 wallabies, 1 giraffe, 2 addax, a desert antelope, and 3 elands. Their newest addition to that family of babies is a newborn Japanese macaque, also known as a snow monkey.

During this River to River conversation, zookeeper Val Hautekeete talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

ALAN LIGHT / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A year ago, 49 people were killed at an Orlando nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Sanofi Pasteur / Patrick Boulen

Chikungunya is a debilitating inflammatory virus carried by mosquitoes. The University of Iowa is one of three sites in the U.S. that is enrolling participants for a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine for chikungunya. The illness has been found in the U.S.

This time on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Eastern-Iowa funkers Meteor Cat bring their rowdy, cosmic sound (all nine members of it!) to the coffee house. 

Check out the free podcast below to hear cuts off the group's debut album, "Earth Family Elixir," and gain insights on how the group crafts its distinct brand of funk. 

Ben Kieffer

Iowa singer-songwriter and children's book author Chad Elliott brings his knack for simple-yet-profound songwriting to The Java House stage in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." The accomplished creative also provides glimpses of his forthcoming album, "RINGGOLD." 

Download the free podcast below and hear Elliott's rootsy, gravely growl and impressive, tasteful guitar work. Plus, peek inside the artist's creative process with Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

Emily Woodbury

Oak trees in Iowa are experiencing “oak tatters,” and it might be caused by farm chemicals in the atmosphere.

DNR district forester Mark Vitosh says this is a problem that’s been on his radar for two decades, but weather patterns have made this a bad year for oak trees. About a thousand people have called the DNR because they thought insects or diseases were to blame.

Vitosh says he’s observed these damaged oak leaves.

Amy Mayer

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says he doesn’t agree with former FBI Director James Comey’s statement that President Donald Trump was lying when he said the FBI was in disarray under Comey’s leadership. Grassley says he considers the president’s statement a matter of opinion.

“When you characterize an agency, how you think it’s being run, you can be perfectly honest in your assessment of that, and somebody else could consider that a lie," he says.

On this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City singer songwriter Nic Arp graces the stage with his band of top-shelf Iowa musicians. 

Download the free podcast below to hear the group tear through a set of songs ripe with Arp's emotive, wise lyrics and propelled by the band's tight sound. Studio One's Ben Kieffer hosts. 

Brookings Institution / Flickr

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about the Russia probe and upcoming testimony of fired FBI director James Comey.

They also discuss President Trump's announcement of his nominee for a new FBI Director, the latest details about Russian efforts to hack voting systems in the U.S., and how these controversies are impacting the GOP legislative agenda, including the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Brian Strombeck / Flickr

Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack says he’s concerned that rural parts of the country could lose out under President Trump’s plans to increase infrastructure spending. The president has said he’d like more of the funding to come from cities, states, and private investment. Loebsack says rural infrastructure needs might have a tough time attracting private funding.

Tiffany Terry / Flickr

As a journalist, Mary Otto got interested in access to dental care about ten years ago.

“I was standing at the hospital bedside of this boy. He and his brother were Medicaid beneficiaries, he was in the hospital because he has suffered very serious complications from an infected tooth. It has spread to his brain, and he had two brain surgeries; he was in the hospital for 6 weeks. He died. I wrote about his death and it turned out that there was a lot more to write about this sort of care.”

Ben Kieffer/IPR

This September, Iowa's first co-housing community, located west of the Iowa River in Iowa City, will open its doors to new residents. "This is not like the '60s communes. This is a very different thing," says Del Holland, a member of the board of Iowa City Cohousing LLC and a future resident of Prairie Hill, the co-housing community currently under construction.

Brachet Youri

Nearly 200-thousand babies each year are born with clubfoot, which is a congenital condition that causes a baby’s foot to be deformed in a way that the foot is twisted and the sole cannot be placed flat on the ground.

This Saturday marks World Clubfoot Day.  It commemorates the birthday of Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, whose treatment method is known as the "gold standard" treatment for clubfoot.

The Ponseti Method is nearly 100 percent effective, and it was developed at the University of Iowa.

Courtesy of Debby and Bill Marine

50 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared state laws against interracial marriage unconstitutional. Until this ruling, intermarriage was forbidden in many states.

Iowa became the second state to legalize interracial marriage a century before the rest of America, back in 1851.

When the Supreme Court finally banned laws against interracial marriage in all states, just three percent of newlyweds were intermarried. Since then, that number has increased fivefold. Today, one in six new marriages is mixed race.

Wikimedia Commons

A recently formed nonprofit headed by Democrats is trying to get a handle on why Barack Obama supporters in rural Iowa went for Donald Trump in 2016. The group Focus on Rural America is led by former Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Patty Judge. A political scientist at UNI, Chris Larimer, says rural voters should lean Democratic.

Hear Iowa City's premier heartland rock group, Crystal City, play through a set of rich and universal songs on this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Download the free podcast, lay back, and listen to the group's feel-good tunes plus interviews and insights from Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

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.

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