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

Living Longer, But With More Pain

1 hour ago
Tony Hall / Flickr

People are living longer. But that doesn’t always mean they’re living well longer. One of the reasons for the diminished quality of later life is back pain, which the latest Global Burden of Disease study recently named the second most common ailment affecting aging people across the globe. According to Dr. Joseph Chen, Director of the University of Iowa Spine Center, the prevalence of back pain is not surprising.

Photo by Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Food and farming are not high on list of issues voters consider important this election season. In fact, neither issue even registers on the most recent Pew poll. Agricultural policy, however, is strongly connected to a number of significant voter concerns like healthcare, immigration, and the economy.

The Midwest-based duo The Matchsellers bring their "vaudevillian" form of bluegrass to the Java House stage in this goofy episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" with host Ben Kieffer. 

Download and listen to the free podcast below to hear about the group's German adventures, quirky songs, superb musicianship, and even some hamboning. 

Elizabeth Kimmel / The Gazette

While the unprecedented nature of the 2016 election has given politicos plenty of fodder for conversation, it also could change the script for how our political system moves forward. With many members of the Republican party disavowing their presidential candidate, how the GOP will move forward after this election remains to be seen. An even larger question is how the United States's political process will move forward if Republican nominee Donald Trump follows through on threats to reject the results of the election.

Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio

The frequency of severe flooding events in Iowa is increasing. Data from Iowa State University shows that 100-year flood plain maps really map 25-year flood plains, and in cities like Cedar Rapids, large rainfall events have increased by 56 percent.  

Kamyar Enshayan, director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education, says that’s in part due to land use.

alamosbasement / flickr

The 2005 video showing Donald Trump bragging about groping and making unwanted sexual advances, and the growing number of women accusing Trump of sexual assault, have renewed a national discussion about preventing sexual assault. While addressing sexual assault has become a prominent discussion on college campuses, action on high school campuses has been slower.

Photo by Clay Masters

In the weeks leading up to the elections, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has been spouting claims that the U.S. election system is rigged.

Drake University’s Dennis Goldford, professor and chair of the political science department and Flansburg Fellow for the Harkin Institute, says Trump's rhetoric is not only wrong, but it’s also “dangerously inflammatory.”  

This Friday, October 21, IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" will feature Iowa Americana group Cranes and Vultures at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Stop by at 2 p.m. for a free hour jam-packed with the Dubuque band's original music, as well as some chat with Java Blend host Ben Kieffer. 

Why ISIS's Power is Diminishing

Oct 18, 2016
mashleymorgan / Flickr

As the attack on the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul begins this week, many eyes will be upon the Iraqi city watching how the terrorist organization will act.

“Well it’s going to be a very intensive and deep battle,” says Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism and intelligence adviser for the U.S. government’s special operations, homeland security and intelligence agencies. “It’s just a question of whether ISIS is going to put up a fight, or are they going to do a defensive battle and try to fall back to their central caliphate.”

Folk duo Famous October is half Iowan, half Swiss, and all talent.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," hear host Ben Kieffer chat with the couple on how they first met, how they became musical partners, and hear tunes off their newly released record, "One Day Baby.

Check out the free downloadable podcast below.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa State announced this year’s inductees to the Iowa African American Hall of Fame on Thursday.

Inductee James B. Morris Jr. was the first black assistant Polk County attorney, had a distinguished career as a trial lawyer, and was one of the first African American officers to lead white troops in the US war effort. Kenyatta Shamburger, the director of multicultural student affairs at ISU, says the hall of fame is a bit of a family tradition for Morris.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

In a first for the organization, the World Food Prize Foundation is honoring four Laureates simultaneously for the 2016 prize. The decision originally caused some trepidation within the organization, and Ambassador Ken Quinn, president of the foundation, says that it's unlikely to happen again any time soon. The four laureates all work in the field of 'biofortification.' Howarth Bouis, founding director of Harvest Plus, explains the idea.

John Pemble

"The shackles have been taken off me, and I can now fight for America the way I want to,"  Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday. In an O'Reilly Factor interview, Trump also said he doesn't need establishment support to win the election.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City bluegrass troop Slewgrass shows its tight harmonies and dazzling stringwork. 

Download the free podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the  group about their many other projects, as well as some high-energy original songs. 

Marnie Joyce / Flickr

It would be hard to come up with a person more connected with the feminist movement of the late 60s and early 70s than Gloria Steinem.  Now in her eighties, the founder of Ms. Magazine is still speaking out on issues of equality. As co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, she also works towards that organization’s more specific goal of making “women visible and powerful in the media.” In this River to River interview, Steinem discusses how far the movement has come in more than a half century of fighting for equal rights.

Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 1000 refugees have been resettled in Iowa this year.

Director of Admissions for the U.S. State Department Larry Bartlett says while these new Iowans come from all over the world, the one thing they have in common is that they were forced to leave their homes.

Chelsey Hager

This Friday, October 7th, Twin Cities jamband Frogleg will pack their many members onto the stage in the Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer at 2 p.m. to hear about Frogleg's inception in 2012 and listen to their improvisational style. 

Tony Webster / Flickr

In his Condition of the State, then-Governor Tom Vilsack declared that 2004 would be "The Year of the Arts, Culture and Recreation in Iowa." 

He continued, "Studies show that creativity spurs economic growth; breakthroughs in understanding are essential to the task of building a world of opportunity. Creative thinking, the hallmark of Iowa's success, will lead us to a more dynamic future."

Ben Kieffer

Last night, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence squared off in the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University and Jeff Taylor of Dordt College in Sioux Center. They discuss their view of last night’s debate, the state of the presidential race, and why they think a large majority of Evangelicals support Trump, while polls show Catholics overwhelmingly favor Clinton.

Andrea Mahoney / Briarwood Healthcare Center

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America says music, when used appropriately, can shift a patient's mood, help with managing stress and agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and help with motor movements. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa are studying the extent of that effect. Alaine Reschke-Hernandez, a music therapist, and Dr.

Photo of Tim Kaine: Amy Mayer, Photo of Mike Pence: Gage Skidmore

Tonight, Indiana Governor Mike Pence debates U.S. Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia in this election’s only vice-presidential debate. Tim Walch, presidential historian and retired director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, points out that this year marks the 40th anniversary of the inception of vice-presidential debates, and he explains how those past events have likely affected what to expect this evening.

“First of all, don’t screw up,” Walch says.

Courtesy of Charles Aldrich

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Charles Aldrich. Aldrich would like to see an end to foreign aid, a complete withdraw of U.S. troops overseas, and an end to the contract with the Federal Reserve. In this interview, he also discusses his views on federal drug policy and NSA surveillance.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City singer-songwriter Elizabeth Moen shows off her dynamic vocals and heartfelt songwriting at The Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Download the podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with Liz about her writing process, the family she has found in the Iowa City music scene, and the new tracks Liz is working on. 

Dean Borg / Iowa Public Radio

The Cedar River in Cedar Rapids is expected to go below major flood stage sometime today. Perhaps you volunteered your time in one of the flood-stricken communities this past week filling bags with sand? Hundreds of volunteers moved somewhere between 9 and 20 million pounds of sand – all bagged, schlepped and stacked to form barriers to protect property from the flood waters this past week.

But what happens to all that sand when the flood waters recede?

John Pemble

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, as the senator faces an election for what could be his seventh term in the Senate.

This week, Congress overwhelmingly rejected President Obama's veto of legislation allowing relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia.

(stephan) / flickr

In 2011, investigative journalist Suki Kim posed as a missionary and taught English to the teenage sons of North Korea’s ruling class. In 2014, she published Without You There is No Us, an account of the time she had spent there, an account she risked her life to retrieve. Now, she’s coming to speak in Iowa City on October 9th from 2-4pm in C20 Pomerantz Center, sponsored by the Iowa City Book Festival. 

Kim says though she grew up in South Korea, and had visited in North Korea in 2002, she wasn't prepared for the oppression she found there.

On Friday, September 30th, Midwestern bluegrass group The Matchsellers will perform on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Stop by The Java House in downtown Iowa City at 2 P.M. to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the duo and listen to tunes off the group's new album, Songs We Made Up. 

Colleen P

A new poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tied in Iowa, with both having 38 percent support among likely voters. That’s a bit of good news for Clinton since two recent polls have shown Trump leading in Iowa by several points.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's Java Blend, host Ben Kieffer chats with Des Moines singer-songwriter Christopher the Conquered. 

Tune in to the downloadable podcast below for a taste of Christopher's catchy melodies, soulful vocals and tasteful piano playing, showcased in tunes off his new record, I'm Giving Up on Rock 'n' Roll

Photo courtesy of Julie Freed

Recent heavy rains have put the Cedar River and many streams at, or above, flood levels in what could be the worst flooding to hit the state since 2008. Communities are responding with sandbagging efforts and thousands of residents have evacuated their homes.

On the first segment of today's River to River, host Ben Kieffer checks in with those living and working in Charles City, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Cedar Rapids, including Molly Montag of Mason City Globe Gazette, Pat Kinney of the WCF Courier, Brian Morelli of The Gazette, and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett.