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

Hail Merry / Flickr

This week, controversy swirled around allegations that special access was given to Clinton Foundation donors when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. 

Donna Hoffman, department head and associate professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, explains the emails show communication between the aides of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton as Secretary.

"There's no evidence that, 'Hey, I've given a donation so I must therefore be able to meet with Secretary Clinton,' but that's kind of the implication here, that there's the appearance of corruption."

Daniel R. Blume / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Objectivity, fairness and balance are values that have long guided journalism. But in our rapidly changing media environment, where affirmation is only a click away, do readers, listeners and viewers really want news that adheres to those values? The leaders of three Iowa journalism schools say they do.

Schools across Iowa are beginning classes this week amid concerns from public health officials about the drop in vaccination rates. At many schools, the percentage of students fully vaccinated is below 90 percent, and at a few around the state, it's below 50 percent. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says more families are seeking exemptions from vaccinations for a variety of reasons. 

"One of the reasons is that people no longer have seen these diseases and therefore don't realize how bad they can be," she explains. 

Photo by John Pemble

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld is beginning his first full school year at the helm in Iowa City. The former business executive took over the job in November of last year amid protests from some faculty and students over his lack of academic background. He says he hopes all that is behind him heading into this school year. 

"From my perspective, we're now hard at work on the real issues of moving the university forward. It feels like we're a lot calmer and much more focused in a lot of ways," he says. 

ep_jhu / Flickr

Donald Trump doesn't have time to read. As he puts it, that's always been the case.

“I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

But that doesn't stop presidential historian and retired director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Tim Walch from having some book recommendations for him and for his opponent Hillary Clinton. He puts a lot of presidential biographies from the days of our founding fathers on that list.

Airing originally in December of 2014, this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" features Celtic-Soul group Switchback. 

Tune in below to hear the group showcase their uniquely Midwestern sound and learn about their creative process.

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," originally aired in December of 2015, host Ben Kieffer chats with Greg Klyma. 

Listen in below for songs that will make you laugh and sing.

Zebby Wahls

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Zach and Zebby Wahls of Iowa City about a hugely successful deck of playing cards they designed inspired by the 2016 presidential campaign.  

Sarah Boden

The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is preparing for the birth of its first baby rhinoceros. Five-and-a-half-year-old black rhino Ayana is expected to give birth in late fall.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. June Olds, the senior veterinarian overseeing the birth of the rare baby rhino, as well as Lou Keeley, the large mammal area supervisor at Blank Park Zoo.

Keeley says this pregnancy is a big deal, simply because there are not many black rhinos left in the world.

Michael Vadon (Trump) and Gage Skidmore (Clinton)

Donald Trump and his campaign are responding to accusations that the candidate encouraged "Second Amendment people" to commit violence against Hillary Clinton during a rally Tuesday. The Trump campaign says the notion that Trump was suggesting violence is "ridiculous" and that he was referring to voting instead. 

Gage Skidmore

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, David Cay Johnston, whose latest book The Making of Donald Trump culminates nearly 30 years of reporting on the media mogul and reality TV start turned presidential candidate. 

Douglas Mills

Iowa has the second worst animal protection laws of all 50 U.S. states, a point highlighted by a recent case where a groomer kicked a corgi at the Creature Comfort Veterinary Center in Iowa City, causing multiple rib fractures and bruising of the lungs. 

The groomer, 22-year-old Lucas Van Orden V, told police he kicked the dog while grooming it, and he was initially charged with animal neglect, a simple misdemeanor. Since the initial charge, Johnson County Attorney's Office prosecutors added the charge of an aggravated misdemeanor.

Wikimedia Commons

Invasive plant species are becoming pervasive in Iowa’s woodlands.  State Forester Paul Tauke says a recent survey found invasives present in 95-percent of forest inventory plots studied.  He calls it a “shocking” finding.

“When you have exotic invasive species, they expand into an area and they tend to crowd out the native species, and decrease your diversity in the system," says Tauke

TeamFlyinKoat / Flickr

Following the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history, balloons and balloon enthusiasts are braving the skies in Indianola for the National Balloon Classic this week.

“The mood here is positive,” says Captain Jeff Thompson.

“It’s been on everyone’s mind, but the best thing you can do is to be safe and continue to fly.”  

Ted Van Pelt / Flickr

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by a University of Iowa professor, may help explain the link between cleanliness and rates of asthma and allergies. Peter Thorne is a Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health. He says the study compared a group of Amish children to a group with similar genetics and lifestyles.

British Red Cross / Flickr

Pat Giorgio anticipated some problems with the transition of state-run Medicaid to three private management companies, but she didn't quite anticipate the breadth and depth of the woes the transition would cause for Evergreen Estates, residential communities she founded to serve the elderly in Cedar Rapids.

"Because I heard that it might be a difficult transition, I got a line of credit with my bankers of $100,000. I'm billing roughly $40-50,000 a month to Home and Community Based Services, and I've used up that $100,000 in my line of credit."

Photo by Clay Masters

With less than 100 days left until Election Day, Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has flouted political conventions around religion, race, gender, and now military service. And he's refused to endorse fellow republicans John McCain and Paul Ryan. 

ABC News has been reporting that senior Republican officials are so confused by Trump’s behavior that they are exploring how they might be able to replace him.

John Reese / Flickr

Nathan Gibson--gun owner, gun rights activist, and father of two girls active in shooting sports--and Ako Abdul-Samad--democratic legislator, gun control advocate, and father of one boy who died of gun violence--are sitting in a radio studio together. The mood in the room is not tense at all. Serious, thoughtful, committed: yes. But a far cry from tense. A better word may be congenial. Or even friendly.

Michael Leland/IPR

A Democratic state senator says he’s hopeful the Iowa Legislature will take action next year to help make the state’s roads safer for cycling.  Nine people have died while biking in the state so far this year.  The latest death occurred last week, when a cyclist was struck from behind while riding in southwest Iowa.   Senator Joe Bolkcom of Coralville says he feels distracted drivers are part of the problem, and he thinks the legislature will consider ways to address that.

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer chats with the activist-rock group the Muckrockers. 

Tune in below to hear the group's mission themed lyrics, set to a backdrop of catchy melodies. 

Local roots rock group The Mayflies join IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" in this special encore broadcast. 

Lend an ear to the downloadable podcast below to hear "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer talk with the group- and to listen to the pickin' and grinnin' style of The Mayflies. 

In this summer encore podcast of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Indianapolis rock band Hero Jr. strip down their sound for an intimate, acoustic set. 

Download the podcast, originally aired on November 8, 2014, to hear "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer learn about the band's then-brand new record, "Mixed Race Indiana Marriage." 

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer welcomes Des Moines indie-reggae group Mighty Shady to the Java Blend stage. 

Download the podcast, which first aired on October 25, 2014, to bring Mighty Shady's grooves wherever you go. 

In this special encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City blues-rock icon David Zollo and his band, the Body Electric, stop by The Java House for a boogie-woogie filled afternoon. 

Download the podcast below to hear "Java Blend" host Ben Kieffer catch up with Zollo. This podcast originally aired on October 18, 2014. 

K.a.zenz

Some state lawmakers are saying they’d like to see Iowa’s three state universities consider expanding alcohol sales at sporting events. One of them is State Senator Brian Schoejahn, who chairs the senate’s higher education committee. He says the matter should at least be studied.  But, Iowa State University President Steven Leath says he has zero interest in expanding sales beyond the few private areas where drinking is currently allowed. 

Ida Mae Astute / ABC

The Republican National Convention was meant to unify Republicans and spotlight the best parts of Donald Trump’s unconventional candidacy. Instead, the focus has been on rumbling feuds within the party and unforced errors by the campaign.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa and Hans Hassell of Cornell College about the convention being held in Cleveland, Ohio this week.

Pokemon Go, a new game and cell phone app, was released earlier this month and has quickly become one of the most played games across the United States. If you're not playing it, someone you know is.

Pete Zarria

Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, the founders of the United States established the post office as the circulatory system of America’s body politic.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times best-selling author Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

This election campaign of 2016 has seen attacks on Mexicans as criminals and rapists, as well as a call for a ban on Muslim immigrants.  This hour, we continue our summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" with a look at the contentious issue of immigration and get the thoughts of a number of Iowans on the issues involved.  We hear from Iowans with contrasting perspectives and from communities in Iowa most impacted by immigrants, including Marshalltown and Perry.

Trump photo by Michael Vadon, Clinton photo by Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

New swing-state polls released today show Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania and tied in the critical battleground state of Ohio.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Dave Andersen and Bruce Nesmith about results of the latest political surveys, Bernie Sanders endorsement of Clinton, and Donald Trump's announcement of his top three picks for a running-mate - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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