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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At a time of rising tuitions and tight budgets at the state’s Regents universities, the president of the University of Northern Iowa is expressing some relief.

Mark Nook has been on the job in Cedar Falls about a year. Tuition at his school is climbing two-point-eight percent, a little more than $200. That's less than the three-point-eight percent increases at Iowa State and the University of Iowa. Nook says he understands why higher education is often on the chopping block during state budget considerations.

Congress.Gov

During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Representative Dave Loebsack about the issues facing his constituents in Iowa's 2nd district, including flood risk, healthcare, employment, and trade tariffs. Later in the hour, Loebsack answers listener questions.

One issue that remains close to Loebsack's heart is the Cedar Rapids flood, which was 10 years ago on June 13th.

Twenty three years ago, Mason City TV news anchor Jodi Huisentruit disappeared. She would be 50 years old this month. To commemorate the anniversary, the group FindJodi.com has put up billboards outside Mason City. 

During this River to River conversation, host Ben Kieffer talks with Beth Bednar, author of the book Dead Air and a member of the Find Jodi team, about Huisentruit's disapperance. 

AP

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University, and Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield professor of political science at Grinnell College. They discuss the G7 Summit blowup, the showdown over immigration in Congress, and President Trump's meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. 

Francisco Osorio / Flickr

A new Iowa law banning physicians from performing most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected is being called the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer discusses the law with three state lawmakers who each have very different views, including a Democrat against the change, a Republican who voted for it, and a Republican who was one of six in his party who felt he couldn’t support the law.

John Pemble / IPR

After a tense weekend of economic negotiations with the United States' closest allies at the Group of 7 Summit, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley is warning that President Donald Trump's tactics are threatening the state's farmers. At a tumultuous time in international trade relations, Grassley joined IPR's River to River to talk tariffs, North Korea and the Justice Department with host Ben Kieffer.

Ivy Main / Wikimedia Commons

Nine counties in southwest Iowa have been experiencing a drinking water crisis over the past 10 days after a filtration membrane malfunctioned at Creston Water Works. A boil warning was issued June 1st for the city and all the surrounding towns the water works supplied water for. 

During this River to River conversation, host Ben Kieffer talks with Scott Vicker, managing editor for the Creston News Advertiser and Chris Gordy, store director for the Creston Hy-Vee. 

This week the Miss America Organization announced it would no longer include the swimsuit portion of the competition in the pageant. That decision marks the end of an era, given that Miss America orignally started as a swimsuit competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1921. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Nicole Kelly, who was Miss Iowa 2013 and is a current producer of the Miss Iowa competition. When she was crowned Miss Iowa, it was international news becuase she entered the pageant with a visible disability. 

Iowa Legislature

Back in 2016, when it was clear the Republican Party was warming up to the idea of having Donald Trump as its Presidential nominee, one state Senator from Iowa quit the Republican Party. Now, he's announced that he will not be seeking reelection as an Independent in the Iowa Senate.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan about this decision and how politics have changed in his nearly 20 years as a lawmaker in Iowa.

In recent years, Johnson says he has seen a definite political shift.

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa Democrats have nominated businessman Fred Hubbell to take on Gov. Kim Reynolds in the November gubernatorial election. Jake Porter will be the Libertarian candidate for governor.

Congressional matchups are set with two women earning Democratic spots on the ballot. Abby Finkenauer, the Democrat nominated in the first congressional district, would be the youngest woman elected to Congress if she is successful in her bit to oust incumbent Republican Congressman Rod Blum. No woman has ever been elected to Congress from Iowa. 

UIHC

The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa has been approved to use a new therapy that harnesses the immune system to treat specific forms of leukemia and lymphoma. Dr. George Weiner is director of the center and says the therapy shows great promise.

Clay Masters/Iowa Public Radio

A new study from University of Iowa researchers shows the nitrate flowing from Iowa farm fields is a large part of the total load in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. 

During this episode of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with one of the authors of the study, research engineer Chris Jones, about the devastating impact nutrients from Iowa farmland is having downstream.

Jessica Bolser/USFWS

Right around Memorial Day is the time of year that Iowans begin to see fawns out and about. This year, wildlife experts are asking people not to “rescue” fawns, even if they are alone.

This is because fawns are frequently on their own throughout the day, and this is natural. The mother almost always comes back. Another reason for not attempting fawn rescue is that wildlife rehabilitators will not be able to take in young deer this summer.

MEDION P61110_01 / Flickr

Use of smart speakers in the Unites States is growing rapidly. According to new research put out in January from NPR and Edison Research, one in six Americans now own a smart speaker, that's around 39 million people. It's an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Predictions show 75 percent of U.S.

Ted Murphy/flickr

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision allowing states to legalize, tax and regulate sports betting. Until now, Nevada has been the only state with the right to allow fans to put bets on games and point spreads legally.

In Iowa, a bill was introduced that would allow casinos to run sports betting operations. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with State Representative Jake Highfill about the bill and what it does.

Photo submitted

Former Iowans John and Sue Little moved to Hawaii a couple years ago, and they live on the island where the eruption of Kilauea Volcano has been causing disruptions for residents there.  Little joins this River to River segment to explain what's happening, what the threat is, and whether he misses Iowa winters (spoiler: he doesn't).

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

State Senator Nate Boulton has suspended his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to the Iowa Governor's race in light of accusations of sexual misconduct.  In this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by IPR reporter and Morning Edition host Clay Masters to talk through the status of that race.

Da Capo Press

A former University of Northern Iowa English professor who recounted her 42-year friendship with the author Kurt Vonnegut in a 2009 memoir died May 8th at the age of 86. Loree Rackstraw taught English at the University of Northern Iowa for 30 years, was fiction editor of the North American Review and a well-known supporter of the arts.

Marco Verch/Flickr

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts, Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Dave Andersen of Iowa State University, about President Trump's FBI spy claims, the campaigning ahead of Iowa's gubernatorial primaries, and updates on trade disputes with China.

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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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UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

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. 

Andreanna Moya Photography / Flickr

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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Andrew Bardwell

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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