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

In this edition of "Pints and Politics" on River to River host Ben Kieffer, and co-host Erin Jordan gather the thoughts and opinions of reporter James Lynch and columnists Todd Dorman and Lynda Waddington from the Cedar Rapids Gazette, while hoisting a pint or two with a live audience. Topics include the Trump administration's response to Hurricane Harvey and violence in Charlottesville as well as Governor Kim Reynolds' deal with Apple and the state of the Iowa gubernatorial race. The conversation takes place at the Cedar Ridge winery and distillery in Swisher.

Gage Skidmore

“Never ever lose your sense of outrage," said then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with the senator about the 2016 campaign, his plan to introduce a single-payer health care bill in September, and his new book, Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution

Sanders will speak in Iowa City August 31 at 7 p.m. at Hancher Auditorium.

Harper Collins

Author Adam Piore says he's always been interested in stories of resilience. As he was looking for the topic of his latest book, he says he realized some of the most interesting stories of resilience today are taking place through technology. The result is The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human.

Piore says technology has allowed for remarkable recoveries among people with once devastating injuries. "Now we have some of the best engineers turning their sights inward to see how the body and mind work."

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Nearly half of Republicans and those who lean Republican say they have mixed feelings about how Donald Trump conducts himself as president, and almost a fifth of the Republicans polled by Pew Research say they don’t approve of Trump’s conduct as commander-in-chief at all.

On this politics day edition of River to River, analysts Rachel Caufield of Drake University and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa navigate us through the latest on the political landscape, including the politics of disaster response and North Korea’s missile launch over Japan.

Image courtesy of Wokandapix

School districts across the country are struggling to adapt to growing school lunch debt. Many children who cannot afford their school lunches have been subjected to what is commonly referred to as "lunch shaming," which involves practices that can humiliate children in public schools who have unpaid lunch debts. One such method involves dumping a student’s lunch in the trash once they get to the cash register.

Ann Feilmann of Iowa's Department of Education says that schools participating in the National School Lunch Program are working to curb this issue.

Courtesy of Terry Dvorak

Leaders from various faith traditions across the state are getting into the spirit of solar power.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a conversation on the process and impact of a solar project in Norwalk, where more than 200 solar panels were installed St. John the Apostle Catholic Church, with Father John Ludwig and Red Lion Renewables CEO, Terry Dvorak. It’s a move to renewable energy that Father Ludwig says was inspired by Pope Francis's campaign combating climate change.

photo submitted

David Cwiertny of the University of Iowa is an expert in water quality and water resources. He's also one of 35 science and technology experts who've spent the past year working in the U.S. Congress as part of a fellowship program through the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Host Ben Kieffer talks with him about the experience in this edition of River to River.

U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher

A raucous President Trump revs up supporters in Arizona, a day after a statesman-like speech addressing Afghanistan.

On this politics Wednesday edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about the president’s defense of his response to violence in Charlottesville with Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Sara Mitchell of the University of Iowa.

Michael Saechang

For groups trying to affect firearms policy, what are their priorities, challenges, strategies for the future? Where is money and lobbying efforts going? What do Americans think about access to guns, and what do those view say about their own politics? In this River to River program as part of our continuing Guns in Iowa series, host Ben Kieffer gets two looks at the national gun debate.  

City Year / Flickr

It was ten days ago that violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, when white nationalists protesting against the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee clashed with anti-racism demonstrators.

One woman was killed when a suspected white nationalist drove his car into a crowd.

courtesy of Amy Mayer/IPR

Some astronomers and enthusiasts have been waiting years for today’s solar eclipse.  Almost all of Iowa experienced a partial eclipse, and the path of the total eclipse was further south and west. There is a small portion, a few hundred acres, of extreme southeast Iowa in that path.  

Iowa State University Professor of Astrophysics Steve Kawaler joins the conversation to talk about the eclipse. He describes the experience of a total eclipse.

The city of Des Moines could set a record for the number of homicides this year. Sergeant Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department says if another homicide happens, it will be the most the city has seen in over a decade.

“Right now we are at 21, and in 2015, that was the mark we hit for the whole year, and that was the highest we’d hit since 1995. So, with so much time remaining in the year, there’s a very real possibility we’ll hit that,” says Parizek.

“We’ve had as low as 5 in a year. We tend to hover around the 7, 8, 9 range.”

Ben Kieffer

The number of permits to carry weapons has risen dramatically in Iowa.

According to numbers collected by the Iowa Department of Public Safety, Iowa has issued more than 375,000 weapons permits since 2011. This doesn’t include professionals who are who required to carry weapons such as a police or corrections officer.

Evan Nesterak

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Wenfang Tang, Stanley Hua Hsia Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Iowa about China's ability to influence the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea. Then, Dave Andersen, assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University discusses the political fallout from President Trump's contradictory statements about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

MilitaryHealth

Nationally, more people between the ages of 15-24 are shot than any other age group. Dr. Denville Myrie, a trauma surgeon at Mercy Medical Center, says that’s true for the ER he works for in Des Moines. 

"These are young, healthy men," Myrie says. "They should not be dying. They are dying from basically stupidity; for no reason. There are so many guns on the street, and it seems like nobody cares what they can do about that." 

Alex Hanson / Flickr

Sam Clovis is a well-known name in Iowa, especially in western parts of the state. Clovis has been many things during his life – an F-16 fighter pilot, a defense contractor, a conservative radio host in Sioux City - and then last year, chief policy advisor and national co-chair of the Trump-Pence campaign.

Now he is the White House representative at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in charge of coordinating White House and USDA policy and staffing under President Trump.

John Pemble

The Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison is home to more than 300 of Iowa's most dangerous inmates, or otherwise known as "lifers." Hundreds of other men serving time there will eventually return to their communities.

Tom (turkletom) / Flickr

Iowa has seen fewer mosquitoes than usual this summer, but recent rainfall may change that, according to Donald Lewis, a professor and extension entomologist at Iowa State University.

Lewis says drought conditions in Iowa in the first part of the summer led to low mosquito populations.

“The rainfall we had in parts of the state where they got one or two inches all at once could rapidly change that situation," he says. "So don’t think we’re out of the woods for mosquito bites through the rest of the summer.”

Wikimedia Commons

Today, President Trump signed into law legislation that levies new sanctions against Russia and restricts his own ability to ease those sanctions. 

Hans Hassell, assistant professor of political science at Cornell College says that Congress' act to send those sanctions to Trumps desk is important. 

"This is a really clear rebuke of the President saying, 'Look, what we've heard about Russia makes us very concerned,' so we're going to take these strong stances against Russia while you're trying to get us to relax those sanctions." 

photo submitted

U.S. veterans coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq can face major challenges re-entering civilian life. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer updates the latest research on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

We also hear from an Iowa veteran drawing attention to PTSD and the problem of veteran suicide by running across Iowa. Joshua Jorgensen will run the whole distance across the state wearing a military-style gas mask. Jorgensen says veterans might not know where to turn as they return to communities. 

Bill Adams / University of Iowa

In his new book, Campus Confidential: How College Works, or Doesn’t, for Professors, Parents and Students, author Jacques Berlinerblau explains why he thinks the tenure system is falling apart, and why many PhDs are leaving the world of academia for better employment.

“The American academic enterprise is all upside down, and we have a peculiar incentivisation system, he says, "whereby the most accomplished professors, as measured by their research accomplishments, spend the least time in the classroom with undergraduates.”

raymondclarkeimages / Flickr

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley about about the small, family-owned Iowa trucking company linked to the immigrant smuggling deaths in Texas.

Matt Murphy

Due to the Iowa Legislature’s statewide budget cuts, the state’s fifteen community colleges will see a $3 million decrease in funding. In this River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with three Iowa community college presidents: Des Moines Area Community College President Robert Denson, Kirkwood Community College President Mick Starcevich, and Northeast Iowa Community College President Liang Chee Wee.

Geoff Livingston

Former President Obama and other leading Democrats are making their first moves this month on a push to change how states draw congressional districts.

Obama returned to politics as the headliner of a July 13 fundraiser for a Democratic group that plans to fight for more equitable congressional and state legislative districts after the 2020 census.

Courtesy of Carrie Nolan

An EF-1 tornado with winds over 100 mph ripped through the town of McGregor last week, leaving behind a path of destruction through the town's historic main street district.

The president of the local chamber of commerce, Katie Ruff, says two buildings have been demolished in the Mississippi River community and most downtown businesses are open again.

Periódico Resumen / flickr

Over 100 Venezuelans have died during the protests across the country in response to President Nicolás Maduro’s moves to consolidate power in the executive branch. Last week former Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was found guilty of corruption and money laundering charges and sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison, and last month the current president Michel Temer was charged with accepting a bribe of over $150,000. Both countries have seen rampant turmoil as their governments and people have clashed in the streets.

flickr / RelaxingMusic

We all know that you're not you when you're tired. According to new sleep research, that's not just a saying, but it's scientifically true. New studies shows that sleep disturbances in young adults can worsen suicidal ideation, and it can even be harmful to your health to fight with your spouse when you haven't been sleeping well. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa about these new studies. He also answers listener questions about sleep. 

NASA Public Domain

Iowa has a connection to the Apollo moon landing, which happened 48 years ago.  The communications equipment in the command module was designed by Collins Radio in Cedar Rapids.  In this portion of River to River, Mike Wilson joins the conversation. He is former VP of operations at Collins Radio and also worked for Rockwell-Collins once that company was formed.  Wilson says they had two sets of equipment in the case.

nodigio

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate says he is “disappointed” with comments made by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly earlier this week. Kelly says states that are not asking the federal government for help with protecting their elections from hackers are “nuts.”

Secretary Pate says that in recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has not given state election officials enough information.

University of Northern Iowa

University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook is relatively new to the job, and he joins River to River host Ben Kieffer to talk about higher education and priorities at UNI.  He says his school will continue to have a high percentage of Iowa residents attending.  Nook says about 85%-90% of UNI’s students are from Iowa, though he's open to admitting more out-of-state students.  

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