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

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa law enforcement officers are echoing comments made by Dallas Police Chief David Brown after last week’s shootings, saying, “Send us your applicants.”

Departments across the state have been actively trying to diversify their forces by reaching out to minority communities in the state, but they aren’t getting applications. Daniel Trelka  is Chief of the Waterloo Police Department.

shinosan / Flickr

What do parents of teenagers and an FBI special agent have in common? Negotiation is key to the job. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, says the difference between high stakes international intrigue and a typical contentious daily interaction is smaller than you think.

“The difference between hostage negotiations and business negotiations is really only the stakes. I like to say, ‘Take the guns out of a typical bank robbery with hostages, you got a typical Monday morning staff meeting with the boss.’”

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving / Flickr

Over 317,000 Iowans care for an aging parent or loved one. While the focus is usually on the elderly person being cared for, caregivers often carry an unseen burden.

Lee / Flickr

In a report on psychiatric beds in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, the Treatment Advocacy Center found Iowa ranked dead last in terms of mental health beds per capita. Dr. Jimmy Potash, professor and chair of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says that's a big problem.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Former Congressman Jim Leach pointed to Citizens United, and the equation of money to free speech, as a key catalyst for much of the electorate's dissatisfaction with the system.

Rian Castillo / Flickr

This year, 2016, marks the first election where there are as many millennials as baby boomers in the U.S. electorate.

River to River's Ben Kieffer kicks off Iowa Public Radio's summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" by hosting a conversation on the political generation gap. He explores where boomers, gen-xers, and millennials see eye to eye, and where they don’t.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

John Pemble

    

Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst met with Donald Trump on July 4th, fueling speculation that Ernst is high on his list for running mates.

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about what Ernst would bring to the Trump ticket. 

They also discuss the impact of the FBI recommendation that no criminal charges be filed over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was Secretary of State.

Sgt. Rebecca Linder/Flickr

There are more than four thousand untested rape kits awaiting testing in Iowa. The Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division Director Janelle Melohn has been conducting an audit of untested kits since February. 

As of the end of June, we have almost an 80% response rate. We have 381 active law enforcement agencies in our state, and just short of 80% have responded to us. We have just over a total of 4,000 kits that have been inventoried thus far," she says. 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration / Wikimedia Commons

A space probe carrying an instrument from the University of Iowa goes into orbit around Jupiter Monday, July 4.  The NASA probe “Juno” was launched in 2011 on a mission to learn more about the solar system’s largest planet. 

Bill Kurth is a research scientist at the University of Iowa, and the lead investigator of the Waves instrument.  He says it will examine radio and plasma waves around Jupiter, to understand how the planet’s auroras are formed. 

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

In 1961, President Kennedy said the US needed to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Now, more than 50 years later, Vice President Joe Biden says the nation needs a cancer moonshot – with a goal of doubling the rate of progress to end cancer as we know it.

On Wednesday, he held a summit in Washington. Organizations in all fifty states and Puerto Rico participated to, as Biden puts it, "break down silos, seize the moment, and double the rate of progress."

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Minnesota-based artist Jack Klatt shows off his rolling Mississippi music. 

Lend an ear below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer talk with Klatt about his extensive travel and the influence it has had on his songwriting. 

  In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Des Moines indie-pop band In Rooms enchants listeners with their blend of Latin rhythms and pop melodies. 

Download the podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the group about their wide range of influences. 

threefishsleeping / Flickr

A terrorist attack in Turkey has left 42 dead and more than 230 injured.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts about why Turkey was targeted in the attack. Joining the conversation: Kelly Shaw, political science lecturer at Iowa State University, Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield professor of political science at Grinnell College, and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University.

Wikimedia Commons

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of the biggest cases on abortion in a quarter century. The court also issued several other rulings, including a case about affirmative action in college admissions, and another regarding when people convicted of domestic violence can own a gun. What does it all mean for you, and how will these cases reverberate around Iowa and around the nation?

Tony Webster, Portland, Oregon / Wikimedia Commons

A landmark piece of legislation that assures public access to government documents turns 50 on July 4th. President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation in 1966, without so much as a statement, just avoiding a pocket veto. That reluctance set the stage for a love/hate relationship between presidential administrations and the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

Nancy Pelosi / Flickr

Early Wednesday, John Lewis, a Democratic representative from Georgia, asked his colleagues to join him on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and began to speak.

Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

Meat consumers in the U.S. enjoy relatively low prices and an array of choices, but there is a high human price tag. The more than 500,000 men and women who work in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants have some of the most dangerous factory jobs in America.

"If you recall the publication of The Jungle back in 1906 - the meat packing industry is similar to that to this day," says Peggy Lowe of Harvest Public Media, referring to the conditions in the plant and circumstances of the factory workers. 

U.S. Army RDECOM / Flickr

Exhaustion, shock, panic, disease, extreme heat, and horrific noise -  these are some of the less talked about challenges of military combat.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with celebrated science writer Mary Roach about her new book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. In it, she explores the aspects of war no one makes movies about - the quirky but essential science behind staying alive in combat.

A description of Grunt from the publisher, W. W. Morton & Company, Inc.:

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer chats with Bonnie Finken

Download the podcast below, originally aired in September 2014,  to find out more about the powerful vocalist who was born and raised in Iowa.

Alan Light / Flickr

For many in the LGBT community, gay bars and clubs are safe harbors—spaces where they can take refuge from those who reject their identities, and be understood as who they truly are, surrounded by people who support them.

So when Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, the setting threw the tragedy into even sharper relief.

Majicdolphin / Flickr

What happened in Flint, Michigan is only one of several high profile incidents of public health crises arising from drinking water contamination. In fact, according to Siddhartha Roy, who was part of the team that discovered high lead levels in Flint, “There are millions of lead pipes,” and “we have them in virtually every city in the U.S.”

Gage Skidmore

The U.S. House of Representatives erupted in shouting this week, after lawmakers held a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando mass shooting, and Democrats protested the Republican-led chamber’s refusal to consider tighter gun regulations.

John Pemble

With the sun setting on a primary season full of surprises, Iowans can expect more of the unexpected as the nominees head towards the party conventions.

On this special edition of River to River, co-hosts Ben Kieffer of Iowa Public Radio and Jennifer Hemmingsen of The Gazette sit down in front of a live audience in Cedar Rapids with The Gazette’s investigative reporter James Lynch, and columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman.

They give their thoughts on Iowa races as well as the race for the White House. Below are some highlights from the discussion.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer does his best pirate impression with Nashville pirate singer Tom Mason.

Listen in to hear Mason's sea-worthy tunes and lots of piratey banter. 

John Pemble

This week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines after her victory in California led many to declare her the first female nominee of a major party for president.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer discusses the week’s political news with analysts Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University. They talk about how the general election battle is shaping up after the last big day of primaries, as well as what’s next for each of the remaining candidates.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Many Republicans rebuked presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for his remarks suggesting that Latino and Muslim judges would be unable to rule fairly on a trial involving the candidate. State Senator David Johnson did them one better: he left the party.

Two baby eagles in Iowa town of Riverdale along the Mississippi have been removed from their nest to become part of a migration study. Two young eagles in Riverdale join a study to protect raptors from manmade hazards like wind turbines and power lines.

"Eagle populations have increased dramatically as of late, and increasingly eagles are moving away from large riparian corridors to interior portions of the state," says Drew Becker, fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rob McLennan / Flickr

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is expecting another summer boating season full of toxic, blue green algae blooms. There were a record number of beach closures in 2015 in Iowa, and the DNR is expecting this year to be the same or worse. 

The blooms release microcystin, which is a toxin released by cyanobacteria. The toxin can kill pets and cause rashes and flu like symptoms in humans.

As the weather heats up this week, Mary Skopec, beach monitoring coordinator for the Iowa DNR, says that we’ll likely start to see algal blooms that lead to beach closures.

HarperCollins Publishers

In 2009, 21 men were rescued from the abandoned Atalissa schoolhouse they inhabited since 1974. 

Their lives consisted of working for next to nothing at a turkey plant nearby in West Liberty, living together in the schoolhouse, and taking trips to the Atalissa Mini Mart.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer goes back to ska-llege with Quad Cities Ska group Fairhaven.

Listen in below to hear Kieffer chat with the group about their new split album and their upcoming national tour, as well as some raucus Ska numbers to get your energized. 

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