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

Gage Skidmore

The Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is running into roadblocks, so what are the implications for the rest of the GOP agenda?  

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by University of Northern Iowa political science professor Donna Hoffman, as well as University of Iowa associate professor of politics, Tim Hagle.

Although there has been a lot blame passed around for the bill's failure, Hoffman says, "It's a whole congruence of  issues that came together to defeat this."

Wikimedia Commons

During their spring session, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that social media is a constitutional right. It also decided cases regarding same-sex parents and birth certificates, a case involving a potentially offensively named band and the protected status of offensive speech, and a case involving President Trump's travel ban. 

manhhai

After the US withdrew from the Vietnam War, its Indochinese allies were left facing torture, death, and imprisonment from the ruling communist regime. The Tai Dam, an ethnic group from northern Vietnam, petitioned the U.S. for sanctuary.

In 1975, Iowa Governor Robert Ray created an agency to relocate the group. During this hour of River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Matthew Walsh, a professor of history at Des Moines Area Community College about his new book The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa.

Anthony Hopkins / Flickr

The deaths of three dogs left in a car on a hot day in Ottumwa last weekend is still under investigation by local police. They were in town for an American Kennel Club show and were reportedly left in the car by a handler hired by their owner.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Scott Wilson, an animal welfare expert with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, who says it’s fairly common for people to lock their dogs in overheated cars.

Today, Senate Republican leaders unveiled a fresh proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In the first half of today's River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa public health researcher Brian Kaskie about his current work in Washington to aid the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, chaired by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. His work for the committee draws on his expertise in Medicare, Medicaid and caring for the elderly.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Amid the new controversy about email, this time involving Donald Trump Jr. and Russian officials, the White House has gone on the defensive.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dennis Goldford, professor of political science at Drake University and Wayne Moyer, professor of political science at Grinnell College.

Goldford says that it’s going to be interesting to continue to watch this investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election unfold given President Trump’s treatment of family versus his staff.

Emily Woodbury

Firecrackers, bottle rockets and roman candles – class one and class two fireworks - are now legally for sale in Iowa for the first time in decades.

In this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with the state senator who spearheaded the new law, as well as Iowans in charge of implementing the new guidelines, including Janelle Rettig, chair of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

Emily Woodbury

Just as the founding fathers gathered in taverns to enjoy lively political conversation over a local brew, so do columnists and reporters from The Gazette and Iowa Public Radio.

On this edition of "Pints and Politics," recorded before a live audience at the Amana Millstream Brewing Company, co-hosts Ben Kieffer of River to River and Gazette investigative reporter, Erin Jordan, talk politics with columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman, as well as political reporter James Lynch of The Gazette. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Around the 4th of July in Iowa, more than 4,000 Iowans are employed as pyrotechnicians setting up, wiring, and tearing down fireworks displays.

J and M Displays, a company based in Yarmouth, sells many of the professional fireworks that are lit across the state. Monte Whitlock leads a professional pyrotechnics crew for J and M Displays and sells fireworks. He urges people to keep in mind the folks who are lighting the displays on the 4th.

Gage Skidmore

The U.S. Senate Republicans efforts to replace big sections of the Affordable Care Act and enact steep Medicaid spending cuts collapsed yesterday.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Drake University political analysts Dennis Goldford and Rachel Caufield about what happens next.

Rappaport Center / Flickr

Are fake news, alternative facts, and lies disguised as truths overwhelming our notions of reality?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Brooke Gladstone, co-host and managing editor of the public radio program On The Media and author of the new book, The Trouble with Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time.

In it, Gladstone talks about the threats to democracy caused by people’s “filtered reality," especially in a constantly changing media landscape.

Joyce Russell/IPR

This program originally aired on November 8, 2016.

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. Since its inception in 2002, 65 Iowans have been inducted into the IAAHF. This year, they inducted four.

Kesho Scott

Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media file photo

A few days before Iowa’s new medical marijuana law takes effect, a Minnesota cannabis producer says his business is not yet profitable two years into that state’s program. The two states have similar medical cannabis laws, but Iowa’s is more restrictive.

Iowa’s new law will allow for two medical cannabis manufacturers and five dispensaries in the state.

Dr. Andrew Bachman, the CEO of Leafline Labs, says Minnesota’s law creates a more sustainable business climate, in part because Iowa’s law limits the THC content of medical cannabis.

Gage Skidmore

President Donald Trump comes to Iowa today for the first time since his inauguration. He will be visiting Kirkwood Community College followed by a campaign-style rally tonight in Cedar Rapids.

In this politics day on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University, and Bruce Nesmith, Joan and Abbot Lipsky professor of political science at Coe College. 

Photo by Tim Schoon / University of Iowa

The first injuries and house fires caused by fireworks, recently made legal in Iowa, are on the books.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with researchers, injury prevention specialists, and medical professionals about avoiding injury and death when dealing with fireworks and other summer time hazards.

The show starts with a conversation with University of Iowa hand surgeon, Dr. Andrei Odobescu, about the many cases of hands and fingers severed by fireworks mishaps that he’s treated.

Proposed budget cuts by the Trump administration have scientists at the Ames Laboratory on the campus of Iowa State University concerned. The smallest of the national laboratories receives 90 percent of its funding from the Department of Energy. The director of the Ames Lab, Adam Schwartz, says President Trump’s proposed budget would harm scientific research.

"If the President's budget is passed, there would be dramatic reductions in staff, not only at the Ames Laboratory, but all of the national laboratories," he says.

International Jugglers' Association

The 70th International Juggler’s Association Festival is set to take place at Cedar Rapids’ Paramount Theater on July 10-16th. The festival will include technical training workshops, a juggling history museum, a youth showcase performance, and a free ‘learning zone’ for aspiring jugglers.

The festival will open with a Welcome Show on Tuesday and close out with a show by the Cascade of Stars on Saturday, which is comprised of professional juggling and circus acts from around the world.

cwwycoff1/Flickr

A study in the Journal of Rural Health shows suicide rates among farmers remain high long after the farm crisis of the 1980s. The research is co-written by an assistant professor at Des Moines University, Wendy Riddenberg. She says agriculture workers today have few places to turn for counseling when times are tough.

“After the 80s, there were some mental health services that were created and provided specifically for farmers and agricultural workers. A lot of those are no longer in existence," she says. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Startups are eyeing the market for space tourism, and NASA is discovering habitable planets. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the co-authors of Vacation Guide to the Solar System, a book that imagines an interplanetary vacation.

In the book, co-authors Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich take real data from NASA and other sources to create a whimsical and accurate picture of what it would really be like to travel our solar system.

Early today, a gunman open fired at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Donna Hoffman, an associate professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa says while tragic, the event is not unique. 

"It’s important to remember in times like this that America often has violent events like this," she says.

Wikipedia

Scientists have recently determined that humans were present in all parts of Africa as early as 300-thousand years ago.  

Is this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Bob Franciscus, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa.

Courtesy of Blank Park Zoo

So far this year, Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines has welcomed 12 new babies, including 2 camels, 1 black rhino, 2 wallabies, 1 giraffe, 2 addax, a desert antelope, and 3 elands. Their newest addition to that family of babies is a newborn Japanese macaque, also known as a snow monkey.

During this River to River conversation, zookeeper Val Hautekeete talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

ALAN LIGHT / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A year ago, 49 people were killed at an Orlando nightclub in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Sanofi Pasteur / Patrick Boulen

Chikungunya is a debilitating inflammatory virus carried by mosquitoes. The University of Iowa is one of three sites in the U.S. that is enrolling participants for a clinical trial of an experimental vaccine for chikungunya. The illness has been found in the U.S.

This time on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Eastern-Iowa funkers Meteor Cat bring their rowdy, cosmic sound (all nine members of it!) to the coffee house. 

Check out the free podcast below to hear cuts off the group's debut album, "Earth Family Elixir," and gain insights on how the group crafts its distinct brand of funk. 

Ben Kieffer

Iowa singer-songwriter and children's book author Chad Elliott brings his knack for simple-yet-profound songwriting to The Java House stage in this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." The accomplished creative also provides glimpses of his forthcoming album, "RINGGOLD." 

Download the free podcast below and hear Elliott's rootsy, gravely growl and impressive, tasteful guitar work. Plus, peek inside the artist's creative process with Studio One host Ben Kieffer. 

Emily Woodbury

Oak trees in Iowa are experiencing “oak tatters,” and it might be caused by farm chemicals in the atmosphere.

DNR district forester Mark Vitosh says this is a problem that’s been on his radar for two decades, but weather patterns have made this a bad year for oak trees. About a thousand people have called the DNR because they thought insects or diseases were to blame.

Vitosh says he’s observed these damaged oak leaves.

Amy Mayer

U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley says he doesn’t agree with former FBI Director James Comey’s statement that President Donald Trump was lying when he said the FBI was in disarray under Comey’s leadership. Grassley says he considers the president’s statement a matter of opinion.

“When you characterize an agency, how you think it’s being run, you can be perfectly honest in your assessment of that, and somebody else could consider that a lie," he says.

On this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City singer songwriter Nic Arp graces the stage with his band of top-shelf Iowa musicians. 

Download the free podcast below to hear the group tear through a set of songs ripe with Arp's emotive, wise lyrics and propelled by the band's tight sound. Studio One's Ben Kieffer hosts. 

Brookings Institution / Flickr

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about the Russia probe and upcoming testimony of fired FBI director James Comey.

They also discuss President Trump's announcement of his nominee for a new FBI Director, the latest details about Russian efforts to hack voting systems in the U.S., and how these controversies are impacting the GOP legislative agenda, including the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

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