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

Paul Sabin Photo

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host Ben Kieffer chats with Iowa music legend  and visual artist Tony Brown. 

Listen to and download the free podcast below to hear Brown impressive command of a wide-range of styles from old school Blues to R&B, Soul, Ska, Reggae, Jazz, Rock, Fold, Funk and Latin flavors. Plus, here incredible stories of Brown's childhood in Waterloo, as well as his experiences abroad. 

Tony Webster / Flickr

In his Condition of the State, then-Governor Tom Vilsack declared that 2004 would be "The Year of the Arts, Culture and Recreation in Iowa." 

He continued, "Studies show that creativity spurs economic growth; breakthroughs in understanding are essential to the task of building a world of opportunity. Creative thinking, the hallmark of Iowa's success, will lead us to a more dynamic future."

Andrea Mahoney / Briarwood Healthcare Center

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America says music, when used appropriately, can shift a patient's mood, help with managing stress and agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and help with motor movements. Now, researchers at the University of Iowa are studying the extent of that effect. Alaine Reschke-Hernandez, a music therapist, and Dr.

Learning to read music helps students in math and having a health outlet for creativity is part of what encourages innovative thinking.

Do students in Iowa have enough access to things like music lessons and art classes? Should arts education be a part of the Iowa Core in terms of curriculum? Some arts educators, including David Law, Executive Director of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, say "yes." There's been an unsuccessful push to make arts a part of the Iowa Core for the last decade.

In this special, outdoor episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa music greats David Zollo and William Elliott Whitmore join together to perform at IPR's second annual Great Iowa Potluck. 

Download the free podcast below to hear host Ben Kieffer chat with the pair about their storied music careers, their Iowa upbringings, and their new project Middle Western. 

scion_cho / Flickr

Never go to bed angry, the old saying goes, or that bad feeling will harden into resentment. Now scientists have found evidence to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.

The study published recently in the journal Nature Communications found a link between sleep and the consolidation of emotional memories. Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa Sleep Disorder Center explains:

Kari Bedford

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Illinois singer-songwriter Ben Bedford tells  host Ben Kieffer about the his background in history has shaped his songwriting. 

Listen in to the podcast below to hear tunes from Bedford's new album, "The Pilot and the Flying Machine.

Gage Skidmore

A tumultuous year in politics is drawing to a close. In a year when the word "unprecedented" was tossed around weekly in election coverage, choosing one defining moment is difficult for political analysts Dave Andersen of Iowa State University and Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa.

"This was a really unusual election year. Very unusual. Certainly the most unusual in my lifetime, and I think going back, even unusual beyond that," says Hoffman.

United States Office of Humanities

Jim Leach served Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. He is now a senior scholar at the University of Iowa after serving on faculty at Harvard and Princeton and after serving as chair at the National Endowment for the Humanities. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer about his view on global challenges facing the next president.

U.S. Navy photo courtesy of National Marine Fisheries Service

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer interviews scientist and ecologist Ari Friedlaender, who has been working in Antarctica for about 20 years. 

During the course of his more than 25 trips to the continent, he has developed a long-term ecological research program that has led to many important discoveries about whales in that polar region.

He is an associate professor at Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, and he is featured in a new National Geographic documentary titled CONTINENT 7: ANTARCTICA.

Gage Skidmore

President-Elect Donald Trump has tapped Mobile Exxon’s Rex Tillerson to be the next U.S. Secretary of State. Rick Perry is to head the Energy Department he once vowed to eliminate.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer goes over the latest political news with Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Hans Hassell of Cornell College. They discuss Trump’s latest cabinet picks, and analyze reactions to the news of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

LinkedIn

Iowa’s Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart is stepping down on the 23rd of this month. He’s served as state insurance commissioner since February 2013, overseeing the state’s Medicaid transition, as well as the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer. 

Gerhart says that policy makers need to step back and take a look at the entire healthcare ecosystem, not just the insurance piece. 

Niall Kennedy / Flickr

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, with an Iowa-made instrument aboard, is near the end of its 20 year voyage.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Bill Kurth, research scientist in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Iowa, about the significance of the Cassini mission and spacecraft, currently in orbit around Saturn.

"Cassini is kind of a veteran. It arrived in orbit at Saturn in 2004, in the summer. That was about a seven year journey from the Earth," he says. "So we've been in orbit for almost 13 years."

MadMaxMarchHare / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Northern Iowa’s new president, Mark Nook, says his first priority is developing UNI’s budget during the 2017 legislative session.

“And then…looking at what we can do…making sure they’re solid because they’re such an important part of our budget," he says. "More importantly, though, those enrollments are such an important part of Iowa’s future. Making sure we’ve got students from Iowa into our universities and getting the degrees and education they really need to be able to go out and lead in this state.”

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has accepted President-elect Donald Trump's invitation to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China. Jonathan Hassid, an assistant professor of political science at Iowa State University, says that gives Branstad a chance to capitalize on years of relationship building. Branstad has had a relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping since Branstad's first term in office. 

Iowa City folk rock group The Recliners channels recent Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan from The Java House stage in downtown Iowa City on this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Join the group in reminiscing on their favorite Dylan stories, moments, and most importantly, songs, by downloading the free podcast below. 

Mike Mozart / Flickr

This show originally aired May 12, 2016

With the lawsuits between North Carolina and the Department of Justice and widespread boycotts of establishments like Target for their inclusive bathroom policies, transgender rights have been dominating the news cycle. In the middle of the politics and punditry, it's easy to lose sight of what being transgender actually means. Jay Irwin, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says language is a good place to start.

Joyce Russell/IPR

From 2001 to 2014, there was a 6-fold increase in the total number of deaths due to heroin.  Iowa has seen a similar spike in opioid-related deaths.

Officials say emergency room visits in Iowa related to opioid overdose have increased more than 200 percent over the last 10 years. Drug overdose deaths in Iowa more than tripled during that time. 

Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

As he prepares to leave Washington, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack warns the next administration about the impact of global markets on U. S. farmers. 

Vilsack is quick to point out he’s not privy to any information from the Republican president-elect, but he’s worried about how Donald Trump will approach immigration and trade.  Vilsack says bad decisions could spur retaliation from China and Mexico—two of the top three trading partners for the U.S.

Gage Skidmore

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts, Tim Hagle and Justin Holmes, about President-Elect Donald Trump’s latest cabinet picks and what the current appointees may plan to do if approved by the Senate.

Trump most recently nominated Georgia Rep. Tom Price as secretary of Health and Human Services. Price has been a consistent opponent of the Affordable Care Act in Congress, and he’s developed an alternative plan to replace the ACA.

Hagle doesn't expect the popular aspects of the ACA to be abolished.

Daniel R. Blume / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

The 1976 film, "All the President's Men," glamorized investigative journalism. The movie won four Academy Awards, was nominated for Best Picture and inspired a generation of investigative journalists. This year another film, "Spotlight," tells the story of an investigative team at The Boston Globe, who uncovered the Catholic Church's pattern of protecting priests accused of child sexual abuse. Will it spark the same inspiration in an industry facing financial struggles, that is growing increasingly fragmented and driven by a need to fill a 24-hour news hole?

There have been many protests in the United States recently. 

After Election Day, protests sprung up across the nation, the Black Lives Matter protests have been going on since 2013, and tensions have escalated at the Standing Rock Indian reservation in North Dakota, where protesters stand against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.

This hour on River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on protesting in America, from past to present.

In this episode of Iowa Public Radio Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa blues icon Kevin B.F. Burt stops by The Java House in downtown Iowa City to croon and belt his legendary tunes. 

Lend an ear to the podcast below to hear some of Burt's new works, as well as some searing covers of B.B. King, Bob Dylan, and more. 

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Des Moines powerhouse Bonne Finken trades laid back acoustic arrangements for grand, sprawling electronic tunes. 

Download the podcast below to hear host Ben Kieffer chat with Finken on her decision to go electronic. 

Wellcome Images

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury talk with medical providers about how different medical robots work, as well as the pros and cons of working side-by-side with machines to provide patient care.

Robots at the bedside: Telemedicine and the stroke robot

Ben Kieffer

The shooting in Ferguson, Missouri and the unrest that followed sparked a vigorous debate in the country about the role of law enforcement.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury visit the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) at Camp Dodge in Johnston to find out how training is changing due to the national debate over the role of law enforcement.

Josh More / Flickr

It was just a few weeks ago that the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines facilitated the birth of a rare baby black rhino, and now the zoo says one of their four giraffes is pregnant.

In this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with caretakers, veterinarian Dr. June Olds and large mammal supervisor Lou Keeley, about reticulated giraffe Uzuri's pregnancy and what they are planning for with the birth.

Daniel Rehn

This week, Google and Facebook announced measures aimed at halting the spread of "fake news" on the internet.

Google says it’s working on a policy change that will prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its AdSense advertising network. Facebook updated its advertising policies, spelling out that its ban on deceptive and misleading content applies to fake news.

Gage Skidmore

President Obama says countries across Europe, as well as the United States, are confronting populist movements based on a fear of encroaching global forces.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts who compare the fears in Europe that led to Brexit to those here in the U.S. that propelled Donald Trump into the White House. They also discuss President-Elect Donald Trump's potential cabinet picks and what that list says about how Trump may govern. 

Evan Vucci, AP

Republican candidate Donald Trump made a practice of criticizing the media at his campaign rallies, even calling out some journalists by name. That criticism was greeted by booing, jeering and worse from the crowds. NPR political reporter Sarah McCammon was there for all of it. She spoke with Trump supporters throughout the campaign and witnessed the Trump campaign’s relationship with the media.

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