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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River to River
11:00 pm
Tue March 6, 2012

Politics Day: Super Tuesday Recap

Who won and lost in the GOP race on Super Tuesday? Iowa State University Political Scientist Steffen Schmidt and University of Iowa Professor Emeritus Bruce Gronbeck break down the results of Tuesday's votes. They'll also look at the clash between President Obama and Republicans over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Deadly Weather and State Economic Update

In the past week, scores of people have been killed and injured by tornadoes in the Midwest and South. Ben Kieffer talks with meteorologist Alan Czarnetzki of the University of Northern Iowa about the series of deadly storms and the weather outlook in Iowa as we approach spring. Ben will also talk with the Director of Iowa's Economic Development Authority Debi Durham about growing Iowa's economy and its population.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon March 5, 2012

Deadly Weather and State Economic Update

In the past week, scores of people have been killed and injured by tornadoes in the Midwest and South. Ben Kieffer talks with meteorologist Alan Czarnetzki of the University of Northern Iowa about the series of deadly storms and the weather outlook in Iowa as we approach spring. Ben will also talk with the Director of Iowa's Economic Development Authority Debi Durham about growing Iowa's economy and its population.

River to River
11:00 pm
Sun March 4, 2012

Politics Day: Special Event

On the eve of Super Tuesday, and eight months away from the general election, Ben hosts a political roundtable forum at the University of Northern Iowa. Taped Friday, March 2, panelists discuss the GOP race and examine candidate strategies leading up to November. Ben's guests are political scientists Donna Hoffman, Chris Larimer and Justin Holmes from the University of Northern Iowa and James Q. Lynch of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

River to River
11:00 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Gas Prices and the Economy and Iowa's Water Supply

Gas prices are at record highs for this time of year, and experts predict the rise won't be ending soon. We'll examine what's driving current crude oil prices and what it means for Iowa's economy with the Iowa Department of Agriculture's Harold Hommes and Creighton University Economics Professor Ernie Goss. Later, the Iowa DNR has been surveying groundwater supplies across the state. Results indicate some Iowa cities need to start planning immediately to drill new wells or to pipe in water from new resources.

River to River
11:00 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

Internet Privacy and Trudy Huskamp Peterson

You see something funny online, post a link to it on Facebook, friends add their own humorous insights and it’s over right?  Not for an Iowa City Man. Host Ben Kieffer finds out how Amazon made what was meant to be a joke, into an advertisement. Then, he talks with Iowa native and one of the world’s pre-eminent archivists, Trudy Huskamp Peterson. She tells us about how documents in the world’s hot spots can provide justice and closure for victims.

River to River
11:00 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Politics Day

Join host Ben Kieffer as we look at the results of the GOP primaries in Michigan and Arizona.  How much closer does the outcome bring the GOP to a nominee as we march toward Super Tuesday next week?  Our analysts are Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa and Dave Peterson of Iowa State University.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon February 27, 2012

Iowa Civil Rights and Afghan Writers

A recent analysis shows Iowa’s civil rights complaints are being systematically dismissed at an alarming rate.  A study calls the Iowa Civil Rights Commission’s handling of the complaints an indication of “a seriously flawed enforcement process.” Join host Ben Kieffer as he talks with Arnold Woods, the President of the Des Moines chapter of the NAACP and Beth Townsend, the director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.  Then, Ben talks with Chris Merrill, the director of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.  Merrill recently returned from Afghanistan where he conducted a s

River to River
11:00 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

2011 Nobel Laureate Dan Shechtman

Join host Ben Kieffer as he talks with the 2011 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Professor Dan Shechtman.  We’ll hear the story behind his discovery of a type of crystal so unusual at the time that it upended the scientific world and about his reaction to the moment he was given the news of his Nobel Prize.  Dan Shechtman is a professor of materials science and engineering at Iowa State University, a research scientist for the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, and the Philip Tobias Professor of Materials Science at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.

River to River
11:00 pm
Wed February 22, 2012

Expanding Safe Haven

Fourteen lives… It’s not often you can quantify the effects of a state law in such concrete terms.  But in Iowa, 14 newborns have been delivered safely to health care facilities, and then successfully adopted to families under the “Safe Haven” law.  Host Ben Kieffer talks about a bill that would expand the law to cover babies up to one year of age, and other approaches to expanding the reach of a well-intentioned law, as well as the concerns raised by any such expansion.  Guests include Missouri State Senator Eric Schmitt, Iowa State Representative Mark Smith, Stephen Scott of Prevent Child

River to River
11:00 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Politics Day

The latest polls show Mitt Romney retaking the lead in Michigan, although the race for the republican presidential nomination is still extremely tight.  Join host Ben Kieffer as we talk about that race and the lead up to Super Tuesday.  We’ll also discuss the controversy over requiring insurance coverage for contraception and now, some prenatal testing, and how it’s impacting the discussion of faith in the campaign.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

Online Virtual Education

Open enrollment allows parents to register their children in any Iowa school district.  Join host Ben Kieffer as we talk about how two Iowa school districts are poised to take advantage of open enrollment by offering a solely on-line virtual education.  Ben will talk with the superintendent of one of those school districts and with a state senator who has concerns about virtual schools.

River to River
11:00 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

Bob Garfield

Media is the lens through which we see the world, and through which the world sees us.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with the man who has made it his job to observe and analyze media for public radio – Bob Garfield co-host of "On The Media."  Garfield is coming to Iowa next week as part of Iowa Public Radio’s Insight Series. Also, a look at the latest trends in television advertising with Jay Newell from Iowa State University's Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication and Alan Oldfield of Frank Magid Associates in Cedar Rapids.

River to River
11:00 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Financial Aid and the Cost of College

The President’s budget proposal, unveiled this week, includes increases in the maximum award offered to Pell Grant recipients.  Thos grants are used by many students to pay for college.  But a deal struck at the end of last year, limits eligibility for the program.  We’ll talk about a new study that examines how Pell Grants impact enrollment, especially at Community Colleges.  Then, we go inside the State Dinner and other events hosted for Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.

River to River
11:00 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Politics Day

Chinese Vice President, Xi Jinping, the man who is expected to become the next leader of China, is in the United States this week.  Included on his visit, is a trip to Muscatine, Iowa, a place he visited in 1985. Xi will also visit Des Moines for an official state dinner.  Join host Ben Kieffer as we take a look at what Xi’s visit means as the Obama administration seeks to shift the emphasis of U.S. strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

National Foreclosure Settlement and Wage Theft

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller.  Miller led the recent national foreclosure settlement with major banks on behalf of state attorneys general.  Later, Kim Bobo, author of “Wage Theft: Why Millions of Working Americans are Not Getting Paid and What We Can Do about It” joins Ben in advance of her visit to the University of Iowa.

River to River
11:00 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland & Congressman Tom Latham

Host Ben Kieffer speaks with University of Northern Iowa seniors Ian Goldsmith and Scott Connerley about leading thousands of people, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, yesterday in the "Interlude Dance" they created.

The Des Moines Register has the video from yesterday.

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River to River
11:00 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

Spencer Wells and Lawrence Goldstone

National Geographic explorer-in-residence Spencer Wells has been leading expeditions all over the world to collect DNA samples from different human indigenous populations.  Join host Ben Kieffer as he talks with Wells about how his Genographic Project hopes to use that DNA to map how humankind populated the planet and find out how your DNA can become part of the project.  Also, author Lawrence Goldstone on his book “Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865 to 1903.”

River to River
11:00 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Politics Day

Join host Ben Kieffer as we talking about the U.S. closing its embassy in Syria this week amid growing violence there. What can or should the U.S. do?  Also, new U.S. sanctions are imposed on Iran as tensions rise between that country and Israel.  And, will GOP caucus results in Minnesota and Colorado show Mitt Romney remaining at the front of the pack?  Ben’s guests are political scientists Jim McCormick of Iowa State University and Bruce Gronbeck of the University of Iowa.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Hazing in Iowa

The ritual of hazing is nothing new - the act of using harassment, abuse or humiliation as a way of initiating a person into a group. There have been three separate incidents across the state recently involving alleged hazing incidents within high school wrestling programs. Ben talks with University of Northern Iowa Associate Professor Jennifer Waldron about her research looking at the culture of hazing. We'll also hear from an eastern Iowa high school student who has led an anti-bullying initiative at College Community Schools.

River to River
1:00 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

Being Gay in Iowa

All this week we've been hearing what it's like to come out to family and friends, or deal with bullying as part of "Being Gay in Iowa." Host Ben Kieffer talks with four Iowans who share their experiences with these issues and more... from running for political office as an openly gay candidate, to being put in the spotlight as part of the battle over same sex marriage.  Guests include Nate Monson, Executive Director of Iowa Safe Schools; Sharon Malheiro, Chair of One Iowa; Kate Varnum, plaintiff in Varnum v.

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River to River
11:00 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Food Wasted

According to the EPA, more than 34 million tons of food waste ends up in landfills each year. Iowa generated nearly 3 million tons in 2010, but some Iowans are working to keep waste out of Iowa's landfills. Bakery goods that don’t get eaten or go bad, food scraps and bi-products of the food preparation process can all be recycled. In Anamosa, Endres Processing turns this waste into feed for Iowa’s livestock. We’ll hear from Brad Edwards, a manager at the plant about what goes on there and how he feeds his own cattle the processed waste in addition to traditional feed.

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River to River
11:00 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Politics Day

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn has announced he will step down. The move comes after a so-called “virtual tie” was announced as the official result of this year’s Iowa Caucuses. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Dennis Goldford of Drake University and Tim Hagle of University of Iowa about the continued fallout from an Iowa presidential contest that was too close to call.  They also analyze results of the Florida primary and prospects for a protracted fight over the Republican nomination.

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Accordion Families

In sociologist Katherine Newman's new book, The Accordion Family, she argues that globalization and weak economies have caused households to expand and incorporate grandparents, parents and children under one roof. Ben Kieffer speaks with Newman about the challenges of loved ones living together to make ends meet. We'll also hear from an Ames family whose two adult daughters have moved back home in an effort to save money.

River to River
11:00 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Heroin in Iowa

Deaths from heroin overdoses have spiked in Iowa in recent months and the Drug Enforcement Agency reports a cheaper, more potent version of the drug is in the state. We'll examine the drug's prevalence with Dale Woolery of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy and Kelly Reitzler of the Area Substance Abuse Council in Cedar Rapids.

River to River
11:00 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Regulating Lawsuit Investments

Investments call to mind stocks, bonds and real estate, but what about investing in lawsuits and picking a winner in the courtroom? We examine the growing trend of litigation financing with University of Iowa Law Professor Maya Steinitz. She sees it as a way of leveling the playing field between the haves and the have not's on the legal landscape.   

River to River
11:00 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Politics Day: State of the Union

President Obama is coming to Iowa right after he delivers his third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. It's part of a swing through the country to promote his agenda. Host Ben Kieffer talks about the speech, the President's stop in Cedar Rapids and what he needs to do to convince voters he deserves a second term.  Guests are Donna Hoffman, University of Northern Iowa and Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College. What message would you like to send the President about the State of the Union?

River to River
11:00 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

STEM Advisory Leaders

Movers and shakers in Iowa's business and education fields gather in Des Moines this week for Governor Branstad's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Advisory Council Meeting. STEM education brings new and innovative science and technology learning into the classroom. Ben talks with Jeff Weld, Director of the Iowa Math, Science and Education Partnership and Cindy Dietz of Rockwell Collins. Later, a conversation with organizations taking the lead in STEM initiatives.

River to River
11:00 pm
Sun January 22, 2012

Nuclear Energy Expansion in Iowa

A controversial bill to clear the way for a new nuclear power plant passed the Iowa House last year and might be considered in the Iowa Senate. Join host Joyce Russell as she talks with the President of Mid-American Energy, key state lawmakers, and representatives of interest groups who oppose the bill.

River to River
11:00 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Chief Justice Mark Cady and Congressman Steve King

Last week, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court addressed the legislature. He cited budget constraints and requested $10 million in new funding.  Join host Ben Kieffer as he talks with Chief Justice Mark Cady.  Later in the hour, Ben talks with Iowa’s fifth district Congressman Steve King.

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