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
1:00 pm
Fri December 10, 2010

Measuring Happiness in the Midwest & Throughout the World

Who are the world's happiest people and what is their secret to happiness? Host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times bestselling author Dan Buettner about his findings from a five-year global study on the keys to personal happiness. The National Geographic Society recently sent Buettner to a handful of places around the world where people experience the highest levels of satisfaction and well-being. In his new book, "Thrive," Buettner reports on his findings. He'll also tell us how to incorporate these characteristics into our daily lives.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu December 9, 2010

Exercise Later in Life & Centenarians

Maintaining fitness later in life can be challenging with decreased mobility and access to health clubs. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Warren Franke of Iowa State University's Exercise Clinic about exercising later in life and about a new study concerning centenarians. We'll also talk with Jack Nothnagel, an 84 year old man from Iowa City who goes to the gym three times a week to maintain a healthy level of fitness. Finally, we'll have a conversation with Mildred Pierce, a centenarian living in Cedar Falls.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed December 8, 2010

Politics Day

What do you think of the tentative deal to extend all of the Bush tax cuts for two years? Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa State University Political Science Professor Steffen Schmidt and Chair of Political Science at Coe College, Bruce Nesmith. We'll get analysis of why this particular compromise was reached, how the sluggish economy fits into the picture, and what it indicates about how President Obama will deal with the shift toward the GOP in Congress.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue December 7, 2010

Bed bugs

With reports of bed bug infestations in places like Ohio, New York City and Alaska, and the holiday travel season upon us, where does the pest stand in Iowa? Host Ben Kieffer talks with entomologist Ken Holscher, Kevin Wickam from the Iowa Department of Public Health and Steven Mandernach from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon December 6, 2010

The Science of Happiness

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa State University Professor Daniel Russell. Working in the Human Development and Family Studies Department, Russell has developed a scale that measures loneliness. His research finds millions of older Americans suffer from chronic loneliness. Plus, Iowa State University Assistant Professor of Human Development and Family Studies Jennifer Margrett discusses the ISU gerontology program and identifiers in predicting happiness and long life among the elderly.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

HIV/AIDS in Iowa in Conjunction with World AIDS Day

About 2,200 Iowans are estimated to be living with HIV or AIDS. Host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about this week's efforts to raise awareness about the disease in conjunction with World AIDS Day. We'll talk with someone about his experiences of living with the disease, prevention efforts throughout the state, and about a recent study which shows taking anti-retroviral medication can reduce the chance of contracting HIV.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

A New Look at Iowa's First-in-the-Nation Caucuses

What role do the Iowa caucuses really play in nominating candidates for President? Host Ben Kieffer talks with Caroline Tolbert, University of Iowa political science professor, and David Redlawsk, a political science professor at Rutgers University and former professor at the University of Iowa. They are co-authors of a new book, "Why Iowa? How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process." Later in the show, we'll talk about polling in Iowa and how it relates to the caucuses. We'll be joined by J. Ann Selzer of Selzer & Company in Des Moines.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed December 1, 2010

Politics Day

Host Ben Kieffer talks with New Hampshire political analyst Arnie Arnesen and UNI Assistant Professor of Political Science Chris Larimer about WikiLeaks the Culver to Branstad transition and negotiations over tax cuts and unemployment benefits. Join in the conversation with your political observations.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue November 30, 2010

A Freelance Workforce

Freelancers and independent contractors now account for 30-percent of the U.S. workforce. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowans who were forced to reinvent themselves in the wake of a down economy and develop their own businesses. Among the guests- Ruth Paarmann of Cedar Rapids who lost her job as a copywriter in 2002 and started her own creative writing company. Plus, Sara Horowitz of the Freelancers Union discusses trends in the marketplace for freelancers and how to stay viable as an independent contractor.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon November 29, 2010

Previewing the Iowa Legislative Session

Host Dean Borg talks with two power brokers in the new Iowa General Assembly- Republican House Speaker-elect Kraig Paulsen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal. Major philosophical differences separate their priorities for the state, but they are pledging cooperation. Then, a conversation with David Roederer, appointed by Governor-elect Terry Branstad to head the state's management department.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri November 26, 2010

Civility/The Big Sort

Americans are self-segregating... clustering themselves into like-minded communities. That's according to Bill Bishop, the author of "The Big Sort." In re-broadcast program, we'll talk with Bishop who spoke at Drake University in September as part of the "Better Together Creating Community through Civility" speaker series. Then we talk with sponsors of the series about the state of civility in Iowa.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed November 24, 2010

Politics Day

Host Jeneane Beck recaps the week in politics with ISU Political Sience Professor Steffen Schmidt and UI Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies Bruce Gronbeck.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue November 23, 2010

Two Iowans Who Left Their Mark on Pro Football

More than ever before, referees in the National Football League face greater scrutiny for their officiating. Instant replay technology allows viewers at the stadium and those watching on television immediate verification on whether the calls on the field are correct. What's it like being on the field and having to make a split-second decision that is put under the microscope for so many to judge? We'll talk with Cedar Rapids native Bill Quinby who worked as an NFL side judge for more than two decades. Plus, a conversation with ten-year NFL player and University of Iowa graduate Tim Dwight.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon November 22, 2010

Energy Efficiency in Dubuque & throughout Iowa

The Smarter Sustainable Dubuque Project seeks to lessen that community's carbon footprint. More than 300 people in the city are participating in a water pilot study which allows them to track their near-real time water usage. Host Ben Kieffer talks with guests about these new meters, how their influencing Dubuque residents and what it means for the city. Then, we'll talk about efforts throughout the state of Iowa to conserve energy and become more sustainable.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri November 19, 2010

Caffeinated Alcoholic Beverages

Four Loko, and caffeinated alcoholic beverages like it, have been officially banned by the Food and Drug Administration. "Blackout in a can" as these drinks have been nicknamed, are commonly sold in 23.5 ounce cans with up to a 12% alcohol content and have been compared to drinking four cups of coffee in addition to four cans of beer. This hour we speak with Dr. Michael Takacs, a Clinical Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics about alcohol and caffeine's effects on the body and why these drinks can be dangerous.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu November 18, 2010

Education Hot Topics

For national education week, host Ben Kieffer looks at some of the hot topics in education. Governor-elect Terry Branstad made no secret of the fact that he does NOT support Governor Culver's state funded preschool program for Iowa's 4-year-olds. We'll talk about what quality preschool programs look like and where the gaps are in Iowa's system. Then we examine how Iowa judges teacher performance, and whether student achievement a good measure of teacher performance.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed November 17, 2010

Politics Day

Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science Tim Hagle and Drake University Professor of Politics Dennis Goldford about the lame duck congressional session and the debt commission's recommendations.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue November 16, 2010

Medal of Honor Recipient Staff Sergeant Sal Giunta

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta of Hiawatha. Today, Sal Giunta will become the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. There have only been eight recipients of the military's highest honor in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Giunta, who serves with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, exposed himself to enemy fire in October 2007, when an insurgent force ambush split his squad into two groups. Later, Ben speaks with Rabbi Jay Holstein, the J.J.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon November 15, 2010

Congress returns to Washington & The War in Afghanistan

Lawmakers return to Washington with an agenda crowded with spending and tax issues. We'll talk with 5th district Congressman Steve King and get his take on the GOP taking control of the house and what it mans for a number of legislative priorities. Later, a conversation with former Marine Corps captain Matthew Hoh. In 2009 Hoh resigned his State Department position over U.S. policy in Afghanistan and became an outspoken critic of the conflict. Hoh wiill discuss his position during a stop this week in Iowa City.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri November 12, 2010

The Intersection of Religion and Science

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Hector Avalos, a former child evangelist preacher and now a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Iowa State University. Avalos will discuss his journey from preacher to now heading up the Atheist and Agnostic Society in Ames. Later in the hour, Ben talks with New York Times bestselling author Sam Harris. In his first book, "The End of Faith", Harris ignited debate about the validity of religion. His new book, "The Moral Landscape", sets out to tear down the wall between scientific facts and human values.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu November 11, 2010

Veterans returning to school

Many veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are taking advantage of the G-I Bill to go to college. But, veteran graduation rates at the University of Iowa are 15-percent lower than rates for non-veterans. Thursday on The Exchange Host Ben Kieffer talks with the developers of a new class aimed at helping veterans stay in school. "Life After War," builds on the camaraderie and teamwork learned in the military to help student veterans overcome P-T-S-D, traumatic brain injury and other barriers to graduation. Guests include Tamara Woods, UI doctoral student, Dr.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed November 10, 2010

Politics Day

Everyone is focused on what the 2010 midterm election results mean. Wednesday on The Exchange, host Ben Kieffer gets interpretations from New Hampshire political analyst Arnie Arnesen and Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Northern Iowa, Chris Larimer. Join in the conversation to share your take-away from last week's elections. What do they mean for you?

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue November 9, 2010

Branding Iowa

Re-broadcast: Over the years, the following slogans have welcomed people to Iowa, "Fields of Opportunities," "A Place to Grow," "A State of Minds," and the "Tall Corn State." We'll talk about the perceptions of Iowa both internally and externally and how to market and brand the state. We'll also examine an effort to re-brand the "technology corridor" in eastern Iowa.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon November 8, 2010

An International View of Iowa and Elections

Host Ben Kieffer talks with established writers from around the world tell about how they experienced the U.S. elections, and how our political process differs from theirs. The writers from Argentina, Egypt and Kenya ... along with more than 30 other foreign writers have spent the last ten weeks in residency as part of the University of Iowa's International Writing Program.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri November 5, 2010

Rare Earths and China

Rare Earth metals like neodymium are used in devices you use every day, like ear buds, computers and flat screen TV's. It's also a critical component in hybrid engines and wind turbines. The element is not rare, as the name implies, but the bulk of the world supply about 90-percent - is currently mined in China. Host Ben Kieffer talks with two scientists at the Ames Lab about research and development related to rare earths and why federal officials are holding hearings and closely monitoring rare earth exports.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu November 4, 2010

Public Relations Industry and Violent Video Games

In the first half-hour host Ben Kieffer talks with writer and political activist John Stauber. Stauber's work examines propoganda by governments, private interests and the Public Relations Industry. Stauber discusses corporate contributions to political candidates during this years election. Stauber visits the University of Northern Iowa next week. Later, Iowa State University Psychology Professor Douglas Gentile examines the U.S. Supreme Court case brought by the State of California against the video game industry.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed November 3, 2010

Politics Day & Election Analysis

The day after votes have been cast and tallied we'll look at election results, what they mean, and how they impact policy issues moving forward. We'll get analysis from Dennis Goldford, Professor of Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Drake University. We'll also talk with some winners from last night about their priorities moving past the campaign, including Governor Terry Branstad.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue November 2, 2010

Election Day 2010

A look at the American political process from a unique angle; host Ben Kieffer talks with Max Lindemann of the German Social Democratic Party. Lindemann is visiting Iowa to observe the election process to compare and contrast with his native Germany. Later in the hour, a look at new voting machines in Iowa polling places to help blind and vision-imparied voters to cast their ballots. Among the guests- Rick Shannon of the State Devolopment and Disability Council and Mike Hoenig of the University of Iowa's Center for Excellence on Disabilites.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon November 1, 2010

New Amtrak Line in Eastern Iowa

By 2015, passenger rail service is expected to resume between Iowa City and Chicago for the first time since the 1970's. We'll discuss the federal government's decision to spend 230 million dollars on the project and what it means for travel.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri October 29, 2010

"Herding Donkeys" and statehouse races

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Ari Berman, contributing writer for The Nation magazine, an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute and a native Iowan about his book, "Herding Donkeys." Then, we hear about some of the more contentious Iowa legislative races. Guests include Douglas Burns with the Daily Times Herald, James Lynch with The Gazette and the Des Moines Register's Jason Clayworth.

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