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
Tue March 30, 2010

Former skinhead gang leader

Host Ben Kieffer talks with former skinhead gang leader Frank Meeink about his descent into America's Nazi underground and his ultimate triumph over hatred and addiction. Meeink, now living in Des Moines, is the author of "Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead".

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

Wrap on 2010 Legislative Session

Host Jeneane Beck talks Iowa Department of Human Services Director Charlie Krogmeier. Plus a conversation with reporters about legislation passed during the 2010 session.

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

Seven Wheelchairs

In an interview from October of 2008, host Ben Kieffer talks with Gary Pressley. In 1959, Pressely received a booster shot to prevent polio. But instead of enhancing his immunity, it prodcued major paralysis. Pressley discusses his memoir "Seven Wheelchairs- A Life Beyond Polio".

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu March 25, 2010

Maquoketa Portraits & National Parks Series

A conversation from last November with Maquoketa native Rose Frantzen. Frantzen set up a storefront on main street last summer and painted portraits of all the residents willing to participate. The project was one of three featured in the Smithsonian's portrait gallery as part of an exhibition examining "community." Later in the hour we listen back to an interview with Dayton Duncan. The Indianola native co-produced "The National Parks" series with Ken Burns for PBS.

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

Cyber Bullying

Ben Kieffer talks with Tina Meier, the mother of a cyber bullying victim that ended in the teenager's suicide. Meier will deliver the keynote address at the Des Moines Area Community College Electronic Crime Seminar fcusing on cyber bullying. Later in the hour, Iowa State University Asscoaite Professor Warren Blumenfeld discusses his research studying cyberbullying.

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

National Public Radio Ombudsman

National Public Radio’s Ombudsman Alicia Shepard joins host Ben Kieffer in a program that aired last November. Part of Shepard’s job is to respond to queries, comments and criticisms regarding NPR programming. Also, Iowa Public Radio News Director Jonathan Ahl will join us to address journalistic issues faced at the state level.

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

Health of Iowa Schools

Iowa school districts are in the middle of tough contract negotiations with teachers. Funding from the state has declined and some districts are turning to property taxes or cash reserve accounts to make up the difference. Meanwhile the Iowa Association of School Boards embroiled in scandal. Host Jeneane Beck looks at the fiscal health of our schools with school administrators and the head of the Iowa Association of School Boards.

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

Backyard Chickens

In an archived program from last November, we discuss the movement in several Iowa communities to allow town residents to keep backyard chickens. Among the guests- the President of McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, the largest rare-breed poultry hatchery in the world. And a representative of CLUCK-Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens in Cedar Rapids.

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

The 2010 Census

The once-a-decade population count is underway and census forms are arriving in millions of mailboxes across the country. Host Alex Heuer looks at the challenges and benefits to participation and examines demographic trends and how the census could affect Iowa's congressional representation.

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

Moms Off Meth

In a show that first aired in October of last year, we hear from members of the unique substance abuse help group Moms Off Meth. The first Moms Off Meth group started in Ottumwa over ten years ago after numerous mothers had their children taken away do to their addictions. Now ten years later, several Moms Off Meth groups are assisting mothers across the state.

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

Biodiesel in Iowa

Backers say Iowa is losing its position as a top biodiesel state. In January, a plant in Keokuk was put on the auction block. The U.S. Senate has voted to revive a biodiesel tax credit through 2010, but the Iowa legislature has rejected efforts to require diesel be blended with biodiesel. Host Jonathan Ahl talks with backers and opponents of government efforts to boost biodiesel sales.

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

Job Creation in Iowa

With more than 100,000 Iowans out of work and just two weeks left in the legislative session, minority Republicans are ramping up criticism of Democrats for failing to introduce a job creation bill. But as the majority party scrambles to find consensus on the measure, a state labor analyst says the employment picture is improving. Host Jeneane Beck discusses the job outlook with state lawmakers.

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

Tea Party

In a program broadcast live from the Java House in downtown Iowa City, we look at the emergence of the Tea Party as a grass roots political organization. We'll talk with Iowa Tea Party organizers and get their take on the influence they have in the political process and the conservative movement.

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

America's New Farmers & Cover Crop Debate

What obstacles do new farmers face? The challenge of access to land, the availability of finance and credit, creating new markets and implementing the 2008 Farm Bill are a just a few of the topics we'll explore with Neil Hamilton and Matt Russell from Drake Law School's Agriculture Law Center. Drake recently hosted a forum in Washington D.C. examining challenges for farmers. Later we examine the use of cover crops and their benefit to land sustainability.

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

Gambling in Iowa

A new state report shows revenues from Iowa's gambling casino industry dropped considerably in 2009. The report comes as Governor Culver urges the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission to approve new casino license requests. We'll talk with community leaders seeking gambling operations and examine the economic development aspect of casinos in Iowa.

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

Human Rights

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Jane Olson, Chair of the International Board of Human Rights Watch about the "survivorship stories" she has witnessed in 30 years of travel to war zones in Nicuragua, the former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.

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

Recreation issues

Lawmakers have been debating the soundness of having a state run destination park (Honey Creek Resort State Park,) and new safeguards for bicyclists. Host Jeneane Beck talks with lawmakers involved in the discussions, including State Representative Clel Baudler and State Senator Matt McCoy. Join in the conversation to share your experiences as a cyclist on Iowa roadways, or as a vacationer at Honey Creek.

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

Immigration Experiences

New York Times bestselling author, award-winning journalist and well-respected commentator Steven V. Roberts has always been fascinated by his grandparents’ migration to America from the Old World nearly one hundred years ago, and he traced their story in his stirring memoir 'My Fathers’ Houses'. In his latest book, 'From Every End of this Earth: 13 Families and the New Lives They Made in America', he explores the contemporary immigrant experience. Roberts will discuss his latest work during a stop at the Des Moines Central Library.

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

Violence in Culture

A conversation with award-winning author David Schmid who travels to Grinnell this week for a conference examining violence in American culture. Schmid is the author of "Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture," and has published on a variety of subjects, including celebrity, Dracula and crime fiction. Later in the hour, Iowa State University Psychology Professor Craig Anderson talks about new research analyzing exposure to violent video games.

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

Hospitals Impact on Iowa Economy

A new report from the Iowa Hospital Association finds the state's community hospitals generate nearly 148,000 jobs that add more than $6.1 billion to the economy. According to the report, Iowa hospital employees by themselves spend nearly $2 billion on retail sales and contribute more than $117 million in state sales tax revenue. We’ll look into the economics and the debate over hospitals’ role in the cost of care and their role in health care reform.

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

Kevin Connolly

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Kevin Connolly about his memoir "Doubletake," and his Rolling Exhibition. Connolly, who was born without legs, has photographically documented the reactions of people all over the world to his disability.

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

Campaign Finance

The Iowa Legislature is considering new restrictions on Corporations that wade into political advertising. That’s after the U.S. Supreme court lifted the ban on corporate contributions in January. Jeneane Beck talks with Charlie Smithson, Exec. Dir. of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board about the integrity of the system. Then, the Chairs of Iowa's democratic and republican parties discuss the upcoming races for Governor and U.S. Senate.

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

Academic Acceleration

Only eight states currently have a policy that specifically permits academic acceleration defined as the practice of advancing students in subjects at a rate that matches their potential and places them ahead of where they would normally be in school. Iowa is not one of those eight states. Why not? Iowa is among the other states who leave it up to the school districts to develop the practice of acceleration.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu February 25, 2010

Missing College Students

We examine recent cases where college students went missing one at Iowa State University and one at the University of Iowa, and the questions these cases raise about how reports of missing students are handled. Among the guests- the Dean of Students at the UI and ISU, and the director of theJED Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the mental health of college students across the country.

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

Spring Flood Forecast

Above-normal snowfall and below-normal temperatures have increased the risk for flooding in the state this year. We'll talk about potential flooding with Jeff Zogg, hydrologist with the National Weather Service. We'll also discuss the popularity of rain barrels and the small things Iowa residents can do to curb the effects of flooding.

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

Autism and the Concept of Neurodiversity

How can a neurological disability be thought of as a difference akin to race, ethnicity or sexual orientation? Do we really have an adequate understanding of autism, specially "classical" or "severe" autism? To what extent have non-autistic researchers misinterpreted what they have observed? Among the guests- Grinnell College English Professor Ralph Savarese, the author of "Reasonable People: A Memoir of Autism and Adoption".

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

Driving restrictions

The Iowa legislature is poised to approve several driving-related bills, including a ban on texting while driving and a revamped graduated drivers' license system. On our weekly legislative show, Jeneane Beck talks with lawmakers about prospects for passage and health care professionals about why they're pushing for more restrictions.

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

Antidepressants

A new report indicating antidepressants are little more than placebos is adding to a long-brewing controversy over the drugs’ effectiveness. The safety of antidepressants rest on solid scientific evidence, but are we learning more about their ability to treat mental illness? Among the guests- University of Iowa Psychiatrist Dr. Robert Robinson and Psychologist Don Damsteegt.

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

A Different Type of Justice for Iowa's Prisoners: Restorative Justice and Rehabilitation

Imagine coming face to face with someone who burglarized your home, or even someone who killed a family member Could you do it, and if so, what would you say? We talk about restorative justice how it’s being used in Polk County and throughout the state. Later, a conversation focusing on rehabilitation how volunteers are creating writer’s workshops and choirs in prison.

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

Auto Recalls

Auto recalls continue at a critical time in the automobile industry. What do Toyota recalls mean for Iowa car dealers and the U.S. automotive industry? What can other car manufacturers learn from Toyota's troubles? Ben Kieffer talks with Ken Chester of the Motor News Media and Barrett Thomas of the University of Iowa's Tippe College of Business.

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