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

“I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” So, said Robert Frost. Next time on The Exchange, we examine two less traveled paths. A prominent female paleontologist tells us how she navigates her faith and reconciles its stories of creation with her study of evolution. And we learn about a program, which seeks to encourage more young women to follow career paths into science and technology. Guests include Dr.

Politics Day

Jan 19, 2011

As the US House plans a vote on repealing the new health care law, Americans are split on the issue and President Obama's popularity is on the rise. Host Ben Kieffer talks about these stories and other political news with Dennis Goldford, Professor of Politics and Rachel Caufield Associate Professor and Research Fellow at the American Judicature Society at Drake University.

Disease in Iowa

Jan 18, 2011

Iowa is seeing a resurgence of pertussis or whooping cough. Mumps is also making a comeback. Just a few years ago, there was a measles outbreak in the state. And every year, thousands are hospitalized due to influenza. These are diseases commonly covered by immunizations. So, why the resurgence? Host Dean Borg talks with Dr. Luis Castagnini at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines and Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, state epidemiologist with Iowa Department of Public Health.

Iowa's new "Shall Issue" weapons law went into effect at the beginning of this month. Among other things, the law makes it more difficult for county sheriffs to deny permits. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Ross Loder of the Iowa Department of Public Safety about all the changes under the new law. Then, in our second half hour, we'll have two opposing views on whether it's good for Iowa. Lonny Pulkrabek, the Sheriff of Johnson County, opposes the new gun law. Sean McClanahan, President of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, supports it.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with outgoing governor Chet Culver. We'll follow-up on his condition of the state address earlier this week and about what he sees as his accomplishments over the last four years. Then, a conversation with two incoming state department leaders. We'll talk with Chuck Palmer who takes control of the Department of Human Services and Debi Durham of the Department of Economic Development.

Politics Day

Jan 12, 2011

The shootings in Arizona have focused attention on the rhetoric of our politics. Has it gotten so heated that it sparked the violence in Arizona? A new poll shows most Americans reject that argument, but it hasn’t stopped federal lawmakers from proposing legislation to turn down the heat. Host Ben Kieffer, talks about politics and rhetoric with our guests, Bruce Gronbeck from the University of Iowa and Steffen Schmidt from Iowa State University.

Practical Wisdom

Jan 11, 2011

Aristotle called it “practical wisdom…” the judgment people use in their everyday lives to do the right thing — make the right decision in a particular circumstance. Perhaps your grandmother called it “common sense.” Host Ben Kieffer talks with one of the authors of a new book that argues much of our dissatisfaction with institutions today, stems from the fact that people within the system aren’t allowed to use their practical wisdom. The guest is Kenneth Sharpe, co-author of "Practical Wisdom," and Professor of Political Science and Swarthmore College.

In the first weekly legislative show of the 2011 session from the law library at the state capitol, host Jeneane Beck talks with incoming lawmakers. Several freshmen come into office with tea party ties. How will that affect their priorities in Des Moines? She'll also speak with a former lawmaker who's returning to the statehouse about how her previous experience is shaping expecations for the new session. Then, we turn attention to the Taxpayers First Act.

Senator Tom Harkin

Jan 7, 2011

The 112th Congress convened earlier this week in Washington D.C. with a House controlled by the GOP and a slimmer Democratic majority in the Senate. This hour, host Ben Kieffer talks with U.S. Senator, Democrat Tom Harkin. Harkin is calling for an end to the way filibusters are used and a change in the way for-profit colleges do business. He's also fighting back Republican efforts to repeal the new health care law.

Teen girls are 6 to 7 times more likely to injure an ACL than boys their same age and the number of knee surgeries performed to correct an anterior cruciate ligament tear has risen sharply over the past decade. In a re-broadcast program, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Paul Pursley, a physical therapist with University of Iowa Sports Medicine about a new program that will be offered to female basketball players with hopes of teaching young girls how to avoid injuries. We also hear from a Western Iowa teen about her two ACL reconstructions before she turned 18.

Politics Day

Jan 5, 2011

Many states are facing painful austerity cuts. For this week's political discussion Host Ben Kieffer asks how Iowa’s fiscal problems compare to those in other states. Also, the House GOP has unveiled its answer to president Obama's health insurance reform. Our guests are political scientist Bruce Nesmith of Coe College and New Hampshire political analyst Arnie Arneson.

A new report compiled by researchers at Iowa's Public Universities details the effects of climate change on the state. The report is in response to a directive set forth by the Iowa Legislature to review climate change impacts and policies in Iowa. Ben Kieffer talks with Jerry Schnoor, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa, Gene Takle, Director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State University and Biology Professor Laura Jackson from the University of Northern Iowa.

The Science of Fear

Jan 3, 2011

This hour, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Daniel Tranel, a University of Iowa Professor of neurology and psychology about his new study that has pinpointed the part of the brain that causes fear. We discuss the study and the implications of identifying the source of fear in addition to speaking about how Tranel foresees this discovery affecting treatment of patients with post traumatic stress disorder. In the second half of the program, we speak with author Jeff Wise about his book, Extreme Fear: the Science of Your Brian in Danger.

A lot of news happened in Iowa this past year, from the ousting of three state Supreme Court justices to the re-election of Iowa's longest serving governor. To an Iowa native receiving the Medal of Honor to the largest troop deployment for the Iowa National Guard since World War Two. In a rebroadcast program, Ben Kieffer talks with journalists about the top 10 Iowa news stories of 2010 as determined by Iowa Public Radio's news staff. He'll be joined by IPR statehouse reporter Jeneane Beck, Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman, and Doug Burns of the Daily Times Herald in Carroll.

Politics Day

Dec 29, 2010

Iowans oust three justices from the state Supreme Court... And vote to return Iowa's longest serving governor to Terrace Hill... And oh what a year for heated debate and legislation in Washington! We'll take a look back at the year's top political stories both state and national - with our analysts Bruce Gronbeck and Tim Hagle. And a look ahead at what's to come in 2011. Join host Ben Kieffer for politics day Wednesdays at noon.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese Iowans increased in 2009. Now 25-29% of Iowans report being significantly overweight or obese. In this rebroadcast, we listen back to a conversation about the obesity epidemic as it pertains to Iowa and what is being done to combat it with programs such as Live Healthy Iowa, Iowans Fit for Life and the Iowa Sports Foundation's Go the Distance Program.

Thousands of U.S. war veterans' cremains remain unidentified and on the shelves in hundreds of funeral homes across the country. The Missing in America Project is working to change this. Over 9,000 urns of unidentfied cremains have been found and about 1,000 of them have been identified as forgotten veterans. For the first half of the hour, we speak with Fred Salanti, a retired U.S. Army major and the founder of the project about its mission and goals. We also hear from Bill Lauchlan, Iowa's coordinator for the project.

Politics Day

Dec 22, 2010

It's official... Iowa will lose a Congressional seat. And, those who led efforts to remove three Iowa Supreme Court Justices in November are moving to impeach the remaining four, and challenging in court Iowa's process for selecting justices . Fallout from the state high court's decision which cleared the way for same sex marriage in Iowa, is set against Congress' vote to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Host Jonathan Ahl discusses these and other issues with Rachel Caufield from Drake University and Chris Larimer from the University of Northern Iowa.

"The Iowa Precinct Caucuses, the Making of a Media Event," is now in its Third Edition. This latest edition adds results from 2000 (which saw the first winner of the Iowa caucuses to reach the White House since 1976), 2004 (and the roller-coaster fortunes of Howard Dean and John Kerry) and 2008 caucuses (and the unlikely emergence of Barack Obama as a presidential contender.

A lot of news happened in Iowa this past year, from the ousting of three state Supreme Court justices to the re-election of Iowa's longest serving governor. To an Iowa native receiving the Medal of Honor to the largest troop deployment for the Iowa National Guard since World War Two. Host Ben Kieffer talks with journalists about the top 10 Iowa news stories of 2010 as determined by Iowa Public Radio's news staff. He'll be joined by IPR statehouse reporter Jeneane Beck, Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman, and Doug Burns of the Daily Times Herald in Carroll.

We know that more Iowa students qualify for free and reduced lunch, making meals served at school more important than ever. The recently approved federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, should help more kids get healthy food but schools are giving students less time to eat. Is that healthy? Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa Public Radio reporter Kate Wells about her recent coverage of these issues and to Second District Congressman Dave Loebsack who is a strong advocate of the new law.

Ben Kieffer talks with Dubuque author Edward Zaccaro about his new book 'Scammed by Statistics'. The book examines the persuasive power of statistics to bolster weak arguments. Zacarro says in any field of discussion, we can be lied to, cheated and manipulated by statistics. Later, a conversation with Iowa State University's Jeff Blevins. The Associate Professor of the Greenlee School of Journalism looks at the FCC's options on regulating internet access.

Politics Day

Dec 15, 2010

Debate continues in Congress over the tax cut plan with liberals and conservatives alike unhappy with the compromise. Michael Steele is seeking a second term as Chair of the Republican National Committee, but there are other contenders for the job, including a prominent former Iowan. Host Jeneane Beck talks with Wayne Moyer from Grinnell College and Dennis Goldford from Drake University for analysis of these and other political developments.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a quarter of people between the ages 75 and 85 are still having sex. With a large portion of this age bracket migrating to increasingly popular retirement communities and with some living in nursing homes, what types of issues does this create? Join host Ben Kieffer this hour as he speaks with Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Iowa Emily Wentzell for a discussion about the implications of aged sex and the potential legal problems associated with it.

Host Ben Kieffer follows up with Des Moines explorer and adventurer Charlie Wittmack. His 11 month journey is an unprecedented 10,000 mile triathlon from England to the summit of Mount Everest. Recently, Wittmack rode his bicycle over a more than 12,000 foot mountain range on the border between Kyrgyzstan and China. We'll also talk about his efforts to reduce maternal mortality in Nepal along with Dr. Yogi Shah of Des Moines University.

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.

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.

Politics Day

Dec 8, 2010

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.

Bed bugs

Dec 7, 2010

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.

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.