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

Daniel Foster

Not only are the days getting colder, but they are also getting darker. Today on River To River, host Ben Kieffer talks with sleep doctor, Dr. Eric Dyken, about the effect of darker nights on your sleeping habits. They also discuss the correlation between sleep and dementia, a new study that shows the brain clears our harmful toxins while you sleep, and how sleep plays a role in diabetes risk.

Dr. Dyken is the Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

On this News Buzz version of River to River, host Ben Kieffer cycles through stories about Iowa's relationship with China, an Arizona company's apparent phone scam targeting Iowans, an investigation into traffic stops, a harvest summary, the nutritional benefits of eating soup, and a new film about Iowa's 2012 caucuses.

infocux Technologies

We are living at a time when a simple Tweet or online posting can make you a celebrity overnight. Or, change your life for the worse, as when a University of Iowa teaching assistant accidentally emailed her students her own nude photos, instead of a classroom assignment.

This is also a time when private companies like Google and Facebook know more about a U.S. citizen than their own government. Today on River To River - a discussion of privacy-related news. We touch on everything from Google Glass to the international response to NSA surveillance methods.

Politics Day

Oct 23, 2013
Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

President Obama has vowed to fix the Affordable Care Act's online insurance exchanges after an embarrassing launch, but what of the pending political fallout?

Also, will U.S. Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) have a challenger within the Republican Party for his seat next November and what are U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) prospects for a 2016 presidential run?

Ben Stanton/Iowa Public Radio

Join host Ben Kieffer to examine the technical issues surrounding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and answer questions about the law itself, including its requirements and the process of enrolling in the health insurance exchanges online.

Daniel Huber/NASA's Ames Research Center

Today on River To River, host Ben Kieffer checks in with an astronomer here in Iowa, who has found something new while observing a solar system about 3,000 light years from Earth… A discovery that gives us insight on how alien solar systems are structured.

And, we look into the discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old human skull in Europe that has ignited debate on the origins of distinct species of ancient human relatives.

The partial government shutdown the country just came out of is often compared to the face-off nearly 20 years ago between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. This News Buzz edition of River to River looks at the aftermath of the latest clash, compares it to what happened in the 90’s, and examines how Iowa and national politics have changed since then.  

We also hear about the World Food Prize ceremony this week and the protests associated with it.  And, a unit with the Iowa National Guard had a homecoming this week. Plus, Willie the pig has been captured.

Who Was Jesus?

Oct 17, 2013
Adam Groffman

Reza Aslan's latest book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" challenges long held assumptions of the historical figure.   Host Ben Kieffer speaks to Aslan about the historical Jesus as well as Aslan's own faith journey.

Mark Notari

Join host Ben Kieffer for this discussion and examination of funeral trends and new rules related to funerals and services in Iowa.  Hear from funeral directors about how their job is performed, and get a glimpse of how a person might go about skipping the funeral director to care for deceased loved-ones on their own.

John Pemble / IPR

The 2013 World Food Prize is honoring Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton, and Robert T. Fraley, three scientists whose individual discoveries led to the creation of genetically modified crops. 

NASA's Juno spacecraft passed within about 350 miles of Earth's surface this week, before slingshotting off into space on a historic exploration of Jupiter.

On this news buzz version of River to River, hear from a University of Iowa research engineer about Juno, and from the president of the University of Iowa Amateur Radio Club about why they waved to Juno electronically, as it whizzed by.

That, and many other items in our news worth buzzing about.

Euan Slorach

When Henrietta Lacks died in 1951, her family had no idea that her cells would live on indefinitely…multiplying to the extent that laid together, they could wrap around the Earth at least 3 times. Today on River To River - the immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Lacks’ grandson about Henrietta's legacy. Her grandson, David Lacks Jr., will speak tonight in Iowa City as part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

John Sonderman

Representative Steve King of Iowa’s 4th Congressional district has come to the fore in the current debate over the Affordable Care Act and the partial government shutdown.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University,  Steffen Schmidt, and the Joan and Abbott Lipsky Professor of Political Science at Coe College, Bruce Nesmith about Congressman King and how far he and other Republican representatives are willing to go in pursuit of the end of Obamacare.

martin/ x1klima / Flickr
Alaina Abplanalp Photography / flickr

In the wake of recent violence, including the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting, some look to gun control as a solution and some point to an increased focus on mental health care. Today host Ben Kieffer and guests examine the link (or lack thereof) between violence and mental illness, and they talk about the stigma surrounding the mentally ill.

In the second half of the program, they discuss the Iowa Mental Health and Disability Redesign signed into law back in 2011. And, they check in to see the impact of the transition so far and its effect looking towards the future.

In this "News Buzz" show, hear about a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the resignation of Senator Kent Sorenson, a passionate response to a football official's decision, and Iowa’s first Globally Important Bird Area.

forwardstl / Flickr

In the 1990s crack cocaine was Iowa's major scourge when it came to illicit drugs. Today methamphetamine poses the most issues for communities and law enforcement though Eastern Iowa has also seen a uptick in heroin use.  Host Ben Kieffer looks at how these legal substances are trafficked into Iowa and from where the drugs originate.

Early Tuesday morning, without a Congressional agreement on spending, part of the federal government shut down. Today on River to River, we talk about the political implications. Who do you blame? How does a partial government shutdown impact the faith you have in the U.S. government's ability to do its work?

Host Ben Kieffer sits down with political analysts Tim Hagle (University of Iowa) and Wayne Moyer (Grinnell College), and they answer your questions and concerns.

CALI / flickr

Today is the opening of the Affordable Care Act's "Health Exchange Marketplace," but many Iowans are still confused about their options. Today on River To River, we clear up misconceptions and answer the questions  Iowans have while venturing into a new health care landscape.

Iowa State University

Iowa State University's President Steven Leath joins the program to talk about how the possible federal government shutdown could affect public universities, and Leath answers your questions.  In the second half of the show: the Republican Party is conflicted over who should be their next presidential nominee.  Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin takes us back to another fight over the nomination that happened 100 years ago. 

Iowans In War

Sep 27, 2013
Christopher Ebdon / flickr

From the notable case of the Sullivan brothers in World War II, to the lesser known but significant involvement in the Civil War, Iowans have a long history of fighting for their country. Today on River To River, we close “Iowa Week” with an account of Iowa’s military history, from the Civil War, to current-day conflicts.

One day in 1968, the day after the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, Jane Elliott, a teacher in the small town of Riceville, divided her third-grade class into blue-eyed and brown-eyed groups…and gave them a lesson in discrimination. 

Gerry Chamberlin

In 1965, 13-year-old Mary Beth Tinker arrived at her Des Moines junior high wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War.  Little did she know that this simple act would lead to a historic and controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Iowa Medicine

Sep 25, 2013
Colin Burnett

Nearly 200-thousand babies each year are born with congenital clubfoot. On this River to River, Iowa Week continues with a look at pioneering work in medicine.  Hear about the Iowa-based Ponseti International Association which treats clubfoot.  Dr. Herman Hein will tell us about Iowa's Statewide Perinatal Program, which has helped mothers and newborn babies receive needed medical care, and the remarkable story of how the University of Iowa's College of Medicine was funded almost one hundred years ago.

Iowa Inventors

Sep 23, 2013
Ray Krebs / flickr

We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s the best thing since sliced bread,” but did you know the inventor of sliced bread is from Iowa? Today on River To River, we hear about the lives of some Iowa inventors that made an impact on their state, country, and even the world.

The Iowa inventors we cover on the show include:

Jimmy Emerson / jimmywayne / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer gets the latest on news from around Iowa.  MidAmerican Energy gives an update on the power outage which left almost 40,000 Des Moines-area residents in the dark. IPR's Joyce Russell discusses changes to the problematic Toledo Juvenile Home.  The DNR has a new report which looks at drought conditions in Iowa.  Also, Dubuque native Brooks Wheelan joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

Ars Electronica / flickr

Do you ever wonder why, at a loud party, you are able to comprehend what the person next to you is saying? It’s not because they are louder… It’s due to your brain’s ability to filter and hone in on certain stimuli.

Today on River To River, we focus on the science of the brain with three prominent neuroscientists visiting Iowa. Host Ben Kieffer talks with them about their research on the sense of sound and gets their thoughts on the latest brain-science news.

Canada 2010 / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer discusses the possible fiscal showdown on the debt ceiling with Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern University and Dennis Goldford of Drake University.

Also, a worrying new report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and what to make of Larry Summers withdrawing from consideration to chair the Federal Reserve.

NASA Blueshift / flickr

It’s taken more than three decades for NASA’s Voyager 1 to travel about 11 billion miles to reach the outskirts of our solar system and continue on into interstellar space. Today on River to River, we hear from research scientist, Bill Kurth, about his work on some of the spacecraft’s equipment that was built and operated by the University of Iowa.

Mojave Desert / flickr

For this News Buzz version of 'River to River' we hear about legally blind Iowans and gun permits, astronaut Clayton Anderson will join the Iowa State University faculty, the Cyclone/Hawkeye game is tomorrow, and hear about superstitions on this Friday the thirteenth.

Pages