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

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Airbnb, a marketplace for people to list and rent vacation homes and rooms to stay, was founded in 2008 in San Francisco. Today, there are more than a million listings in more than 30,000 cities around the country. As the service grows in popularity in the state, cities in Iowa including Clear Lake, West Des Moines, Fairfield and Coralville are looking to regulate its use.

"There is a great demand for this type of service. It was founded as a means to accommodate people during large business conventions," explains Art Durnev, a professor of finance at the University of Iowa. 

John Finn / Flickr

Recent research funded by a grant from National Institute of Mental Health at the University of Houston reveals children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders later in life. To pinpoint these cognitive, behavioral and physiological patterns of emotional risk, the researchers are temporarily restricting sleep in 50 pre-adolescent children between the ages of 7 and 11.

Ludovic Lubeigt / Flickr

Shenaz Patel is from Mauritius, an island country off the coast of the African mainland. Many Americans probably couldn’t place the country on a map; some might not even know its name.

“People often ask me, ‘Where is Mauritius?’ and I feel like I should be walking with a map in my pocket to point out to them,” Patel laughs.

The island played a role in the War for Independence as a harbor for French ships to dock at before coming to America, and it plays an essential role in U.S. foreign policy now.

A former Ambassador to Tanzania under President George W. Bush and current President of the non-partisan, not for profit International Republican Institute says America's role in the world should be one of engagement.

Ambassador Mark Green was in Iowa this week to speak to the Des Moines Committee on Foreign Relations. He told host Ben Kieffer on River to River that America needs to stand with its allies and help them achieve their goals, stabilize the world, and address conditions like destitution and absolute poverty that can be exploited by extremists.

Michael Luick-Thrams

An Iowa historian, running as an independent in the race for U.S. Senate, says he sees opportunity for someone outside the two-party system in this election cycle. He says every 30 years or so cultures open up, look around, and assess what's going well and what needs to be changed. Michael Luick-Thrams says now is that moment.

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Congress returned to the U.S. capitol this week, but prospects for getting much done before the election are dim. In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Drake Political Science Professor and Chair at Drake University and Flansburg Fellow at the Harkin Institute, Dennis Goldford and Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa, Tim Hagle. In addition to unlikely congressional action, they also discuss the future of Fox News, given the departure of Roger Ailes as well as the latest developments in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Thirty opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline were arrested Wednesday and charged with trespassing for blocking construction vehicles from entering a construction site in Boone County.

La Homa Simmonds of Boone was one of the protestors arrested.

“It was really kind of surreal,” she says. “You’re looking out, and you’re seeing Dakota access workers standing there. You see the state patrol. You’re seeing the fields that are being torn up not even three miles away.”

Freepik

As with most issues, republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton see the U.S. role in the world very differently. In this edition of River to River, Host Ben Kieffer talks with Jim McCormick, Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College about the foreign policy challenges likely facing the next President of the United States.

BuzzFarmers / Flickr

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced an initiative to end veteran homelessness.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with IowaWatch.org reporter Thomas Nelson about his latest reporting on homelessness within Iowa's veteran population; Mark Brown, an outreach veterans advocate for Willis Dady Prevention and Shelter; and an Iowa veteran who used to be homeless.

Photo Courtesy of Decorah Newspapers

Flood waters in Northeast Iowa have inundated homes, and for many of those families, they'll be forced to rebuild without the benefits of flood insurance. Josh McGrath and his family were asleep in Freeport, Iowa on Wednesday when flood waters came crashing into their basement. He and his wife Miranda escaped with their three children through waist deep water outside their home to get to safety while their basement filled with water.

Hail Merry / Flickr

This week, controversy swirled around allegations that special access was given to Clinton Foundation donors when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. 

Donna Hoffman, department head and associate professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, explains the emails show communication between the aides of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton as Secretary.

"There's no evidence that, 'Hey, I've given a donation so I must therefore be able to meet with Secretary Clinton,' but that's kind of the implication here, that there's the appearance of corruption."

John Pemble

On this special edition of River to River, presented in conjunction with The Gazette, Ben Kieffer and co-host Jennifer Hemmingsen discuss the latest news from the campaign trail with panelists: Gazette political & investigative reporter James Lynch, along with Gazette columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman.

Daniel R. Blume / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Objectivity, fairness and balance are values that have long guided journalism. But in our rapidly changing media environment, where affirmation is only a click away, do readers, listeners and viewers really want news that adheres to those values? The leaders of three Iowa journalism schools say they do.

Schools across Iowa are beginning classes this week amid concerns from public health officials about the drop in vaccination rates. At many schools, the percentage of students fully vaccinated is below 90 percent, and at a few around the state, it's below 50 percent. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says more families are seeking exemptions from vaccinations for a variety of reasons. 

"One of the reasons is that people no longer have seen these diseases and therefore don't realize how bad they can be," she explains. 

Photo by John Pemble

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld is beginning his first full school year at the helm in Iowa City. The former business executive took over the job in November of last year amid protests from some faculty and students over his lack of academic background. He says he hopes all that is behind him heading into this school year. 

"From my perspective, we're now hard at work on the real issues of moving the university forward. It feels like we're a lot calmer and much more focused in a lot of ways," he says. 

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Donald Trump doesn't have time to read. As he puts it, that's always been the case.

“I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

But that doesn't stop presidential historian and retired director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Tim Walch from having some book recommendations for him and for his opponent Hillary Clinton. He puts a lot of presidential biographies from the days of our founding fathers on that list.

Airing originally in December of 2014, this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" features Celtic-Soul group Switchback. 

Tune in below to hear the group showcase their uniquely Midwestern sound and learn about their creative process.

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," originally aired in December of 2015, host Ben Kieffer chats with Greg Klyma. 

Listen in below for songs that will make you laugh and sing.

Zebby Wahls

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Zach and Zebby Wahls of Iowa City about a hugely successful deck of playing cards they designed inspired by the 2016 presidential campaign.  

Sarah Boden

The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is preparing for the birth of its first baby rhinoceros. Five-and-a-half-year-old black rhino Ayana is expected to give birth in late fall.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. June Olds, the senior veterinarian overseeing the birth of the rare baby rhino, as well as Lou Keeley, the large mammal area supervisor at Blank Park Zoo.

Keeley says this pregnancy is a big deal, simply because there are not many black rhinos left in the world.

Michael Vadon (Trump) and Gage Skidmore (Clinton)

Donald Trump and his campaign are responding to accusations that the candidate encouraged "Second Amendment people" to commit violence against Hillary Clinton during a rally Tuesday. The Trump campaign says the notion that Trump was suggesting violence is "ridiculous" and that he was referring to voting instead. 

Gage Skidmore

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, David Cay Johnston, whose latest book The Making of Donald Trump culminates nearly 30 years of reporting on the media mogul and reality TV start turned presidential candidate. 

Douglas Mills

Iowa has the second worst animal protection laws of all 50 U.S. states, a point highlighted by a recent case where a groomer kicked a corgi at the Creature Comfort Veterinary Center in Iowa City, causing multiple rib fractures and bruising of the lungs. 

The groomer, 22-year-old Lucas Van Orden V, told police he kicked the dog while grooming it, and he was initially charged with animal neglect, a simple misdemeanor. Since the initial charge, Johnson County Attorney's Office prosecutors added the charge of an aggravated misdemeanor.

Wikimedia Commons

Invasive plant species are becoming pervasive in Iowa’s woodlands.  State Forester Paul Tauke says a recent survey found invasives present in 95-percent of forest inventory plots studied.  He calls it a “shocking” finding.

“When you have exotic invasive species, they expand into an area and they tend to crowd out the native species, and decrease your diversity in the system," says Tauke

TeamFlyinKoat / Flickr

Following the deadliest hot air balloon crash in U.S. history, balloons and balloon enthusiasts are braving the skies in Indianola for the National Balloon Classic this week.

“The mood here is positive,” says Captain Jeff Thompson.

“It’s been on everyone’s mind, but the best thing you can do is to be safe and continue to fly.”  

Ted Van Pelt / Flickr

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by a University of Iowa professor, may help explain the link between cleanliness and rates of asthma and allergies. Peter Thorne is a Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health. He says the study compared a group of Amish children to a group with similar genetics and lifestyles.

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Pat Giorgio anticipated some problems with the transition of state-run Medicaid to three private management companies, but she didn't quite anticipate the breadth and depth of the woes the transition would cause for Evergreen Estates, residential communities she founded to serve the elderly in Cedar Rapids.

"Because I heard that it might be a difficult transition, I got a line of credit with my bankers of $100,000. I'm billing roughly $40-50,000 a month to Home and Community Based Services, and I've used up that $100,000 in my line of credit."

Photo by Clay Masters

With less than 100 days left until Election Day, Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump has flouted political conventions around religion, race, gender, and now military service. And he's refused to endorse fellow republicans John McCain and Paul Ryan. 

ABC News has been reporting that senior Republican officials are so confused by Trump’s behavior that they are exploring how they might be able to replace him.

John Reese / Flickr

Nathan Gibson--gun owner, gun rights activist, and father of two girls active in shooting sports--and Ako Abdul-Samad--democratic legislator, gun control advocate, and father of one boy who died of gun violence--are sitting in a radio studio together. The mood in the room is not tense at all. Serious, thoughtful, committed: yes. But a far cry from tense. A better word may be congenial. Or even friendly.

Michael Leland/IPR

A Democratic state senator says he’s hopeful the Iowa Legislature will take action next year to help make the state’s roads safer for cycling.  Nine people have died while biking in the state so far this year.  The latest death occurred last week, when a cyclist was struck from behind while riding in southwest Iowa.   Senator Joe Bolkcom of Coralville says he feels distracted drivers are part of the problem, and he thinks the legislature will consider ways to address that.

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