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

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa African-American Hall of Fame recognizes the outstanding achievements of African-Americans who have enhanced the quality of life for all Iowans. Since its inception in 2002, 65 Iowans have been inducted into the IAAHF. This year, they inducted four.

Kesho Scott

In this boot-stompin' episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa's old-time jazz group The Dandelion Stompers stopped by The Java House in downtown Iowa City- and the toes were tapping. 

Lend an ear to the downloadable podcast below for some jazz standards steeped in New Orleans tradition.

julep67 / Flickr

Tuesday marked the first day of open enrollment for Obamacare health insurance. It comes just a week after the Department of Health and Human Services announced the prices of policies sold on the exchanges would rise an average 22 percent for 2017.  Pete Damiano, Director of the Public Policy Center and of the Health Policy Research Program at the University of Iowa, says that number may be scarier in theory than it is in reality.

Don Becker, USGS / Flickr

Climate change, while a major issue with huge ramifications, has been nearly lost in the clamor of this year's election campaigns. During all three presidential debates – a total of some four and a half hours of debating – less than six minutes was spent discussing the candidates’ policies related to climate change.

Photo courtesy of Jason Sole

Jason Sole is a former gang member and three-time convicted felon turned community educator. He now works on reducing recidivism and bringing attention to the racial and economic disparities that lead to mass incarceration.

Tony Webster / Flickr

In a Quinnipiac Poll conducted from October 20 to 26 in Iowa, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are tied with 44% of likely voters backing each candidate. That polling took place before FBI director James Comey sent a document to Congress explaining there was additional evidence related to Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Iowa City's favorite bluesman, Kevin B.F. Burt, will take up a familiar role on the Java Blend stage for another electrifying performance of his award-winning roots and blues. 

Stop by The Java House in downtown Iowa City at 2 P.M. this Friday, November 4th, to hear the booming voice and distinct guitar playing that has cemented Burt as legend in blues music. 

Kevin Satoh

Twenty-five years ago today, on November 1, 1991, a 28-year-old University of Iowa student went on a shooting rampage, killing four members of the university faculty and one student: his professor Christopher Goertz, department chairman Dwight Nickolson, associate professor Robert Smith, fellow researcher Linhua Shan, and Anne Cleary, an associate vice president and professor of education. 

The shooter, a graduate student from China named Gang Lu, also seriously wounded another student, Miya Rodolfo-Sioson, before he shot himself.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

While all eyes are on a recently tight presidential race, politicos in Iowa are considering another razor thin margin: that of the Iowa Senate. With a Republican governor and the GOP holding 57 of the 100 seats in the House of Representatives, the outcome of one or two state senate races could determine whether the Republicans get a Statehouse trifecta.

Twin Cities jam band Frogleg crammed all seven of its members onto a tiny Java House stage for this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," so it's no wonder why their music sounds so tight. 

Join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer and listen in to the free podcast below to hear the group's stellar musicianship, infectious grooves, and dazzling chemistry. 

Clay Masters

Carl Bernstein is a name many remember from the Watergate era of the 1970s. On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist on the life of Hillary Clinton.

A Woman in Charge is the title of the book from 2007 that Carl Bernstein wrote about Clinton’s life, from her upbringing in Illinois to the U.S. Senate and the White House. 

Hudson Institute / Flickr

As a boy he lived in a refugee camp in his native Afghanistan. As a teenager he fled from the Taliban to England. Now, in his early thirties, Hamdullah Mohib serves as an ambassador to the U.S. from Afghanistan.

nshepard / Flickr

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with two Iowa voters who we've been checking in with since the Iowa Caucuses now that we're just a few weeks away from Election Day 2016. During this hour, we also digests this week's political news with analysts Hans Hassell of Cornell College and Justin Holmes of the University of Northern Iowa.

Living Longer, But With More Pain

Oct 25, 2016
Tony Hall / Flickr

People are living longer. But that doesn’t always mean they’re living well longer. One of the reasons for the diminished quality of later life is back pain, which the latest Global Burden of Disease study recently named the second most common ailment affecting aging people across the globe. According to Dr. Joseph Chen, Director of the University of Iowa Spine Center, the prevalence of back pain is not surprising.

Photo by Amy Mayer / Iowa Public Radio

Food and farming are not high on list of issues voters consider important this election season. In fact, neither issue even registers on the most recent Pew poll. Agricultural policy, however, is strongly connected to a number of significant voter concerns like healthcare, immigration, and the economy.

The Midwest-based duo The Matchsellers bring their "vaudevillian" form of bluegrass to the Java House stage in this goofy episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" with host Ben Kieffer. 

Download and listen to the free podcast below to hear about the group's German adventures, quirky songs, superb musicianship, and even some hamboning. 

Elizabeth Kimmel / The Gazette

While the unprecedented nature of the 2016 election has given politicos plenty of fodder for conversation, it also could change the script for how our political system moves forward. With many members of the Republican party disavowing their presidential candidate, how the GOP will move forward after this election remains to be seen. An even larger question is how the United States's political process will move forward if Republican nominee Donald Trump follows through on threats to reject the results of the election.

Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio

The frequency of severe flooding events in Iowa is increasing. Data from Iowa State University shows that 100-year flood plain maps really map 25-year flood plains, and in cities like Cedar Rapids, large rainfall events have increased by 56 percent.  

Kamyar Enshayan, director of the University of Northern Iowa Center for Energy and Environmental Education, says that’s in part due to land use.

alamosbasement / flickr

The 2005 video showing Donald Trump bragging about groping and making unwanted sexual advances, and the growing number of women accusing Trump of sexual assault, have renewed a national discussion about preventing sexual assault. While addressing sexual assault has become a prominent discussion on college campuses, action on high school campuses has been slower.

Photo by Clay Masters

In the weeks leading up to the elections, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has been spouting claims that the U.S. election system is rigged.

Drake University’s Dennis Goldford, professor and chair of the political science department and Flansburg Fellow for the Harkin Institute, says Trump's rhetoric is not only wrong, but it’s also “dangerously inflammatory.”  

Why ISIS's Power is Diminishing

Oct 18, 2016
mashleymorgan / Flickr

As the attack on the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul begins this week, many eyes will be upon the Iraqi city watching how the terrorist organization will act.

“Well it’s going to be a very intensive and deep battle,” says Malcolm Nance, a counterterrorism and intelligence adviser for the U.S. government’s special operations, homeland security and intelligence agencies. “It’s just a question of whether ISIS is going to put up a fight, or are they going to do a defensive battle and try to fall back to their central caliphate.”

Folk duo Famous October is half Iowan, half Swiss, and all talent.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," hear host Ben Kieffer chat with the couple on how they first met, how they became musical partners, and hear tunes off their newly released record, "One Day Baby.

Check out the free downloadable podcast below.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa State announced this year’s inductees to the Iowa African American Hall of Fame on Thursday.

Inductee James B. Morris Jr. was the first black assistant Polk County attorney, had a distinguished career as a trial lawyer, and was one of the first African American officers to lead white troops in the US war effort. Kenyatta Shamburger, the director of multicultural student affairs at ISU, says the hall of fame is a bit of a family tradition for Morris.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

In a first for the organization, the World Food Prize Foundation is honoring four Laureates simultaneously for the 2016 prize. The decision originally caused some trepidation within the organization, and Ambassador Ken Quinn, president of the foundation, says that it's unlikely to happen again any time soon. The four laureates all work in the field of 'biofortification.' Howarth Bouis, founding director of Harvest Plus, explains the idea.

John Pemble

"The shackles have been taken off me, and I can now fight for America the way I want to,"  Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday. In an O'Reilly Factor interview, Trump also said he doesn't need establishment support to win the election.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Iowa City bluegrass troop Slewgrass shows its tight harmonies and dazzling stringwork. 

Download the free podcast below to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the  group about their many other projects, as well as some high-energy original songs. 

Marnie Joyce / Flickr

It would be hard to come up with a person more connected with the feminist movement of the late 60s and early 70s than Gloria Steinem.  Now in her eighties, the founder of Ms. Magazine is still speaking out on issues of equality. As co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, she also works towards that organization’s more specific goal of making “women visible and powerful in the media.” In this River to River interview, Steinem discusses how far the movement has come in more than a half century of fighting for equal rights.

Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 1000 refugees have been resettled in Iowa this year.

Director of Admissions for the U.S. State Department Larry Bartlett says while these new Iowans come from all over the world, the one thing they have in common is that they were forced to leave their homes.

Chelsey Hager

This Friday, October 7th, Twin Cities jamband Frogleg will pack their many members onto the stage in the Java House in downtown Iowa City. 

Join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer at 2 p.m. to hear about Frogleg's inception in 2012 and listen to their improvisational style. 

Ben Kieffer

Last night, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence squared off in the only vice presidential debate of the 2016 election.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Steffen Schmidt of Iowa State University and Jeff Taylor of Dordt College in Sioux Center. They discuss their view of last night’s debate, the state of the presidential race, and why they think a large majority of Evangelicals support Trump, while polls show Catholics overwhelmingly favor Clinton.

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