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.

Human Origins

May 17, 2010

A conversation with Lee Berger, the American paleoanthropologist who last month discovered the bones of a new hominid species. Australopithecus sediba lived almost two-million years ago during a mysterious period spanning the emergence of the human family. Then, two Iowa paleoanthropologists discuss the questions raised and answered by this discovery.

A look at the challenges that lie ahead for the baby boomer generation when it comes to care for their aging parents. What are the best options when it comes to long-term care? Ben Kieffer talks with Ingrid Wensel of the Heritage Area Agency on Aging. Later in the hour, a conversation with author Gail Sheehy. Her new book "Passages in Caregiving" examines her role as a caregiver after her husband was diagnosed with cancer.

We discuss medical marijuana research, now that two Iowa organizations (Iowa Board of Pharmacy and the Iowa Medical Society) have endorsed the idea of reclassifying marijuana to allow for more clinical study. Guests include the co-director of the only facility in the U.S. currently doing clinical trials, an Iowa physician and State Senator Joe Bolkcom.

Religious Cults

May 12, 2010

We examine religious cults with Iowa State University Asscoiate Professor Nikki Bado. Then a conversation with author Carolyn Jessop who is in Iowa to promote her book "Triumph". The book chronicles her life after escaping an extremist Mormon sect.

Physical Fitness

May 11, 2010

In Grundy Center this week, national and international representatives will meet to discuss ways to change physical education in schools. Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Northern Iowa alumn Shellie Fole who serves as the Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. We'll also talk with a P.E. teacher at Grundy Center Elementary School and the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The "brain drain" - a rapid exodus of young adults has been a concern in Iowa for decades. Now, small Iowa communities are being proactive in reaching out to native sons and daughters to keep them close to home. We'll talk with economic development representatives and find out how they're working to keep small town Iowa vibrant.

Midwifery in Iowa

May 7, 2010

There has been a significant increase in midwife attendance at Iowa births. We talk with a midwife, one of her clients and Democratic State Representative Mary Mascher who is supporting a bill to expand the number of midwives certified to practice in Iowa.

We focus on job prospects as our economy struggles to recover from the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s. Specifically, the job outlook for two careers that parents have often taken as a measure for success in their kids doctors and lawyers. Host Ben Kiffer talks with Drake University Law School Dean Allan Vestal and Roger Tracy of the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine.

Immigration Overhaul

May 5, 2010

Arizona's new immigration law is spurring debate about a possible federal immigration overhaul. Host Jeneane Beck talks with members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement who are behind the push for immigration changes on the local and state level. Also joining the conversation is the Media Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Waters to Watch

May 4, 2010

The National Fish Habitat Action Plan has selected Diamond Lake in northwest Iowa as one of the 10 "Waters to Watch" for 2010. The 2010 10 "Waters to Watch" list is a collection of rivers, streams and lakes that will benefit from strategic conservation efforts to protect, restore or enhance their current condition. Host Ben Kieffer talks with a Dickinson County Biologist and a DNR official about efforts to provide a cleaner and healthier habitat for Diamond Lake and other lakes across Iowa.

Farm Bill

May 3, 2010

The House Agriculture Committee held its first hearing on the Farm Bill in Des Moines April 30th. We'll talk with Bruce Babcock, Director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development and others who testified in Des Moins, about the changes needed and likely in the 2012 Farm Bill.

Host Ben Kieffer discusses possible Wall Street reforms, changes on the horizon in immigration laws and the President's recent trip to the midwest with Iowa's two congressmen.

Campus Sexual Assault

Apr 29, 2010

We examine the issue of sexual assault on Iowa's college campuses. We talk with representatives from victim advocacy, criminal investigation and the campus disciplinary process to see what policies the Regents Universities have for handling such incidents, and what they're doing to prevent them.

A conversation with the American Presidential Historian Richard Norton Smith. The former Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum Director is in Iowa this week to discuss why American history should remain part of our daily lives. Later in the hour a University of Iowa researcher discusses efforts to improve Iowa’s dismal record of teen driving safety.

Wellmark Smoking Ban

Apr 27, 2010

Smokers need not apply. That’s the message Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield has for potential employees in a new policy. But is it a company’s place to dictate employees’ behavior away from work? We'll examine smoking and other health related behavior and ask is it good health policy or overreach?

School Food Nutrition

Apr 26, 2010

We look at nutrition in Iowa schools. Last week, retired military leaders released a report critical of food in schools. They conclude 27-percent of young adults are ineligible to serve because they are overweight. We'll talk about the report and what schools in Iowa re doing to improve nutrition.

After 32 years on the job, state Ombudsman Bill Angrick is retiring. We'll talk with Angrick about his position dealing with complaints about state government and hear what he thinks are the most serious issues facing lawmakers today. Then a conversation with author David Lipsky. His new book is a biography of David Foster Wallace, who gained fame and acclaim for his novel 'Infinite Jest'. Lipsky is coming to the Des Moines Public Library as part of their author series.

Earth Day

Apr 22, 2010

We look at how Iowa colleges are staying on the cutting edge of the green revolution- Luther College Sustainability Director Dan Bellrichard discusses energy saving programs at the Decorah school. Later in the hour, a conversation with author Heather Rogers. Her new book 'Green Gone Wrong' explores the concepts of ecopolitics and fear mongering that she argues have infected environmentalism.

As part of National Crime Victims Rights Week, we listen back to a conversation from April of last year and the firsthand accounts of what it’s like to have someone in your family murdered. The shock, the grief, the media coverage, and facing the accused in court. Among the guests- Julie Paulson, the aunt of Katie Hill and Molly Edmundson. The two young women were murdered in Cedar Rapids in 2006. And Tami Stephens, her sister Shelly a single mother of three - was killed in Hiawatha in 2003.

A conversation with Loras college student Jake Krapfl, whose new book 'Shadows of War' is a fictional account of war's effects on soldiers and families. In 2007, Krapfl contemplated suicide as he struggled with the transition to life on the homefront after two combat tours with the U.S. Army in Iraq.

A look at the changes taking place in on-line media. Among the guests, University of Iowa Journalism Professor Stephen Berry who discusses a new collaboration of some of the state and nation's media and education leaders to form a new, non-profit, non-partisan news outlet that will serve the state of Iowa.

On the Job Hunt

Apr 16, 2010

Are you looking for a job or ready to make a career change? Or a college graduate looking to dive into the job market? We discuss Iowa's employment landscape with Kerry Koonce of Iowa Workforce Development and career counselor Katharine Brooks.

Former Iowa gubernatorial candidate Christian Fong unveils what he calls "The Iowa Dream Project". The effort aims to promote conservative solutions to tackle the challenges in education, economic development and community renewal. Then a conversation with University of Iowa Astronomy Professor Steven Spangler who discusses the meteor that streaked across the sky in parts of Iowa Wednesday night.

A discussion of the latest state news stories with several Iowa journalists - the motion for a new trial in the Mark Becker case, the shakeup in Cedar Rapids city government, the Price Lab School scandal in Cedar Falls. And, how the race for governor is shaping up. Then a conversation with Des Moines Register photographer Mary Chind. Chind was just awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her dramatic photo of a construction worker rescuing a woman from the Des Moines River.

An avalanche of queries are comig in, aimed at government officials, physicians and nonprofit groups as Americans struggle to understand the complexities of the new health care reform law. We'll look at some of the changes in store for hospitals, patients and small business. Among Ben Kieffer's guests- Grinnell Regional Medical Center President and CEO Todd Linden, University of Iowa Public Policy Director Peter Damiano and Iowa Small Business Administration Director Joseph Folsom.

We learn about a new project from the Iowa State Archeology Department that will use airbourne lasers to survey hundreds of native American burial mounds in Iowa. Also, an interview with Professor of Natural Philosophy Marcelo Gleiser about his new book "A Tear at the Edge of Creation" which examines a radical new vision for life in the universe.

With President Obama signing the historic nuclear arms reduction pact, we examine U.S.-Russia relations. Among Ben Kieffer's guests- NPR reporter and Russia correspondent David Greene and University of Iowa Political Science Professor William Reisinger.

Tuition and fees continue to rise while tough economic times are making it more difficult for families to pay for a college education. We’ll talk with State Senator Herman Quirmbach about funding for public education and Grinnell College President Russell Osgood about private education and ideas for improving affordability.

Two wind energy conferences in Iowa this week will focus on issues crucial to the continued development of the industry. The American Wind Energy Association says capacity added last year, 9,900 megawatts, was the largest on record, and was 18 percent above the capacity added in 2008. We'll talk about research and development, workforce issues and transmission of Iowa-generated wind energy to areas of the country with the highest demand.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Matt DeLisi, Associate Professor of Sociology and director of the criminal justice program at Iowa State University. De Lisi's new book is "Criminological Theory: A Life Course Approach". Delisi says career criminals aren’t necessarily born that way, but it’s a sequence of events and layering of risk factors over a lifetime that mold someone into a lifelong repeat offender. Later in the hour, a look at how global climate change affects violence.