River to River

Weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News

River to River is Iowa Public Radio's talk program focusing on the news, issues and events in our state. This national award-winning program goes beyond the headlines, frames community problems, and fosters conversation. On Mondays during the legislative session, join in conversations with lawmakers and those impacted by action at the Statehouse.  Wednesdays, political analysts from around the state help you dissect the week in politics.  Fridays we buzz through the week’s big news stories.

River to River is hosted by Ben Kieffer.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury, @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

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.

niXerKG / Flickr

Recent videos of police shooting unarmed black men and recent shootings of police officers have led to increased unrest between two groups already used to tension.

On this edition of River to River, Joyce Russell hosts the final conversation of Iowa Public Radio’s “Beyond Iowa Nice” series by bringing black Iowans and police together to talk about what can be done to ease tensions between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve. 

Disney ABC Television Group / Flickr

Dianne Bystrom, an Iowa State University researcher who has been studying Hillary Clinton for more than 20-years, says the Democratic presidential candidate must walk a fine line in Thursday night’s acceptance speech.

“Certainly she must come across that she can be commander-in-chief. That she’s got that experience as Secretary of State. But I think this time around-- One of the things she avoided doing in two-thousand-eight that she seems more amenable to this year is talking about herself  as not only a mom, but a grandmother.”

Courtesy of the ACLU of Iowa

Iowan Jesse Vroegh is a nurse with the Department of Corrections, and he recently filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, citing that he was being denied use of the men’s bathrooms or locker rooms at work, as well as medically recommended health care solely because he is transgender.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, guest host Clare Roth talks with Vroegh's attorney, ACLU of Iowa's Rita Bettis, about the potential for litigation in the case.


Some state lawmakers are saying they’d like to see Iowa’s three state universities consider expanding alcohol sales at sporting events. One of them is State Senator Brian Schoejahn, who chairs the senate’s higher education committee. He says the matter should at least be studied.  But, Iowa State University President Steven Leath says he has zero interest in expanding sales beyond the few private areas where drinking is currently allowed. 

Pokemon Go, a new game and cell phone app, was released earlier this month and has quickly become one of the most played games across the United States. If you're not playing it, someone you know is.

Pete Zarria

Even before the Declaration of Independence was signed, the founders of the United States established the post office as the circulatory system of America’s body politic.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times best-selling author Winifred Gallagher, author of How the Post Office Created America.

Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump has picked Indiana Governor Mike Pence as a running mate. Will a Midwesterner help Trump win Iowa votes? Maybe. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer discusses Pence with Drake University's Dennis Goldford. Goldford is professor and chair of the political Science Department, and the Flansburg Fellow at the Harkin Institute. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

This election campaign of 2016 has seen attacks on Mexicans as criminals and rapists, as well as a call for a ban on Muslim immigrants.  This hour, we continue our summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" with a look at the contentious issue of immigration and get the thoughts of a number of Iowans on the issues involved.  We hear from Iowans with contrasting perspectives and from communities in Iowa most impacted by immigrants, including Marshalltown and Perry.

Trump photo by Michael Vadon, Clinton photo by Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

New swing-state polls released today show Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton in Florida and Pennsylvania and tied in the critical battleground state of Ohio.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Dave Andersen and Bruce Nesmith about results of the latest political surveys, Bernie Sanders endorsement of Clinton, and Donald Trump's announcement of his top three picks for a running-mate - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa law enforcement officers are echoing comments made by Dallas Police Chief David Brown after last week’s shootings, saying, “Send us your applicants.”

Departments across the state have been actively trying to diversify their forces by reaching out to minority communities in the state, but they aren’t getting applications. Daniel Trelka  is Chief of the Waterloo Police Department.

shinosan / Flickr

What do parents of teenagers and an FBI special agent have in common? Negotiation is key to the job. Chris Voss, author of Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It, says the difference between high stakes international intrigue and a typical contentious daily interaction is smaller than you think.

“The difference between hostage negotiations and business negotiations is really only the stakes. I like to say, ‘Take the guns out of a typical bank robbery with hostages, you got a typical Monday morning staff meeting with the boss.’”

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving / Flickr

Over 317,000 Iowans care for an aging parent or loved one. While the focus is usually on the elderly person being cared for, caregivers often carry an unseen burden.

Lee / Flickr

In a report on psychiatric beds in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, the Treatment Advocacy Center found Iowa ranked dead last in terms of mental health beds per capita. Dr. Jimmy Potash, professor and chair of psychiatry at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says that's a big problem.

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

Former Congressman Jim Leach pointed to Citizens United, and the equation of money to free speech, as a key catalyst for much of the electorate's dissatisfaction with the system.

Rian Castillo / Flickr

This year, 2016, marks the first election where there are as many millennials as baby boomers in the U.S. electorate.

River to River's Ben Kieffer kicks off Iowa Public Radio's summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" by hosting a conversation on the political generation gap. He explores where boomers, gen-xers, and millennials see eye to eye, and where they don’t.  


John Pemble


Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst met with Donald Trump on July 4th, fueling speculation that Ernst is high on his list for running mates.

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College about what Ernst would bring to the Trump ticket. 

They also discuss the impact of the FBI recommendation that no criminal charges be filed over Hillary Clinton’s use of private email servers while she was Secretary of State.

Sgt. Rebecca Linder/Flickr

There are more than four thousand untested rape kits awaiting testing in Iowa. The Iowa Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division Director Janelle Melohn has been conducting an audit of untested kits since February. 

As of the end of June, we have almost an 80% response rate. We have 381 active law enforcement agencies in our state, and just short of 80% have responded to us. We have just over a total of 4,000 kits that have been inventoried thus far," she says. 

Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration / Wikimedia Commons

A space probe carrying an instrument from the University of Iowa goes into orbit around Jupiter Monday, July 4.  The NASA probe “Juno” was launched in 2011 on a mission to learn more about the solar system’s largest planet. 

Bill Kurth is a research scientist at the University of Iowa, and the lead investigator of the Waves instrument.  He says it will examine radio and plasma waves around Jupiter, to understand how the planet’s auroras are formed. 

Clare Roth / Iowa Public Radio

In 1961, President Kennedy said the US needed to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Now, more than 50 years later, Vice President Joe Biden says the nation needs a cancer moonshot – with a goal of doubling the rate of progress to end cancer as we know it.

On Wednesday, he held a summit in Washington. Organizations in all fifty states and Puerto Rico participated to, as Biden puts it, "break down silos, seize the moment, and double the rate of progress."

threefishsleeping / Flickr

A terrorist attack in Turkey has left 42 dead and more than 230 injured.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts about why Turkey was targeted in the attack. Joining the conversation: Kelly Shaw, political science lecturer at Iowa State University, Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield professor of political science at Grinnell College, and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University.

Wikimedia Commons

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down one of the biggest cases on abortion in a quarter century. The court also issued several other rulings, including a case about affirmative action in college admissions, and another regarding when people convicted of domestic violence can own a gun. What does it all mean for you, and how will these cases reverberate around Iowa and around the nation?

Tony Webster, Portland, Oregon / Wikimedia Commons

A landmark piece of legislation that assures public access to government documents turns 50 on July 4th. President Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation in 1966, without so much as a statement, just avoiding a pocket veto. That reluctance set the stage for a love/hate relationship between presidential administrations and the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

Nancy Pelosi / Flickr

Early Wednesday, John Lewis, a Democratic representative from Georgia, asked his colleagues to join him on the floor of the United States House of Representatives and began to speak.

Dan Boyce / Rocky Mountain PBS for Harvest Public Media

Meat consumers in the U.S. enjoy relatively low prices and an array of choices, but there is a high human price tag. The more than 500,000 men and women who work in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants have some of the most dangerous factory jobs in America.

"If you recall the publication of The Jungle back in 1906 - the meat packing industry is similar to that to this day," says Peggy Lowe of Harvest Public Media, referring to the conditions in the plant and circumstances of the factory workers. 

U.S. Army RDECOM / Flickr

Exhaustion, shock, panic, disease, extreme heat, and horrific noise -  these are some of the less talked about challenges of military combat.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with celebrated science writer Mary Roach about her new book, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. In it, she explores the aspects of war no one makes movies about - the quirky but essential science behind staying alive in combat.

A description of Grunt from the publisher, W. W. Morton & Company, Inc.:

Alan Light / Flickr

For many in the LGBT community, gay bars and clubs are safe harbors—spaces where they can take refuge from those who reject their identities, and be understood as who they truly are, surrounded by people who support them.

So when Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida, the setting threw the tragedy into even sharper relief.

Majicdolphin / Flickr

What happened in Flint, Michigan is only one of several high profile incidents of public health crises arising from drinking water contamination. In fact, according to Siddhartha Roy, who was part of the team that discovered high lead levels in Flint, “There are millions of lead pipes,” and “we have them in virtually every city in the U.S.”