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.

Thomas Bresson / Wikimedia Commons

Late last month, the White House released a strategy to try to protect pollinators, aiming to grow bee populations across the country in the next 10 years. As a part of that plan, there’s been talk of limiting pesticide use and developing products to help beekeepers combat the varroa mite.

Brookings Institute / Flickr

When Democratic Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders declared his candidacy, Hillary Clinton gained some competition. Sanders, who had only 8% support from Democrats in an April Quinnipiac poll, is now polling at 15%. 

While some believe Sanders' run may be harmful to Clinton's campaign, Dennis Goldford, Professor of Political Science and the Flansburg Fellow for The Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement at Drake University, says the move could bode well for her.

courteney / flickr

Last month, a former Iowa high school athlete, who is now in a wheelchair, received nearly a million dollars in a football concussion case. It’s the first damage award of it’s kind in the state.

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer finds out what questions the growing attention on concussions has raised about the future of football. Can school districts afford potential lawsuits? What can be done to make the sport safer for players?

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

According to the National Institute for Early Education, Iowa ranks 32nd in the nation for state spending on preschool.

Mark Shriver, President of the Save the Children Action Network, is working to try to change that. “Ninety percent of brain growth happens before the age of 5, but public investment is flat until that age. We spend billions of dollars trying to remediate. These kids are not entering kindergarten ready to learn,” he says.

Health and Human Services Department, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging / Wikipedia Commons

How many hours of sleep do you think you need a night? New research shows that you may want to err on the side of more, not less. Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley have found that high amounts of the chemical amyloid are linked with disrupted sleep patterns.  

She was only one day away from going on maternity leave. On this news buzz edition of River to River, Omaha police officer Ken Fox remembers his fellow officer and Council Bluffs resident, Kerrie Orozco.

"We're grieving tremendously," says Fox. "I think that all we can take away from this is the support from the community, and also seeing what Kerrie did, what she lived every day. We can try to match up to what her vision was for this department."

Kotivalo

R.T., who hails from the East Central Iowa, hasn’t had a drink of alcohol since July 3, 1986. He got sober when he was 26 after binging heavily on a daily basis.

“My life was in shambles. The best way I could describe it was outer confusion and despair. I truly couldn’t imagine living my life any different but I couldn’t imagine living three days any different.”

After going to a rehabilitation clinic, he was directed to Alcoholics Anonymous. As someone turned off by religion, he says he didn’t think it would work.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania, announced that he is running for President today. That brings the list of declared GOP presidential candidates to seven, with former New York Governor George Pataki expected to officially throw his hat into the ring tomorrow.  

Kedron Bardwell of Simpson College says that if any of those candidates want to win, they’re going to have to energize younger voters. “Young people are looking for someone new. From what I’ve heard around campus here, I don’t see a Rick Santorum or a Mike Huckabee catching fire in Iowa,” he says.

First-time Representative David Young, a Republican representing Iowa’s third district, stated in his campaign he wanted to ‘dismantle’ Obamacare. Now a looming Supreme Court decision could work towards that goal, by cutting Obamacare insurance for millions of Americans living in states without their own health exchanges.

Pan American Health Organization

Earlier this month, a team of researchers released a study that found one major difference between life and death for extremely preterm infants—those born from 22 to 26 weeks of gestation—was how aggressively the doctors attempted to save the babies’ lives.

Al Madrigal / (c) 2015 Steffen Schmidt

Clinton broke her media silence earlier this week when she took questions from reporters in a bicycle shop in Cedar Falls. Though she's had a consistent presence in Iowa, analyst Steffen Schimdt says the campaign has yet to truly kick off.

"There is no Clinton campaign. What there is is these little weird visits to New Hampshire and Iowa, meeting with people in bicycle shops with very carefully hand-picked crowds of individuals who are favorable to Hillary Clinton. These are not open events, they're not big events, she's not rolling out big themes."

hyoin min / flickr

Democratizing entrepreneurship and creativity

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with co-founder Amanda West and speakers of this year's EntreFEST, a three-day event promising game-changing training and inspiration, featuring over a hundred entrepreneurs. They discuss why co-working spaces are becoming more popular, how tech can help factories thrive in the 21st century, and how politics, art, and contemporary culture inspired a thought-provoking t-shirt line.

Photo by John Pemble

Sorting out Iowa’s state budget for fiscal year 2016 has been contentious, specifically where K-12 education is concerned. In Wisconsin, they’re facing the same issue, with a governor who is gearing up for a possible presidential run.

“That’s been a favorite line of state Democrats this session, ‘Well, we could ask Governor Walker about this if he were here,’” says Wisconsin Public Radio Statehouse Reporter Shawn Johnson.

University of the Fraser Valley / flickr

A jury has awarded a former Bedford High School football player nearly $1 million for the way the school handled the player's head injuries. The player, Kacey Strough, had a pre-existing medical condition, involving abnormally formed blood vessels in his brain, that bled after he suffered a head injury. Strough was allowed to keep practicing and playing through this injury.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, guest-host Ben Stanton interviews Dr. Andy Peterson of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics to learn about the implications of this case.

Bob Elbert

Lake City is quickly recovering from an EF1 tornado that touched down Sunday night, tearing the roof off the community’s high school. Mayor Gary Fahan says around 25 percent of homes in the town are damaged, but clean-up is well underway.

Derell Licht / Flickr

The Obama Administration has lost ground in securing a pan-Pacific trade pact, after Senate Democrats refused to allow debate on a bill to grant him fast track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

Jim McCormick, Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, said the aspect of moving trade agreements quickly through Congress gives Obama increased foreign power.

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

Two years ago, Jennifer Marshall launched a project on Kickstarter to make it easier to talk openly about mental illness. “This is My Brave” was the product - a night of music, poetry and storytelling performed by and for people with mental illness and their advocates.

The event is coming to Iowa for the first time on Friday, May 15. Joseph Sorensen is a songwriter from Cedar Rapids who will be performing.

In 2009, Mark Becker shot Aplington-Parkersburg head football coach Ed Thomas during a schizophrenic break. He is now serving a life sentence for first degree murder.

His mother, Joan Becker, writes about her son and her family’s struggle with his mental health in her new memoir Sentenced to Life: The Mark Becker Story.

Joan remembers when she first started noticing changes in Mark’s behavior.

John Pemble

What do honey bees, baseball fields and coin-operated laundries have in common? This year, their owners are being considered as possible recipients of new state tax breaks.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer is joined by lawmakers and IPR correspondent Joyce Russell to discuss various tax bills being debated at the capitol.

Senator Joe Bolkom, a Democrat from Iowa City and Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, also talk about what could be done with any state budget surplus, including giving it back to taxpayers.

Theodore Scott / flickr

A new report from the Iowa Wind Energy Association shows that Iowa produces the highest percentage of electricity by wind of any state.

"And from everything we've seen data-wise, we'll probably remain there at least for the next couple of years," says Mike Prior, executive director of the IWEA. "That's really something to be proud of."

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Prior about the findings in the report and what it will mean for the wind energy industry in Iowa going forward.

Adam Belz

According to Adam Belz, Iowa native and business reporter at the Star Tribune in Minnesota, Cedar Rapids has become the ultimate speed trap in the Midwest.

"I got a ticket a little bit over a month ago. I was looking at it, and I thought, 'I wonder if Cedar Rapids is getting known for this?'" says Belz, who then asked via Twitter if others experienced the same. "One of my friends who is in charge of a sales force fleet immediately tweeted me,  'I see more tickets from Cedar Rapids than I see from all other cities combined.'"

Dan Farber / flickr

Former Vice President Al Gore is in Cedar Rapids this week as part of his Climate Reality Project, a tour meant to teach people how to “take on the climate crisis." Participants in the three day session are encouraged to give press interviews, communicate with government officials, and organize others in the effort against pollution.

Gore says he believes this year is a turning point in government action on climate change, and he believes the environment will be a key issue in the 2016 presidential election.

Orser67 / Wikimedia Commons

With the 2016 presidential race picking up speed, Iowa continues to play a major role in the strategies of many candidates vying for nomination.

On this Politics Day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer sits down with Donna Hoffman and Chris Larimer, Associate Professors of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa. The pair discussed a book chapter they are working on that breaks down Iowa's historic swing state status.

A central part of the chapter looks into how counties around the state identify politically.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst says she doesn't plan to endorse candidates for President but she does plan to welcome both Republican and Democratic contenders to Iowa. 

"I do not plan on endorsing anyone. We have a great and growing field of GOP candidates. That's the wonderful thing about the GOP; we have an interesting number of possibilities. I want to welcome them all to Iowa," she said today in an interview with River to River's host Ben Kieffer. 

Photo by John Pemble

Having served from 1959-1995, 95-year-old Neal Smith is the longest serving Iowan in the United States House of Representatives.

Ray Bodden / Flickr

A bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for the proposed Bakken Crude Oil Pipeline and the Rock Island Clean Wind Energy Transmission Line was advanced by Iowa House and Senate subcommittees last week.

The proposed bill would mandate private, out-of-state companies acquire 75% of the land needed for their projects voluntarily from land owners before gaining the right of eminent domain from the Iowa Utilities Board. Eminent domain is the government's right to appropriate private land for public use, with compensation.

Dorret / flickr

Baltimore's top prosecutor announced criminal charges against six officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray.

On this News Buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with opinion writer Rekha Basu to get her thoughts in the aftermath of the protests and riots in Baltimore.

Lieutenant Rex Mueller, of the Sioux City Iowa Police Department, talks about the best methods of community engagement, as a way for police officers to build bridges within their community.

TBEC Review / Flickr

A national survey confirms that e-cigarettes are increasingly popular among teens. Between 2013 and 2014, usage tripled among high school students. The Centers for Disease Control estimates there were 2.4 million e-cigarette youth users last year, and according to this year’s Iowa Youth Survey, e-cigarettes have overtaken regular cigarettes as a preference of Iowa teens.

Director for Tobacco Control and Lung Health for the American Lung Association in Iowa Megan Aucutt says that makes sense given what she’s seen and heard from Iowa teachers.

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Alec Whitters was in his last year of dental school when he dropped out and decided to make a change.  

“Both my parents are doctors. I was in my seventh year of college, and I decided to drop out and go after this idea,” he says. “Everybody thought I was nuts.”

His decision turned out to be a worthwhile gamble. Whitters is a co-founder and CEO of Higher Learning Technologies, a test preparation company that’s trying to make it easier for students to study for big exams.

Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments over same-sex marriage yesterday, with Justice Anthony Kennedy saying that he’s not sure the court has the power to redefine an institution that has been around for “millennia.”

University of Northern Iowa associate political science professor Donna Hoffman says that at its core, it's a tricky statement.

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