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.

Dan DeLuca / Flickr

Iowa has the highest rate of worker fatalities and injuries in the Midwest.

Kathy Leinenkugel, of the Iowa Department of Public Health, says this is due to several factors, including the fact that Iowa has an aging workforce where many people are self-employed.

Lindsey Moon

On average across the United States, women make around 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Iowa, that means the average woman can expect to make around ten thousand dollars less than her male counterpart, according to research by the Iowa Office of Workforce Development. 

That gap is even more drastic for minority women. African American women can expect to make 61 cents for every dollar a man makes, and Latinas make 58 cents on every dollar. 

Penguin Random House

Dr. David Casarett was a skeptic when he set out to write Stoned. But in his quest to determine what medical evidence exists for medical marijuana, the palliative care physician found more questions than answers. Host Ben Kieffer talks with him about the book and the research needed to answer those questions.

Casarett and listeners tell stories of how cannabidiol oil has helped children with seizure disorders.  He explains what science knows about the compounds found in cannabis, and the most effective means of extracting and administering those compounds. 

Lindsey Moon / Iowa Public Radio

On this edition of River to River - a listen back to some of the talk show team's favorite News Buzz conversations. Host Ben Kieffer jumps into the pool to find out how the butterfly stroke was invented in Iowa, and he talks with an anthropologist to answer the question of why humans have chins.

US Embassy Kabul Afghanistan / Flickr

For nearly four decades, Ryan Crocker served as ambassador in nearly all the Middle East countries where conflict was present, including Iraq and Afghanistan.

On this edition of River to River, Ambassador Crocker shares his perspective on the Iranian nuclear deal with host Ben Kieffer.

“It could reshape the nuclear scene globally for some time to come,” Crocker says. “That said, no one should think we are moving on to a sun dappled upland in the Middle East.”

Howard Jefferson / Flickr

At an evening camp event in 2010, two teenage boys drowned at the Pella Aquatics Center. Their families filed a claim for negligence against the City of Pella, arguing that the deaths could have been prevented by adequate underwater lighting.

"The lights in the swimming pool apparently were not on that night," says Todd Pettys, of the University of Iowa College of Law. "You couldn't see down to the bottom of the pool."

Nearly five years after the incident, the Iowa Supreme Court considered the question: Are cities liable when employees of city-inspected pools are careless?

Kamyar Adl / Flickr

The age of 65 was a milestone that many workers used to look forward to—the promise of retirement, leisure time, and a guaranteed pension.   But the last couple of decades have brought change: most companies don’t provide pensions, employees must make their own investment choices concerning their 401K (if they are lucky enough to even have one), and simply dropping out of the work force at 65 isn’t an option.

National Institutes of Health

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act Friday morning, which increases funding to the National Institutes of Health by $8.75 billion over the course of five years.

This announcement is particularly exciting for biomedical researchers in Iowa and across the country. When taking inflation into account, NIH funding has dropped by more than 22 percent since 2003.

West Midlands Police / Flickr

The Burlington Community School district is among the first in the nation to outfit administrators at each of the district's eight school buildings with body cameras. The district is already outfitted with fixed cameras, which Superintendent Pat Coen says have proven useful.

Amanda Tipton / Flickr

The opportunity for prosperity and success in America is in crisis, according to public policy expert Robert Putnam.

"Less able kids from rich backgrounds are more likely to graduate from college than the most able poor kids, and that directly violates the idea of meritocracy." says Putnam.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Vermont State Senator Bernie Sanders is quickly gaining popularity in the polls in his race for the democratic nomination for President, and his rise is definitely unexpected. That's according to Drake University Professor and Harkin Institute Flansburg Fellow Dennis Goldford. 

David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Democrats in Iowa are calling for an increase, and in Washington, Democratic lawmakers would like to see the federal minimum wage raised to $12 by 2020.

On this edition of River to River we kick off our summer jobs series, Iowa At Work, by talking with Iowans trying to make ends meet on low wages.

Photo by Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

It’s been a year since Logan Blake was washed into a storm sewer in Cedar Rapids and drown. 

“Logan was playing Frisbee on a playground. This inlet was right by a jogging path. The Frisbee went down into the brush next to the inlet and reached down to grab it, and it had a pretty steep bank. He got swept away, and that was the last anybody saw him alive," his father, Mark Blake says. 

A new study by the Institute of Medicine suggests that cardiac arrest could be the third leading cause of death in the United States.

More than 600,000 people go into cardiac arrest each year outside of hospitals, and fewer than 6 percent of those survive. Dr. Dianne Atkins, a pediatric cardiologist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics who worked on the report, says it’s important to distinguish cardiac arrest from a heart attack.

Andrew Fuller

Iowa State University Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor says more than a hundred lightning-caused wildfires burning in Saskatchewan, Canada are giving Iowans some colorful-sky effects.

“Maybe the best thing to look at is the smoke that we’re seeing in the air, giving the sun that mid-day orange tint and the change in light characteristics,” he says. “The sunsets are red and the sunrise is redder than we would expect under normal conditions, typical of smoke in the air.”

Taylor isn’t, however, attributing the current rainy weather to the Canadian wildfires.

Chris Zerbes / Flickr

More than half of Iowa's adults favor legalizing fireworks, according to a poll by the Des Moines Register. Despite the majority, lawmakers failed to pass legislation that would legalize anything beyond sparklers during this year’s session.

Senator Jeff Danielson notes that drafted legislation stipulates some of the strongest local control of any bill he’s seen regarding fireworks.

“We allow possession, but the law says you can’t fire them off. I believe that it's time to change Iowa’s law in a limited, responsible way that allows both possession and use,” says Danielson.


A handful of new laws go into effect July 1 as a result of the 2015 legislative session. Among those that will be most noticeable for the general public – Iowans will be able to buy growlers full of craft beers brewed in Iowa anywhere that has a class "C" alcohol license. That includes grocery stores and gas stations, for example. 

Emily Woodbury

Humans have now had access to the sky for more than a century thanks to engineering and ingenuity, but the evolution of the human brain has not kept up with its creations.

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right in all 50 states.

The ruling comes on the heels of one of the fastest changes in public opinion in U.S. history. Author Tom Witosky, author of Equal Before the Law, says it’s been a quick sea change.

David Clarke / Flickr

Last week, the Pope released an encyclical asserting climate change is a moral issue. Father Bud Grant, Catholic priest and professor of environmental ethics at St. Ambrose University, says the message of the encyclical is one of interconnectedness.

"That word 'related' is one of the most frequently used words in the entire document. And that means that if we tug at the environmental thread, we tug at the economic thread and the spiritual thread. They're all wound up together in that seamless garment."

Victoria Pickering / Flickr

As a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, Iowa’s health insurance model will remain intact.

King v. Burwell dealt with imprecise wording that called into question whether states participating in the federal healthcare exchange could receive subsidies that lower the cost of insurance premiums.

Because it uses a state-federal partnership exchange, it was unclear how much federal money Iowa stood to lose. But Pete Damiano of the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center, says this ruling means Iowans will continue to receive federally-subsidized premiums.

Wally Gobetz / Flickr

Will millions of Americans, including tens of thousands of Iowa, lose health insurance subsidies? Could same-sex marriage become legal in all 50 states?

By late this week or early next, the rulings on two blockbuster U.S. Supreme Court cases will be handed down. On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Tim Hagle (University of Iowa) and Scott Peters (University of Northern Iowa) about the political fallout and significance of court's decisions.

A tragic shooting last week in Charleston, South Carolina at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church left nine people dead and added fuel to conversations over racial relations in the U.S. After the incident, some historically black churches in Iowa are reviewing security plans and changing the way they think about greeting newcomers.

(National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey - NIPSV - from 2011)
darty28 / Flickr

On this River to River segment, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on stalking, harassment, and domestic abuse after the recent Coralville shooting of an employee of the Iowa Children's Museum in Coralville, as well as the recent murder-suicide involving an Urbandale couple, when the murdered woman did not want to press charges because she feared for her life.

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to release its decision that could invalidate health care insurance subsidies for low-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act, Iowa Senator Charles Senator Charles Grassley says Congress should be prepared to pass legislation temporarily continuing the subsidies.

“I expect the Court to rule against the President, but that’s not the fault of the low-income people getting the subsidy, so continue the subsidy. But don’t hurt the chances of making needed changes in ObamaCare including repeal and replacement.”

frankieleon / Flickr

The $10 bill, long inhabited by founding father Alexander Hamilton, will soon feature a woman. The decision will be made by the U.S. Treasury Secretary, who is asking the public for help in deciding which woman to include.

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer discusses the criteria for our nation’s currency and the historical significance of American bills with two historians, Thomas Schwartz, director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum in West Branch, and Larry Adams, curator at the Higgins Museum in Okoboji. 

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

This summer at camps across Iowa, some kids are exploring the outdoors, some kids are crafting art projects, and some kids are designing hovercraft.

At the University of Iowa's Belin Blank Center, a group of preteens are working with Mark Ginsberg of M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art to make working hovercrafts with Computer Aided Design and 3-D printing. Ginsberg says this is the first step towards the technology of the future.

Photo by Tom Jorgensen / University of Iowa

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa-native, Ambassador Ron McMullen. He shares stories from his service in Burma, South Africa, Fiji, South Africa, and Eritrea. He also talks about the importance of keeping engaged with the world, something he hopes to impart on the University of Iowa students he teaches.

Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Caucuses have remained the same over time, but the media coverage has not. Butch Ward, a Senior Faculty Member at the Poynter Institute, says that since the advent of social media, campaigns have had an easier time reaching the public. That it makes it both easier and harder for reporters.

“Reporting the message from a speech may not be as useful as asking ‘is this consistent with performance? Has this candidate flip flopped overtime?’ I think of that as a sense maker, somebody who introduced a certain sense of understanding and meaning,” Ward says.

Alan Light / Wikimedia Commons

A decision on whether or not same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states under federal law is expected from the U.S. Supreme Court soon. In order to get this issue before the nation’s highest courts, advocates have been working for decades to create a change in public opinion.