News Buzz

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Back in 2013, Joni Ernst was a little known state senator and a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard. Today, she’s the first woman to represent Iowa in Congress.

Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter for Politico, published an article yesterday detailing how the Koch brothers and their political network helped launch Ernst’s campaign. He says Ernst was a “beta test” for the Kochs.

John Pemble

On this News Buzz edition of River to River, political opposites, conservative Christian activist Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader and Donna Red Wing of One Iowa, share their views on the 2016 presidential race.

David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

A new Johnson County ordinance will raise the local minimum wage from $7.25 in $.95 increments, and this incremental rise will reach $10.10 by 2017. The first phase starts in a couple weeks, unless cities vote otherwise. The town of Swisher is set to do just that, as it is expected to vote down Johnson County’s minimum wage ordinance.

University of Iowa photo

On this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer sits down with Christina Bohannan, president of the University of Iowa Faculty Senate and a member of the UI president search committee, to talk about the the simmering controversy over the selection of former IBM executive Bruce Herrald to be the new university president.

GovernmentZA / Flickr

China’s economic slowdown appears to be having bigger repercussions for other countries than expected.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jonathan Hassid, an Iowa State University professor who studies Chinese news media and symbolic political messaging. He says politics will prevent real economic reform in China. He also discusses China's new display of military power and what this could mean for the future.

© Paws & Effect

Last week, 44-year-old Wade Baker, formerly of Marshalltown, died in an exchange of gunfire with police in North Carolina.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer listens back to his conversation with Baker from 2012, where they talked about his struggle with PTSD after serving in the Gulf War and how his psychiatric service and mobility dog, Honor, helped him through daily life.

tuchodi / Flickr

Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources says blue-green algae blooms are not only a nuisance, some forms of the algae can be harmful to people, pets, and livestock. Mary Skopec of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says bacteria from algae can produce toxins that are damaging to either the liver or nerves.

“A dog can go from being perfectly fine to being dead within a matter of hours, or even minutes, because this can shut down the liver right away," she says.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

Tamer Koseli / flickr

When The Gazette filed an open records request with the Cedar Rapids Community School District, the district quoted the cost of the information at $260,000.

That’s a pretty high starting point," says Erin Jordan, reporter for The Gazette and KCRG. "A lot of people seeing that would think, 'Well that number is designed to make the requester go away.'"

With negotiations, the paper ended up paying the district only $740 for most of the documents originally requested.

BostonTx / flickr

As Iowans consume more local craft beer, there's demand for more convenient access. So, what if 64-ounce glass to-go containers, known as growlers, were available at local grocery stores and gas stations?

A bill being considered by the Iowa Senate would do just that.

Iowa Senator Jeff Danielson (D) proposed the legislation, which he says complies with both Class C liquor licenses and open container laws. He chairs the senate committee in charge of alcohol and gaming. He says the committee takes its time considering all the potential ramifications of any new liquor law.

Bret Hartman / TED Conference / flickr

David Gallo is a pioneer in mapping ocean terrain.

IP Viking -

Several U.S. military social media accounts were hacked this week by those claiming allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

Mauro Heck

This week, Havana erupted in celebration with the announcement of a new era of relations between Cuba and the United States. On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer sits down with Iowan Mauro Heck, who has just returned from Cuba.

Heck says that while Cuba is beautiful and the people are inviting, the country is "organized chaos."


President Obama made the announcement this week that, in the aftermath of Ferguson and other cases, the White House would call for $75 million over three years to make 50,000 body cameras available to police departments across the country.

Emily Woodbury

A recent report from the Iowa Department of Human Rights indicates the number of inmates in Iowa will increase by four thousand in 10 years. The report looks at the number of people going into prison, how long they are staying, and how many people are released each year.

The Director of Research at the Iowa Department of Corrections, Lettie Prell, says prison officials have seen high numbers like this before.

“We view this forecast as being not set in stone, but as an indication of where we might be going if we don’t examine our current policies and practices."

Smokers High Life / flickr

We know movie and wine critics, but what about a career as a pot critic?

Justin Valas

The President's order to protect five million undocumented immigrants from deportation has been welcomed by some, condemned by others.

US Department of Labor

United States health officials say they are confident they can prevent the spread of Ebola in the U.S. after the first case was diagnosed in Texas this week.

Both Kayla and Libby Casavant were working in Liberia when the worst known outbreak of Ebola hit West Africa. 

Courtesy of Rick Fredericksen

Robin Williams' death earlier this week sparked many stories of how he touched the lives of his fans and the people he met.

John Pemble

Today on a "news buzz" edition of River to River - news from the 2014 Iowa State Fair.

Iowa State Fair

Last year at the Iowa State Fair, Jason Powell of Des Moines said his free speech rights were violated after security guards ordered him to stop preaching on public sidewalks. Today on River to River, we find out the status of his lawsuit as well as whether he will be allowed at this year’s fair. We also find out about an Iowa developed vaccine that could cure dust-mite allergies. That and all the week’s Iowa stories on a news buzz edition of River to River.

Petrarchan47 / Wikimedia Commons

A beloved Iowa eagle was found dead earlier this week. Indy, as his fans called him, a young male eaglet whose hatching was witnessed by thousands online earlier this spring was electrocuted by a power pole on Tuesday. The bird had a large following in the state and across the country; more than 500 people have posted condolences on the Raptor Resource Project’s Facebook page. Host Ben Kieffer speaks with their executive director, Bob Anderson, about what happened to the bird and what can be done to protect these eagles in the future.

Brian Wellner / Quad City Times

Last summer, a Long Grove resident was arrested after police found marijuana plants in his home. Benton Mackenzie claims his family grew the plants in order to treat a rare blood-vessel cancer. This past week, the jury reached a guilty verdict for Mackenzie, his wife and child.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Brian Wellner, crime reporter for the Quad City Times, about the circumstances, outcome of the trial and why the jury couldn’t hear his primary defense.

William Ingram

True or False - If taller things are around you, you're safe from getting hit by lightning.

True or False - You should determine whether it is safe to be outside based on the amount of seconds between lightning and thunder.

True or False - You can develop tree looking "tattoos" if you survive a lightning strike.

U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez

Fly Iowa "takes flight" in Iowa City this weekend, for the first time since 2001, showcasing the role of aviation in Iowa.