River to River

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President Trump's nominee to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court has faced questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Judge Neil Gorsuch has been asked about his view of the Constitution, legal precedent set forth in Roe v. Wade, and whether the president would be violating the law if he authorized torture for terrorists.

The nominee has declined to give many answers, saying he might have to rule on such matters in future cases. That has many questioning the purpose of the committee hearings.

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Thursday, the Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill to scale back workers' compensation benefits in Iowa along party lines. A similar bill is now under consideration in the Iowa Senate. During this hour of River to River, host Joyce Russell talks with lawmakers about whether or not Iowa’s workers' compensation system is really being abused, and what lawmakers plan to do about it. 

State Representative Andy McKean from Anamosa (R) and State Senator Nate Boulton (D) join the conversation, as well as Richard Lesline, who is now disabled after a shoulder injury.

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Fifty years ago, on March 22, 1967, Central College in Pella hosted one of America’s most influential citizens: Martin Luther King Jr., who addressed an audience of 1300 in the college gymnasium. Just over a year later, King was assassinated.

To mark the anniversary, Central College has planned several events to honor King’s legacy and vision, as well as celebrate ways that Central participates in ongoing efforts toward social justice.

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According to Iowa comedian, Colin Ryan, who moved to the Midwest from Ireland in 2010, the current-day traditions of St. Patrick's Day (parades, wearing green, drinking beer, etc.) were inspired by people living in the U.S., not those in Ireland.

He says that up until the 1970s, “It was actually a day of quiet religious reflection in a lot of ways. What happened was that the Irish immigrants in Boston used to have big parties, so the Irish people traveling over to America saw the parades and all the fun stuff that was happening and said, 'Hey let’s do that back in Ireland.'"

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A new plan for health care in America, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is currently being debated by Congress, would replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to the new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, this plan has the potential to make many changes to health care policies in America. While it reduces the federal deficit by $337 billion over 10 years, it's also estimated to leave 24 million Americans uninsured by 2026.

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Max Rodriguez Garcia was born in Amsterdam in 1924. He emigrated to the United States in 1948, only after being liberated from a concentration camp in Germany after World War II. During this segment, he talks with Ben Kieffer.

“My whole family was gassed,” he recalls. “I wound up at the main building, Auschwitz I.

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The White House is trying to salvage support for the Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, as a growing number of lawmakers weigh in against the proposal.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a conversation on the plan with political analysts, Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Jim McCormick of Iowa State University.

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More than 30 states have enacted some form of a voter identification requirement in recent years, and Iowa could join that list, as a contentious voter ID bill continues to be discussed at the statehouse.

On this legislative day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer is joined by IPR statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell to host a conversation with lawmakers working on this proposal in Des Moines. They also talk with Indiana Public Broadcasting reporter, Brandon Smith, who describes the impact that similar voter ID legislation has had in Indiana over the last decade.

Caleb Housh

People in Seymour are working to convert a closed nursing home into temporary classrooms, after a tornado heavily damaged the local K-12 school on Monday.  Caleb Housh is the city’s mayor.

“I can’t tell you how many local contractors have been in there, getting this building ready to go. I believe today they’re ready to start painting rooms. Teachers have reached out to their students, and the students are going to come in and help paint the classrooms and get them ready to go."

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

During the time Chuck Hagel served as U.S. Secretary of Defense, Russia invaded Ukraine and the Syrian Civil War was at its height.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Hagel about current threats at home and abroad - getting his views on cyber-security, President Donald Trump’s new so-called travel ban, Trump’s call for greater defense spending, as well as the future of the Republican party.

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Republicans in the U.S. House unveiled the American Health Care Act this week. The act is the GOP replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. House Speaker Paul Ryan called the plan an "act of mercy," to help those who depend on the ACA which he says is imploding. House Minority Leader, Democrat Nancy Pelosi says the plan "couldn't be worse."

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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.:

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President Donald Trump delivered his first address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. The change in tone was noticeable, but listeners say the president's actions will speak louder than his words.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Donna Hoffman, associate professor and chair of political science at University of Northern Iowa, and Dennis Goldford, professor and chair of political science at Drake University about Trump's speech.

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Republican lawmaker Rep. Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley is pushing comprehensive changes to Iowa's firearms law this year. 

Specifically, House Study Bill 133 seeks to add "stand your ground" provisions, institute lifetime permits to carry, allow children under 14 years of age to use handguns under adult supervision, and preempt local ordinances that restrict firearms use or declare themselves “gun-free zones."

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President Donald Trump’s first few weeks in office have been a whirlwind. The same can be said for the first few weeks of the Iowa Legislature’s 2017 session.

During this special edition of River to River, recorded before a live audience at the Mill in Iowa City, host Ben Kieffer talks with columnists Todd Dorman and Lynda Waddington of the Gazette, as well as political reporter James Lynch. 

Conversation topics include Russia's interference into the U.S. Election, the likelihood of an investigation, collective bargaining rights in Iowa and many others. 

Photo by John Pemble

Iowa's U.S. senators are back in the state this week, drawing large, sometimes raucous crowds at town hall meetings. Attendance at Sen. Charles Grassley's gathering in Hancock county was reportedly more than 100. Sen. Joni Ernst drew a similar crowd at her event in Macquoketa.

Some Iowa attendees held signs supporting the Affordable Care Act and chanted "Do your job," and "Work for us." But do such protests make a difference to elected officials?

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Just weeks after leaving the White House, President Barack Obama ranks as the 12th best president overall, according to a new poll of historians conducted by C-SPAN. It's the first time Obama is eligible for the Presidential Historians Survey, which asked 91 historians to rank all 43 former presidents across 10 categories. 

Larry Koester

Russia has received a lot of attention in America recently, due to evidence of Russia meddling in the last U.S. presidential election, news of Donald Trump aides’ contact with Russian officials, and military moves including an intelligence ship spotted cruising just off the East Coast and a cruise missile test that may violate a 1987 arms treaty.

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Iowa’s only Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives says he still doesn’t know the details of what Republicans will propose as a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.  Dave Loebsack is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will vote on a replacement before sending it to the full House.

“So far what I have heard is that what they have offered is wholly inadequate and it doesn’t deal with the problems that we tried to deal with in the Obamacare legislation,” he says.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Traffic deaths in Iowa have been on the rise. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of fatalities increased by more than 80 deaths. Why?

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about distracted driving and legislation that’s been introduced at the statehouse that would allow a police officer to pull someone over for having a phone in their hand while behind the wheel.

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Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of the executive order by President Roosevelt that incarcerated 112,000 American residents of Japanese descent.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Mark Kende, the director of the Constitutional Law Center at Drake University, to discuss the implications of the 1941 order and a related SCOTUS ruling that may have impact in future court rulings on President Trump’s travel ban. 

Photo by Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

Mexico may be ready to hit America – and especially Iowa – where it hurts. Namely, in corn exports. Mexico is one of the top buyers of American corn, and Iowa is one of the top corn-producing states. In response to President Trump’s threats against Mexico, a Mexican senator said this week that he would introduce a bill that directs Mexico to buy its corn from Brazil and Argentina instead of the United States.

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National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned Monday, after admitting he did not provide Vice President Mike Pence with complete information about phone conversations held with Russian intelligence during the Trump administration's transition.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer, professor of political science at Grinnell College, and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University about the resignation and the likelihood of a congressional investigation.

Dean Borg

Iowa’s Fourth District Republican Congressman Steve King says he’s not overly concerned about a Mexican senator’s bill that could halt U.S. corn exports.

King says it’s one of the first signs of concrete action from Mexico in response to president Trump’s threats to impose high tariffs on Mexican goods..

Redistricting happens after each U.S. Census. Iowa lost one congressional district in 2013 based on the results of the 2010 Census; before that, Iowa had five districts. Today, we have four. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with David Daley, former editor-in-chief of Salon magazine who has written about redistricting, and Tracy Osborn, an associate professor of political science and director of the Politics and Policy Program at the University of Iowa. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa Republican lawmakers would like to rewrite Iowa’s public employee collective bargaining law. Their plans are laid out in companion bills, Senate File 213 and House File 291.

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A minimum wage law passed through committee in the House of Representatives at the state legislature this week.

"The bill in the House would prevent local governments in Iowa from passing higher minimum wage laws than the state minimum wage. As you know, four counties have done that," says IPR Statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell.

The state minimum wage is currently at the federal level, $7.25 an hour.

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After a lengthy confirmation hearing, protests, and two Republicans breaking with their party to vote no, President Donald Trump's education secretary pick, Betsy Devos, was confirmed by the Senate. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump tweeted, "It is a disgrace that my full cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country." [This statement is demonstrably false and will continue to be unless the confirmation process of Trump's cabinet takes an additional seven weeks.

Under a bill unveiled last week by Secretary of State Paul Pate, Iowa voters would be required to present identification at the voting booth. Pate says his proposal is aimed at ensuring the integrity of Iowa's elections. Democratic legislators and civil libertarians, however, have promised a fight over the issue. They raise concerns that new rules could suppress voter turnout. During this half hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Pate about his proposal. 

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Whether or not your team won last weekend, this year’s Super Bowl comes at a time when the Iowa legislature is considering new laws for so-called “collision sports” in Iowa schools.  

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