Ben Kieffer

River to River and Java Blend Host

Ben Kieffer joined Iowa Public Radio in 2000 and is host of IPR’s daily noon talk show River to River, which he also helps produce. Since 2001, he has hosted and produced IPR’s weekly, live music program which features artists from around the state and the country called Java Blend.

Prior to joining IPR, Ben lived and worked in Europe for more than a decade. He reported firsthand the fall of the Berlin Wall and covered the Velvet Revolution in Prague. Ben has won numerous awards for his work over the course of more than 20 years in public media.

Ben holds an adjunct faculty position at The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where he teaches courses on interviewing and radio news. He is a native of Cedar Falls and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

Ben’s favorite public radio program is Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

Ways to Connect

On Friday, September 30th, Midwestern bluegrass group The Matchsellers will perform on IPR Studio One's "Java Blend." 

Stop by The Java House in downtown Iowa City at 2 P.M. to hear Java Blend host Ben Kieffer chat with the duo and listen to tunes off the group's new album, Songs We Made Up. 

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A new poll shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton tied in Iowa, with both having 38 percent support among likely voters. That’s a bit of good news for Clinton since two recent polls have shown Trump leading in Iowa by several points.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's Java Blend, host Ben Kieffer chats with Des Moines singer-songwriter Christopher the Conquered. 

Tune in to the downloadable podcast below for a taste of Christopher's catchy melodies, soulful vocals and tasteful piano playing, showcased in tunes off his new record, I'm Giving Up on Rock 'n' Roll

Photo courtesy of Julie Freed

Recent heavy rains have put the Cedar River and many streams at, or above, flood levels in what could be the worst flooding to hit the state since 2008. Communities are responding with sandbagging efforts and thousands of residents have evacuated their homes.

On the first segment of today's River to River, host Ben Kieffer checks in with those living and working in Charles City, Waterloo, Cedar Falls, and Cedar Rapids, including Molly Montag of Mason City Globe Gazette, Pat Kinney of the WCF Courier, Brian Morelli of The Gazette, and Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett.

MCAD Library

Frank Lloyd Wright once said, “Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer hosts a discussion on architecture in Iowa. He’s joined by Iowa State University College of Design associate professors Dan Naegele and Cameron Campbell. They explain how building design in Iowa has changed over the decades, what is says about us, and the art of the field.

Learning to read music helps students in math and having a health outlet for creativity is part of what encourages innovative thinking.

Do students in Iowa have enough access to things like music lessons and art classes? Should arts education be a part of the Iowa Core in terms of curriculum? Some arts educators, including David Law, Executive Director of the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education, say "yes." There's been an unsuccessful push to make arts a part of the Iowa Core for the last decade.

On this special taping of IPR Studio One's  Java Blend, David Zollo and William Elliott Whitmore, both fixtures of Iowa's music scene, will perform at Terry Trueblood Recreational Center as part of IPR's Great Iowa Potluck, on Wednesday, September 21. 

At 7 P.M., Zollo and Whitmore will join Java Blend host Ben Kieffer for a sunset performance. Stop by to hear the music that has put the artists on the map, as well as news on the pair's new joint project, Middle Western

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Iowa City is preparing to host an international sporting event that will be televised live around the world: the UCI World Cup of Cyclocross. John Meehan is a pediatric surgeon in Iowa City and the director for the Jingle Cross. He says cyclocross is different than a typical bike race.

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Just weeks away from the general election, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump returned to Iowa touting his plan to ease the financial burden of childcare for working families. Also this week, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton took a break from campaigning after being diagnosed with pneumonia. That's not controversial, but how and when her campaign disclosed her health status, certainly was.

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It may seem odd that a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate promotes anger. But that is exactly what 2014 winner Kailash Satyarthi believes is necessary for change to occur in the world. 

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Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, Venmo -- the cutting-edge payment options of today are in our pockets, if not in our wallets. Before we had technological access to our bank accounts, there was a more rudimentary barrier to jump: getting money regardless of what bank or ATM was available. 

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This election has been unusual for a number of reasons, many which can be boiled down to one personality that's dominated the airwaves and headlines: Donald Trump. Josh Voorhees, senior writer for the liberal online magazine Slate, says part of it was the confluence of Trump's ascendancy and a new form of journalism.

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Airbnb, a marketplace for people to list and rent vacation homes and rooms to stay, was founded in 2008 in San Francisco. Today, there are more than a million listings in more than 30,000 cities around the country. As the service grows in popularity in the state, cities in Iowa including Clear Lake, West Des Moines, Fairfield and Coralville are looking to regulate its use.

"There is a great demand for this type of service. It was founded as a means to accommodate people during large business conventions," explains Art Durnev, a professor of finance at the University of Iowa. 

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Recent research funded by a grant from National Institute of Mental Health at the University of Houston reveals children who experience inadequate or disrupted sleep are more likely to develop depression and anxiety disorders later in life. To pinpoint these cognitive, behavioral and physiological patterns of emotional risk, the researchers are temporarily restricting sleep in 50 pre-adolescent children between the ages of 7 and 11.

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Shenaz Patel is from Mauritius, an island country off the coast of the African mainland. Many Americans probably couldn’t place the country on a map; some might not even know its name.

“White people often ask me, ‘Where is Mauritius?’ and I feel like I should be walking with a map in my pocket to point out to them,” Patel laughs.

The island played a role in the War for Independence as a harbor for French ships to dock at before coming to America, and it plays an essential role in U.S. foreign policy now.

A former Ambassador to Tanzania under President George W. Bush and current President of the non-partisan, not for profit International Republican Institute says America's role in the world should be one of engagement.

Ambassador Mark Green was in Iowa this week to speak to the Des Moines Committee on Foreign Relations. He told host Ben Kieffer on River to River that America needs to stand with its allies and help them achieve their goals, stabilize the world, and address conditions like destitution and absolute poverty that can be exploited by extremists.

Michael Luick-Thrams

An Iowa historian, running as an independent in the race for U.S. Senate, says he sees opportunity for someone outside the two-party system in this election cycle. He says every 30 years or so cultures open up, look around, and assess what's going well and what needs to be changed. Michael Luick-Thrams says now is that moment.

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Congress returned to the U.S. capitol this week, but prospects for getting much done before the election are dim. In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Drake Political Science Professor and Chair at Drake University and Flansburg Fellow at the Harkin Institute, Dennis Goldford and Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa, Tim Hagle. In addition to unlikely congressional action, they also discuss the future of Fox News, given the departure of Roger Ailes as well as the latest developments in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Thirty opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline were arrested Wednesday and charged with trespassing for blocking construction vehicles from entering a construction site in Boone County.

La Homa Simmonds of Boone was one of the protestors arrested.

“It was really kind of surreal,” she says. “You’re looking out, and you’re seeing Dakota access workers standing there. You see the state patrol. You’re seeing the fields that are being torn up not even three miles away.”

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As with most issues, republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton see the U.S. role in the world very differently. In this edition of River to River, Host Ben Kieffer talks with Jim McCormick, Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College about the foreign policy challenges likely facing the next President of the United States.

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In 2009, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced an initiative to end veteran homelessness.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with IowaWatch.org reporter Thomas Nelson about his latest reporting on homelessness within Iowa's veteran population; Mark Brown, an outreach veterans advocate for Willis Dady Prevention and Shelter; and an Iowa veteran who used to be homeless.

Photo Courtesy of Decorah Newspapers

Flood waters in Northeast Iowa have inundated homes, and for many of those families, they'll be forced to rebuild without the benefits of flood insurance. Josh McGrath and his family were asleep in Freeport, Iowa on Wednesday when flood waters came crashing into their basement. He and his wife Miranda escaped with their three children through waist deep water outside their home to get to safety while their basement filled with water.

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This week, controversy swirled around allegations that special access was given to Clinton Foundation donors when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. 

Donna Hoffman, department head and associate professor of Political Science at the University of Northern Iowa, explains the emails show communication between the aides of the Clinton Foundation and Clinton as Secretary.

"There's no evidence that, 'Hey, I've given a donation so I must therefore be able to meet with Secretary Clinton,' but that's kind of the implication here, that there's the appearance of corruption."

John Pemble

On this special edition of River to River, presented in conjunction with The Gazette, Ben Kieffer and co-host Jennifer Hemmingsen discuss the latest news from the campaign trail with panelists: Gazette political & investigative reporter James Lynch, along with Gazette columnists Lynda Waddington and Todd Dorman.

Daniel R. Blume / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Objectivity, fairness and balance are values that have long guided journalism. But in our rapidly changing media environment, where affirmation is only a click away, do readers, listeners and viewers really want news that adheres to those values? The leaders of three Iowa journalism schools say they do.

Schools across Iowa are beginning classes this week amid concerns from public health officials about the drop in vaccination rates. At many schools, the percentage of students fully vaccinated is below 90 percent, and at a few around the state, it's below 50 percent. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says more families are seeking exemptions from vaccinations for a variety of reasons. 

"One of the reasons is that people no longer have seen these diseases and therefore don't realize how bad they can be," she explains. 

Photo by John Pemble

University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld is beginning his first full school year at the helm in Iowa City. The former business executive took over the job in November of last year amid protests from some faculty and students over his lack of academic background. He says he hopes all that is behind him heading into this school year. 

"From my perspective, we're now hard at work on the real issues of moving the university forward. It feels like we're a lot calmer and much more focused in a lot of ways," he says. 

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Donald Trump doesn't have time to read. As he puts it, that's always been the case.

“I never have. I’m always busy doing a lot. Now I’m more busy, I guess, than ever before.”

But that doesn't stop presidential historian and retired director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Tim Walch from having some book recommendations for him and for his opponent Hillary Clinton. He puts a lot of presidential biographies from the days of our founding fathers on that list.

Airing originally in December of 2014, this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend" features Celtic-Soul group Switchback. 

Tune in below to hear the group showcase their uniquely Midwestern sound and learn about their creative process.

In this encore episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," originally aired in December of 2015, host Ben Kieffer chats with Greg Klyma. 

Listen in below for songs that will make you laugh and sing.

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