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.

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River to River
1:25 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Former Senate Majority Lead George Mitchell

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Envoy Sen. George Mitchell on 01/04/2010.
U.S. State Department

Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell has made a career out of crafting compromise. First in the U.S. Senate, then later brokering peace in Northern Ireland, and finally tackling peace in the Middle East.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Mitchell about Syria and Iran. He’ll also share his views on what is driving the hyper-partisan atmosphere in Washington.

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News Buzz
1:06 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

You Have Neanderthal Genes

Neanderthal Mother (detail of diorama) in Anthropos Pavilion, Brno, Czech Republic
Jaroslav A. Polák

For our weekly news buzz program, we get a review of the pending U.S. farm bill that is moving through Congress, how businesses are dealing with the Affordable Care Act, modern humans have a surprising amount of genes that come from Neanderthals, an important piece of art is returning to Iowa, a new  smartphone app designed in Iowa with which users can hear and see how to pronounce certain foreign language sounds, and we hear from a couple mayors of towns on this year’s RAGBRAI route. 

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Sports
2:03 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

The Big Pressure and Big Business of the Big Game

Courtesy of Sean Considine

This Sunday, the Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks in the first-ever outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl. Today on River to River, how did the football biz get so big? And, what is it like to play or be a referee in a high profile game?

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Politics Day
4:13 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Mixed Reviews for 2014 State of the Union

President Obama delivers the State of the Union to a joint session of Congress
Chuck Kennedy (Executive Office of the President of the United States) White House image, public domain

President Obama stepped to the podium to deliver his 2014 State of the Union address against a backdrop of low approval ratings, a stagnant Congress and the term “lame duck” increasingly being used to describe his presidency.  The State of the Union is often seen as an opportunity to press the reset button.  But, an analysis of the list of priorities requiring Congressional action unveiled in 2013 shows only two measures winning approval.  This may have been what prompted the President to say h

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River to River
3:16 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

The Renewable Fuel Standard

E Energy in Adams, Neb., takes in corn from local farms to make 65 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Grant Gerlock/Harvest Public Media

A decade ago ethanol was touted as an eco-friendly biofuel that would not only decrease U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but also boost the Midwest's economy. Today however, ethanol’s future is a matter of debate.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed reducing the ethanol mandate for the nation’s fuel supply. Many Iowa and around Midwest believe a reduction to the RFS would be economically devastating. 

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News Buzz
4:20 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

A Rush of Home Invasions and Shootings in Des Moines

Daniel Hoherd

So far this year, Des Moines has reported eight home invasions; the number coming very close to the eleven home invasions reported over the course of the entire previous year (2013).

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River to River
3:34 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

The 'Core' of Iowa Education

Thomas Favre-Bulle

In the first half of this program, host Ben Kieffer talks with two members of the new Iowa Department of Education commission charged with strengthening the core curriculum.  Guests are D.T. Magee, the Executive Director of the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners, and Tom Downs, Executive Director of the Iowa Association of School Boards.

In the second half, hear about new attention given to sexual assault, doubling of propane prices, and what is behind the latest cold weather.

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Politics Day
4:16 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

2014 Iowa Caucuses and Renewable Fuel Standard

A caucus at Washington Elementary in Davenport, Iowa 2008
Ann Althouse flickr

Iowans gathered for caucuses Tuesday night, not to determine who will win nominations for President, but to determine who will control the parties.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science Tim Hagle, and Drake University Professor of Politics, Dennis Goldford about how the midterm caucus results may impact the higher profile Presidential caucuses in two years.  They also discuss Iowa's political leverage to reverse an EPA decision reducing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

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Social Issues
5:29 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Nell Irvin Painter on "The History of White People"

Today on River to River, host Ben Kieffer speaks with two guests. First, he sits down with stef shuster, a Ph.D. candidate who specializes in medical sociology and gender. As part of the University of Iowa’s annual MLK Celebration of Human Rights, stef is giving a talk on “Building Positive Care Relationships Between Health Care Workers and Transgender Patients.”

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River to River
2:27 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

The Passage of the 13th Amendment

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, in1863.
Alexander Gardner Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

In this encore edition of River to River, listen back to host Ben Kieffer's conversation with Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum director Tom Schwartz.  Schwartz explains the story behind the passage of the 13th Amendment which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude.

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News Buzz
2:22 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Shaping Our Galaxy: What the Milky Way Really Looks Like

Spiral galaxy M81, which is similar in shape to our Milky Way
Hubble Heritage

Today we bring you four stories. First, the Iowa legislative session kicks off this week. IPR's Joyce Russell brings us inside the statehouse to give us an idea of what will and won't be worked on this year.

An otherwise healthy young boy died from the influenza virus. Patricia Quinlisk talks to host Ben Kieffer about why this flu season is different than previous years and how to limit spread of the virus.

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Health
6:40 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Iowa Smoking Rate Declines, but E-Cigarettes Worry Health Officials

Gonzalo Merat

In the 50 years since the U.S. government released its first report on the hazards of cigarettes, smoking rates have dropped by half. Yet, about a fifth of Iowans smoke today.

And while the smoking rate of young adults continues to decrease, about 2,600 Iowa minors become new daily smokers each year.

“Most people who use tobacco products start at a very early age,” said Dr. Karl Thomas, Executive Vice Chair for Clinical Programs at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

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Politics Day
3:54 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Political Leadership in the Spotlight

U.S. Speaker of the House Representative John Boehner
Creative Commons

"When we talk about leadership, we often think that it's entirely under control of the individual," says Hans Hassell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cornell College.  But in reality, "It's not necessarily Boehner's leadership style that's causing the problems, it's the political environment."  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Hassell, David Andersen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University.  Recent stories about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as well as revelations

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River to River
4:53 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

The Art of Prescribing Antidepressants

Amanda Hatfield

Today's River to River examines the diagnosis of depression, treatment options, and the possibility of prescribing anti-depressants to people with mild symptoms of depression or even merely sadness. Guests also evaluate how depression in farmers is treated and viewed differently than others.

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Java Blend
9:30 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With Kevin B.F. Burt

Tune in for a special hour with Iowa blues legend Kevin Burt.
Kevin B.F. Burt

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host,Ben Kieffer chats with Iowa native and Blues legend, Kevin B.F. Burt.

Listen and download the podcast to find out more about his famous Iowa Blues music.

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Java Blend
9:49 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour with JD Eicher

Tune in this Saturday for the playful and inspired music of JD Eicher.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host, Ben Kieffer  will chat with JD Eicher and his band, JD Eicher & the Goodnights.

Listen and download the podcast to find out more about their latest album Into Place.

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Java Blend
1:28 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With Chad Elliot

Tune in for a special hour of music by veteran Iowa country artist Chad Elliott.
Credit Chad Elliott

On this episode IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," Ben Kieffer chats with Iowa native and country artist,  Chad Elliott.

Listen and download the podcast to find out more about his recent album, So Sang the Crow.

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Java Blend
1:01 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With Susan Werner

Tune in for a special edition of Java Blend with Iowa artist and small-town advocate, Susan Werner.
Credit Susan Werner

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host,  Ben Kieffer will chat with Iowa roots artist, Susan Werner.

Listen and download the podcast to find out more about her new album, Hayseed.

Werner is a true performer and a veteran Java Blend artist. She connects her music to contemporary agricultural problems in songs like "Herbicides." At the same time Werner is grounded in the real-world experience of her life growing up as a farm kid.

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Java Blend
7:25 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With Fire Sale

Tune in to hear Iowa reggae band Fire Sale on IPR Studio One's Java Blend.
Credit Fire Sale

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host, Ben Kieffer will chat with local Iowa City artists, Fire Sale.

Listen and download the podcast to find out more about how college life has influenced their music.

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News Buzz
2:15 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

Teen Drivers, 51%, Ice on a River, Ice Over Fish

Thiago Pompeu

For this News Buzz show, Ben Kieffer talks with a variety of guests about new jobs numbers, the 51% four-year graduation rate at the University of Iowa, Matt Schultz running for congress, the Director of Iowa's Public Health Department resigning, new rules for teen drivers, concerns about ice on the Missouri River, an ice fishing update, and the remarkable beginning for ISU Cyclone men's and women's basketball.

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Food
4:10 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

An Unexpected History of Carnivore America

Emily Woodbury

The battle surrounding meat and livestock production ranks among the longest-waged and hardest fought in American history. Today on River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with historian and author, Maureen Ogle. Her new book is titled In Meat We Trust.

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Politics Day
3:32 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Counter-Terrorism, Agreement with Iran, and a Basketball Birthday with Kim Jong-Un

J. Gabás Esteban

Iran, Syria, Japan, and China are just a few of the places where an evolving political situation will likely have implications beyond their borders.  Join Ben Kieffer as he talks with political experts about where in the world we should be watching for changes in U.S. foreign policy as we move through 2014. 

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Population
5:17 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Iowa Population Trends

Iowa State Fairgrounds
Iowa State Fair

Every 8 seconds another person is born in the U.S., adding to a world population that already totals more than 7 billion people.

Today on River to River, host Ben Kieffer checks in with population experts here in Iowa to learn about our state’s trends, and what they tell us about our economy and the future of our communities. Global population expert William Ryerson also joins the conversation to talk about the connection between local and global population growth.

Today's guests include:

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Travel
12:42 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Iowa Adventurers: Vagabonding Under Sail

"The Maluhia" at sea
Denise Stejskal

Today on River to River, we catch up with Denise and Grant Stejskal. Native Iowans from North Liberty, they pitched their lives overboard a year ago to sail the Pacific Ocean. We sit down with them to find out what it's like to trade your house for a sailboat, what fish you should avoid eating, what to do when your boat is in the coordinates of a live missile practice, and what it's like to live on the sea with your significant other.

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Obits 2013
10:24 am
Mon January 6, 2014

Many Newsmaking Iowans Die in 2013

Pauline Phillips, aka "Dear Abby" died January 16, 2013 at the age of 94
public domain

We lost many Iowa newsmakers in 2013.  Host Ben Kieffer remembers them in our annual obituary show.

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Java Blend
11:37 am
Wed January 1, 2014

Java Blend Winter Encore Broadcasts 1/11 - 2/8

Don't miss our special Winter rebroadcasts every Saturday through February at 2 PM.

This winter, January through February, we'll be looking back at some of our favorite Java Blend broadcasts of the past year.

Tune in every Saturday this winter at 2 PM to catch these special encore broadcasts starting Saturday, Jan. 11. Find our schedule below.

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Year in Review
2:58 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

2013 Iowa News Stories

Ben Stanton / Iowa Public Radio. Derivative work of Anthony Godinho

As 2013 closes out, what are the most memorable, important, or significant events in Iowa from the last year? Some were joyful for many Iowans like the reinstating of wrestling to the Olympic games, some set the stage for a change in Iowa politics like the retirement announcements from US Senator Tom Harkin and Congressman Tom Latham. And some were painful like the kidnapping and murder of Kathlynn Shepard. 

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Year in Review
2:24 pm
Mon December 30, 2013

Top IPR Reporter Picks of 2013

2013 has been a busy year for Iowa Public Radio's news team. Today on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with reporters and correspondents about some of the most meaningful and challenging stories they covered. It's a "reporter's notebook" edition of the show.

Here is a list of the full features heard on today's show:

January 10 - Undocumented Immigrants at University

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River to River
1:39 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

Revisiting the Best and Worst Jobs of 2013

Roughnecks working on a drilling rig in Greeley, Colorado in 2008.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

For 25 years CareerCast.com has ranked the best and worst jobs. Their rating is based on physical demands, work environment, income, stress, and hiring outlook. 

Host Ben Kieffer revisits conversations with a biomedical engineer and an audiologist, two jobs that made the best list.  He also speaks to an oil rig worker and a newspaper reporter, two jobs on the worst list.

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Health
2:40 pm
Mon December 23, 2013

Gut Check: The Hidden Impact of Microbes

Jeremy Brooks

As we prepare to feast over the holidays and give our digestive systems a workout, there are millions of bacteria at work inside our bodies. Today on River to River, we talk about gut health and the bacteria and parasites that can reside in our digestive system.

In the first half, host Ben Kieffer checks in with Iowa State University's Tim Day, who is researching ways to alter a parasite that infects hundreds of millions of people in developing nations.

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