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.

Ryan's Uneasy Relationship with Trump

May 19, 2016
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Asked by a reporter about a poll that found people found Trump a more trustworthy figure to lead the GOP than himself, Paul Ryan responded magnanimously.

"I hope it's Donald Trump: he's getting the nomination. He's wrapping up the nomination. Good lord, I hope it is, because the person who's getting the nomination of our party is the person to lead our party."

Perspecsys Photos / www.perspecsys.com

After high-profile hacks in the private sector and an embarrassing theft of information from government personnel files, President Barack Obama set up a commission on enhancing national cybersecurity. The commission is due to make its long term recommendations by early December on tightening cybersecurity in the private sector and in the government. It's part of Obama's $19 billion proposal to boost defenses against hackers. 

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

This week, NASA announced that the Kepler spacecraft mission has discovered 1,284 more planets in addition to what it's already discovered. This brings Kepler's total to more than 2,000 planets discovered in a narrow patch of the sky that's "about the size of your fist, if you hold your fist up to the sky," says Iowa State University astronomer Steve Kawaler.

Mike Mozart / Flickr

With the lawsuits between North Carolina and the Department of Justice and widespread boycotts of establishments like Target for their inclusive bathroom policies, transgender rights have been dominating the news cycle. In the middle of the politics and punditry, it's easy to lose sight of what being transgender actually means. Jay Irwin, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, says language is a good place to start.

Randy Bayne / Flickr

In a speech after his victory in the West Virginia primary Tuesday, Bernie Sanders made a nod towards unity in his party. 

"Our message to the Democratic delegates who will be assembling in Philadelphia is while we may have many disagreements with Secretary Clinton, there is one area we agree, and that is we must defeat Donald Trump."

BBC World Service

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with José Orduña, author of The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement. In his book, Orduña tells his family's story of emigrating from Mexico and reflects on the process of becoming a North American citizen in a post-9/11 United States.

Orduña says that even after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, he still has feelings on injustice and anger towards the system.

Rick Friday

Rick Friday had been drawing editorial cartoons for Farm News for more than two decades, that was until last week when a cartoon criticizing Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer and John Deere cost him his job.

He drew a farmer lamenting to another farmer the downturn in the commodity prices. Friday was as surprised as anyone that the cartoon then cost him his job, especially given that it had gone though the editor of the paper before being printed. 

An assistant Iowa attorney general is calling on state lawmakers to take action next session on laws to protect bicyclists on Iowa roadways. Iowa Assistant Attorney General Pete Grady says current law makes it nearly impossible to prove recklessness in cases where drivers hit bicyclists. 

At present, Grady says prosecutors need to show the vehicle operators knew their actions would cause harm.

"I don’t think anyone would define reckless behavior as requiring a better than 50 percent outcome for danger or harm, but that’s the standard we have here in Iowa," he says. 

courtesy of Jack Schuler

Last Saturday, Democrats held conventions in all four of Iowa’s congressional districts and chose their national delegates and electors. (Delegates choose the party's nominee, electors represent Iowa's votes in the electoral college.) One of those electors is Jack Schuler, a English teacher at Lincoln High School in Des Moines who may be making history. While the Democratic party has had transgender delegates previously, it’s possible that Jack, who was born as Elyse Schuler, is the first transgender elector in Iowa, and in the nation. 

LEE HAYWOOD

Recently, Democrats in the Iowa Senate introduced a proposal that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer prescription drugs to end their own lives.

The right-to-die bill did not advance, and was strongly opposed by the governor, but it did spark an emotional debate over individual freedom to end personal suffering versus protection of the sanctity of life.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

The President and CEO of The Family Leader says he’s taking a deep breath today, after the announcement by Texas Senator Ted Cruz that he’s suspending his campaign for president.

Bob Vander Plaats endorsed Cruz and was a national co-chair for the campaign, although The Family Leader remained neutral in the race for the Republican nomination. Vander Plaats says he’s keeping an open mind about whether to now endorse Donald Trump, but he first wants the chance to speak with the billionaire. 

John Pemble/IPR

Lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 legislative session at the Statehouse on Friday, April 29. While the House and the Senate reached a deal on the budget which included tax credits for couples who adopt instead of defunding Planned Parenthood, they did not compromise on bills that would have expanded access to medical marijuana or funded new water quality initiatives in the state. 

Michael Coghlan from Adelaide, Australia / Wikimedia Commons

Supporters of a sentencing reform bill approved by the Iowa legislature this session call it a "step in the right direction," despite the fact that there is bipartisan agreement that more steps are needed to address racial disparities in Iowa's criminal justice system.

The bill is awaiting Governor Terry Branstad's signature.

Ben Kieffer / Iowa Public Radio

    

When Donald Trump made the comment that Hillary Clinton's only card was "the woman card," Clinton took up the mantle.

"If fighting for women's healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman card, then deal me in."

Two Iowan siblings took it a bit more literally. Zach and Zebby Wahls are creating a deck of playing cards celebrating prominent women in American history. They launched a Kickstarter yesterday afternoon in the hopes of gaining $5,000 in 30 days.

It took three and a half hours.

Matt Dempsey / Flickr

When ESPN first launched in 1979, it was unclear how the public would respond to an all-sports cable channel. Three years later, a woman actually named ESPN in her divorce suit, claiming the network ruined her married by offering too much coverage. Travis Vogan says ESPN has fomented fanaticism not just for the teams it depicts, but for the network itself. One example of this? People naming their babies Espn (pronounced ‘es-pin’).

Joyce Russell/IPR

An expansion of Iowa’s medical cannabis law was defeated this week in the Iowa House, leading to an emotional reaction from affected families.

"I'm disappointed," says Sally Gaer. "I feel misled by the members of the House. We've been working on this for months, and what they did [Monday] night shows they have no conscience - pure and simple. They decided not to help Iowans most vulnerable because they, quite frankly, don't care."

Amy May / Iowa Public Radio

Hillary Clinton took four of five states that held primaries last night in the Northeast, bringing her closer to having a lock on the democratic nomination for president. Kedron Bardwell, Associate Professor of Political Science at Simpson College says he thinks challenger Bernie Sanders' supporters will support Clinton in the general election. 

"The Sanders supporters for the most part will stick with Hillary," he says. "The issues that Sanders cares about - it's not as if the Democratic Party has changed their positions that these issues are important."

Andrew Dallos / Flickr

The New York state attorney general and the city comptroller launched investigations after allegations of misconduct in the state's democratic primary last week. Hans Hassell, of Cornell College, says given the lack of transparency in the voting process there, he's not surprised.

Wellcome Images

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury talk with medical providers about how different medical robots work, as well as the pros and cons of working side-by-side with machines to provide patient care.

Robots at the bedside: Telemedicine and the stroke robot

Ben Kieffer

Since 1967, over 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have taken part in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, often referred to as the “United Nations of writers.”

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with several of this year’s writers who attended a welcome party in Iowa City earlier this week. They share poetry, their hopes for their time in the Midwest, and the struggles and inspiration they have brought with them from their home countries.

Ocean Biology Processing Group at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Flickr, Creative Commons

First established in 1970, Earth Day is celebrated worldwide on April 22nd every year to celebrate and support the protection of the environment. Has it worked?

Ralph Rosenberg, Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council, says Earth Day has evolved from raising awareness, to sparking action, to returning results.

"There's an urgency now," says Rosenberg. "People have seen some progress in 46 years, but we do need to see awareness and action year-round."

Wikimedia Commons

As the Iowa legislature strives toward adjournment, we look to surrounding states to compare and contrast priorities at other statehouses in the Midwest during this hour of River to River. During this conversation, Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell talks with Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Broadcasting, Brian Mackey of WUIS in Springfield, Illinois, and Shawn Johnson of Wisconsin Public Radio.

Joanna Bourne / Flickr

Like most institutions, the University of Iowa uses coal in its power plants. It, however, also has a hyper-local source of fuel: discarded oat hulls from the Quaker Oats factory in Cedar Rapids.  With a landmark change in regulation between the university and the DNR, plus a dash of good weather, University of Iowa is able to explore a different type of fuel type. Ben Fish, associate director of Utilities and Energy Management at the University of Iowa, joined Clare Roth to discuss their efforts.

Al Ravenna, World Telegram & Sun

Thurgood Marshall is a familiar name to most, and his work as a Supreme Court Justice is known to many. But his enormous success as an attorney fighting for civil rights is not as prominent in our minds. Author Wil Haygood says that part of his life and legacy laid the groundwork for his Supreme court appointment. 

By refusing to schedule a hearing for President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley has started a conversation about the importance and composition of the United States Supreme Court. E.J. Dionne, a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post, says the controversy is an example of how the court has become increasingly politicized. 

John Pemble

The penny sales tax that funds school infrastructure projects is set to expire in 2029.

On this edition of River to River, Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell hosts a discussion on the history and the future of the penny sales tax. She's joined by the Superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools, Thomas Ahart, as well as Sen. Herman Quirmbach (D) and Rep. Matt Windschitl (R). 

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

Iowa State University alum Vanessa McLean first documented her experience with sexual assault in her movie "I Am" in July of last year. Unexpectedly, she says, baring her soul for audiences was a catalyst.

"My healing took off after I was open about my experiences and it's something so powerful about saying that has been on your heart and mind all of your life," she says.

So she expanded her efforts and made a second film, "We Are Survivors," allowing for eight more sexual assault survivors to share their stories.

In his new book American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good, Colin Woodard explores our relationship with our sense of individuality and our need for community.

He says the gridlock in our current political system highlights the tension.

Jens Alfke

What makes a crime infamous in the eyes of the law? That's a question currently being considered by the Iowa Supreme Court as the justices make a decision that could impact about 57,000 felons in Iowa who are currently banned from voting. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about the Griffin v. Pate case with law expert Tony Gaughan of Drake University, Jamie Ross, a rehabilitated felon from Norwalk, and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.

Ryan Harvey / Flickr

Iowa is one of only a handful of states where it isn't legal to cash out an online fantasy sports bet. That could change this legislative session. Rep. Jake Highfill, a Republican from Johnston, introduced legislation that would legalize cash prizes for participating in the games online. Rep. Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa, says that type of gaming needs regulation.

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