News Buzz

Sarah Boden

The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines is preparing for the birth of its first baby rhinoceros. Five-and-a-half-year-old black rhino Ayana is expected to give birth in late fall.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. June Olds, the senior veterinarian overseeing the birth of the rare baby rhino, as well as Lou Keeley, the large mammal area supervisor at Blank Park Zoo.

Keeley says this pregnancy is a big deal, simply because there are not many black rhinos left in the world.

Ted Van Pelt / Flickr

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by a University of Iowa professor, may help explain the link between cleanliness and rates of asthma and allergies. Peter Thorne is a Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health. He says the study compared a group of Amish children to a group with similar genetics and lifestyles.

Courtesy of the ACLU of Iowa

Iowan Jesse Vroegh is a nurse with the Department of Corrections, and he recently filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, citing that he was being denied use of the men’s bathrooms or locker rooms at work, as well as medically recommended health care solely because he is transgender.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, guest host Clare Roth talks with Vroegh's attorney, ACLU of Iowa's Rita Bettis, about the potential for litigation in the case.

Two baby eagles in Iowa town of Riverdale along the Mississippi have been removed from their nest to become part of a migration study. Two young eagles in Riverdale join a study to protect raptors from manmade hazards like wind turbines and power lines.

"Eagle populations have increased dramatically as of late, and increasingly eagles are moving away from large riparian corridors to interior portions of the state," says Drew Becker, fish and wildlife biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo by Luke Runyon/Harvest Public Media

The world’s three largest seed companies are in talks about possible mergers. That could result in a broader definition of what it means to be an agricultural business and would create a new landscape for farmers buying seeds, fertilizer, and even machinery.

"They’re selling the seed, the chemicals, the fertilizer," says Chad Hart, Extension economist and associate professor at Iowa State University. "We may even see some combination where we see some ag machinery companies merging with some seed companies or some fertilizer companies."

Pat Blank/IPR

This week, University of Northern Iowa President William Ruud announced that he will be leaving UNI this summer to become president of Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer sits down with Ruud to find out why he is leaving Iowa, just three years after he interviewed for the position, when he implied that this would be his last job. 

"The opportunity to go to Marietta College is a great opportunity for me at this point in time in my career," says Ruud. 

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.

Tom Woodward / Flickr

This year marks the second year in a row that all three of Iowa's regents universities have made an apperance in the NCAA tournament, and for the first time, part of the tournament is being held in Iowa. Rick Brown, veteran sports journalist, says the trio of Iowa coaches has made this type of prominence possible for the state.


A federal appellate judge here in Iowa is a potential nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Tony Gaughan and Dennis Goldford of Drake University about the interest in Judge Jane Kelly, and also why Iowa's Patty Judge is challenging Chuck Grassley for his Senate seat.

Also this hour, a check on the health of the Midwest economy, fascinating insights into the new global media ecosystem, and the first annual Pho King Cook-off in Des Moines.

University of Iowa Muslim Student Association

The University of Iowa is reconfiguring two former offices in its Iowa Memorial Union to be used as full-time prayer spaces, primarily for the school's Muslim faculty, staff, and students. For Muslims, prayer is a ritual performed five times daily.

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer sits down with Saad Ansari, president of the University of Iowa Muslim Student Association, to discuss the need for a space for private prayer on campus.

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?