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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News Buzz
3:33 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Repel Bugs, Gnat-urally

Bug Soother

This spring, Freda Sojka says there's only one way to describe her business: busy. 

She's the brains behind the bug repellent "Bug Soother," that has become overwhelmingly popular over the last few years in Iowa. She says she discovered the recipe for the repellent by accident. “My grandson was at my house, and I didn’t want to put anything on him with DEET in it. I threw a few things together, and it worked.”

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River to River
3:22 pm
Thu June 5, 2014

Air Quality Concerns: Are Coal Plants to Blame?

Southend, a Muscatine neighborhood that borders the Grain Processing Corporation and Muscatine Power and Water coal plants
Adam Burke

For decades, U.S. climate change policy has amounted to, "Do as I say, not as I do." However, this week President Obama announced its boldest step yet to reduce carbon emissions. The President wants to reduce carbon emission from power plants by 30% by the year 2030.

Today on River to River, what these guidelines mean for Iowa.

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Politics Day
5:34 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Analysis on Iowa's Primary Results

Newfrontiers https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode

Three open congressional seats from Iowa are up for grabs in this November’s midterm elections – a very rare occurrence in Iowa politics!

Today on River to River, an analysis of last night's primary results for those races. Joining host Ben Kieffer are guests Kathie Obradovich, of the Des Moines Register, and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa.

Ben asks them about the candidates’ strengths, possible weaknesses, and he has them ponder campaign strategies each camp is likely to employ leading up to November.

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Health
4:52 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Nick Rhoades Talks His HIV Conviction and What Comes Next

Nick Rhoades in Iowa Public Radio's Des Moines studio
John Pemble Iowa Public Radio

In 2009 when Nick Rhoades was convicted of the criminal transmission of HIV and sentenced to 25 years in prison and lifetime listing as a sex offender, the news upended his life. He attempted suicide and had a breakdown that landed him in the University of Iowa Hospital's psychiatric ward for weeks. He spent what he describes as nine "hellish months" in jail and four in prison before his was granted relief from his sentence.

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Politics
3:13 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

When Politics and Religion Meet

The phrase, separation of church and state, "doesn't clarify as much as it obscures," says Dennis Goldford of Drake University
Wyoming_Jackrabbit / flickr

State money is helping to build a new Christian park in Sioux City. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, a Satanic statue will be erected outside a courthouse, next to the Ten Commandments.

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Java Blend
3:49 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With Natalie Brown and Mirage

Tune in for a fresh-brewed hour of music with Natalie Brown and Mirage.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host, Ben Kieffer will chat with Iowa native, Natalie Brown and her new band Mirage.

Listen to and download the podcast to find out more about the making of their new fusion of inspired jazz.

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News Buzz
1:59 pm
Fri May 30, 2014

News Buzz: Iowa's VA Hospitals, Recapping the GOP Primary Debate, Court Reporters

Eric Shinseki
Wikimedia Commons

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has resigned his post in the wake of a series of scandals at Veterans Affairs hospitals across the country. During this News Buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with Des Moines Register Health Care Reporter Tony Leys about how the announcement could affect Iowa's VA hospitals. He also tells us about a possibly mismanaged case at the Iowa City VA

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News Buzz
11:36 am
Fri May 30, 2014

Marshalltown Native Toby Huss to Appear in New AMC Series

John Bosworth (Toby Huss) and Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace)
Photo by James Minchin III/AMC

Marshalltown native Toby Huss’ latest project reaches back into history into the burgeoning computer revolution of the 1980’s, when IBM was out in from of the PC wars. The new series, AMC’s Half and Catch Fire, premiers this Sunday.

Huss, along with a small group of people at a midlevel computer company in Texas called Cardiff Electric, try to reverse engineer an IBM PC, steal the technology and improve upon it. He talks with host Ben Kieffer about the new series. 

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News Buzz
5:34 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Do You Live Along I-35?

New York Times reporter Damien Cave and photographer Todd Heisler are spending the summer driving north along Interstate 35. Why? They're hoping to paint a picture of how immigration is transforming communities along that route. Cave is normally based in Mexico City, Mexico and says in the week they’ve spent traveling north through Texas, they’re already hearing drastically different ideas about immigration and Mexican culture has changed certain communities in the United States.

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River to River
5:15 pm
Thu May 29, 2014

Self-Driving Cars: No Longer Science Fiction

epSos .de / flickr

Decades ago, researchers dreamed about cars that could park themselves and avoid accidents. And now, it’s no longer science fiction.

Today on River to River, a look at the latest transportation-related news. We look at modern advances to our transportation systems, including self-driving cars, an update on the controversy surrounding traffic cameras in Iowa, the effects of cannabis on a driver, the hazards of all-terrain vehicles, and efforts by the Iowa DNR to crack down on drinking while driving on the water.

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2014 Voter Guide
12:17 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Candidate Profile: Scott Schaben

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Schaben
Credit ScottSchaben.com

Read this candidate profile of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott Schaben. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.

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Agriculture
12:11 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Espionage in a Corn Field

Kernels of corn. About a third of Iowa's land (12 million-plus acres) is used to grow corn each year, making Iowa the national leader in corn production in most years.
Photo by Tim McCabe, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Last week, the U.S. Government indicted Chinese government hackers on charges of stealing trade secrets, claiming that the espionage has gone too far. When it comes to intellectual property, the internet isn’t the only place the Chinese are looking for U.S. trade secrets.

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2014 Voter Guide
11:04 am
Tue May 27, 2014

Candidate Profile: Mark Jacobs

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Jacobs
Credit Iowa GOP

Read this candidate profile of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Jacobs. He was interviewed as part of IPR's 2014 Primary Voter Guide series.

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2014 Legislative Session
2:04 pm
Fri May 23, 2014

Governor Branstad to Sign Bills on Cannabis Oil and HIV Transmission, but REAP Funding in Question

Governor Terry Branstad
John Pemble IPR

A bill legalizing the possession and medical use of cannabis oil for epilepsy patients passed the Iowa House and Senate.  But will the Governor sign it?  In this News Buzz edition of the show, Host Ben Kieffer talks with Governor Terry Branstad about the loose ends from the 2014 legislative session and which bills will or will not gain his signature.

 

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News Buzz
5:22 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Virtual Reality for Chickens

Courtesy of Austin Stewart

Would you eat the eggs of a hen lost in virtual reality?

On this River to River segment - a proposal by Austin Stewart of Iowa State University to give real, captive chickens a true virtual experience of roaming a free range.

“All the chickens in this world would have microphones so they can squawk at one another and socialize," says Stewart.

Spoiler alert: While Stewart admits that this is not a real business proposal, he is trying to provoke discussion on our lives as people living in "boxes" as well as communication on our livestock practices.

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Education
5:12 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

The Cost of College

On average, Iowa students owe $29,000 in college loan debt when they graduate with a bachelor's degree
BankSimple

When they receive their bachelor’s degree, a majority of Iowa graduates are in debt. On average, these students owe $29,000 in college loan debt when they graduate with a bachelor's degree.

The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, IowaWatch.org, has been examining students who live in the now while in college, and then face the prospects of paying huge amounts off in debt.

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Java Blend
2:56 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With Roxi Copland

Tune in this weekend for the soulful, minimalist sounds of Roxi Copland.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host, Ben Kieffer will chat with soulful Milwaukee artist, Roxi Copland.

Listen to and download the podcast to find out more about the making of their debut album.

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Politics Day
3:06 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Primaries a Bellweather for Iowa's U.S. Senate Race?

USA.gov

On Tuesday, six states held nominating contests and the Republican establishment scored big wins. Are the results a bellwether for Iowa’s primaries in less than two weeks?  Political analysts Dennis Goldford of Drake University and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa give us their thoughts on the primaries for open congressional seats here in Iowa.  Host Ben Kieffer asks how the issues of minimum wage and the Affordable Care Act are being talked about by Iowa's GOP candidates for U.S. Senate.
 

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Education
5:09 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

Examining the Bar

Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa Bar Association has recommended to the Iowa State Supreme Court that Iowa’s law schools should institute a “diploma privilege” for graduates of Iowa's law schools, meaning that graduates wouldn’t have to take the bar exam to practice law in the state.

Is allowing lawyers who haven’t passed a bar exam to practice a good idea? President of the Iowa State Bar Association Guy Cook says it’s an overdue change, “Iowa’s bar exam doesn’t test knowledge of Iowa law. This proposal wouldn’t work everywhere, but in Iowa, it could.”

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River to River
2:25 pm
Mon May 19, 2014

The Beauty and Future of Iowa's Parks

Lake MacBride Park in Solon, IA
Emily Woodbury

Iowa is the second most privately owned state in the U.S., so land preserved on its public parks is particularly special. Today on River to River –  the future of Iowa’s parks.

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Java Blend
5:06 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

A Summer with the Best of Java Blend

Tune in to IPR Studio One this summer and chill out with some of the coolest artists from 2012.

This summer, June through September, we'll be looking back at some of our favorite Java Blend broadcasts of 2012.

Tune in every Saturday starting June 14 at 2 PM to catch these special encore broadcasts featuring locally grown and nationally known artists. 

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News Buzz
1:12 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Iowan says he owes his life to Medal of Honor Recepient

Kain Schilling with his friend and Medal of Honor recepient Kyle White
Courtesy of Kain Schilling

 Former Army Spec. Kain Schilling says he owes his life to his friend and comrade former Army Sergeant Kyle White, “I could never repay him. We’re good friends... He knows I’m extremely thankful and that my family is eternally grateful.”

Schilling lives in Palo, Iowa and attended a White House ceremony earlier this week where his friend and was awarded the United States Military’s highest honor, the Medal of Honor. He talks with host Ben Kieffer about an ambush in Afghanistan in 2007 by Taliban forces when White saved his life and the lives of several others in their unit.

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News Buzz
12:49 pm
Fri May 16, 2014

Ames 5th Grader to Represent Iowa in National Geographic Bee

Top 10 finalists from last year's National Geographic Bee
Rebecca Hale

Shirlin Kingston, a 5th grader from Ames, will represent Iowa at the 26th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C. She leaves Sunday for the East coast and  says the fact that she is homeschooled and gets to spend more time on what interests her has helped her succeed in the competition so far.

If she wins the national bee, she’ll win a trip to the Galapagos Islands, which is exactly the place she’s says she's always wanted to go. “It’s right next to the equator, but they have penguins there” she tells host Ben Kieffer during this River to River interview. 

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Java Blend
10:41 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Java Blend Exclusive Hour With The Grahams

Tune in for the soulful and soothing sounds of The Grahams.

In this episode of IPR Studio One's "Java Blend," host, Ben Kieffer will chat with The Grahams.

Listen to and download the podcast to find out more about the making of their debut album. 

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River to River
10:48 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Africa, Behind the Headlines

First Lady Michelle Obama
Twitter.com

The kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls has captured world attention.  But the Nigerian government has been unsuccessfully trying to put down an insurgency by Boko Haram for years.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Pita Agbese, Professor of Political Science at University of Northern Iowa about the social media campaign that included a photo tweeted by First Lady Michelle Obama and how that has forced the Nigerian government to act.  He also speaks with Moses Bomett, Founder and President of Hope for Africa, a non-profit that raises money to support schools in Kenya.  And he talk with Jim

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News Buzz
5:30 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Whiskey Flavored Pigs?

Templeton Rye's Heritage Pork Project pigs
El Photography and Design

If you drink whiskey, and if you eat pork, you’ve probably come to understand them as a pretty good pairing. Scott Bush, President and Founder of Templeton Rye Whiskey in Templeton, Iowa, says he's always enjoyed the combination. Recently, he's taken it one step further.

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News Buzz
2:55 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Mobile Museum to Tour State

The University of Iowa's new mobile museum
Lindsey Moon/Iowa Public Radio

Have you ever wished the Museum of Natural History would visit you? Well, it’s on its way.

This spring The University of Iowa Museum of Natural History has launched a new initiative - the University of Iowa Mobile Museum - in collaboration with the UI’s Old Capitol Museum and the Office of the State Archaeologist. The 38-foot, custom built RV will being its tour of the state next week.

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Politics Day
5:33 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Frontrunners in Iowa's Republican Nomination for U.S. Senate

Newfrontiers

State Senator Joni Ernst started out relatively unknown in a crowded field for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Is she now the front runner?

We look at the candidacy of Joni Ernst this week, as she gains the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the NRA. Also on the program, a tea party primary win in Nebraska, the likelihood of immigration reform before November’s election, and looking abroad, the latest crisis in Ukraine and Nigeria.

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River to River
5:35 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Iowa Ranked Fourth Worst in U.S. Humane Society Puppy Mill Report

The U.S. Humane Society ranked Iowa as fourth worst in the nation for the number of USDA non-compliant large-scale breeders, commonly known as puppy mills
Mehul Gala

Iowa has the second largest number of large-scale commercial dog breeding facilities in the country. This hour, concerns about what are commonly known as puppy mills.

The U.S. Humane Society's 2014 report includes six problem puppy breeders in Iowa. Today, we talk about concerns over large-scale dog breeders with Mary LaHay, President of Iowa Friends of Companion Animals. She says that Iowa has "over 15,000 adult dogs in Iowa puppy mills, and we can do better than this."

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River to River
4:50 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Opinion Writing with the Resources of a Newsroom Behind It

Columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr.
leonardpittsjr.com

Nationally syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. says extremist Islam is afraid of little girls.  More specifically, he writes, they're afraid of the women they will become.  The 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary talks with Host Ben Kieffer about some of his recent writings, including his latest novel, Freeman and why opinion writing is still important.

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