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
1:05 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Politics Day: Iowa's Open Senate Seat

Iowa state capitol
Tony Fischer / Flickr

The last time politicians had an open race for a Senate seat in Iowa, Paul McCartney & Wings were topping the charts with "Band on the Run" in 1974. On today's River to River we talk about the likely contenders for retiring Senator Tom Harkin's seat.

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River to River
1:14 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Adaptations of Iowa's Republicans: Grassley and King

Senator Chuck Grassley
Senator Chuck Grassley Official Website

Newly re-elected chair of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus says his party will have to adapt to “an era of permanent politics.” Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa Senator Charles Grassley and Congressman Steve King of Iowa’s 4th District.We ask about their stance on the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform as well as their goals as Republicans and as our elected representatives, at the start of President Obama's second presidential term. 

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River to River
1:41 pm
Fri January 25, 2013

Major Supreme Court Cases for 2013

Katie Harbath Flickr

Recently, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke in court for the first time in almost seven years.

Ben Kieffers talks with  Todd Pettys and Song Richardson, two faculty members from the University Of Iowa College of Law. They discuss key cases before nation’s highest court this year including the constitutionality of California’s Prop 8, which bans same-sex marriage, and DOMA, The Defense of Marriage Act.

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River to River
11:46 am
Thu January 24, 2013

Sense of Adventure: Sailing on the Pacific

Grant and Denise Stejskal
Grant and Denise Stejskal

This week Hy-Vee's retired chairman and CEO, Ric Jurgens, was honored by the Food Marketing Institute. On the first half of this River to River show, host Ben Kieffer listens back to his 2012 interview with Jurgens about the evolution of food shopping.

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River to River
1:23 pm
Wed January 23, 2013

Politics Day

President Obama gave his second inaugural address this week, in which he outlined several goals for his coming term. Ben Keiffer breaks down the speech and talks about which goals are politically possible with Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa.

Then, discussion over the remarks made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Senate committee hearing on Benghazi and the recent House vote to extend the debt limit.


 

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River to River
1:08 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Mental Illness & Media Violence

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden
Center for American Progress / Flickr

Host Ben Kieffer talks with UI psychiatrist and professor of medicine Donald Black about his views on proposed changes in mental health policy as a potential remedy for reducing gun violence. Dr. Black is well known for studying various personality disorders. Also psychologist Craig Anderson of ISU tells us about research on the connections between virtual media violence and real life violence.

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River to River
1:21 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

The Reagan Presidency and Chip Duncan

President Ronald Reagan is one of the nation’s more influential presidents. He served as president during the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Ben Kieffer talks with film maker and Iowa native Chip Duncan. He has a new public television documentary series on the Reagan presidency premiering in February. We discuss the successes, failures and influential decisions made by President Reagan during his eight years in office.

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River to River
1:06 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Iowa's "Food Deserts"

Deep fried, greasy food.
Christian Cable / Flickr

Here in Iowa, we live in one of the top food producers in the nation. Yet, some Iowans still have trouble accessing healthy foods. Host Ben Kieffer talks with experts across the state about people who live in areas with low access to healthy food…areas often referred to as “food deserts”. We find out why people in these areas have trouble accessing healthy food, and what efforts are being done to help these residents.

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River to River
1:34 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Politics Day

NASA HQ Flickr

President Obama’s second inauguration is less than a week away.

On this Politics Day, Ben Kieffer gets a preview of the event and expectations for Obama’s second term from political scientists Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College, and Chris Larimer of the University of Northern Iowa.  Rachel Caufield of Drake University is in D.C. with several students for the inauguration and are documenting their experiences.

Also, the debt limit stand-off and the unveiling of the White House’s gun violence proposals.

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River to River
1:14 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

The Flu Season in Iowa

3D flu virus.
Wellcome Images / Flickr

Cold and flu season is upon us and the strain of flu going around this year seems to be particularly nasty. Host Ben Kieffer discusses how the flu is impacting Iowans this year with State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. We also hear about how to prevent and treat the flu for children with pediatrician Dr. Jody Murph and we’ll learn about how certain diseases jump from animals to humans with emerging infectious disease specialist Tara Smith. 

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River to River
1:22 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Gun Laws In Iowa

Jessica Quinn Flickr

This week Vice President Biden’s gun violence task force continues to meet to discuss a set of proposals about gun violence. Ben Kieffer talks about discussions on the federal and state level about gun control.

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River to River
1:28 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Ballot Access in Iowa

Iowa is one of only ten states in the U.S. where people can register to vote on the same day they cast their ballot. Iowa is also one of the most difficult states in the nation for former felons to regain their voting rights. Host Ben Kieffer discusses ballot access in Iowa - we look at our state's changing policies on voting as well as the integrity of our election system.

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River to River
1:11 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Politics Day

KP Tripathi Flickr

Chuck Hagel, John Kerry and John Brennan are the first picks for President Obama’s cabinet.  Ben Kieffer, discusses the possible nominees to play key roles in Obama's second term. Political analysts also discuss the ongoing talks about the debt ceiling and gun control.

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River to River
1:09 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Immigrants Living in Iowa

Nations' flags outside the United Nations building in New York.
United Nations Photo / Flickr

Reports say that the White House plans to start a push towards comprehensive immigration reform this month. Ben Kieffer speaks with immigrants who have come to our state about the challenges they faced moving to Iowa from another country - finding work, a new life, putting down new roots in Iowa's communities, and the Immigrant Voices Project.

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River to River
1:21 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Preventing Rape In A Rape Culture

Eric Hancock Flickr

Ben Kieffer talks with rape victim advocates about how to prevent rape in Iowa. We’ll examine the attitudes and opinions that need to change so that Iowa is a safer place for everyone.

Then,  the creator of a new personal safety smart phone app  talks about how he hopes the app will help prevent kidnappings and assaults.

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River to River
2:41 pm
Fri January 4, 2013

Gambling In Iowa

Limconcon Flickr

Forget about riverboats, online gaming is the new frontier when it comes to gambling in Iowa. Ben Kieffer discusses the future of gambling in Iowa and how the evolving regulation of online gaming may help or hinder the state’s gaming industry.

Then a University of Iowa researcher shares his new study that suggests more casinos do not necessarily equate more gamblers.

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River to River
1:06 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

The Sleep Doctor: Sleep Apnea

A man using a sleep apnea machine.
A. Strakey / Flickr account

Abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep may be a symptom of a common disorder called sleep apnea.

Neurologist Dr. Eric Dyken, the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at the UIHC, answers your questions about sleep apnea and seasonal affective disorder as well as the warning signs and what treatments are available.

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River to River
1:16 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Politics Day: Fiscal Negotiations

KP Tripathi Flickr

Last minute deal making on Capitol Hill may have helped avert the fiscal cliff for now, but many law makers are still divided over the measure. Ben Kieffer talks with political experts Tim Hagle and Bruce Nesmith about the fiscal measure and other recent political events.

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River to River
11:53 am
Mon December 31, 2012

Remembering Iowans Who Passed Away in 2012

Josh McGinn / flickr

2013 is nearly upon us, and as we get ready to usher it in, we pause to look back on 2012 and some of the lives lost in the past year.  Today, we air our obituary show.  Join us to remember Iowa soldiers killed in Afghanistan, public figures, educators and others.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu December 27, 2012

Iowans with Interesting Jobs

Ben Kieffer looks back on conversations from 2012 with Iowans who have fascinating or unusual jobs.  These individuals discuss the cool, unique and sometimes scary aspects of their professions.

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River to River
2:29 pm
Wed December 26, 2012

Top Iowa News Stories of 2012

A crowded precinct location in Coralville for the 2008 Iowa caucuses
Stephen Cummings / Flickr

2012 was another big year for news in Iowa.  The headlines ranged from pink slime and spaceships, to the presidential election and financial scandal.  Ben Kieffer counts down the top 10 news stories of the past year, plus some honorable mentions.

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River to River
12:00 am
Tue December 25, 2012

NPR's Tinsel Tales 2

NPR fills millions of homes each holiday with humor, warmth, and a host of festive voices. Continuing with the tradition of the first Tinsel Tales program, this is another collection of the best and most requested holiday stories. Joy, hope, and childhood memories overflow as NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. Hosted by Lynn Neary.

River to River
12:00 am
Mon December 24, 2012

NPR's Tinsel Tales

Christmas is a time of traditions, and over the years, NPR has created a few traditions of its own. In this hour-long special: Wistfulness, joy, doubt, hope, all the emotions we feel at this time of year, all summoned up in memorable stories from the NPR broadcast archives.

David Sedaris, Bailey White, John Henry Faulk — these and other NPR voices, past and present, tell stories of the season. It may be you'll remember these tales fondly, or it may be you'll fall in love with them for the first time.

River to River
12:21 pm
Fri December 21, 2012

Heartwarming Stories

Q. Thomas Bower Flickr

Most of us have someone who has done something or said something that changed our life. Ben Kieffer talks with people who are honoring those family members, teachers, mentors and friends who gave them that pivotal push in the right direction.

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River to River
1:22 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Therapy Animals

A therapy dog brings comfort to Spc. Guadalupe Hernandez
Army Medicine / Flickr

One of the ways the people of Newtown, Connecticut are recovering from last week's shooting is with the aid of therapy dogs. Animal assisted therapy is a type of therapy which uses trained animals to reduce anxiety and facilitate healing.

Ben Kieffer talks with three Iowa therapists who works with animals. They discuss the history of animal assisted therapy, how the treatments work, and the special animals involved in these therapies.

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River to River
1:10 pm
Wed December 19, 2012

Politics Day: Iconic Obama

Barack Obama Flickr

How is Barak Obama represented in popular culture? Ben Kieffer talks with two University of Iowa graduate students who’ve written a book about the 44th President as a lens through which we can see not only politics, but also art and music.Then, Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa with the latest political analysis of the Connecticut school shooting and fiscal cliff negotiations.

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River to River
1:08 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

Traffic Enforcement Cameras & Traffic Pet-Peeves

Traffic light cameras at intersection in New Mexico
cjc4454 / Flickr account

Several cities in Iowa are pushing for the controversial installment of traffic enforcement cameras, but the cities’ efforts are complicated by some state guidelines. Ben Kieffer talks with supporters and opponents to the installation of traffic cameras, and we’ll find out whether these cameras are a short, or long term goal for the state.

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River to River
1:06 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

State of Iowa's Unions

Union supporters on the Iowa Capital building steps in Des Moines
Mark Davitt / Flickr

Michigan is now a so-called right-to-work state, signing into law a bill that prevents unions from requiring employees to pay dues, even in unionized workplaces. It’s being called a political defeat for unions. Will the effects ripple into Iowa?

Ben Kieffer and guests examine the state of Iowa’s unions. Ben talks with leaders of three of the state’s unions, a labor historian, and a state lawmaker.

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River to River
1:17 pm
Fri December 14, 2012

Climate Change In The Midwest

Fernando Tomás Wikimedia Commons

There has been a lot of talk about climate change in the news, with some experts saying super storms like Hurricane Sandy could be more frequent on the East Coast. But what’s the future of climate change in the Midwest? Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Environmental Engineer Jerry Schnoor and others about what we might expect in the Midwest and how we might adapt to the change. Then, Ben talks with state Senator Rob Hogg, a vocal supporter of climate change policies.

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River to River
1:14 pm
Thu December 13, 2012

Marijuana's Legal Status in Iowa

Wild marijuana plant, Tadapani
Dey / Flickr account

After this year’s November election, where voters in Colorado and Washington voted to make marijuana legal for recreational use, people in Iowa are proposing similar legislation.Two bills will be proposed in the Iowa legislature, one on making medical marijuana legal in the state, and one decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of the substance.

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