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
1:00 pm
Wed August 4, 2010

Genentically Modified Organisms Pro and Con

GMO's have generally been regarded as "frankenfoods" and portrayed in the media as environmentally dangerous. Some scientists, however, say many fears have no basis and are proven to be unfounded. This hour, we speak with James McWilliams, the author of "Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly" about his argument in favor of GMO's and how he thinks they could actually benefit the environment. Are our fears in "frankenfoods" unfounded? Should GMO's be clearly labeled?

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue August 3, 2010

The Iowa Lottery & Iowa Documentary Getting National Attention

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa Lottery Vice President Mary Neubauer. Iowa Lottery players won a record $150.5 million dollars in the just ened fiscal year and figures show record sales for the lottery. Neubauer talks about the fiscal health of the lottery as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Later, producers of the Iowa documentary "A Little Salsa on the Prairie" discuss renewed popularity for the 2007 film that depicts a growing immigrant population in the central Iowa town of Perry.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon August 2, 2010

Freaks of Nature

In an archived edition of our program, Ben Kieffer speaks with University of Iowa neuro-scientist Mark Blumberg about his book "Freaks of Nature." The book turns a scientist's eye on the oddities of nature, showing how a subject once relegated to the sideshow can help explain some of the deepest complexities of biology.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri July 30, 2010

Hunting Decline

The number of hunters in Iowa is declining. The reasons are many and complicated. Fewer pheasants in the state, for instance, have meant fewer pheasant hunters. But, the overall result is less revenue for the state, declining funding for wildlife programs and, some say, a weaker connection to the land and nature. We talk about what's driving the trend and what it all means for the future. Guests include, Willie Suchy from the Iowa DNR, John Linquist with Pheasants Forever, John Quintas, Ventura Fire Chief and Andy Long from JAX Outdoor Gear in Ames.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu July 29, 2010

John Carlson & Kyle Munson

A view of the world through the eyes of the newspaper columnist. First up, an interview from last December with retiring Des Moines Register Columnist John Carlson. Carlson discusses his 31 years at the paper and how his best training ground for a career in journalism was time spent as a child at his father's filling station. Then a conversation with Kyle Munson who succeeded Carlson as the Des Moines Register columnist.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed July 28, 2010

Archeological Dig Site Near Oakville & Paper-making

This hour we have an archive edition of our show. First, a conversation from last July about a new archeological dig site in southeast Iowa near Oakville. More than 100,000 artifacts have been uncovered there and they give clues about how people lived 1,700 years ago. Then, a conversation from last September with Timothy Barrett of the University of Iowa Center for the Book. We discuss the history of paper-making 1,300 years ago and how advances in the field landed Barrett a 2009 McArthur Fellowship award.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue July 27, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines has had the largest single year increase in recycling intake thanks to their Curb It! Program. This hour we take a look at efforts to recycle and manage waste around the state. Guest host Dean Borg speaks with one of the organizers for the 3rd annual 20 ton rummage sale held in Iowa City.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon July 26, 2010

Iowa's prison population

The latest figures show that Iowa's prison population has grown over the past year, after three years of declines. Statistics also show that a significant percentage (16%) of inmates in Iowa prisons have a serious mental illness. And, the population of women inmates is growing. What does all of this mean for those inside Iowa's prisons, both the employees and the inmates? We'll talk with Corrections Director John Baldwin, State Senator Bob Dvorsky, a correctional officer and a former inmate to find out.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri July 23, 2010

Iowa's biodiversity

Iowa is one of the most transformed landscapes in the country. We talk about what that transformation has meant for the state's biodiversity. We'll hear about efforts to preserve the varied genetic material in both domesticated and wild, plant and animal species. Guests include Shanyn Siegel and Tom Wahlberg from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Bruce Ehrsman from the Iowa DNR and Tom Rosburg from Drake University.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu July 22, 2010

Iowa's Environment

Host Ben Kieffer talks with the newly appointed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency's Region 7 which includes Iowa. Then the Director of Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, Rich Leopold joins us. We'll talk about a recent state audit which shows the agency is not enforcing more than a dozen state laws.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed July 21, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Guest host Jeff Schmidt discusses the minor leauge baseball atmosphere in Iowa with Iowa Cubs owner Michael Gartner and Cedar Rapids Kernels General Manager Jack Roeder.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue July 20, 2010

Health Care Overhaul and Changes for the Banking Industry

Host Ben Kieffer examines the latest overhaul efforts passed by Congress on the health care and financial fronts and what it means for Iowa. Ben talks with the AARP's State Governmental Relations Representative JoAnn Lamphere who is in Iowa to discuss health care changes. Later, Iowa Bankers Association President and CEO John Sorenson discusses his concerns with the just-passed Financial Regulatory Reform Bill.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon July 19, 2010

Juvenile Lifers

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it’s unconstitutional to put juveniles in prison for life - without the possibility of parole for crimes other than murder. Seven Iowa cases will potentially be impacted by that decision. We’ll talk about what happens to these seven inmates… how the court ruling could change sentencing in Iowa… and whether minors should be treated differently than adult offenders. Guests include Kevin Cmelik from the Iowa Attorney General's Office, Brenda Bash a counselor/advocate for Polk County Crisis and Advocacy and Randall Wilson from the ACLU of Iowa.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri July 16, 2010

Arne Duncan and Russell Osgood

Guest host Alex Heuer interviews U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a discussion about teacher jobs, Race to the Top funding and No Child Left Behind. Then, a conversation with the retiring President of Grinnell College, Russell Osgood. What has changed on Grinnell's campus since 1998? This plus tuition affordability and financial aid reform.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu July 15, 2010

CopShock & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

The Department of Veterans Affairs has made it easier for veterans to receive benefits after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But who else is affected by PTSD? We speak with Allen Kates, author of "CopShock, Surviving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder" during a discussion about how the disorder affects more than just military servicemen and women and investigate how it affects policemen and women and emergency first responders.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed July 14, 2010

Technology on the Brain

A recent Iowa State University study suggests that some kinds of technology contribute to attention problems in children, specifically television and video games. What is technology doing to our brains? Is the internet changing how we process information? Does it affect how well we pay attention? We speak with Iowa State University Associate Professor Douglas Gentile about his findings along with Nicholas Carr, author of "The Shallows, What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains."

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue July 13, 2010

Proclaiming Disaster

With a third of Iowa's counties proclaimed disaster areas after being ravaged by severe storms and rain, we take a look at state disaster proclamations. What do they mean and how do they effect the populous living in them? Guest host Alex Heuer speaks with Iowa's Administrator of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Emergency Management Coordinator from Warren county. Then, a discussion of price-gouging in the wake of severe weather.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon July 12, 2010

Homeless in Iowa

Last year there was a 38 percent increase in Iowa's homeless population bringing the state to over 23,000 people without shelter. We hear the story of one young man fighting to get back on his feet and speak with representatives from the YMCA of Greater Des Moines to talk about plans for a $243,000 grant to help Iowa’s homeless.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri July 9, 2010

Drugs, Inc.

We investigate the most abused drugs in our society - cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin and how they affect the lives of their abusers. Host Ben Kieffer speaks with Dr. Greg Scott who will be featured in an upcoming National Geographic Channel mini-series, Drugs, Inc. and Gary Kendell from the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu July 8, 2010

Air Quality in Iowa

Later this year, the Environmental Protection agency will implement stricter air quality standards. Host Ben Kieffer discusses Iowa's current air quality with specialists from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Iowa Environmental Council, and the Environmental Health Science Research Center at the University of Iowa. Iowa has pretty good air quality, doesn't it?

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed July 7, 2010

Toying with Religion

We speak with the author of Toying with God, the World of Religious Games and Dolls and discuss the increasing commercialization of religion. Does the sale of religious toys make faith less sacred or does it make faith less abstract? We also discuss how children take to religous games and dolls with Superintendent Robert Stouffer of Des Moines Christian Schools.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue July 6, 2010

Tattoos

In an archived program from last August, host Ben Kieffer talks with tattoo artist Jeff Johnson. Johnson's book "Tattoo Machine" chronicles his 18 years working as a tattoo artist. Also joing the conversation is Katie Armetta of Advanced Laser Clinics in the Quad Cities. Katie discusses the process of removing body tattoos.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri July 2, 2010

University of Iowa President Sally Mason & USDA Rural Development

Guest host Dean Borg talks with University of Iowa President Sally Mason. They'll talk about the University’s continuing efforts to recover from the floods of 2008 and the economic recession. Also, a conversation about the University’s partnership with the city of Iowa City to maintain the law which bans people under the age of 21 from bars after 10pm. Later in the hour, guest host Katherine Perkins talks with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Rural Development, Dallas Tonsager.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu July 1, 2010

Iowa Bourbon Whiskey Makes Debut & Iowa Connections to Al Capone

The first bourbon whiskey made from Iowa corn and distilled in the state since the end of Prohibition is making its debut. Host Ben Kieffer explores why a distillery in Swisher decided to create the new Iowa bourbon. We also travel back to the Prohibition Era with Jonathan Eig, author of a new biography of Al Capone. He will tell us about gangster Al Capone’s bootleg liquor connections in Iowa.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed June 30, 2010

Iowa's Connections to Gulf Oil Spill

Researchers at the University of Iowa are studying the native grasses along the gulf, hoping to restore marshlands once they become contaminated with oil. Host Alex Heuer talks with UI Professor Jerry Schnoor about the study. Later, a conversation with Jerry Enzler, Executive Director of the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque. The museum has just unveiled a Gulf of Mexico exhibit that depicts the effects of the oil spill.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Tue June 29, 2010

New Iowa Laws

Host Dean Borg talks with a researcher about Iowa's new texting ban, a victim advocate and law enforcement trainer about the firearms possession ban for those convicted of domestic assault, a state senator about floodplain mapping, and a preschool teacher and director about the expansion of preschool grants. All are new laws going into effect July 1st in Iowa.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Mon June 28, 2010

Fireworks in Iowa

With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, we discuss fireworks in our state. We speak with a firework display operator from J & M Displays, Iowa's own professional firework display company. What goes on behind the scenes before, during and after a display? Then a conversation about the dangers of playing with pyrotechnics without professional training.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Fri June 25, 2010

Iowa Regents University Presidents

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy about the Cyclones' Big 12 scare, and state funding for the Regents institutions. Then, University of Northern Iowa President Benjamin Allen talks about competition for Iowa college students.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Thu June 24, 2010

Gangs in Iowa

Earlier this month in Iowa City a group of kids, some as young as twelve years old, were arrested during a gang initiation ritual. We'll talk about gang activity in Iowa and what's being done to stop it. Guests include the founder and CEO of Creative Visions in Des Moines. Part of the group's mission is to work with at-risk youth and families affected by gangs. Also, a conversation with a man who just finished serving time in prison for gang-related activities.

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River to River
1:00 pm
Wed June 23, 2010

Disability Essays

We speak with authors and editors of essays included in "From My Perspective: Essays About Disability." The book includes essays by seventeen authors who have a disability or provide support as a parent or other caregiver. We'll also hear about how the book is being used in a Warburg College social work class.

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