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
2:32 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

News Buzz: Ames Shooting

After leading police on a high-speed chase through the city of Ames, 19-year-old Tyler Comstock was shoot and killed on central campus near the Campanile this past Monday.
Mike Hiatt

Story County's county attorney decided that the use of deadly force in this week's shooting of a chase suspect was justified.  Nevertheless, the chase resulted in the death of a young man and raises many questions.

Host Ben Kieffer discusses the facts of the deadly high-speed chase in Ames with IPR's Joyce Russell.  Also, ISU and Ames Laboratory engineers have recently developed real-time, 3-D conferencing technology.

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River to River
3:35 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Iowan Creates App to Teach News Literacy

European Parliament

In the second half of today's River To River, we take a look at news literacy, especially for future generations. Iowa author and former reporter Colleen Branford Krantz joins us to discuss a new mobile app she designed to help schools and parents teach young students how to navigate the news, called News Tutor.

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Talk of Iowa
3:28 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

Justice Marsha Ternus on Judicial Restoration

Ben Kieffer interviews Justice Marsha Ternus
Emily Woodbury

Marsha Ternus was the first woman to serve as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, but she's perhaps best known as one of the Iowa Supreme Court justices dismissed by Iowa voters three years ago, for her role in the decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Host Ben Keiffer sits down with Ternus to get her thoughts on that ruling, and on justice and judicial independence in the U.S.

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Politics Day
4:09 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

Local Elections Send Mixed Messages

Vaguely Artistic

In this off, off-year election local issues and races were the only things on ballots across Iowa. But, a few of those local races drew a lot of outside money and attention.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Chris Larimer, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Northern Iowa and Tim Hagle, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa about whether outside interest groups influenced local races. We also look beyond Iowa’s borders at what gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey may tell us about the current state of our politics and parties.

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River to River
4:41 pm
Tue November 5, 2013

Efforts to Curb Bullying in Iowa

Jake Stallman and Tania McAtee, of Tipton
Emily Woodbury

More than half of the country’s teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber-bullying. Today on River To River, a discussion on bullying in Iowa. Host Ben Kieffer hears the story of a young Iowan who was bullied, who now uses that experience to help others going through the same. Jacob Stallman is a 17-year-old Tipton resident who was named the 2013 Spirit of Matthew Award winner by the Matthew Shepard Foundation for his community work to overcome bullying and homophobia.

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River to River
2:23 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Changes to Air Travel

Last week the TSA brought expedited security screening to the Des Moines airport for certain low-risk travelers.
Kuster & Wildhaber Photography

The Transportation Security Administration recently announced that some travelers won’t have to remove their shoes, belts or jackets when going through airport security and the Federal Aviation Administration recently expanded passenger use of electronic devices.

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River to River
8:11 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

News Buzz: Copper Theft and the Iowa State Patrol's GPS Projectile

Iowa State Patrol's Dodge Charger
dmblue444 / flickr

Copper theft is quickly spreading throughout the state, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Today on River To River, we take a look at the top Iowa news of the week. We look to Iowa City as the town debates the success of the 21-ordinance prior to the election. We also check in with the Iowa State Patrol to find out why they may switch from sedans to SUVs, and their new GPS projectile technology to assist in car chases.

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River to River
4:15 pm
Thu October 31, 2013

Skull in the Ashes

The charred ruins of Frank Novak's general store in Walford, Iowa
University of Iowa Press

On a cold February night in 1897, the general store in Walford, Iowa burned to the ground.  The next morning townspeople found charred remains believed to be those of proprietor Frank Novak.  That was, until a local laborer turned up missing.  That discovery launched an investigation and cross-country manhunt.  Host Ben Kieffer gets the gruesome story from author Peter Kaufman.  It's the basis of his book Skull in the Ashes published by University of Iowa Press.

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River to River
3:57 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Politics Day: Phone Tapping OurFriends and ACA

Credit sparktography

Amid allegations that the U.S.

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River to River
1:46 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

A Look at the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013-2014 Term

The United State Supreme Court
William & Mary ACS

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013-2014 term started this month and after last year’s series of surprising and tumultuous rulings eyes again are trained on the nation’s highest court.

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River to River
2:53 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Sleep as a Dishwasher for Your Brain

Daniel Foster

Not only are the days getting colder, but they are also getting darker. Today on River To River, host Ben Kieffer talks with sleep doctor, Dr. Eric Dyken, about the effect of darker nights on your sleeping habits. They also discuss the correlation between sleep and dementia, a new study that shows the brain clears our harmful toxins while you sleep, and how sleep plays a role in diabetes risk.

Dr. Dyken is the Director of the Sleep Disorders Center at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

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River to River
1:32 pm
Fri October 25, 2013

News Buzz: China, Phone Scams, Traffic Stops, Harvest, Soup, and 'Caucus'

On this News Buzz version of River to River, host Ben Kieffer cycles through stories about Iowa's relationship with China, an Arizona company's apparent phone scam targeting Iowans, an investigation into traffic stops, a harvest summary, the nutritional benefits of eating soup, and a new film about Iowa's 2012 caucuses.

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River to River
3:00 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Privacy in a Globally Connected Digital Age

infocux Technologies

We are living at a time when a simple Tweet or online posting can make you a celebrity overnight. Or, change your life for the worse, as when a University of Iowa teaching assistant accidentally emailed her students her own nude photos, instead of a classroom assignment.

This is also a time when private companies like Google and Facebook know more about a U.S. citizen than their own government. Today on River To River - a discussion of privacy-related news. We touch on everything from Google Glass to the international response to NSA surveillance methods.

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River to River
1:26 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Politics Day

U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack (D.-Iowa) speaks to Iowa veterans at the National World War II Memorial as part of the Oct. 18, 2013 Eastern Iowa Honor Flight.
Ben Kieffer Iowa Public Radio

President Obama has vowed to fix the Affordable Care Act's online insurance exchanges after an embarrassing launch, but what of the pending political fallout?

Also, will U.S. Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa) have a challenger within the Republican Party for his seat next November and what are U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas) prospects for a 2016 presidential run?

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River to River
4:33 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Obamacare: Tech Glitches and Policy

healthcare.gov
Ben Stanton/Iowa Public Radio

Join host Ben Kieffer to examine the technical issues surrounding the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and answer questions about the law itself, including its requirements and the process of enrolling in the health insurance exchanges online.

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River to River
4:27 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

From 1.8 Million Years Ago to Thousands of Light-Years Away

The Kepler-56 system
Daniel Huber/NASA's Ames Research Center

Today on River To River, host Ben Kieffer checks in with an astronomer here in Iowa, who has found something new while observing a solar system about 3,000 light years from Earth… A discovery that gives us insight on how alien solar systems are structured.

And, we look into the discovery of a 1.8-million-year-old human skull in Europe that has ignited debate on the origins of distinct species of ancient human relatives.

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River to River
1:54 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

News Buzz: A Reopening, a Food Prize, a Homecoming, and a Pig

The partial government shutdown the country just came out of is often compared to the face-off nearly 20 years ago between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. This News Buzz edition of River to River looks at the aftermath of the latest clash, compares it to what happened in the 90’s, and examines how Iowa and national politics have changed since then.  

We also hear about the World Food Prize ceremony this week and the protests associated with it.  And, a unit with the Iowa National Guard had a homecoming this week. Plus, Willie the pig has been captured.

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River to River
2:11 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Who Was Jesus?

Pictured above is modern-day Nazareth. The man who would one day be worshipped as Jesus Christ was born in Nazareth around 7-2 B.C., which at the time was a small mountain village.
Adam Groffman

Reza Aslan's latest book "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" challenges long held assumptions of the historical figure.   Host Ben Kieffer speaks to Aslan about the historical Jesus as well as Aslan's own faith journey.

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River to River
1:32 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Funerals and Burials

Mark Notari

Join host Ben Kieffer for this discussion and examination of funeral trends and new rules related to funerals and services in Iowa.  Hear from funeral directors about how their job is performed, and get a glimpse of how a person might go about skipping the funeral director to care for deceased loved-ones on their own.

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River to River
2:40 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

2013 World Food Prize

The 2013 World Food Prize laureates (from the right) Robert T. Fraley, Marc Van Montagu and Mary-Dell Chilton in Iowa Public Radio's Des Moines studio.
John Pemble IPR

The 2013 World Food Prize is honoring Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton, and Robert T. Fraley, three scientists whose individual discoveries led to the creation of genetically modified crops. 

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River to River
1:49 pm
Fri October 11, 2013

News Buzz: Voter Fraud, DOT Cameras, Transgender Homecoming, and Space Exploration

NASA's Juno spacecraft passed within about 350 miles of Earth's surface this week, before slingshotting off into space on a historic exploration of Jupiter.

On this news buzz version of River to River, hear from a University of Iowa research engineer about Juno, and from the president of the University of Iowa Amateur Radio Club about why they waved to Juno electronically, as it whizzed by.

That, and many other items in our news worth buzzing about.

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River to River
4:00 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Euan Slorach

When Henrietta Lacks died in 1951, her family had no idea that her cells would live on indefinitely…multiplying to the extent that laid together, they could wrap around the Earth at least 3 times. Today on River To River - the immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Lacks’ grandson about Henrietta's legacy. Her grandson, David Lacks Jr., will speak tonight in Iowa City as part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

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River to River
3:34 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

Politics Day: Shutdown and Debt Ceiling

The Lincoln Memorial, like many other federal sites, is closed due to the partial government shutdown.
Credit John Sonderman

Representative Steve King of Iowa’s 4th Congressional district has come to the fore in the current debate over the Affordable Care Act and the partial government shutdown.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University,  Steffen Schmidt, and the Joan and Abbott Lipsky Professor of Political Science at Coe College, Bruce Nesmith about Congressman King and how far he and other Republican representatives are willing to go in pursuit of the end of Obamacare.

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River to River
2:21 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

The Anatomy of a False Confession

According to researchers ISU psychology Stephanie Madon and Max Guyll juveniles, people with intellectual disabilities and those who are undereducated tend to be more at risk for making false confessions.
martin/ x1klima Flickr
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River to River
3:39 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

Mental Illness Awareness

Alaina Abplanalp Photography / flickr

In the wake of recent violence, including the recent Washington Navy Yard shooting, some look to gun control as a solution and some point to an increased focus on mental health care. Today host Ben Kieffer and guests examine the link (or lack thereof) between violence and mental illness, and they talk about the stigma surrounding the mentally ill.

In the second half of the program, they discuss the Iowa Mental Health and Disability Redesign signed into law back in 2011. And, they check in to see the impact of the transition so far and its effect looking towards the future.

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River to River
3:22 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

News Buzz: A Lawsuit, a Resignation, a (Possible) Fumble, and a Lot of Birds

In this "News Buzz" show, hear about a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, the resignation of Senator Kent Sorenson, a passionate response to a football official's decision, and Iowa’s first Globally Important Bird Area.

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River to River
3:52 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

How Illicit Drugs Come to Iowa

Picture above is heroin powder. Eastern Iowa has seen an uptick in heroin use and overdose deaths in recent years.
forwardstl Flickr

In the 1990s crack cocaine was Iowa's major scourge when it came to illicit drugs. Today methamphetamine poses the most issues for communities and law enforcement though Eastern Iowa has also seen a uptick in heroin use.  Host Ben Kieffer looks at how these legal substances are trafficked into Iowa and from where the drugs originate.

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River to River
3:28 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Politics Day: The Partial Shutdown

Early Tuesday morning, without a Congressional agreement on spending, part of the federal government shut down. Today on River to River, we talk about the political implications. Who do you blame? How does a partial government shutdown impact the faith you have in the U.S. government's ability to do its work?

Host Ben Kieffer sits down with political analysts Tim Hagle (University of Iowa) and Wayne Moyer (Grinnell College), and they answer your questions and concerns.

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River to River
2:22 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

Navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace

CALI / flickr

Today is the opening of the Affordable Care Act's "Health Exchange Marketplace," but many Iowans are still confused about their options. Today on River To River, we clear up misconceptions and answer the questions  Iowans have while venturing into a new health care landscape.

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River to River
2:29 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

ISU President Steven Leath

President Leath giving his annual address
Iowa State University

Iowa State University's President Steven Leath joins the program to talk about how the possible federal government shutdown could affect public universities, and Leath answers your questions.  In the second half of the show: the Republican Party is conflicted over who should be their next presidential nominee.  Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin takes us back to another fight over the nomination that happened 100 years ago. 

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