River to River

Weekdays at 12 p.m. on IPR News and News/Studio One and 10 p.m. on IPR News

River to River is Iowa Public Radio's talk program focusing on the news, issues and events in our state. This national award-winning program goes beyond the headlines, frames community problems, and fosters conversation. On Mondays during the legislative session, join in conversations with lawmakers and those impacted by action at the Statehouse.  Wednesdays, political analysts from around the state help you dissect the week in politics.  Fridays we buzz through the week’s big news stories.

River to River is hosted by Ben Kieffer.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury, @EmilyWoodbury, Lindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Clare Roth @ClareAliceRoth.  Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins.  Our theme music is by The River Monks.

Pete Souza, Official White House Photo / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

President Barack Obama gave his eighth and final State of the Union address on Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress. Instead of a traditional speech where the President lays out an agenda for the coming year, the President took more of a long term view.

Courtesy of John Little

Between the ages of 55 and 62, John Little completed 15 Ironman triathlons. For the last three years, he could only power-walk the leg of the race where he was supposed to run due to the pain in his knees.

“I finally went in and had my knees x-rayed. My surgeon told me, ‘I don’t understand how you’re walking right now.’”

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa legislature is back in session today. Leaders are in sharp division over the state budget, and questions about education funding are fueling disagreements. The Senate wants a four percent increase, and the House wants a two percent increase. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Senate President Pam Jocum (D) from Dubuque and Speaker Pro Tem Matt Windschitl  (R) from Missouri Valley about lawmakers' priorities for the 2016 session. 

apeofjungle / Flickr

Earlier this week President Obama announced a plan of executive actions meant to reduce gun violence in America. Among them are attempts to close the so-called "gun show loophole," increase FBI staff running background checks, put larger restrictions on those that buy firearms through corporations or trusts, and remove barriers to integrating mental health records into background check databases. In this News Buzz interview, Ross Loder, Bureau Chief responsible for the weapons permits section at the Iowa Department of Public Safety, joins Ben Kieffer to discuss Iowa gun law.

RifeIdeas / Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump released his first television ad this week in Iowa and New Hampshire. In it, he promises to stop what he calls radical Islamic terrorism by creating a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. Imam Taha Tahwil, director of the Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, has a less extreme, and more conversational, proposition: Trump should visit the mosque.

John Pemble

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad unveiled a major initiative this week – a plan to increase funding for water quality. 

The governor teamed up with former Democratic governor and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to support a proposal that would extend the one-cent sales tax currently spent on school infrastructure. While the plan would extend the sales tax, most of the inflationary growth would be diverted to finance water quality projects. Critics say that money should go only to education infrastructure.

Tom McLaughlin / Flickr

From televangelists to raptor specialists, we said goodbye to several notable Iowans who significantly contributed to politics, art, education, sports, law, and other fields during 2015. This hour on River to River, we pay tribute to a few of those Iowans. Host Ben Kieffer talks with a variety of guests in memory. 

Frankieleon / Flickr

While Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were filmed sleeping in separate twin beds back in the 1950s, not sharing a mattress is seen as a sign of a troubled marriage.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with sleep doctor, Dr. Eric Dyken of the University of Iowa Sleep Disorders Center, fielding several questions about the benefits and drawbacks to sharing a room with a sleeping partner.

Photo Courtesy Daniel Moon

Twenty years ago in Iowa, the influx of latino workers and their families was a large topic of conversation. Today, refugee programs are working with more than 180 different languages and are helping migrants from all over the world navigate culture in Iowa, and starting to include ideas of sexual identity and socio-economic status in the conversation.

During this hour of River to River, we hear from Henny Ohr, Executive Director of the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, about the influx of refugees from Burma who have been relocating to Iowa.

Metal Chris / Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons

Many decry the coarsening of our political discourse. History demonstrates that politics has always been a "contact sport." But over the years Iowa's social capital has allowed Iowans to disagree without being disagreeable.

Ben Kieffer

This edition of River to River kicks off Iowa Public Radio’s Iowa Week with the theme “then and now.”

Marc Nozell / Flickr

All eyes are on Iowa in advance of the February 1st precinct caucuses, but just eight days later, the first primary in the nation takes place in New Hampshire. Though the state experiences the same frenzy of candidate attention Iowa does, candidate appearances and electorate makeup differ.

One key difference? The importance of faith background on voting.

Joyce Russell/IPR file photo

Certainly, Iowa’s role in the 2016 presidential race has been one of the top news stories in our state this year. There are also many others - including the privatization of the state's Medicaid program. 

"This is coming from a guy who covers politics and is looking forward to the caucuses, but I would argue that this is the most important Iowa-specific story this year," explains Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio Morning Edition host and political reporter. 

John Pemble

Since 1969, Iowa’s governors have averaged a decade in office each, significantly longer than governors of other states.

"Iowans, for a number of reasons, seem to like their governors as long as they are doing certain things," says Chris Larimer of the political science department at the University of Northern Iowa. “Accessibility and visibility – there is an expectation among Iowans that you need to be out there on a regular basis.” 

Iowa Public Radio

This week, federal administrators ordered Iowa to wait at least 60 days before shifting its Medicaid program to private management. On this News Buzz edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer asks Brian Kaskie, associate professor of health management and policy at the University of Iowa, four questions about the order.

Was this expected?

courtesy of H.S. Udaykumar

In much of the developing world, fossil fuels and electricity are too expensive to be legitimate options for cooking. Instead, people there use wood burning stoves that create environmental impacts of their own, chief among them desertification of the forests that supply the wood, and soot released when the wood fails to burn completely.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Riggans

The last time the Hawkeyes went to the Rose Bowl, Hayden Fry was coach and Seinfeld was debuting on NBC. Bruce Kittle was co-captain of Hayden Fry's first Rose Bowl team back in 1981-1982, and he says that the enthusiasm from fans, and pre-season notions about the team, are very similar.  

Courtesy of Jeff Riggan

The unsung heroes of Hawkeye football might be a father son duo who drive the hawks’ gear around the country on their own dime. Mike Riggan started driving an 18 wheeler painted in black and gold, dubbed the Hawkeye Hauler, with his friend Ed Huff in 1983 and now drives it with his son, Jeff. 

"We bleed black and gold," says Mike. "Iowa is the only team in the Big 10 that operates like this, with someone volunteering their time." 

DonkeyHotey / flickr

With less than seven weeks until the Iowa caucuses, the nation is relying on Iowa polls for a best guess as to who will emerge a winner.

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with one of the nation’s top pollsters, J. Ann Selzer, whose latest poll shows Senator Ted Cruz jumping 21 percentage points among likely GOP caucus-goers.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The president of Iowa’s Board of Regents is predicting policy changes that will further limit the manner in which contracts are awarded by the three state universities. Bruce Rastetter's comments come after Iowa State University and the University of Iowa both awarded contracts to individuals with Republican ties without taking bids on the work. 

Rastetter says that the individuals getting the state work are capable and qualified, but without taking bids on the work, "the optics are not pretty." 

Rand Wilson / Flickr

The moderators for the second democratic debate had been preparing for weeks. But when they heard news of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register one of the debate’s moderators, says they ripped up the entire debate script and refocused it on national security, terrorism, and foreign policy.

"We didn't actually see a complete script 'til one hour before air time. One hour."

Christopher Gannon

Iowa State University students have designed what they call a 21st century outpost, a barracks design created to alleviate post-traumatic stress in soldiers. 

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with ISU interior design professor Lee Cagley and graduate student Maricel Lloyd about the effectiveness and practicality of the designs. Iowa veteran Nathan Drake also joins the conversation.

John West / Wikimedia Commons

Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie has returned to Iowa from Paris where he took part in the United Nations Convention on Climate Change as a representative for the U.N.'s Compact of Mayors.

He says in Des Moines, they’ve been trying to improve energy efficiency in city buildings since joining the effort.

Amy Mayer/IPR

The American Association of University Professors says its investigation of Iowa Board of Regents’ process in hiring University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld disserved the people of Iowa.

The AAUP, also a labor union, concludes the Board of Regents designed the presidential search process to prevent any meaningful faculty role in the process, acting in bad faith to other candidates. The report calls it an illusion of an honest search, manipulating to a pre-ordained result.

Theresa Thompson / Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

Millennials are projected to surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living generation this year, according to the Pew Research Center. And as they're between the ages of 18 and 34, they'll be eligible to vote in the upcoming caucuses and 2016 election. So, what do these young voters care about?

Rajesh Kumar / Flickr

The bulk collection of metadata from domestic phone calls by the National Security Agency in the U.S. has come to an end, but at the same time, France is stepping up its surveillance of citizens.

On this edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with two information technology experts from Iowa State University, Doug Jacobson and Brian Mennecke, to discuss the latest news regarding privacy, data collection, and cyber-security.

Christopher Gannon

Vincent is a 3-year-old domestic short-haired cat, and he has something that only a couple dozen animals in the world have - a certain type of titanium-alloy prosthetic hind legs.

Veterinary orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mary Sarah Bergh of Iowa State University worked with orthopedics company BioMedtrix to design implants to be inserted into the femur bones of Vincent’s legs and pass through his skin. She then attached Vincent’s prosthetic legs and has overseen his rehabilitation.

Flickr / Laura Taylor

A new study from the University of Iowa shows that for some patients with stage IV breast cancer, surgery can significantly prolong their lives. 

Once breast cancer reaches stage IV, the disease has spread to parts of the body beyond the breasts. Many doctors consider these patients incurable and won't operate as they don't want to incur the risks of surgery in an already terminal patient.

But it turns out surgery may be worthwhile. 

Bely Medved / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa Football hasn’t had an undefeated regular season since 1922… until now. Columnist Mike Hlas, who writes for the Cedar Rapids Gazette, says that the world of college football is drastically different today than it was then.

The Weekly Bull / Flickr

As President Obama attends the Paris climate talks, Republican presidential hopefuls are making waves with their statements about global warming back home. Earlier this week, Jeb Bush said he might not have attended the climate talks if he was president. Most other GOP candidates are falling into one of two camps.

"One position is that there has not been global warming and that's one particular position," says Dennis Goldford, professor of political science at Drake University and Flansburg Fellow at the Harkin Institute for Public Policy and Citizen Engagement.

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