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.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman admitted into NASA's astronaut training program, and the first African-American woman in space. She visited the Iowa State Fair earlier this week. He also checks in with astrophysicist Jasper Halekas, co-investigator of the Parker Solar Probe mission for NASA, about the mission's spacecraft that is flying around the sun.

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A recent analysis ranks Iowa as having the ninth worst infrastructure in the country.

The state’s rural county bridges may be what spurred the poor rating by content and analysis company 24/7 Wall St, according to Aaron Granquist, a project manager who’s overseeing the state’s upcoming infrastructure report card.

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Opioid-related deaths are on the rise in Iowa, and research suggests that needle exchanges may be effective in decreasing drug-related deaths.

 

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In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to public radio reporters from Iowa, Ohio, Kansas and Missouri to see hower voter laws are changing across the Midwest.

Iowa

A 2017 voter law required voters to provide an identification numbers from a driver’s license, a non-driver’s license or a voting card in order to apply for an absentee ballot.   

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The Trump-bashing attorney Michael Avenatti appeared in Iowa at the Iowa Democratic Party Wing Ding over the weekend, and he also stopped by the Iowa State Fair. 

During this Politics Day episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Jim McCormick of Iowa State University about Avenatti's visit. They also discuss the Paul Manafort trial, President Trump's attacks on Omarosa Manigault Newman, and other political news of the week. 

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While negotiations for the 2018 Farm Bill get underway in the Conference Committee, the trade war with China wages on.

 

On this episode of River to River, Neil Hamilton, Director of the Drake Agricultural Law Center, and Amy Meyer, Reporter for Iowa Public Radio and Harvest Public Media discuss the inner-workings and implications of the Farm Bill, which is set to expire in its current state at the end of September.

 

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Fear can often instigate a rippling feeling of helplessness, but what if this same emotion could be converted into empowerment? Brandon Webb, former Navy SEAL, joined Ben Kieffer on River to River to talk about his experience with grappling with his own fears in his latest book, "Mastering Fear: A Navy SEAL's Guide"

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Climate change is coming to Iowa, and with it, more frequent and intense storms. During this hour of River to River, we hear stories of severe weather recovery. 

Marshalltown Mayor Joel Greer joins to discuss the EF-3 tornado that hit town nearly a month ago, and Angie Crees of Bondurant talks about how her roof lifted up and set back down by an EF-2 tornado the same day.

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As we age, many things become more challening. That includes driving. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dan McGehee of the University of Iowa National Advanced Driving Simulator, and Larry Neppl, who is an instructor for AARP's Driving Safety Program. 

Iowa is second only to Florida in the highest percentage of licensed drivers over the age of 85, and ranks fourth in the nation in percentage of the population over the age of 65. 

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Long before more than two million women and allies gathered in Washington D.C. for the 2017 Women’s March, and before almost daily protests against the current presidential administration spalshed across national headlines, Americans were organizing and mobilizing acts of resistance, dating back to the very founding of the nation.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Lynn Hicks, communications director for the Iowa Attorney General, about the rise in robocalls and what you can do to stop receiving future calls from scammers.

Jo Christian Oterhals

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with award-winning author Paul Greenberg about his new book, The Omega Principle, in which he explores the history, science, and business behind omega-3 fatty acids.

Greenberg is the James Beard Award-winning bestseller of Four Fish and American Catch, a regular contributor to The New York Times and is a Pew Fellow in marine conservation. 

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In this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dennis Goldford, professor and chair of political science and Rachel Caufield professor of political science at Drake University.

George Hodan

Human trafficking - illegally transporting people for forced labor or commercial sex - is one of the world’s largest criminal industries found in every state, including Iowa.

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Technology Is playing an increasingly active role in our political climate. Social media and other technological communications systems make it easier for people to engage with candidates, increase opportunities for offline political mobilization, and provide access to an unprecedented amount of news and information.

After a hard fought primary race Deidre DeJear, a democrat running against current Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, could become the first black woman in Iowa to hold statewide office.

DeJear says it is her goal to connect with voters and make the voting process accessible for everyone, an attitude which was inspired by her grandmother who was an election commissioner in Oklahoma. 

Abby Finkenauer Campaign

Since 2009, Iowa boards and commissions have been required by law to maintain gender balance. The latest research from Iowa State University’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics shows that boards statewide have fallen short.

Kelly Winfrey, Assistant Professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University, joins host Ben Kieffer on this segment of River to River to chat about the ongoing study.

Mary McCarthy

Five days after the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, a group of Asian scholars arrived in Seoul. Mary McCarthy, associate professor of politics and international relations at Drake University, was among them. She says the group was surprised by the optimism in South Korea surrounding the summit, and what it could mean for relations between North Korea and the western world.

"I think that we have seen so much skepticism, so much criticism in the U.S., but in South Korea the mood was very different," says McCarthy.

U.S. Embassy New Dehli

Franklin Roosevelt’s first vice president John Nance Garner famously said the title is “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” It's a role that has always been up for interpretation throughout White House administrations, with the VP ready to step in or step back.

On this hour of River to River, Presidential Historian Tim Walch and Donna Hoffman, head of the Political Science Department at the University of Northern Iowa, sit down with host Ben Kieffer to talk about the many iterations of this second-in-command position.

Iowa Department of Public Health

From mumps and foodborne illness to Ebola and Zika, whenever there have been health threats in the news, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk has been there to inform Iowans. In a few days, she'll retire from her position as Medical Director at the Iowa Department of Public Health.

On this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Quinlisk about her upcoming retirement and some highlights from her 24 years with the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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While farmers and those who represent farm-state interests may be grateful for $12 billion in aid to offset the loss of exports in an escalating trade war with China, the European Union, Canada and Mexico, many say they would prefer stable markets to government aid.

Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley issued a statement Tuesday saying he doesn't fault the President for trying to get a better deal for Americans.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Last weekend, an Iowa teenager from Waverly died from injuries sustained during a fireworks accident. He is believed to be the first person killed by consumer explosives in the state since the Iowa Legislature legalized them last year.

In this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Dr. Chris Buresh, Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Iowa, about this incident and the increase in firework-related injuries this year.

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Over the next few months, the Supreme Court battle between conservative and liberal interest groups over nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars and leave a lasting impact on the nation's political landscape.

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Steffen Schmidt, Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University, and Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College, for their analysis of this contentious fight for the Supreme Court.

Emily Woodbury

Gallup polling shows that public trust in media outlets has dropped in recent years.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about possible reasons for the shift in public trust with NPR ombudsman and public editor Elizabeth Jensen. In her role, Jensen serves as a liaison between NPR’s newsroom and its listeners.

Iowa Public Radio news director Michael Leland and executive director Myrna Johnson also join the conversation.

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Recent calls for civility in political and public discourse in the wake of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being kicked out of a Washington D.C. restaurant have people questioning what civil conversations look like and whether we are indeed living in a post-civil society.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks about the breakdown of civility with former Congressmen from Iowa, Jim Lightfoot and Dave Nagle, as well as former Iowa Senate President Mary Kramer, and Iowa Public Radio correspondent Dean Borg.

Torrential rain caused widespread chaos across the Des Moines area last Saturday. Des Moines got hit the hardest, but there was also severe flood damage in Ankeny, Saylorville, Urbandale, Maxwell, Johnston, and Windsor Heights when nearly 9 inches of rain fell over a three-hour period.

The Des Moines Register reports that more than 1500 hundred properties were affected, and authorities expect that number to increase with time. 

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This week, the Trump administration reversed seven Obama-era policies on affirmative action that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses. The Trump administration will now encourage school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen about how this may impact admissions at Iowa State, the rise in faculty resignations, and college affordability.

Corey Torpie

Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset a 10-term establishment Democrat in New York last week. While her district doesn’t necessarily mirror that of Iowa’s districts, a 2016 Des Moines Register/Bloomberg News Iowa Poll found that 43 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers consider themselves socialists.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer explores what Democratic Socialism means today and why it has an appeal at this particular time in U.S. history.

Lorie Shaull

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement that he will retire from the U.S. Supreme Court this summer has put into question the future of abortion rights in the United States.

Library of Congress

Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate Nick Dybek’s latest book tells a mysterious story set in the aftermath of one of World War I’s most horrific encounters, the Battle of Verdun.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Dybek about his new book, The Verdun Affair: A Novel, about the battle and its aftermath.

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