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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Nine counties in southwest Iowa have been experiencing a drinking water crisis over the past 10 days after a filtration membrane malfunctioned at Creston Water Works. A boil warning was issued June 1st for the city and all the surrounding towns the water works supplied water for. 

During this River to River conversation, host Ben Kieffer talks with Scott Vicker, managing editor for the Creston News Advertiser and Chris Gordy, store director for the Creston Hy-Vee. 

This week the Miss America Organization announced it would no longer include the swimsuit portion of the competition in the pageant. That decision marks the end of an era, given that Miss America orignally started as a swimsuit competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1921. 

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Nicole Kelly, who was Miss Iowa 2013 and is a current producer of the Miss Iowa competition. When she was crowned Miss Iowa, it was international news becuase she entered the pageant with a visible disability. 

Iowa Legislature

Back in 2016, when it was clear the Republican Party was warming up to the idea of having Donald Trump as its Presidential nominee, one state Senator from Iowa quit the Republican Party. Now, he's announced that he will not be seeking reelection as an Independent in the Iowa Senate.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Senator David Johnson of Ocheyedan about this decision and how politics have changed in his nearly 20 years as a lawmaker in Iowa.

In recent years, Johnson says he has seen a definite political shift.

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa Democrats have nominated businessman Fred Hubbell to take on Gov. Kim Reynolds in the November gubernatorial election. Jake Porter will be the Libertarian candidate for governor.

Congressional matchups are set with two women earning Democratic spots on the ballot. Abby Finkenauer, the Democrat nominated in the first congressional district, would be the youngest woman elected to Congress if she is successful in her bit to oust incumbent Republican Congressman Rod Blum. No woman has ever been elected to Congress from Iowa. 

UIHC

The Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa has been approved to use a new therapy that harnesses the immune system to treat specific forms of leukemia and lymphoma. Dr. George Weiner is director of the center and says the therapy shows great promise.

Clay Masters/Iowa Public Radio

A new study from University of Iowa researchers shows the nitrate flowing from Iowa farm fields is a large part of the total load in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. 

During this episode of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with one of the authors of the study, research engineer Chris Jones, about the devastating impact nutrients from Iowa farmland is having downstream.

Jessica Bolser/USFWS

Right around Memorial Day is the time of year that Iowans begin to see fawns out and about. This year, wildlife experts are asking people not to “rescue” fawns, even if they are alone.

This is because fawns are frequently on their own throughout the day, and this is natural. The mother almost always comes back. Another reason for not attempting fawn rescue is that wildlife rehabilitators will not be able to take in young deer this summer.

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Use of smart speakers in the Unites States is growing rapidly. According to new research put out in January from NPR and Edison Research, one in six Americans now own a smart speaker, that's around 39 million people. It's an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Predictions show 75 percent of U.S.

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Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision allowing states to legalize, tax and regulate sports betting. Until now, Nevada has been the only state with the right to allow fans to put bets on games and point spreads legally.

In Iowa, a bill was introduced that would allow casinos to run sports betting operations. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with State Representative Jake Highfill about the bill and what it does.

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Former Iowans John and Sue Little moved to Hawaii a couple years ago, and they live on the island where the eruption of Kilauea Volcano has been causing disruptions for residents there.  Little joins this River to River segment to explain what's happening, what the threat is, and whether he misses Iowa winters (spoiler: he doesn't).

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

State Senator Nate Boulton has suspended his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to the Iowa Governor's race in light of accusations of sexual misconduct.  In this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by IPR reporter and Morning Edition host Clay Masters to talk through the status of that race.

Da Capo Press

A former University of Northern Iowa English professor who recounted her 42-year friendship with the author Kurt Vonnegut in a 2009 memoir died May 8th at the age of 86. Loree Rackstraw taught English at the University of Northern Iowa for 30 years, was fiction editor of the North American Review and a well-known supporter of the arts.

Marco Verch/Flickr

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts, Donna Hoffman of the University of Northern Iowa and Dave Andersen of Iowa State University, about President Trump's FBI spy claims, the campaigning ahead of Iowa's gubernatorial primaries, and updates on trade disputes with China.

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Dianne Bystrom is the Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University. When she came to Iowa in 1996, she had been studying a big year in politics for women: the 1992 election, which brought a huge increase in women holding political office. 

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Carl Wycoff

The U.S. House's attempt to pass a farm bill failed this morning.  A number of Republicans were trying to leverage votes for a conservative immigration bill first.

Congressman David Young from Iowa's third district voted for the bill, and he says that he is confident that there will ultimately be a farm bill.  But he says it's tough for farmers especially in light of other trade policies.

Wikimedia Commons

Immigration officials arrested 32 people in Mt. Pleasant Iowa last week as part of a raid on a concrete factory. 

During this segment of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Reverend Trey Hegar, who is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant. The church has been trying to help families in Mt. Pleasant who are now worried about being able to pay their rent next month with the breadwinner for the home in ICE custody. Juana Barrios, whose father was arrested as part of the raid, also joins the conversation.

Politics Day: Foreign Policy

May 16, 2018
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UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto

On the same day the U.S. Embassy in Israel moves to Jerusalem, over fifty Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military. On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer gets analysis of the conflict in Gaza.  Other foreign policy is covered including the latest on the Iran nuclear deal, a meeting with north Korea might be in jeapordy, and what CIA Director nominee Gina Haspel's views on torture mean for the United States. 

Also, the guests discuss what Tuesday’s midterm primaries may mean for control of Congress and Trump’s rising poll numbers. 

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The Iowa Supreme Court has considered several questions recently, including: When do hugs between a student and a school employee add up to illegal sexual contact? Also, if a neglected property becomes an eyesore, can the city take it without paying the owner a dime?

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal expert Todd Pettys about the stories behind several Iowa Supreme Court cases. Pettys also shares his thoughts on whether Iowa’s new fetal heartbeat law will be struck down.

Pettys is the H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation at the University of Iowa College of Law.

Cases discussed this hour include:

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and Jill Meadows v. Kimberly K. Reynolds ex rel. State of Iowa and Iowa Board of Medicine

More information: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-oral-argument-schedule/case/17-1579

The Fair Housing Act is marking its 50th anniversary this month. It was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson just days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in April of 1968, and it prohibits discrimination based on the race, sex, religion, national origin, familial status or disability of the person wishing to buy or rent a home.

The White House

Dr. Ronny Jackson has been a White House physician since 2006. He's also a United States Navy rear admiral who has been nominated for Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are numerous allegations against him concerning his ability to lead, as well as an allegation that he's mishandled prescription drugs. During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political analysts Dave Andersen and Jim McCormick of Iowa State University. 

Andreanna Moya Photography / Flickr

Teresa Hafner would not be alive today if she had not received a new heart through the Iowa Donor Network. She lives because of a motorcycle accident that killed a 26-year old woman. During this hour of River to River, she talks with host Ben Kieffer about being the recipient of a heart transplant. 

"Back in 2006, I flat-lined while I was at work and had to have a pace maker and a defibrillator placed at that point. I was fine for a while, and then I went into heart failure," she says. 

RebelAt (Missouri); Carol M. Highsmith (Nebraska); Vijay Kumar Koulampet (Wisconsin); McGhiever (Minnesota)

On this edition of River to River, while Iowa lawmakers work on closing a budget deal that would end this year’s session, we learn about what other statehouses around the Midwest have been tackling this year.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with statehouse reporters and hosts from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Missouri, where allegations of sexual assault and blackmail against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens have dominated the political landscape.

U.S. Supreme Court Cases Pending and Decided

Apr 19, 2018
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Andrew Bardwell

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with legal analysts Todd Pettys, H. Blair and Joan V. White Chair in Civil Litigation and law professor at the University of Iowa, and Tony Gaughan, Professor of Law and Drake University Law School about prominent cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Along with some other courts news, here are some of the cases they discuss:

Benisek v. Lamone and Gill v Whitford  – Both are gerrymandering cases.

Politics Day: Syria and North Korea

Apr 18, 2018
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In this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Keiffer is joined by Steffen Schmidt, Lucken Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College.

The analysts cover recent political news including recent airstrikes in Syria, a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, and a remembrance of former First Lady Barbara Bush.

CCN.com

On this politics day edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Hans Hassell, assistant professor of politics at Cornell College and Jim McCormick, professor of political science at Iowa State University about this week's political developments. Stories include Paul Ryan’s planned retirement, the recent chemical attack on Syria, and Mark Zuckerberg's Congress hearings.

On this "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer co-hosts with Gazette investigative reporter Erin Jordan. They ask panelists to discuss the latest in national and state politics, including what is likely happen before the end of the Iowa legislative session.

"They're going to do tax cuts, they're going to do the budget, and that might be it." says panelist and politics reporter for The Gazette, James Lynch. "Usually the hundredth day, when their money runs out, is an incentive to wrap things up."

Harper Collins

Robert de la Rochefoucald was captured by the Nazis three times during World War II. He was an aristocrat, educated in Europe's finest schools, turned Special Operations Executive in the French resistance. The stories of his escapes sound like something straight from an Ian Fleming novel, except they're true.

Marc-Antony Payne

Train derailments, oil spills, bankruptcies, medical errors, and data breaches - every week, the news gives us glaring examples of how mistakes in these complex systems can blossom into massive failures. 

On this River to River segment, host Ben Kieffer talks with Chris Clearfield, the co-author of MELTDOWN: Why Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It. In the book, he reveals the surprising ways in which these occurrences of modern life are connected, as well as how to prevent these sort of breakdowns. 

Truman Library

  

In the aftermath of WWII, the court system in Germany underwent a dramatic shift as the Allies launched an initiative to rid German and Austrian society of any remnants of national socialism. This process was called denazification. 

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Judy Hamilton Crockett, whose father Clarence E. Hamilton was head of all civil courts and prisons in Nuremberg after WWII.

Legislative Day: Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Mar 27, 2018
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A bill moving through the Iowa legislature would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell and host Ben Kieffer explore various perspectives from Iowa lawmakers and advocates. 

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