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.

Host Dean Borg questions Iowa's incumbent third district Congressman Leonard Boswell and his republican challenger Brad Zaun. Boswell, a democrat, has spent 14 years in the House of Representatives and is seeking an 8th term. State Senator Zaun, the former mayor of Urbandale, hopes to replace him. It's a bruising campaign that's getting national attention. Join in with your own questions.

Host Jeneane Beck examines the political movement to unseat Iowa Supreme Court justices with the retention election in November. Her guests are Chuck Laudner from Iowa For Freedom, whose group is campaigning for a "no" vote on retention, and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Justice David Baker, who are standing for retention.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Democratic candidate Bill Maske from Iowa's 4th district. Maske is challenging incumbent Republican Tom Latham in the November election. Later Ben talks with Matt Campbell, the Democratic candidate from the 5th district. Campbell faces incumbent Republican Steve King.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Army Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta of Hiawatha. Later this year Sal Giunta will become the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. There have only been eight recipients of the military's highest honor in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Giunta, who serves with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, exposed himself to enemy fire in October 2007, when an insurgent force ambush split his squad into two groups. Later, Ben speaks with Rabbi Jay Holstein, the J.J.

Iowa Gubernatorial Race

Oct 13, 2010

On this Wednesday, politics day, with the midterm elections less than three weeks away, we focus on the Iowa gubernatorial race. First, we'll speak with former GOP governor Terry Branstad. He's challenging first-term incumbent Democrat Chet Culver. A new poll paid for by the Culver campaign shows Culver has gained ground against Branstad and is now within eight points. We'll ask Terry Branstad about the new poll numbers and, of course, the top issues in the campaign.

We talk with the 2010 World Food Prize Laureates David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck of Heifer International. The two are in Iowa this week for the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialog and Symposium. We’ll talk about how they’ve built two of the world's foremost grassroots organizations aimed at ending hunger and poverty for millions of people around the globe. And as this year’s discussion centers around small producers, we’ll hear what challenges and successes they’ve witnessed firsthand.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with the congressional candidates vying to represent Iowa's second district. First we'll speak with two-term Democratic incumbent Congressman Dave Loebsack, then with his Republican challenger Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Loebsack is accusing Miller-Meeks of flip-flopping her position on privatizing social security while Miller-Meeks says Loebsack changed his position on the Bush tax cuts.

Teen girls are 6 to 7 times more likely to injure an ACL than boys their same age and the number of knee surgeries performed to correct an anterior cruciate ligament tear has risen sharply over the past decade. This hour host Ben Kieffer speaks with Paul Pursley, a physical therapist with University of Iowa Sports Medicine about a new program that will be offered to female basketball players with hopes of teaching young girls how to avoid injuries. We also hear from a Western Iowa teen about her two ACL reconstructions before she turned 18.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with candidates vying to represent Iowa's first congressional district. For the first half of the program, we'll ask two-term Democrat, Congressman Bruce Braley, about the success or failure of Cash for Clunkers and what it's like to be the target of attack ads by out-of-state interest groups. Then we'll hear from Republican candidate Ben Lange and ask how his approach to representing the district would differ from his opponent's.

Politics Day

Oct 6, 2010

Join host Ben Kieffer for Politics Day. Christine O'Donnell, the tea-party backed candidate from Delaware, declares she's not a witch. Rahm Emanuel leaves the White House to run for mayor of his hometown of Chicago. What does this mean for the Obama administration? Who's the new guy and what do we know about him? Who else has been Chief of Staff and changed jobs midstream? A Sioux City church is under investigation by the IRS for advocating that congregants vote against the retention of three Iowa Supreme Court justices.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Ambassador Mary Kramer. Kramer is speaking at the University of Northern Iowa this afternoon about the increasing polarization of American politics. Kramer served in the Iowa Senate representing West Des Moines from 1991-2003. She was nominated by President George W. Bush to become U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean in 2003. Later in the hour, we talk with the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Roxanne Conlin. Conlin is a Des Moines trial attorney and former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa.

We talk with Bill McKibben, one of the nation's leading environmentalists about his new book "EAARTH: Making Life on a Tough New Planet," and his effort to plan a global work party on 10-10-10. Then, we'll talk with organizers of 10-10-10 events in Iowa. Guests include Jonathan Durst, an Iowa City student organizer, Stephen Lauer, Susan Temere and Hillary Williams who are organizing events in Des Moines and an Ames organizer.

In November voters will decide whether to amend the Iowa Constitution to create the Natural Resources and Recreation Trust Fund. The fund would be used to enhance and protect water and soil quality and natural areas. The ballot measure does not raise taxes, but would be funded through any future increase in the sales tax.

Host Ben Kieffer talks with Iowa native and Grinnell College graduate Greg Thielmann. Thielmann is a Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association in Washington, DC. He has been instrumental in pushing for ratification of the New START treaty for Strategic Arms Reduction- the bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia. Later, Ben talks with Henry Levine, Senior Director for Stonebridge, China, a consulting firm that advises clients on China-related strategies and plans. Levine will discuss U.S.-China relations during a stop at Drake University.

Politics Day

Sep 29, 2010

President Obama drops in on a Beaverdale backyard today. New polls conducted by the Des Moines Register show Terry Branstad leads Chet Culver by nineteen points in the race for governor, and incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley has a commanding lead over challenger Roxanne Conlin. This hour we talk about the latest political news, inlcuding efforts to vote on retaining Iowa Supreme Court justices. Host Ben Kieffer discusses these issues with guests Dennis Goldford and Rachel Caufield of Drake University and Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College.

Obesity in Iowa

Sep 28, 2010

According to the National Center for Disease the number of obese Iowans increased in 2009. Now 25-29% of Iowans report being significantly overweight or obese. This hour, we discuss the obesity epidemic as it pertains to Iowa and what is being done to combat it with programs such as Live Healthy Iowa, Iowans Fit for Life and the Iowa Sports Foundation's Go the Distance Program.

Veterans' Oral History

Sep 27, 2010

A national project to record the stories of America's veterans is approaching its 10 year anniversary. Guest host Dean Borg is joined by guests who will talk about the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum's contributions to the project. We'll also talk with a veteran who's already shared his history and a veteran from one of the country's current wars.

A new center at the University of Northern Iowa seeks to inform Iowa school kids about the Holocaust and genocide. Host Ben Kieffer talks with the Center's director, Stephen Gaies. We'll also speak with an author who profiled concentration camp survivors who came to Des Moines. Finally, we'll get an update on the impacts that modern-day human trafficking have in Iowa and the efforts to stop it.

Thursday is the first full day of fall. We'll take the opportunity to examine Iowa’s climate on several fronts. State Climatologist Harry Hillaker will reflect on this past summer and look ahead to what kind of weather and harvest the new season is likely to bring. Also, Joe Walsh, Deputy Director of Iowa Workforce Development gives us the latest picture of Iowa's climate for those seeking jobs. Finally, Carey Jensen from the Iowa Association of Realtors gives us an update on the housing industry in the state.

Politics Day

Sep 22, 2010

Two former Iowa lawmakers are launching 50-50 in 2020, with the goal of recruiting and mentoring women to run for elected office in Iowa. We'll talk with Maggie Tinsman and Jean Lloyd-Jones about the effort and its chance for success. Then, we'll get analysis of the two Congressional races in Iowa with female candidates, and reflect on Sarah Palin's visit to the state. Guests include Kelly Thornburg, Iowa NEW Leadership Coordinator for the University of Iowa and Dianne Bystrom, Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University.

Join us for a conversation with NPR counter-terrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. She visits Grinnell College this week to discuss her unique role working with the FBI and CIA. She'll discuss the fundamental changes in the threat of terrorism. Also, Iowa comedian Nathan Timmel. He's just returned from another trip to Iraq to entertain the troops. He'll give us an update from his unique perspective.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Iowa is ramping up its prosecution of child pornography offenders. Guest host, Alex Heuer, will be joined by U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose. We'll talk about the office's focus to stop the spread of images involving sexually explicit acts with children. We'll also get an update on foster care in Iowa and how the number of children in the system is decreasing.

Branding Iowa

Sep 17, 2010

Over the years various slogans have welcomed people to Iowa- The Tall Corn State, Fields of Opportunities and A place to Grow are just a few. We examine the perceptions of Iowa both from within the state's borders and outside. What is the best way to market the Hawkeye state?

Sexual Signals

Sep 16, 2010

Host Ben Kieffer discusses sexual signals and intimate relationships with Harry Brod, professor of philosphy and humanities at the Unviersity of Northern Iowa and main speaker in "Asking For It: The Ethics and Erotics of Sexual Consent." We talk about the DVD and the implications of misconceived sexual cues. We also speak with Teresa Downing-Matibag, a sociologist from Iowa State University and Jerrod Koon, coordinator for the Men's Anti-Violence Council in Iowa City.

Politics Day

Sep 15, 2010

We get analysis of Tuesday's primaries in New Hampshire, Delaware and elsewhere from New Hampshire political analyst Arnie Arnesen and Political Science Professor Bruce Nesmith of Coe College. They'll also talk about the first Iowa gubernatorial debate between Chet Culver and Terry Branstad.

Liberal Universities

Sep 14, 2010

Numerous studies have found that University campuses are liberal places and the vast majority of faculty self-identify as "liberal" when asked about their political leanings. New research, however, shows that a professor's political beliefs have little impact on the political beliefs of their students. Additionally, faculty rarely report being the victims of political discrimination. Host Ben Kieffer is joined by researchers to talk about these findings.

Civility/The Big Sort

Sep 13, 2010

Americans are self-segregating… clustering themselves into like-minded communities. That’s according to Bill Bishop, the author of "The Big Sort." We’ll talk with Bishop in advance of an appearance at Drake University as part of the "Better Together Creating Community through Civility" speaker series. Then we talk with sponsors of the series about the state of civility in Iowa.

A new study by the National Wildlife Federation highlights findings that show children who spend more time outdoors have better attention spans, do better academically, and perform better on standardized tests. But, children are spending less and less time outdoors than ever before. We'll talk about what schools can and are doing to get kids outside, and explore opportunities outside of school to reconnect with nature.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. We'll have a conversation about steps being taken to prevent suicide in Iowa. We'll talk with the brother of someone who took his life in 2007 and how he's coping. Also, we'll have a conversation about prevention efforts in communities.

Politics Day

Sep 8, 2010

Host Ben Kieffer talks with ISU Political Science Professors Dick Mansbach and Steffen Schmidt about U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and the next round of Middle East peace negotiations.