Ben Kieffer

River to River 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. 

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 30 years in public media.

Ben has taught courses at the University of Iowa on interviewing and radio news. He's a native of Cedar Falls and a graduate of the University of Iowa.

K2 and legal drugs

Jun 22, 2010

State drug control officials are warning residents about a new "fake" marijuana being called K2 or Spice after the death of an Indianola teen. They're also suggesting that the substance be banned during the next legislative session. How much do we know about it, and how does it compare with "legal" drugs like salvia, nictoine and alcohol? We'll talk with Gary Kendell, Director for the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy and Jonathan Kahl, Cognitive Neuroscientist at Iowa State University.

Prescription Drug Abuse

Jun 21, 2010

In an archive program from last September, host Ben Kieffer examines the rise of prescription drug abuse with the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy Director Gary Kendall. A number of national studies indicate that the intentional abuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers and sedatives is a growing concern.

Des Moines has been selected as one of only 18 sites for an unprecedented national discussion on the national debt. A diverse group of local citizens will come together June 26th at Drake University, linked online with the eighteen other sites across the country. Host Ben Kieffer talks with organizers of the discussion. Later in the hour, State Senator Joe Bolkom of Iowa City discusses his recent bike trip across Slovenia to learn about the country's efforts to reduce its consumption of energy.

We discuss the toxicology of children's toys with toxicologist Steven Gilbert and a toy store owner from Des Moines in light of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's recent cadmium related recalls.

The World Triathlon

Jun 16, 2010

He is famous for becoming the first Iowan to climb Mount Everest. Now, Des Moines resident Charlie Wittmack is embarking on his greatest challenge ever- a 12,000 mile intercontinental triathlon that reaches the frigid waters of the English Channel to the snow-covered summit of Mount Everest. Host Ben Kieffer talks with Charlie about the adventure and how his family agreed to take part in the journey.

We talk about The Passage, a new book authored by a University of Iowa Writer's Workshop graduate. Then, an interview with Lisa Koll, a nine-time All American Iowa State distance runner who has been named the nation's top collegiate female athlete in track and field.

With the World Cup underway host ben Kieffer talks with coaches and players of Iowa's premier development league soccer team, the Des Moines Menace. What kind of foothold does soccer have in Iowa's sports landscape? Have you caught World Cup fever?

Engineers bring a critical perspective to the economic models and mathematical predictions that are used to influence public policy. People making policy and economic decisions tend to take models on their face, but engineers bring a great skepticism about what the models say. We'll find out more from Iowa State University Mechanical Engineer Ross Morrow. Later in the hour- The wild scramble is on in major college athletics as Universities are leaving their respective conferences for greener pastures, or Super Conferences.

In light of Memorial weekend boating accidents, a discussion of boating safety laws with Susan Stocker, Boating Safety Educator with the Iowa DNR. Then, an Iowa lawmaker talks about his renewed push for stricter laws to combat drinking and boating.

Activism and Fulbright

Jun 8, 2010

We talk with Marisa Handler, UI Writer's Workshop graduate and author of "Loyal to the Sky," an award-winning memoir that documents her coverage of activist communities worldwide. Then, we discuss the Fulbright Scholarship program with a coordinator and a former scholar.

In his new book "Unhinged", Dr. Daniel Carlat says psychiatry has changed from a profession in which we try to understand people and talk to them, into a profession that diagnoses disease and medicates. Host Ben Kieffer explores the topic with Dr. Carlat and University of Iowa Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Robert Philibert.

Animal Abuse

Jun 4, 2010

We'll hear the amazing story of a Sioux City cat that was rescued after having a nail driven through its head, and discuss the implications of that horrific case of animal abuse. Guests include Executive Director of the Animals and Society Institute and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

Host Dean Borg talks with GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Rod Roberts. Later in the hour, a conversation with State Climatologist Harry Hillaker and Iowa State University Extension Climatologist Elwynn Taylor. The weather experts discuss the lack of tornado activity in Iowa this spring and the tools used to study tornadoes.

Host Dean Borg talks with two of the three Republicans who hope to win the GOP’s 2010 nomination for governor.

Business start-ups reached their highest level in 14 years in 2009. How is Iowa staying ahead of the curve in economic development opportunities? Host Ben Kieffer talks with Curt Nelson of the Entrepreneural Development Center in Cedar Rapids.

We follow IPR's Katherine Perkins through her "graduation" from chemotherapy. Then, we hear about the hundreds of clinical trials for cancer patients taking place across Iowa.

21-Only Ordinance

May 27, 2010

Beginning June 1, bar owners in Iowa City will prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from entering their establishment. The issue goes before voters in the General Election this fall. In a program broadcast live from the Java House in Iowa City, host Ben Kieffer examines the culture of drinking with University of Iowa Vice President of Student Services Tom Rocklin and UI student Raj Patel who led the effort to have the issue placed on the November ballot.

In an archived program from May 2009, host Ben Kieffer talks with Marilyn Yalom, author of 'The American Resting Place' and Michael Lensing of Lensing Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Iowa City. The guests examine some of the most bizarre burial practices and how different cultures explore death.

Iowa Supreme Court

May 25, 2010

While a lot of attention is currently focused on the U-S Supreme Court and the nomination hearings of Elana Kagan,we’ll look at the Iowa Supreme Court. Iowa’s merit system for appointing Justices is an exception across the U-S. We’ll talk with former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Robert Allbee and two professors who have studied the Iowa Supreme Court and its decisions.

A conversation with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich who previews his upcoming trip to visit Polk County Republicans and discusses what Iowa GOP candidates must do to win in November's General Elections. Later in the hour U.S. Senator Charles Grassley provides an update on oil spill in the Gulf.

Reporters Roundtable

May 21, 2010

Des Moines Register Columnist Kathie Obradovich and Cedar Rapids Gazette Political Reporter James Lynch join Ben Kieffer to discuss the recent visit by the Dalai Lama, the last gubernatorial debate before the primary and Vice-President Joe Biden's trip to Iowa to endorse Governor Culver.

Cashless Society

May 20, 2010

Debit card usage has climbed fourfold since 1999 and the Payments Council predicts that banknotes and coins will be used for fewer than half of all transactions in the next five years. We examine the prospects of a cashless society with a University of Iowa Finance Professor and the leader of a Des Moines business offering a web-based technology for transferring money.

Iowa Refugees

May 19, 2010

Since 1975 more than 30-thousand refugees have come to Iowa to find a home. It began with Governor Robert Ray as Vietnamese families fled war and persecution. Now 35 years later, two of Iowa's three refugee resettlement agencies are suspending their programs. What does it mean for the state and the refugees currently living in Iowa? Host Jeneane Beck talks with Governor Robert Ray and the Bureau Chief of the Iowa Bureau of Refugee Services.

In the past few years the number of Chinese students seeking an American education has seen a considerable increase. Even American prep schools have been busy recruiting China's best and brighest. We examine the great U.S.-China student exchange with Chinese students in Iowa and Iowa students seeking an education overseas. Plus, an interview with NPR Shanghai correspondent Louisa Lim.

Human Origins

May 17, 2010

A conversation with Lee Berger, the American paleoanthropologist who last month discovered the bones of a new hominid species. Australopithecus sediba lived almost two-million years ago during a mysterious period spanning the emergence of the human family. Then, two Iowa paleoanthropologists discuss the questions raised and answered by this discovery.

A look at the challenges that lie ahead for the baby boomer generation when it comes to care for their aging parents. What are the best options when it comes to long-term care? Ben Kieffer talks with Ingrid Wensel of the Heritage Area Agency on Aging. Later in the hour, a conversation with author Gail Sheehy. Her new book "Passages in Caregiving" examines her role as a caregiver after her husband was diagnosed with cancer.

We discuss medical marijuana research, now that two Iowa organizations (Iowa Board of Pharmacy and the Iowa Medical Society) have endorsed the idea of reclassifying marijuana to allow for more clinical study. Guests include the co-director of the only facility in the U.S. currently doing clinical trials, an Iowa physician and State Senator Joe Bolkcom.

Religious Cults

May 12, 2010

We examine religious cults with Iowa State University Asscoiate Professor Nikki Bado. Then a conversation with author Carolyn Jessop who is in Iowa to promote her book "Triumph". The book chronicles her life after escaping an extremist Mormon sect.

Physical Fitness

May 11, 2010

In Grundy Center this week, national and international representatives will meet to discuss ways to change physical education in schools. Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Northern Iowa alumn Shellie Fole who serves as the Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. We'll also talk with a P.E. teacher at Grundy Center Elementary School and the Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The "brain drain" - a rapid exodus of young adults has been a concern in Iowa for decades. Now, small Iowa communities are being proactive in reaching out to native sons and daughters to keep them close to home. We'll talk with economic development representatives and find out how they're working to keep small town Iowa vibrant.