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 @IPRBen.  It’s produced by Emily Woodbury @EmilyWoodburyLindsey Moon @lindseysmoon and Katelyn Harrop @KatelynHarrop. Our Executive Producer is Katherine Perkins. Our theme music is by The River Monks.

Ted Eytan/Flickr


On this "news buzz" edition of River to River, IPR's State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric joins with updates from the state legislature. Then, we hear from Jesse Vroegh, the focus of a recent ruling in Polk County which determined that the state of Iowa had engaged in discrimination by forcing him to use a restoom at his workplace, the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women, that did not align with his gender identity.

TumblingRun / flickr

Modern medicine helps us live longer, but what about the quality of those extra years? In her new book "The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life," bestselling author Katy Butler writes about how to live, age, and die with meaning. 

"Dying well is a process. It's not an act," she says. "The point I'm trying to make here is that this is not a process to start when you're making a panicked call to 911 at the end of life." 

"Living well naturally segues into dying well."

Stacey MacNaught/Flickr


With social networks at our fingertips, it’s easy to feel like we’re more connected than ever before, but your constant scrolling, liking, and app downloading may actually decrease your quality of life.

That’s according to “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World”, a new book by Georgetown computer scientist and author Cal Newport. In the book, Newport explores a new philosophy for technology use -- one where you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected activities which bring you both utility and joy.

Jim Mone/AP

Two more candidates have officially announced their intention to take on President Trump in 2020, with many more dipping their toes into the candidacy waters. 




The Governor has made K-12 education a priority, and Iowa lawmakers are at work crafting proposals at the Statehouse.

During this hour of River to River, hosts Ben Kieffer and Katarina Sostaric are joined by Democratic ranking member of the House Education Committee Rep. Ras Smith, and Republican chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink. They talk about proposed changes to K-12 education base funding as brought forward by the Iowa House and Senate.


Pablo Martinez Monsivais

In his new position as President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, Charles Grassley is third in line of presidential succession.

During this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch about the constitutional role of President pro tempore, going way back to John Adams, the country’s first president of the Senate.

Marc-Antony Payne

This episode originally aired on March 29, 2018.

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. 

Liz Martin/The Gazette

In November, Democrats flipped two of Iowa’s four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. One of those seats is now occupied by Abby Finkenauer of Iowa's 1st District. On November 6th, 2018, Finkenauer became the second-youngest woman to ever be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

As well as being one of the youngest women elected to Congress, Finkenauer and Congresswoman Cindy Axne of Iowa's 3rd district became the first women from Iowa elected to the House of Representatives. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Last night was President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address to a divided Congress.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with political scientists Donna Hoffman from the University of Northern Iowa, and Tim Hagle from the University of Iowa about the speech, that was full of conciliation and confrontation. 

Clay Masters/IPR file

Rural Iowa communities might be missing out on federal dollars that could help with economic development.

3rd District Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne says getting the money to communities that need it is one of her priorities during her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives. She’s co-sponsored a bill to streamline the federal grant-making process.

"What it will allow us to do is make sure that our local communities are tapping into those billions of dollars that, quite honestly, we’re leaving on the table," Axne says.

Joe Gratz

Specialty courts have gained support in recent years due to their goal of relieving pressure on local jails and the court system.

In this River to River segment, we learn about a mental health court being developed in Story County to address the increasing number of defendants with serious mental health conditions who are caught up in the criminal justice system.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that allows states to legalize, tax and regulate sports betting. Until then, Nevada was the only state where fans could legally put bets on games and point spreads. Eight states have now legalized sports betting.

Several proposals that would legalize sports betting in Iowa are set to get a first hearing at the statehouse Wednesday, and lawmakers will hear from numerous competing interests.

Emily Woodbury

On this edition of “Pints and Politics,” presented by The Gazette and Iowa Public Radio, panelists provide insight on the long term economic impact of the shutdown, whether lawmakers and President Trump will come to a compromise before the new shutdown deadline of February 15th, and the 2020 presidential candidates making their way through Iowa.

Harper Collins

This episode originally aired on April 12, 2018.

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.

Jose Luis Magana

Yesterday, top American intelligence officials detailed the biggest threats facing the U.S.

On this politics day edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer talks with analysts Christopher Larimer and Evan Renfro of the University of Northern Iowa about how the priorities of the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats are at odds with the priorities of President Trump.

They also discuss new developments in the Russia investigation, Sen. Kamala Harris’ first Iowa visit as a 2020 presidential candidate, and the long term effects of the 35 day government shutdown.

Jeroen Kransen/flickr


You heard right. Iowa is expected to be colder than parts of Antarctica on Wednesday, with sub-zero temperatures expected to settle over the state Tuesday night. These will be some of the coldest days since 1996, when sub-zero temperatures lasted for more than 130 hours in much of the state.

U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel

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

On this edition of River to River, we hear the story of Amber Causey, a survivor, and veteran of the U.S. Army, who was trafficked for commercial sex as a teenager.

Sebastiaan ter Burg

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow felons in Iowa to vote after completing their prison sentences, probation, and parole.

Since 2011, Iowa felons who serve their full sentences, including parole, must apply for the right to vote. Their ability to vote is then determined on a case-by-case basis by the Governor’s office.


On day 35 of the partial government shutdown, one furloughed federal employee expresses concern over how signifciantly reduced staffing at state historic sites could impact the condition of some of the most treasured artifacts in Iowa. 

Ariana Cubilos / AP Photo

This week, Venezuelans have taken to the streets protesting President Nicolas Madura’s reign in the country as Juan Guaido declares himself interim President of the country. Also this week: controversial Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro headlined the World Economic Forum in Davos to the alarm of environmentalists. During this half hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Amy Erica Smith, who is an associate professor of political science at Iowa State University about the week in South American politics.


Andrew Bardwell/flickr

Constitutional interpretation is at the forefront of this week's court news, with questions about the Second Amendment and gender identity dominating the conversation.

Host Ben Kieffer is joined by University of Iowa College of Law professor Paul Gowder and University of Northern Iowa political science professor Scott Peters for a look at the meaning and potential impact of several major state and federal supreme court headlines from the week. 

Mobilus in Mobili/Flickr

There’s a record gender divide in voting patterns, a record number of Democratic women in the new Congress, and now a record number of female contenders in the Democratic presidential field.

On this politics day edition of River to River, analyists Dave Andersen and Jonathan Hassid of Iowa State University join host Ben Kieffer for a look at the batch of contenders vying to representing the Democratic party in the 2020 presidential race. 

But first, updates on the government shutdown as it surpases the one-month mark and new developments in the Russia probe. 

Courtesy of the publisher

More than 70,000 people died from drug overdoeses in 2017, making ovrdoses a greater killer than gun violence or car crashes in the U.S.. Of the more than 70,000 lives lost to drugs in 2017, over 68 percent were opioid-related, solidfying opioids, including synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, as a growing killer in the United States. 

In 2014, Bassem Yousseff, commonly described as the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, was forced into exile after being accused of and arrested for criticizing the Egyptian government. His show "El Bernameg," which translates to "The Show" ran from 2011 to 2014; before that, he worked as a heart surgeon. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

With most members of Congress heading home for a long weekend, the government shutdown is essentially guaranteed to enter its second month. In the midst of this continuing shutdown, Iowa Congressman Steve King has come under fire for his racist remarks and faces calls for resignation. 

Amy Mayer/IPR

Recently, Federal Judge James Gritzner ruled that it is no longer a crime to go undercover at agricultural operations to investigate working conditions and animal welfare. His ruling found that the 2012 law was a clear violation of the First Amendment.

Clay Masters/IPR file

Republican Steve King has a long history of remarks that offend. That history caught up with him Monday when he was removed from his committee assignments in Congress after he defended the use of terms like "white supremacy" in an interview with the New York Times


In 2018, we said goodbye to a number of remarkable Iowans. On this edition of River to River, we remember them by looking back at their lives, listening to excerpts of interviews and speaking to people who knew them well.

Linda Upmeyer
John Pemble / IPR

As lawmakers returned to the Iowa Capitol Monday to kick off the 2019 legislative session, Republican leaders said they are excited about having full control of the statehouse for the third session in a row.

Party leaders and lawmakers started the day at a fundraising breakfast for Iowa Republicans, where party chair Jeff Kaufmann said the recent elections gave them a mandate to continue their work.

Kevin Chang / Flickr

Iowa’s so-called "ag gag" law made it a crime for journalists and advocacy groups to go undercover at ag-related operations to investigate working conditions, animal welfare, food safety and environmental hazards, among other things. This week, a federal judge struck down that 2012 law.

In this news buzz edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Jennifer Zwagerman of Drake University to examine why the court says the law is not compatible with free speech, and what this new ruling means for the future of the industry-backed statute.