KCUR-FM: Frank Morris | KBIA

KCUR-FM: Frank Morris

Frank Morris has supervised the reporters in KCUR's newsroom since 1999. In addition to his managerial duties, Morris files regularly with National Public Radio. He’s covered everything from tornadoes to tax law for the network, in stories spanning eight states. His work has won dozens of awards, including four national Public Radio News Directors awards (PRNDIs) and several regional Edward R. Murrow awards. In 2012 he was honored to be named "Journalist of the Year" by the Heart of America Press Club.

Morris grew up in rural Kansas listening to KHCC, spun records at KJHK throughout college at the University of Kansas, and cut his teeth in journalism as an intern for Kansas Public Radio, in the Kansas statehouse.

Sales tax collections for the early part of this year’s holiday season are down across Kansas, and that includes Johnson, Wyandotte and Douglas counties. But some local shops are having a great year, by selling experience as well as stuff.

Protesters in cities across the country marched Thursday evening to decry President Donald Trump’s decision to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In Kansas City, protesters said they fear Session’s replacement will quash Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The parking lot filled fast at Kehilath Israel Synagogue. More than 1,300 people turned out Monday night for a diverse vigil in Overland Park supporting the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.

“Our hearts go out to the people in Pittsburgh, because we know what that’s like,” said Janee Hanzlick on her way into the building.

The sharp rise in opioid abuse and fatal overdoses has overshadowed another mounting drug problem: Methamphetamine use is rising across the country.

“Usage of methamphetamine nationally is at an all-time high,” says Erik Smith, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Kansas City office.

The Colorado Rockies are packed with natural beauty, huge vistas, pretty flowers and adorable critters.

But when I backpacked the 160-mile Collegiate Loop on the Colorado Trail last month, I discovered a great little community of strangers out on the trail. Here are just a few of the notables I met on the trail.

Updated Aug. 1, 2018

The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission found lots of reasons to stall the expansion of a feedlot near Powell Gardens last week, among them that the corporation that won the permit to expand does not legally exist.

President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging address to the national Veterans of Foreign Wars conference Tuesday in Kansas City, discussing tariffs, foreign policy and immigration and criticizing Democrats.

Trump also attended a luncheon fundraiser for Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who faces a primary for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in two weeks. 

The corn and soybeans growing in Glenn Brunkow’s fields in the rolling Flint Hills north of Wamego, Kansas, got some much needed rain recently and look healthy.

Brunkow has reason to expect a good harvest, but the way things are looking globally, he’ll lose money on the crop. Trade disputes with China, Mexico and Canada threaten to slash U.S. food exports by billions. About half the soybean crop goes overseas, most of that to China — and since mid-April, soybean prices have plunged about 20 percent and corn about 15 percent.

Just outside tiny Sheffield, Iowa, a modern steel and glass office building has sprung up next to a cornfield. Behind it, there's a plant that employs almost 700 workers making Sukup brand steel grain bins. The factory provides an economic anchor for Sheffield, population 1,125.

Charles Sukup, the company's president, says that even though workers can be hard to come by, there are no plans to relocate.

"Our philosophy is you bloom where you're planted," Sukup says with a smile.

If you pull a fire alarm in any large U.S. city, it's likely that paid firefighters waiting at a nearby station will quickly respond. But seven out of 10 American firefighters are volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

Near record numbers of Americans are buying second homes — the kind on wheels, that is.

The Great Recession almost totaled the RV industry, but now camper trailers and motor homes are popular again. Daryn Anderson is the owner of an RV dealership south of Kansas City, and he says his sales here have roughly tripled since the bottom of the recession.

"Business has been great. Six straight record years and no end in sight," he says. "We're excited."

Almost all of the goods we buy spend time in a truck before they get to us. And because store shelves are full and sales are strong, you might assume that the trucking industry is doing great.

But trucking companies say they are critically short of drivers — and many truckers say it's pay the companies are short of.

One of the fast-growing parts of the trucking industry these days is driver training.

Schools, like APEX CDL Institute in Kansas City, Kan., are cranking out drivers.

Looking for a job? How about working way up in the air, in all kinds of weather, with thousands of volts of electricity?

Working on high-voltage lines pays well and doesn't require a degree, but electric utilities are hard-pressed to replace retiring linemen.

If you want to learn about the dedication and character needed to be a lineman, look no farther than a place with a super-abundance of line workers: the International Lineman's Rodeo.

Applebee’s is leaving the Kansas City area after bouncing around the region for decades, collecting tax incentives.   

Applebee’s parent company DineEquity announced Friday that it’s moving executive functions for the Kansas City based restaurant chain to California.

In Missouri, two political suicides have stunned the Republican Party. In February, state Auditor Tom Schweich, a leading candidate for the party's nomination for governor, shot himself. Then just last month, his press secretary, Spence Jackson, took his own life. The tragedies have sparked fresh scrutiny of Missouri's increasingly bruising political system.

Schweich launched his campaign for governor with a scathing broadside against the state's Republican Party establishment.

Kansas City has some of the Internet's best service anywhere. Providers there jostle for customers who can now expect broadband that's about 100 times faster than the national average.

But, four years after Google Fiber landed in Kansas City, people are still trying to figure out just what to do with all that speed.

Kansas City's a modest, Midwestern place. Residents are proud of their barbecue and baseball team. But Aaron Deacon says that now there's something else: inexpensive, world-class Internet.

Americans increasingly see decently fast Internet as more like a functioning sewer line than a luxury.

And a number of cities are trying to get into the Internet provider business, but laws in 19 states hamper those efforts. President Obama announced this week that he wants to lift those restrictions, and supporters of what is known as municipal broadband can't wait.

A Catholic bishop normally governs pretty much unchecked in his diocese — only the pope can dislodge a bishop. And each time Catholics celebrate Mass in Kansas City, Mo., they pray for Bishop Robert Finn, right after they pray for Pope Francis.

But some Catholics here, like David Biersmith, a Eucharistic minister, refuse to go along.

"When the priest says that, you know, you're supposed say it with him, but I just leave that out," Biersmith says. "I just don't say it. Because he's not my bishop, as far as I'm concerned."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is calling for an investigation into the way leaders at UMKC’s Henry W. Bloch School of Management promoted the school.  

The Swiss chocolate maker Lindt will gobble up Kansas City-based Russell Stover. The acquisition may be kind of an odd pairing, but analysts say it could be a sweet deal for the Swiss company and possibly for American chocolate lovers. 

Mr. Russell Stover started his boxed candy business with money he made helping to invent the modern ice cream bar. He brought it to Kansas City in 1931, where the company still has dedicated stores and a faithful following.

It's prairie chicken mating season!

Still, it's tough being a lesser prairie chicken these days. This type of grouse once spanned an enormous area, though now they survive mainly in pockets of Oklahoma and Kansas. Their numbers are plummeting; in 2012, the population dropped by half.

But after they were recently listed as a threatened species by the U.S. government, complaints of federal overreach and lawsuits have followed.

A spinal injury left Iraq War veteran Tomas Young paralyzed below the waist in 2004. Further medical complications a few years later made him quadriplegic.

Although Young had enlisted two days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he became an outspoken anti-war activist.

The news of Hostess' return to Emporia, Kan., sparked an ecstatic response in this beleaguered town — even though there will be only half as many jobs.

The new company, formed when investors bought Hostess' snack cake business, has hired longtime snack cake production veterans Pat Chambers and her husband, Bob, to help get the bakery here running again. Pat lost her job at the Hostess plant when it closed last November. Now, she sits beaming on her front porch, wearing a dirty Hostess work shirt.

On a normal day, Kansas City, Mo., processes more than 70 million gallons of raw sewage. This sewage used to be a nuisance, but Kansas City, and a lot of municipalities around the country, are now turning it into a resource for city farmers hard up for fertilizer.

After the sewage has been processed at a treatment plant, it's piped out to Birmingham Farm on the north side of the Missouri River.

So many people wanted him to speak, and he couldn't speak anymore. - Cathy Smith, Young's mother

After a dozen years at war, an estimated 2 million active-duty service members will have returned home by the end of 2013. Some reintegrate without much struggle, but for others it's not so easy. The psychological wounds of war can sometimes prove to be just as fatal as the physical ones.

Two rapid-fire snowstorms belted Kansas with more than 2 feet of snow this week. They caused thousands of accidents and all kinds of hardships — but they also produced very broad smiles from some quarters.

That's because in a place as dry as Kansas has been lately, a blizzard can be a blessing for farmers and ranchers.

Copyright 2017 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

After one of the driest summers on record, recent rains have helped in some parts of the country. But overall, the drought has still intensified. The latest tracking classifies more than a fifth of the contiguous United States in "extreme or exceptional" drought, the worst ratings.

In some parts of the Lower Midwest, water-starved crops have collapsed, but the farmers have not. Farmers across the country are surviving, and many are even thriving. This year, despite the dismal season, farmers stand to make exceptionally good money, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

todd akin
todayonthetrail.today.com

Political endorsements and the promise of PAC dollars have come streaming back to Rep. Todd Akin, who’s challenging incumbent Senator Clair McCaskill for the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri.

Republican leaders stampeded away from Akin this summer after he said that so-called “legitimate rape” rarely caused pregnancy. They demanded he step aside. Now that the deadline for Akin doing that has passed, the tide has changed.

All of the sudden, this race has gone full tilt.

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