Frank Morris

National Correspondent and Senior Editor

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.

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It's no secret that Donald Trump campaigned as a champion of gun rights, but a Trump administration poses both welcome relief and an immediate problem for the gun industry.

For Larry Cavener, who recently visited a new gun shop called Tactical Advantage in Overland Park, Kan., this election means he can breathe easier.

"This means that we're not gonna be under siege for a few years, and it seems like it has been," Cavener says.

Peggy Lowe / KCUR 89.3

Updated 3:47 p.m., Wednesday

A “huge influx” of advance mail ballots and voters newly registering or changing their registration before the election combined to delay the county’s election results until early Wednesday afternoon, Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker said.

“We were overwhelmed with the turnout of the voters in almost every step of the way in this election,” Metsker said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It was almost as unique in Johnson County as it was in other parts of the country.”

United Sates Department of Energy / Flickr-CC

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Nebraska, leads to the Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant. It's full of new equipment. There's a white concrete box building that's still under construction. It's licensed until 2033. But the plant is closing Monday.

Nuclear power is expensive, especially when compared to some of the alternatives, so the U.S. nuclear power industry is shrinking. As more plants go offline, industry leaders are forced to reckon with what critics call a "broken system" for taking plants out of service and storing radioactive waste.

Like most farmers, Mark Nelson, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat near Louisburg, Kan., is getting squeezed. He's paying three times more for seed than he used to, while his corn sells for less than half what it brought four years ago.

"It's a – that's a challenge," Nelson says. "You're not going to be in the black, let's put it that way."

Low commodity prices are rippling up and down the farm-economy food chain — from the farm to the boardroom — and it has many of the huge companies that control farm inputs looking to a new future.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Salina, Kansas, may seem an unlikely Mecca for environmental activists, but it is — thanks to the Land Institute.

The Land Institute started with the bold idea that for farming to work long-term, farmers have to reverse a fundamental mistake they made 10,000 years ago when they started growing crops that have to be planted annually.

Now, after four decades developing alternative ways of raising grain, the leader and funder of the Land Institute, Wes Jackson, is stepping down – just as the scientific research going on there is ramping up.

Frank Morris / Harvest Public Media

Like most farmers, Mark Nelson, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat near Louisburg, Kansas, is getting squeezed. He’s paying three times more for seed than he used to, while his corn sells for less than half what it brought four years ago.

“It’s a – that’s a challenge,” Nelson says. “You’re not going to be in the black, let’s put it that way.”

Low commodity prices are rippling up and down the farm economy food chain from the farm to the boardroom, and it has many of the huge companies that control farm inputs looking to a new future.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Hillary Clinton brought her campaign for president to the National Baptist Convention USA in Kansas City, Missouri, on Thursday. The Democratic nominee used gospel verses and personal stories to distinguish herself from Donald Trump.

People attending the convention are almost entirely African-American, conservative, middle-aged and dressed to the nines. In her address, Clinton, a life-long Methodist, quoted scripture to knowing smiles and nods. Some audience members even recited lines along with her. 

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Overland Park, Kansas-based Sprint says it’s set a new record for wireless internet speed in Kansas City, using a technology called three-channel carrier aggregation.

The technology works by bundling data streams, and organizing them to work like one.  Creating one big pipe can handle a lot more information.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Military installations in Missouri face budget uncertainty, according to U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.  McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has been touring bases in across the state this week. She talked with people who maintain B-2 stealth bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, before making her way to the Honeywell plant in Kansas City, where parts for nuclear weapons are produced. 

She says she’s hearing that uncertainty about the military budget is making it harder to plan ahead.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

When 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed earlier this month while riding the Verrückt waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas, it turned out that neither the state of Kansas nor the federal government had ever inspected it for safety. The accident has sparked a national debate on amusement park regulation.

Two years ago, there was lots of fanfare when the 17-story Verrückt went up at Schlitterbahn water park — in part because it seemed so dangerous. A video broadcast on Good Morning America showed test rafts with sandbag dummies sailing off an early version of the ride. 

Tyler Koonce / Twitter

Rounds of heavy rain fell Friday evening leading to flash flooding in parts of the Kansas City metro area. Up to six inches fell in just two hours on parts of the city, leaving some downtown and Midtown roads impassable.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for the immediate downtown Kansas City area. It was the first flash flood emergency ever issued for the Kansas City area by the NWS.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this summer, Jeff Blackwood started the process of moving his business to Kansas City, Missouri -- and out of Overland Park, Kansas.  But first, he had something to say.

“I could have just moved and not said anything," Blackwood says. “There’s really no benefit to me in having said anything, but it comes down to conscience.”

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The U.S. Supreme Court transformed the landscape of the abortion debate this summer with a sweeping decision throwing a broad class of abortion restrictions into question, and thrusting Missouri back into the center of the abortion debate.

The Planned Parenthood clinic at Cleaver Boulevard and Troost Avenue in Midtown Kansas City dispenses birth control and provides reproductive health exams, but doesn’t do everything a woman might expect from Planned Parenthood. 

Editor's note: This report contains accounts of rape, violence and other disturbing events.

Sex trafficking wasn't a major concern in the early 1980s, when Beth Jacobs was a teenager. If you were a prostitute, the thinking went, it was your choice.

Jacobs thought that too, right up until she came to, on the lot of a dark truck stop one night. She says she had asked a friendly-seeming man for a ride home that afternoon.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Amazon is building another huge facility in the Kansas City area, this one in Kansas City, Kansas, and it will bring more than 1,000 new jobs to an underutilized part of Wyandotte County.

Those jobs will start above minimum wage, come with benefits, and steep community college tuition discounts. They’ll be at a new facility south of I-70 near the Turner Diagonal, which is good news to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

One in every five calories people around the world eat, comes from just one grain, wheat. And for generations the U.S. led the world in wheat exports. But, that’s changed, and maybe for good.

Wheat is not something you want to run out of. Wheat shortages helped spark the bloody French Revolution and the Arab Spring.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

In Kansas City, hundreds of military veterans live without a house, apartment or even a permanent shelter to call home. Many have mental scars that make living in normal society difficult.

But three entrepreneurial veterans are trying to build a solution on a sloping field of grass and trees just east of 89th and Troost in Kansas City.

“We’re looking at four wonderful acres,” says Kevin Jamison, squinting into the sun. “Because it’s not the land, it’s what’s going to be done with the land.”

The battle over religious freedom and LGBT rights has moved from Arizona and Mississippi to Missouri. Conservatives there are backing an amendment to the state Constitution that would protect certain people — clergy, for instance — who refuse to take part in same-sex marriages.

But the measure has run into some unexpected — and unexpectedly stiff — opposition, from a longtime ally of the religious right: the business community.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is offering to stop spending state tax incentives to lure Missouri businesses across the state line but only if the Missouri General Assembly amends an offer to stop using tax breaks to poach Kansas jobs. Missouri extended the compromise two years ago, contingent on Kansas reciprocating.

Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation, says what's been called an economic border war has been extremely wasteful.

“We’re using our incentives to move existing jobs, rather than trying to compete for new jobs,” says Hall.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Residents of Flint, Michigan, may tell you lead is a serious menace, but for most of the last 5,000 years, people saw lead as a miracle metal at the forefront of technology.

"You can think about lead as kind of the plastic of the ancient world," says Joseph Heppert, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He says it was because lead is easy to melt — a campfire alone can do it. And Heppert says Greeks smelted lead into, among other things, ‘bullets”.

Residents of Flint, Mich., may tell you lead is a serious menace, but for most of the last 5,000 years, people saw lead as a miracle metal at the forefront of technology.

"You can think about lead as kind of the plastic of the ancient world," says Joseph Heppert, a professor of chemistry at the University of Kansas. He says it was because lead is easy to melt — a campfire alone can do it. Unlike iron, lead is malleable.

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."

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

On average, about 10,000 Americans retire every day, and rather than “aging in place,” retirees increasingly are doing just the opposite.  

Take Diane Herynk, president of the Working Sams RV club. “Sams” is short for Samaritans. Good Samaritans is a national camping group with hundreds of local chapters. The Working Sams group is based in Topeka, Kansas.

“Once upon a time when this was a brand new club, everyone worked," recalls Herynk. “And no one could go camping until they got off work. But, now everyone is retired, but we’re still Working Sams.”

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz says he’s the only presidential candidate who can block Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination.  

During a rally at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park on Wednesday evening, Cruz lambasted Obamacare and business regulations, characterizing them as huge drains on the economy.  

Copyright 2016 KCUR-FM. To see more, visit KCUR-FM.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Kansas conservatives want a new weapon to use against what they consider an “activist” state Supreme Court: impeachment. 

Frank Morris / KCUR

A technology company called Pramata is branching out to Kansas City.  The company’s office in Kansas City's Crossroads neighborhood will be its only U.S. hub outside of the San Francisco area.

Google Fiber

Some low-income housing residents in Kansas City now have some of the fastest Internet in the country — for free.

Kansas City is the first place Google Fiber is giving away its premier service, at no cost to users or the government. That’s because the city has become a primary laboratory in the effort to close the digital divide.

Kansas City was the first to get Google Fiber, and the service came with a promise to help close the “digital divide."  

Jay Flatland / YouTube

Have you ever just given up on a Rubik’s Cube? That’s what Paul Rose did as a kid. 

“I was around for the original phase in the early ‘80s, and had a puzzle back then, and messed around with it, and put it down,” says Rose.

When his daughter got one, a few years ago though, Rose cracked the code, and he got pretty fast, for a mortal. He can tackle a scrambled Rubik’s Cube in about a minute and a half. 

Now Rose and another enterprising Kansas City programmer have built the world’s fastest Rubik’s Cube-solving robot.

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