Frank Morris | KCUR

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.

Ways to Connect

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3/NPR

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.

Copyright 2018 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

It's no secret that the Internet has been hammering newspapers. Ad sales and subscriptions have been falling for years. Now, there's a new problem — the actual paper newspapers are printed on just got much more expensive.

Since the first of the year, the Commerce Department has imposed steep tariffs of up to 32 percent on newsprint imported from Canada. While that's boosting profits for the five remaining U.S. newsprint mills, the preliminary tariffs have raised prices nationwide and triggered something of a crisis in an already troubled industry.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks & Resorts has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges related to the death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab on a 17-story waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas. Judge Robert Burns made Jeff Henry  surrender his passport, but he declined to make Henry wear a GPS ankle monitor.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media file photo

Farmers at Betty’s Truck Stop near Sweet Springs, Missouri, took their coffee with a side of bad news early Wednesday morning.

In response to the Trump administration's threats to place tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods — including farm implements — China threatened to sanction $50 billion in U.S. exports, this time targeting airplanes, cars, chemicals and soybeans.

“Beans are down 50 cents overnight, and corn’s down 14 because of this trade thing with China,” Jim Bridges said as he took a seat at a large table in the center of the restaurant. Bridges, who grows corn and soybeans, made a few calculations and reckoned his potential losses at about $50,000.

Pixabay - CC

The Kansas City Council has paved the way for a third new luxury apartment building downtown as well as more moderately priced units. But downtown shoppers, drinkers and diners will be paying an extra penny on the dollar.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Three militia members accused of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex in southwest Kansas go on trial Tuesday in Wichita.

Their alleged plot laid bare tiny pockets of the ugliest, potentially violent, racism in a region that’s seen immigrants drawn to tough meatpacking jobs for decades.

The raw hate exposed in the alleged plan shocked some of the refugees who were targeted, reminding them of violence they fled in Somalia and sparking an exodus from one of the prairie towns.

It also prompted more people to talk with admiration of the workforce that keeps the meatpacking industry, and the region’s economy, alive. They’ve reached out to the would-be targets of domestic terrorism.

“We all give each other a chance here,” says LeVita Rohlman, who directs the Catholic Agency for Migration and Refugee Services in Garden City. “Even when things go wrong. I believe that this community stands united.”

The plot took root near Dodge City, at the easternmost point of a the Kansas meatpacking triangle formed with Liberal and Dodge City. All three Great Plains cities have for generations drawn immigrants for the smelly, dangerous work of transforming cattle into steaks and hamburger. It’s work that few U.S.-born Americans take on.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

One year ago Thursday, the national news media turned its attention to Olathe, Kansas, where Adam Purinton allegedly screamed racist taunts before shooting two Indian tech workers and another man who tried to defend them at Austin’s Bar and Grill.

One of the Indian men was killed, and the United States Department of Justice labeled it a hate crime.

Syed Jamal family

This story was updated at 6:27 p.m. with new information about the case and comments from Jamal's attorneys.

In a wild day that saw immigration authorities put him on a plane headed for Hawaii, an immigration appeals board halted the deportation of Lawrence resident Syed Jamal, whose case has become an international cause celebre.

The move came after an immigration judge on Monday cleared the way for Jamal’s deportation after denying motions to reopen Jamal’s case and dissolving a stay that he granted last week.

Courtesy of the Syed Jamal family

Updated Thursday, 10:15 a.m.

The Kansas City law firm representing Syed Jamal posted on its Facebook page Thursday that Jamal had been granted a temporary stay in his deportation case. 

Sharma-Crawford Attorneys At Law wrote: "Temporary Stay Granted." A neighbor of the Jamal family in Lawrence, Susan Anderson, confirms that Jamal's lawyer also told her the stay was granted Thursday. 

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

This story has been updated with information on the legal proceedings in the deportation case pending against Syed Jamal.   

Syed Jamal, the Bangladeshi chemistry teacher whom ICE is trying to deport, has a new lawyer and she’s challenging the legality of his removal order.

The lawyer, Rekah Sharma-Crawford, argues that his arrest two weeks ago in the yard of his Lawrence home was unlawful. She says there’s no record that the immigration court advised Jamal on his immigration status as required before he was detained.  

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

It’s a time of low unemployment across the Midwest, leading to a labor shortage that’s stunting the growth of urban and rural businesses. Given that Donald Trump campaigned on a staunchly pro-business platform, one would think he’d have instituted policies benefiting everything from high-tech startups to huge dairy operations.

Frank Morris / KCUR

It’s a common story: Ambitious kids move from small towns to larger cities, never to look back. When their parents die, the family wealth that’s been built over generations through farming, ranching or agriculture-related businesses often follows the kids, draining the economic lifeblood from those rural communities.

The largest generational transfer of wealth in modern times is expected to happen in the next 10 years and rural foundations in states like Iowa and Nebraska are working hard to retain at least a bit of those hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

The state auditor for Missouri is backing a bill to reinstate legal protections for whistleblowers in state government. The governor and General Assembly stripped those protections earlier this year.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Donald Trump Jr. appeared at a fundraiser Monday night in Overland Park, Kansas, for Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Kobach is one of 11 people running for the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas. 

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

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the Christmas classic "It's A Wonderful Life," the young hero, George Bailey, is just dying to leave his hometown.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE")

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican, says he is optimistic that Congress will overhaul the tax system by the end of the year. Blunt says most people don’t know the details of the tax proposal he expects Senators to vote on this year, but he anticipates it will  involve a break for working class people.  He also thinks it will likely increase the budget deficit.

“I think a short term increase in the deficit that leads to a long term increase in income is the right thing to do,” Blunt says.

Frank Morris / NPR and KCUR

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill says she welcomes Republican Josh Hawley to the U.S. Senate race, but the incumbent Democrat has a lot of questions for Hawley.

The GOP primary for Senate isn’t until next year, but Senator McCaskill, a Democrat, is taking aim at Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, painting Hawley as a pawn of the unpopular Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

File Photo / Kansas News Service

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback took a secretive, state-funded trip to Israel a month ago, but we only know that because The Hutchinson News broke the story on Oct. 1.

The paper reports that Governor Brownback, his wife, daughter and a few state officials got to Israel on Aug. 26 and were there through Sept. 2. 

On Florida's Marathon Key, lobster boats pull up to the docks in the afternoon, same as they would on any September day.

But this year, instead of hauling in thousands of valuable spiny lobsters, most are unloading the few traps they can find, and maybe a quarter of the usual catch.

Boat captain Carlos Moreira is tired after a long day at sea searching for lost traps.

"Well you gotta start somewhere, so you just look for one," says Moreira.

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

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Armed militia groups are getting more and more involved in political protests. That can aggravate, even scare protesters, but the militia members themselves say they are misunderstood.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

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 actually volunteers. They cover vast sections of the country, making up an aging network that is increasingly understaffed and overworked.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

Confederate monuments have been coming down around the country, including the one formerly on Ward Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri. But, with the current political turmoil, the scope of monuments coming in for new scrutiny is expanding fast.

The fight over Confederate statues got Bill Savage thinking about his own hometown.

Frank Morris / KCUR 89.3

On Sunday, several hundred people gathered in Mill Creek Park. They marched through the Country Club Plaza to counter the white supremacist movement and racism in general. Militia members were there to meet them. 

 

Like a number of people at the protest, Will Jones kept a wary eye on about two dozen armed men, dressed in camouflage and Kevlar, standing nearby.

 

courtesy: Kansas City Parks and Recreation

The controversy surrounding Confederate statues and memorials across the United States has officials in Kansas City, Missouri scrutinizing one here. And it's in a very prominent spot: right in the middle of Ward Parkway, just south of 55th Street.

KCPD

Major Rick Smith will be Kansas City’s new chief of police. The Board of Police Commissioners announced its decision Friday afternoon. Smith’s been on the Kansas City Police Department for 29 years. Brad Lemon, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police says the commissioners made a good call.

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

When it became clear the Republican-controlled state legislature wouldn’t be raising the minimum wage above $7.70 an hour, leaders in St. Louis and Kansas City took matters into their own hands.

Anonymous / AP

Half a century ago war, protests, and political scandal rocked the United States. Sound familiar? But, out of all that a small-time hoodlum from Butte, Montana rocketed into national prominence, on a motorbike. Evel Knievel's career took off like a rocket, but crashed even faster. Now a new museum celebrates all that is Evel.

Pages