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

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.  

Peggy Lowe / KCUR

Talk of the proposed $32 billion merger of Sprint and T-Mobile continues to bubble, raising serious questions about the future health of the Kansas City regional economy. 

The deal is still just rumored – and it's unknown if federal regulators will approve it, how it will be structured and even whether Sprint or T-Mobile would be the lead company in the deal.

What is clear is that Sprint is a vital company to the Kansas City area, and that the proposed merger comes at a delicate time for the regional economy.

Frank Morris / KCUR

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.

Kansas Tourism / Flickr--CC

Another iconic Kansas City-based company has been sold. Lindt, a Swiss chocolate company, has reached a deal to buy Russell Stover, according the the New York Times. The announcement comes nine months after the sale of one of Kansas City's other iconic retailers — Boulevard Brewing Co.

File Photo / KCUR

After much ado, the world’s tallest water slide is now open to the public. Verrückt — which is German for insane, by the way — plunges 17 stories to take the record, previously held for more than a decade by a giant slide in Brazil.

Design problems repeatedly pushed back the launch. We figured, since no one in their right mind would be one of the first to ride it, we’d send Frank Morris down it.

The approach to the slide

Frank Morris / KCUR

At least 13,000 fans chanting “I believe that we will win!” jammed the central common area of the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City, Mo., to cheer on the U.S. men's soccer team Tuesday in their World Cup match against Belgium.

Many were literally waving the American flag. Even more were wearing it.

Miguel Torres, in a red-white-and-blue top hat, beads and body paint, came out to support the country as much as the team.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Update, 1:10 p.m.

The Republican National Committee announced Wednesday that Cleveland, Ohio, and Dallas, Texas, were finalists to host the 2016 Republican Convention. Kansas City and Denver have been eliminated.

Committee members were in Kansas City earlier this month to tour facilities and meet city officials. In a release, the committee says the decision was based on a review of bids and information gathered at site visits to each city.

MARC

The Mid-America Regional Council presented a sobering assessment of the Kansas City area economy Thursday, one showing the metro is having trouble bouncing back from the recession.

The report, called "Prosperity at the Crossroads," says that fewer than half of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, including the greater Kansas City region, had recovered all the jobs they lost during the recession by the end of 2013. 

Data in the report show that Kansas City employment rates, wage growth and job growth are all down.

U.S. House Majority leader Eric Cantor’s primary defeat this week could revitalize a challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas. Roberts faces a Tea Party backed primary challenge from Milton Wolf.

Most political types consider the three-term Senator pretty safe, but then they felt the same way about Virgina's Eric Cantor. Bob Beatty at Washburn University says Cantor’s upset could make Milton Wolf look like a contender.

Courtesy photo / Johnson County Sheriff's Office

Prosecutors have charged the neo-Nazi accused of killing three people at Jewish facilities in Overland Park, Kan., last month with several more felonies.

The Johnson County District Attorney’s office says Frazier Glenn Miller shot at and tried to kill three additional people, endangered a fourth and fired into the Jewish Community Center knowing there were people inside.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas City has survived another round in the competition to host the 2016 Republican National Convention (RNC).  

The three other contenders are Cleveland, Dallas and Denver. Las Vegas and Cincinnati dropped out Thursday afternoon.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James says RNC site selection scouts clearly like what they see in Kansas City.  

Frank Morris / KCUR

Kansas City has made the final four in the competition to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.  

The convention selection committee pared the number of contenders today by two, knocking Las Vegas and Cincinnati from the list. That would leave Cleveland, Dallas and Denver still in the running with Kansas City.

All four cities will receive site visits in June.

City officials say hosting the nominating convention would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Kansas City and the surrounding area.

Frank Morris / KCUR

Ash trees across much of the country are dying as a result of a green beetle called the emerald ash borer. The bug has spread from the upper Midwest imperiling millions of trees.

But there is opportunity amid the destruction. Urban lumber mills that saw up salvaged city trees are on the rise, fertilized by mounting demand for local products and a tsunami of supply delivered by the emerald ash borer.

It came from Asia, by way of Michigan

The emerald ash borer has been at work in Michigan for years.

Frank Morris / KCUR

A massive EF5 tornado all but obliterated Greensburg, Kan., on May 4, 2007. Afterwards, city leaders saw a blank slate, a chance to reverse decades of decline by building a town for the future.

Greensburg’s green building initiative, drew big money, and lots of volunteer help. But now Greensburg faces a crossroads. The town is stuck at half its pre-tornado population with few prospects for growth. Some blame trends slowly decimating most farm towns, others find fault with the green initiative.    

Greensburg dreams big

Kansas City’s thriving auto-assembly sector notched another win Thursday, as the Canadian company Martinrea broke ground on a new parts plant in Riverside.  

Martinrea says it will hire as many as 290 people to crank out front end parts for the Malibu that GM builds by the thousands across the river from Riverside, in Fairfax. The company will reportedly see more than $3 million in state incentives. But Kansas City Area Development Council CEO Bob Marcus says, auto parts manufacturers are moving here for another good reason.

A Judge in Leavenworth, Kan., has allowed Bradley Manning, who’s serving time in the Army prison there for espionage, to change her name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.

Army specialists say Manning, has gender dysphoria; while physically a man, Manning identifies as a woman. Pentagon spokesman George Wright says Wednesday's brief court hearing won’t change Manning’s treatment in the all-male U.S. disciplinary barracks.

“This court action is only a name change, and will have no other effect on his current status, other than the name in his record,” said Wright.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

A diverse crowd linked arms in Overland Park, Kan., on Thursday to remember the three victims of an attack on a Jewish community center and retirement home.

Clergy representing many faiths, politicians of different stripes and more than 1,300 people from the community united to condemn shootings during the memorial service.

The service took place at the Jewish Community Center, where two of three victims died on Sunday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the whole country was standing with Overland Park.

courtesy: Johnson County Sheriff's Office

The man suspected of killing three people at two Jewish facilities in Johnson County, Kan., is a well-known neo-Nazi and someone who authorities say spent much of his life calling for attacks on Jews.

Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr. faces state murder charges and likely hate crime charges in federal court, after allegedly murdering three people in shootings at the Jewish Community Center and Village Shalom assisted living center in Overland Park, Kan., Sunday.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Updated 10:47 a.m.:

Frazier Glenn Cross, the suspect in Sunday's shootings, is being held at the Johnson County Detention Center without bond. Kristi Bergeron, of the District Attorney's Office in Johnson County said he will not be arraigned Monday.

He will face both federal and state charges.

Updated 10:36 a.m.:

The Children's Center for the Visually Impaired released this statement:

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

Kansas City is going after the 2016 Republican nominating convention but the city won't go it alone. Four local governments have put some skin in the game.

Johnson County, Wyandotte County’s Unified Government, Kansas City and Jackson County are in for $65,000 each. Kansas City’s contribution follows $100,000 of city Convention and Visitor’s money - a small ante, Mayor Sly James says, for what could be a big payoff if Republicans stage their convention here.

Frank Morris / KCUR

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.

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

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.

Frank Morris / KCUR

It’s not hard to find stores catering to people proud of their schools or sports teams, but a shop opening this week in Kansas City, Mo., called Raygun, is all about a perennial underdog: the Midwest.

Owner Mike Draper is from Iowa, and this will be his first store outside his home state.

Like a lot of Midwesterners, Draper left home when he could, but came back to take part in a big shift he sees taking place in the Midwestern self-image.   

HDR / City of Kansas City

Kansas City’s Streetcar Advisory Committee is recommending that a proposed southern expansion of the new system end at UMKC. 

The committee is backing three extensions off the two-mile starter line, which will run from Union Station to the Rivermarket.  Phase two would stretch east from Main, running about two miles along Independence Avenue, and Linwood Boulevard. The third would extend south from Union Station about three and a half miles, and stop around 51st street.  

file photo / The Topeka Capital-Journal

Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., founder of the controversial Westboro Baptist Church, died around midnight Thursday. 

For almost 24 years, Phelps and his small group of followers have made themselves infamous for leading anti-gay demonstrations at natural disasters, mass killings and funerals.

In his mind, Phelps said in a 2006 interview, every catastrophe, attack or misfortune was God’s retribution for America’s failure to castigate gays.

That’s my job man,” Phelps told KCUR. “To cause this evil country to know their abominations."

Wikimedia -- Creative Commons

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is suing on behalf of Janet Delana from Wellington, Mo., who is the mother of a mentally ill woman who used a gun to murder her father.

Courtesy Husch Blackwell

Kansas City has been a center of sex trafficking, according to a U.S.

nobihaya / Flickr--CC

Masayoshi Son, SoftBank Corp. CEO and chairman of Overland Park-based Sprint Corp., promises lower prices and faster service — if he’s allowed to buy T-Mobile.

Son, who heads Sprint’s parent company SoftBank, says merging Sprint with T-Mobile would create a stronger competitor to the big guys, Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc.

Frank Morris / KCUR-FM

By most measures David Kesten's hens are living the good life.

"They can act like chickens, they can run around," says Kesten, who's raising hens in an old wooden shed in the open countryside near Concordia, Mo. "They can go out and catch bugs, they can dig in the ground."

But most U.S. hens live crammed into very close quarters, according to Joe Maxwell, with the Humane Society of the U.S. And he says that's just wrong.

"There are some things we should not do to animals," says Maxwell.

Proposition 2, and the Commerce Clause

Frank Morris / KCUR

Musician Chuck Mead has made a name for himself in Nashville, but his new album is all about his home state of Kansas. Mead describes the music in Free State Serenade as “Kansas Noir… true stories of love, murder, and a UFO."

“Nashville is where you go to make country music,” says Mead. “There’s a certain song vibration down here, there’s a whole song writing culture and playing culture that really doesn’t exist outside of New York, or Los Angeles or Chicago."

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