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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

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.

Some of President Trump's proposed spending cuts would cripple programs that benefit communities full of his rural supporters, but at least in Strong City, Kan., some say they are ready "to bleed a little bit."

Strong City is a former railroad town of about 460 people, less than half the size it was in 1890. Trump's proposed budget aims at killing the program that threw a lifeline to the town's water system.

This is a two-part story on immigrants and small town viability. Part one aired on this Weekend Edition Saturday. For the full story, listen to both audio segments.

Like thousands of rural towns across the country, Cawker City, Kan., was built for bygone time.

Resident Linda Clover has spent most of her life in Cawker City, and she loves the place, but it's a shell of the town it used to be.

President Trump's threats to disrupt trade with Mexico aren't just worrying people south of the border.

Each time Trump attacks the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, the executives at a 130 year-old railroad company in Kansas City, Mo., hold their breath. Like a lot of U.S. companies, cross-border trade accounts for a lot of Kansas City Southern's business.

Next week, white nationalists like Jared Taylor will celebrate a moment they've been waiting decades to see, when Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Members of the white nationalist movement were among the first to embrace Trump's candidacy, and they celebrated after his election.

"Jan. 20 reflects a significant defeat for egalitarian orthodoxy," Taylor says.

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.

A drive 30 minutes north of Omaha, Neb., 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.

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

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.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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.

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."

Copyright 2017 KCUR-FM. To see more, visit KCUR-FM.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A mosque, a church and a synagogue go up on the site of an old Jewish country club ...

It sounds like the setup to a joke — but it's not. It's actually happening in Omaha, Neb. The Tri-Faith Initiative may be the first place in history where these three monotheistic faiths have built together, on purpose, with the intention of working together.

The project has inspired some, and antagonized others.

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.

Copyright 2015 KCUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.kcur.org/.

Transcript

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

China’s rapid industrialization and economic expansion over the past few decades has been a boon for U.S. farmers — especially soybean farmers. But China’s economy is slowing down, leaving American farmers exposed to the downside of being tied to the world’s second largest economy.

Americans have been intentionally ramming cars into each other for sport for decades. And at this time of year, fans crowd into county fairs to see battered, souped-up cars bash each other to pieces.

This steel equivalent of blood sport draws a passionate following, and the drivers say it is deeply addicting.

"There's nothing better," says John Green, a demolition derby driver at a recent fair in Franklin County, Kan. "A lot of people say they would do it, but until you get in there and do it you never know the real feeling."

Each year, convicted felons get thousands of weapons from licensed gun dealers. They skirt the mandatory background checks by having people who do qualify fill out the paperwork for them.

Now, the settlement of a lawsuit over a tragic murder-suicide in Kansas has made it easier to sue gun dealers who allow these "straw purchases" with a wink and a nod.

The greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant in the digital age.

Hallmark has announced that it's closing its distribution center in Enfield, Conn., and cutting 570 jobs there, as it consolidates operations elsewhere.

For decades, the greeting card maker held a reputation as the type of company where good employees had a job for life.

Julie Elliott, Hallmark's PR director, says layoffs, like the ones announced this week, are especially painful.

The Charleston, S.C., shootings have sparked lots of discussion about the Confederate battle flag, but it's not the only symbol of the Confederacy.

Just a few years ago, downtown Hamilton, Mo., looked a lot like a thousand other forgotten, rural towns. Abandoned, forlorn buildings marred the main drag.

But in recent years, an explosively fast-growing startup business in rural north western Missouri has shaken up a staid industry, producing a YouTube star and revitalizing a town with a proud retail history.

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.

In Oklahoma, a state that largely rode out the recession on a gusher of new-found oil, things may be about to change.

Now it costs more to produce most of Oklahoma's oil than it's worth on the world market. That's triggering a sharp economic reversal, one that some say has the makings of a prolonged downturn.

"Over the last five years, the stars really aligned," says Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. "The community's investment in itself just blossomed, the energy industry blossomed."

Out on Oklahoma's flat prairie, Medford, population about 900, is the kind of place where people give directions from the four-way stop in the middle of town.

It seems pretty sedate, but it's not. "We are shaking all the time," says Dea Mandevill, the city manager. "All the time."

The afternoon I stopped by, Mandevill says two quakes had already rumbled through Medford.

"Light day," she laughs. But, she adds, "the day's not over yet; we still have several more hours."

Mandevill may be laughing it off, but Austin Holland, the state seismologist, isn't.

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