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.

For many decades now, the only beer you could buy in Kansas grocery and convenience stores was limited to 3.2 percent alcohol.

But on Monday, that 3.2 beer became a thing of the past.

"It's a big step for the groceries and the state of Kansas," says Dennis Toney, an executive with Ball's Food Stores. "We've all wanted this for quite some time."

Kansas is one of the last states to do away with this Depression-era alcohol, which looks likely to soon die out altogether.

The "long shadow of Prohibition"

The U.S. meat industry is gigantic, with roughly $200 billion a year in sales, and getting larger. But the industry faces emerging threats on two fronts: plant-based meat substitutes and actual meat grown in labs.

Plant-based meat substitutes are a lot more, well, meaty than they used to be. They sear on the grill and even "bleed." They look, taste and feel in the mouth a lot like meat. Savannah Blevin, a server at Charlie Hooper's, an old-school bar and grill in Kansas City, Mo., says the vegetarian Impossible Burgers on the menu are popular with the meat-eating crowd.

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

"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.

"It is back with a vengeance." he says. "And the reasons for that are twofold." The drug's now stronger, and cheaper, than it used to be.

Rural Americans can take a dim view of outsiders from Washington, D.C., (or even from the state capital) meddling in their communities.

Ronald Reagan summed up the feeling when he was president: "I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.' "

But rural Americans have come across scarier phrases since then, like "the opioid epidemic."

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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.

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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")

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.

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