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For months, political prognosticators in the Lone Star State have been predicting a possible “blue wave” of successful Democratic candidates in upcoming elections.

Now, as The San Antonio Express-News reports, that same blue wave may soon result in a surge of newly elected gay officials in Texas. The ballots for 2018 contain a record number of LGBTQ candidates. In fact, the number of gay candidates on this year’s ballot is double the previous record.

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It’s no secret that rural Americans don’t have enough options when it comes to health care. In fact, life expectancies for rural Americans have been dropping. Meanwhile, rural Americans are at more likely to die from each of the five leading causes of death in America.

National Western Stock Show Underway In Denver

20 hours ago
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The National Western Stock Show is underway in Denver and as the Denver Post reports, 750 cowboys and cowgirls from across the country are expected to participate in all things rodeo between now and when the finals are held on Jan. 21.

Perspectives - Introducing the 2018 Spring Read

Jan 15, 2018
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My father once said “You could call this place six-foot country.” He was an Arkansas native, raised among the trees of the Ozark foothills. His most vivid first impression of the Texas Panhandle area was that a six-foot tall man like him could see for ten miles in any direction, although he said that in 1932, there wasn’t really that much to see.

I remember vividly standing in our front yard in our small town and him pointing to the solitary barn lights of farmers whose places were five, maybe ten miles away.

   The first white explorers of this vast emptiness we call the High Plains agreed there wasn’t much to see. The leader of a mid-nineteenth century surveying party reportedly wrote across his map that “this is a vast treeless plain, unfit for human habitation.”

U.S. Census Bureau / Public Domain

The Federal Government ruled last week that Texas Education officials illegally denied special education services to students across the state, reports The Austin American-Statesman.

The ruling rejected a long-ago decision by the Texas Education Agency that placed a cap on how many students in the state can be eligible for special education services.

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According to the latest numbers for incarceration rates across the U.S., Oklahoma held the second highest per capita incarceration rate among all states.

As KFOR reports, in 2016 Oklahoma incarcerated 673 people per 100,000 residents. That lands the state second behind only Louisiana, which imprisons a staggering 760 per 100,000. By comparison, Texas imprisons 563 per 100,000 and Colorado imprisons only 356. The national average is around 400 per hundred thousand.

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The City of Amarillo is considering getting rid of the 22,000 dumpsters that dot the city and replacing them with individual 95-gallon plastic carts that would be rolled to the curb by Amarillo residents. The carts would then be emptied by trucks with robotic grabbers.

Lexey Swall / The Texas Tribune

Texas immigrants and their advocates said they're pleased that a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place. But they said they remain focused on the push in Congress to make the program permanent.

From The Texas Tribune:

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A white-tailed deer that was struck by a vehicle on US Highway 87 near Dalhart has tested positive for a contagious neurological disorder, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials, this is the first instance of a Panhandle white-tail testing positive for chronic wasting disease, and the first instance of the disease appearing in roadkill in the state of Texas.

Little Spouse On The Prairie: Honey Where Are My Keys?

Jan 13, 2018
Valerie Brown-Kuchera

The funny stories on the rural plains just keep happening. Joel has started claiming that when he does something funny, he’s only being helpful by providing material!  Today’s sketch is called, “Honey, Where are My Keys?” 

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As a kid, I lived 11 miles from Disneyland. I took for granted that I’d visit the happiest place on earth several times a year. And I did. Due to immaturity, I didn’t understand why my out of state cousins were so excited to visit Southern California and the Magic Kingdom. They were giddy about meeting Mickey and exploring Adventureland, and their enthusiasm for something so commonplace as Disneyland escaped me. After all, it was just a big amusement park with a bunch of costumed characters walking around waving at folks.

Luke Clayton

Luke joined his friend Deryl Markgraf on his hunting least in north Texas along with Terry Tate and Matthew Yates. The group set up what they kiddingly referred to as their "mid-winter rabbit camp". A fajita dinner featuring axis deer steak served as the evening meat, complete with some of Deryl's specialty Chorizo cheese dip. 

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Gov. John Hickenlooper gave his final state of the state address Thursday and as The Denver Post reports, Hickenlooper spoke at length about the challenges facing rural Colorado.

Hickenlooper pointed out that rural communities face a number of issues, including teacher shortages, jobs and access to rural broadband.

Our Turn At This Earth: Cheater Bars And Self Reliance

Jan 11, 2018
Joe Angell

As a young girl, I resented the gender divisions on my family’s Kansas farm, where my brothers worked in the barn and fields and I was relegated to cooking, gardening and cleaning the house with my mom. Today I realize that all of our work contributed equally to our thriving in that place, but I grew up in a cultural climate that viewed women incapable of fixing a tractor, while to cook or sew threatened a man’s masculinity.

As our short days of winter flutter by, many High Plains gardeners (like myself) have our minds on the forthcoming growing season. Today's Growing on the High Plains comes as a response to one of these foliage-focused friends that asked me about planting for pollinators—namely, monarch butterflies. They do have plants of preference, and I'll share some tips for those interested in showing these "flying flowers" some hospitality. 

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Kansas schools currently spend more per pupil than any state in the High Plains Public Radio listening area, according to Federal data.

And as The Tulsa World reports, Oklahoma continues to spend the least amount per student of any state in the region. Oklahoma only spends about $8,000 per year on its students.

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The Amarillo Police Department will soon begin employing the use of body cameras, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

On Tuesday the Amarillo City Council approved the use of 11 body-worn cameras to be used by the department’s motorcycle unit.

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Texas job growth will likely rebound by 3 percent this year, according to new prognostications from the Dallas Fed.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, the Fed expects employers to add about 370,000 new jobs in 2018. That’s up from just over 300,000 last year. However, payroll numbers are not expected to rise due to a tight labor market.

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U.S. Republican Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to disagree about marijuana policy.

As The Denver Post reports, the two met Wednesday and Gardner said Sessions gave no indication that he would re-think his decision last week to reverse the Obama-era Cole Memorandum, which basically left states that legalized marijuana alone.

CELIA LLOPIS-JEPSEN / KANSAS NEWS SERVICE

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback effectively said goodbye last night in a State of the State speech that was short on policy recommendations but long on reflection. We get this recap from (KCUR’s) Jim McLean (of the Kansas News Service). 

Brownback’s self-described “swan song” to a joint session of the legislature was less political than his past State of the State speeches.

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In recent years, the number of deaths in Texas linked to pregnancy and childbirth has grown a staggering amount. By some measures, Texas now has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world.

Yet, as a new editorial in the Dallas Morning News reports, Texas has another, related problem: No one knows exactly how many women are dying.

Shelby Tauber / The Texas Tribune

  Texas Health and Human Services officials announced Monday that they are receiving $47.7 million to begin needed construction for existing state hospitals, some of which are more than a century old.

From The Texas Tribune:

Texas leaders are taking the first steps to make long-awaited fixes to state hospitals built in the 19th and 20th centuries that serve Texans who need mental health services.  

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At a meeting with state legislators in Garden City Saturday, citizens questioned the Supreme Court's school funding decision. The legislators said they accept the court’s decision, but will at least consider amending the Kansas state constitution.

The meeting was Garden City’s first Legislative Coffee of the new year and was attended by three local lawmakers: John Doll and John Wheeler, both of Garden City, and Steve Alford of Ulysses.

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After a Colorado farmer suffered a massive heart attack, his doctor gave him some unusual medical advice – to no longer talk about water.

As The Greeley Tribune reports, Harry Strohauer farms in Gilcrest, Colorado and Like dozens of farmers along the South Platte River, has suffered from the effects of curtailed well pumping, the result of legislation, a Supreme Court case and battles with surface water rights owners.

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Texas isn’t quite as special these days as it has been for most of this new century, claims a new editorial in the Dallas Morning News.

The state, notes the contributor Richard Parker, “has burned brightly since the beginning of the century.”

But now that bright Lone Star is cooling off. Parker is careful to note that the state’s changing fortunes don’s so much signal a downturn as “a leveling off.”

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Black babies in Oklahoma are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white or Hispanic infants, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

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In 2018, Amarillo has already seen unseasonably warm and blisteringly cold temperatures. That’s no different from last year, when Amarillo set a number of weather records, according to The Amarillo Globe-News.

Parts of the city are still experiencing the longest dry spell in recorded history, and that drought comes after what was the city’s seventh wettest year ever last year.

High Plains, meet Korby Lenker.

If you listen to High Plains Morning, you've probably heard his music. If you follow what's new in US folk/Americana, you definitely know him. But if not, HPPR is happy to introduce y'all at our first 2018 Living Room Concerts! 

Live in Concert: TWO SHOWS! 

Southwest Kansas Lawmaker Apologizes For Racist Remarks

Jan 8, 2018
Public Domain

After a western Kansas lawmaker suggested black people respond to the use of marijuana differently, the Republican leader of his party condemned the remarks.

On Saturday in Garden City, Rep. Steve Alford, a Republican from Ulysses, said the drug should remain illegal because of the way he contended it affected African-Americans.

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The earliest political primary in the United States is in Texas this year, and that means candidates in the Lone Star State have only a few weeks to win over the votes of their potential constituents.

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