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The Lone Star State has long been known as a gun-friendly state. But now, as KVUE reports, Texas may soon have an official state gun.

State Sen. Don Huffines has filed a Resolution suggesting that the cannon should named the official gun of Texas. The bill states, in part, that the cannon “has been an important weapon in the state's fight for liberty and independence as well as a symbol of the defiance and determination of its people.”

Wikimedia Commons

From Mexico to Canada and pretty much everywhere between, Time's Money has published a month-by-month guide to the best destinations for travel in, based on when the best bargains are in place.

This year, Time’s Money edition is basing the picks on taking advantage of currency shifts and travel trends to find travelers the best destinations to visit on a budget.

Flap / Flickr Creative Commons

As HPPR has reported in the past, rural hospitals in the U.S. have been struggling a great deal in recent years. Many of them have closed.

This phenomenon is part of a larger trend of younger people moving to the cities and leaving rural areas with little help.

Rural hospitals have been hit hardest in states that refused to expand Medicaid or accept federal funding. These states include Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

NET_EFEKT / Flickr Creative Commons

The High Plains has long been wheat country. And we’re not alone. Wheat is grown on more land than any other crop in the world.

But, as Bloomberg reports, wheat markets have been glutted for a long while now, and many farmers are turning to other crops as a result. Many parts of the world have seen four straight seasons of record harvests.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

A new U.S. government study claims ethanol is better for the environment than most scientists initially expected, boosting an industry that is a boon to Midwest farmers but challenged by many environmental groups and the oil industry.

AP PHOTO

In his State of the State address Thursday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper proposed boosting rural access to high-speed Internet.

To boost economic development in rural areas, one of the governor’s proposals is to create an office focused on expanding broadband Internet access to the 30 percent or so rural households in the state that don’t have it, with an overall goal of ensuring that 100 percent of rural houses have it by 2020.

Oklahoma Watch

Last year, a caucus of teachers rose up in Oklahoma. Dozens of schoolteachers ran for public office in the Sooner State, out of frustration over low education funding levels and teacher pay.

In response, money poured into Oklahoma from out of state, funding the opposition to this so-called “Teacher Caucus.” Many of those teachers subsequently lost their races.

Austin American-Statesman

The Texas Legislature reconvened for the new session this week, amid speeches and plenty of pomp. But, as The Austin American-Statesman reports, the ceremony belied simmering tensions in the Lone Star State’s governing body.

During the recess strains began to build over hot button issues like transgender bathrooms, abortion, immigration, school policy, and religious practices.

Kansas Supreme Court faces major rulings in 2017

Jan 13, 2017

Kansas Supreme Court Seated left to right: Hon. Marla J. Luckert, Hon. Lawton R. Nuss, Chief Justice; Hon. Carol A. Beier. Standing left to right: Hon. Dan Biles, Hon. Eric S. Rosen, Hon. Lee A. Johnson, and Hon. Caleb Stegall.Credit Kansas Judicial BranchEdit | Remove

The Kansas Supreme Court is facing a docket of major rulings in 2017.

Much of the High Plains region is in the path of a dangerous ice storm that could result in prolonged power outages this weekend.

As AccuWeather reports, freezing rain will begin falling some time Friday from the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles through southwest Kansas.  

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Farming is one of the most dangerous professions in the nation.

As High Plains Journal reports, the pitfalls and hazards of farming are so many and varied that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calls it one of the most dangerous professions in the U.S.

Chuck Grimmett / Creative Commons

The future of legalized marijuana isn’t certain as President-elect Donald Trump enters the White House. 

As The Economist reports, over half of the states in the union have legalized marijuana in some form or another. Pot remains illegal under federal law, however, so any pot shop could technically be shut down at any time.

Jay Janner / Austin American-Statesman

A federal judge has now ordered Texas officials to create several plans to fix the systemic problems that have plagued the state’s foster care system for years. Some of the proposed fixes will be due in as little as three months from now.

Smriti Daniel / SciDev.net

Agriculture is still in the early days of applying robotics to farming. But analysts are confident that in coming years, robots will revolutionize agriculture.

Bloomberg News

Last year saw the worst oil downturn in a generation. Exploration outfits slashed spending, and oil discoveries were the lowest they’d been since the 1950s.

But, as Bloomberg reports, the good news is there’s probably nowhere to go but up.

In 2016, oil companies discovered about 14 percent less oil than they had in the previous year—and 2015 was itself a slow year for exploration. Last year’s discovery total was America’s lowest since 1952.

A growing number of health care providers are recognizing the importance of incorporating spiritual care in medicine.

As The Huffington Post reports, health care professionals are often trained to disregard spirituality and religion when dealing with patients.

Dr. Christina Puchalski is one of a growing number of medical providers bucking that trend.

50states.com

The Colorado Legislature begins the 2017 term today with what The Denver Post describes as a daunting to-do list and divided chambers.

The issues facing this year’s Legislature include questions on how to improve the state’s roads, how to put more dollars in the classroom and how to boost the state’s economy.

As they seek compromise on how to best tackle these areas, The Denver Post reports, there are 10 issues facing lawmakers during the 2017 session.

Wikimedia Commons

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback wants to increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes, among other things, to fill the state’s $378 million budget shortfall.

As The Kansas City Star reports, Shawn Sullivan, Brownback’s budget director, presented the governor’s tax and budget proposals to lawmakers yesterday.

Today's Growing on the High Plains continues our conversation about 2017 New Year's resolutions.

Last week, I discussed how "working the land" indeed encourages physical activity, which leads to overall fitness, flexibility, weight loss, and heart health -- all of which are excellent goals for the new year.

But that's not all! This week, I'll explain how the benefits of gardening also lead to a healthy mind. Lucky for us, making a commitment to getting our hands dirty  will help keep our memories cleanly intact. 

Mark Sterkel / Odessa American

The Texas economy is expected to pick up in 2017, say analysts, though the growth may be modest.

As the Austin American-Statesman reports, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas expects the labor and economy markets in the Lone Star State to grow a bit sunnier this year.

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U.S. State Department

The outgoing head of the Environmental Protection Agency said this week that one of her biggest regrets was her agency’s failure to connect with rural America.

The NPR Politics team and reporters across the newsroom will be live-annotating a news conference with President-elect Donald Trump, expected at 11 am ET/8am PT on Wednesday. We will be fact-checking and providing background to his remarks in real-time. We will be paying special attention to any comments about conflicts of interest, health care and national security.

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Pixabay / Creative Commons

Last year shattered the record for the earth’s hottest year, according to a report from the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

As Scientific American reports, 2016 exceeded 2015 as the hottest year since reliable records began in the 19th century. Researchers found that last year was almost .4 degrees warmer on average than the previous year.

NASA

An unexpected sight appeared in the sky Monday morning

As CNET reports, an asteroid the size of a 10-story building passed half way between the Earth and the moon shortly after scientists at the Catalina Sky Survey first discovered it on Saturday.

Wikimedia Commons

A new wind farm is on Lamar, Colorado’s very near horizon. 

As The Prowers Journal , Iberdrola Renewables, LLC will begin construction on the Twin Buttes II project, which will consist of 36 wind turbines that will be located on the east side of Highway 287, east of the Colorado Green turbine complex, this spring.

Wikimedia Commons

In his State of the State address last night, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback talked about the state budget, Medicaid, the need for additional medical and dental care, and school funding, among other things.

Brownback said Budget Director shawn Sullivan would be presenting a "structurally balanced budget" today that Brownback described as balanced, in that it reconciles spending with available revenue and supports the core functions of state government.

Brownback also called for lawmakers to address the imbalance between state revenues and expenditures.

The NPR Politics team and reporters across the newsroom will be live-annotating President Obama's farewell address in Chicago on Tuesday night, scheduled to begin at 9 pm ET/6pm ET. The team will be adding fact-checks and background to Obama's comments as he gives them. We'll be watching in particular for remarks on his legacy, national security, health care and foreign policy, among other topics.

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chroniclebooks.com

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture has named its annual “Book of the Year.” As the Farm Bureau’s website reports, this year’s award goes to Eugenie Doyle for her book, Sleep Tight Farm.

Public Domain

The State of Texas released its new A-F method of grading public schools last week, and the new system is drawing heavy criticism from educators and public-school advocates.

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