News

Texas Tribune

There’s a new law in Texas that makes it a felony to harbor undocumented immigrants, reports The Texas Tribune. In response to the legislation, a national civil rights group is suing the state.

KHI news service

From the Kansas Health Institute

A new computer system for enrolling Kansans in Medicaid and other public assistance programs will generate far less than the expected $300 million in savings, a Legislative Post Audit report found.

fivethirtyeight.com / American Museum of Natural History, Ken Carpenter

The Museum of Natural History in New York revealed its latest exhibit this month, reports fivethirtyeight.com. The exhibit features the gargantuan skeleton of a plant-eating sauropod. Many paleontologists think this is the largest dinosaur ever discovered. The dinosaur doesn’t even have a proper scientific name yet. It’s being called Titanosaur in the meantime. The skeleton is 122 feet long and 19 feet high, so big that its head pokes out into the museum’s elevator bay.

Wikimedia Commons

Another year brings another attempt to get evolution out of the classroom in Oklahoma, reports Slate’s education blog. State Sen. Josh Brecheen has been working tirelessly to promote creationism. Every year since his election in 2010, Brecheen has authored legislation aimed at skirting nearly three decades of court decisions that prohibit teaching creationism in public schools.

NewsOK

Oklahoma’s mental health system is fractured and underfunded. The system is “suffocating,” according to a new in-depth NewsOK report. Oklahoma has never made a sustained, significant investment in its mental health system. To quote the NewsOK story, “The majority of low-income, uninsured Oklahomans with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders who need help do not get it.”

Topeka Capital-Journal

A Kansas state senator’s dress code for women who appear before senate committees has gotten him into hot water, reports WPEC. The senator’s rules prohibit women testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. Sen. Mitch Holmes is a 53-year-old Republican from St. John. He is chairman of the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. His 11-point code of conduct does not include any restrictions on men.

Creative Commons

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Agency says social work vacancies haven’t compromised safety.

Nearly one-quarter of social workers with the Kansas Department for Children and Families left the job in a yearlong period ending Dec. 1, 2015, and job vacancies increased by more than two-thirds at the same time.

Karen Madorin

By nature, Plains people share what they have with neighbors. It is how we survive and thrive. This opportunity for readers and lovers of ideas to explore and discuss our common landscape and the stories it generates is a gift. Each of us brings original perceptions to our common experience. Those differences can strengthen or weaken bonds necessary to make life good in a hard land. This group offers a venue for us to learn who we are because we value life on the Great Plains.

tedeschitrucksband.com

Tim Lefebvre - bassist for the 12-piece blues, rock, and soul band Tedeschi Trucks Band - chats with HPPR's Ryan Gottlieb about the band's brand new album Let Me Get By.  Tim also shares his experience working with David Bowie on his final album Blackstar, sitting in with the Saturday Night Live house band, and more!

Thomas Bougher / Texas Tribune

Texas has lost its bid to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, reports The Texas Tribune. A federal appeals court has denied the Lone Star State’s request to put a stay on the environmental emissions legislation. The judge’s ruling leaves the controversial climate change rules in place as a legal challenge continues to make its way through the courts.

fpat / Creative Commons

It was a comparatively mild year weatherwise for Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle, reports Amarillo.com. Globally, 2015 was by far the hottest year in 136 years of recordkeeping. The worldwide temperature exceeded the 20th century average by 1.62 degrees. However, in Amarillo the temperature never rose above 100 degrees. That hasn’t happened since 2002.

frontieraginc.com

A Kansas grain cooperative has been fined by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing safety standards.

planetofbirds.com

eBird was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. It helps bird-watchers keep records of observations. It's another example of citizen science. eBird aggregates millions of bird sightings, which is very useful for scientists studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds.

Texas Tribune

Last month a federal judge ordered Texas to clean up its foster care system. U.S. District Judge Janis Jack’s findings were scathing.

Muhammed / Creative Commons

Over the past few years, bees and other pollinators have been disappearing from America, reports The Rural Blog.  Last year the Obama administration called for a national strategy to protect these insects. Bees are essential to many crops, and most states agreed to develop pollinator protection plans.

Tommaso Galli / Flickr Creative Commons

As the price of oil continues to drop, Politico asked a number of experts what the hidden consequences of the crash would be. Their answers varied.

John McLaughlin of Johns Hopkins University said every indication is that prices will not go up markedly. They may even drop further.

Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group says Middle East political structures are brittle and based on oil wealth. He asked, what keeps these countries together when the oil money runs out?

Andy Marso / KHI

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Kiley Klug and Tiffanie Krentz had just finished giving emotional testimony about their children’s persistent seizures during Wednesday’s hearing on legalizing cannabis oil when Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer spoke up.

Ostmeyer, a veteran Republican legislator from a sprawling rural district in western Kansas, told the women he understood, because he has a 36-year-old daughter who was only expected to live to age 10.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

When it comes to enrolling the uninsured on Healthcare.gov, Florida is crushing Texas. And the competition isn’t even close, reports The Dallas Morning News. 1.6 million Floridians have signed up for private insurance plans this year. That’s compared to only 1.1 million Texans. Why the disparity, when Texas has more people than Florida? The Sunshine State is more compact. Florida has 75 percent of Texas’s population, crammed into one quarter of its real estate.

Bettman / Corbis

Dinosaurs have become an everyday part of the American imagination. From Jurassic World to The Good Dinosaur, we encounter these ancient behemoths perhaps more than we even realize. But how did this obsession come about? It happened largely thanks to the efforts of one man: Barnum Brown. Brown was born in frontier Kansas in 1873. Named after the great showman P.T. Barnum, Brown would grow up to become a master promoter in his own right.

Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

From Harvest Public Media:

Worried about the price of wheat on the global market, Midwest farmers are planting less wheat.

Nationwide, farmers seeded about 5 million fewer acres in wheat this planting season than they did two years ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Winter Wheat Seedings Report (PDF) issued Tuesday.

Texas Senate Video

The Texas Observer just released a list of Texas politicians’ most embarrassing internet moments of 2015, and there are some doozies. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was taken to task for his habit of photographing himself. At one point, Patrick held up a Senate Education Committee hearing so that he could take a selfie in front of the panel.

Karen Madorin

 In 1542, Father Juan Padilla wrote “the sky is so vast and unchanging that it resembles a great blue bowl turned upside down on the landscape.”  He was one of the chroniclers of the ill-fated expedition led Francisco Vasquez Coronado across the High Plains.

Coronado’s trek, along with the others led by fellow conquistadores during the Spanish exploration of the New World was never meant to just gain knowledge of the endless prairie.  The days they spent on the trackless grassland were a means to an end; the sacking of the mythical Seven Cities of Cibola and the forced conversion of the natives they encountered.  Coronado came to the New World determined to spread Catholicism, impose the Spanish regal system on all they met and most important, take all the gold they could find.  They set about to abolish tribal systems in place since the Neolithic, to give those peoples no choice but to be assimilated, dominated or die.

Luke Clayton

Hello Folks!

I had a great time at Caddo Lake with my long time friends Billy Carter and Phil Zimmerman. Billy and I have fished for good eating yellow bass for the past couple of decades. Billy was one of the first fishing guides that introduced the public to the yellow bass. They are hard fighters and, in my opinion, one of the best eating fish in freshwater.

Billy and his wife Dottie have several rental lake houses at Caddo. Billy also offers fisherman cabins at Johnson's Ranch Marina.

Jim Hill / KUNC

The governor of Colorado made a big announcement this week for hikers and nature lovers in the state. John Hickenlooper said the state will connect and build 16 hiking and biking trails in all parts of Colorado. The new plan will make it easier for people to access open space and parks, says member station KUNC.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Over the past few years hundreds of teacher have left Oklahoma for better pay elsewhere. This mass exodus of teachers has left the state desperate to fill the empty classrooms, reports member station KOSU. One such teacher said he’s bringing in $30,000 more per year, along with his wife, teaching in Arkansas. He thinks the reason Arkansas pays more is because their taxes are higher. “The difference in Oklahoma,” he said, “is tax cut, tax cut, tax cut.”

Yahoo News

Oil has become incredibly plentiful and cheap recently. So cheap, in fact, that at least one company has suggested that buyers should be paid to take a certain type of low-quality crude. The company is owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Laura Buckman / New York Times

Texas is a place where wealth is often measured in acres instead of dollars. And for the past several decades, land prices have followed the price of oil. But oil prices have now collapsed from more than $100 a barrel 18 months ago, to a mere $29 a barrel. And The New York Times reports that some investors are seeing the oil bust as a real estate opportunity.

Huffington Post

Measured against his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp has been spending far more taxpayer dollars on mailouts to promote his own legacy. According to The Hutchinson News, Huelskamp’s tab for mailings and other mass communications added up to almost $120,000 of taxpayer money. And that’s just over just a nine-month period of last year.

Daily Beast

There’s good news for coffee lovers, according to The Daily Beast’s “Daily Burn” column. Science has been going back and forth for centuries about whether coffee is good for you. Back in the 1500s, java was even blamed for promiscuous behavior.

Public Domain

From the Kansas Health Institute:

Health policy experts say Congress unlikely to approve extension of full federal funding.

With full federal funding for expanding Medicaid set to expire at the end of this year, President Barack Obama is proposing to indefinitely extend the health law provision for any of the 19 states — including Kansas and Missouri — that have not yet adopted the enhanced eligibility.

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