News

We've all seen them.

Those curious mirrored balls, perched among the pansies, gracing the gladiolas, and reflecting a fish-eye panorama of the garden in which it resides?

Well, these ocular orbs have a long history! On today's Growing on the High Plains, I'll round out your knowledge of these garden globes, including a personal story of how I acquired my own.  

Deborah Cannon / Austin American-Statesman

The Texas Senate Finance Committee held its first hearing of the new session this week, and things got off to an unusual start when the subject of school funding was broached.

Republican Chairwoman Jane Nelson appointed state Sen. Larry Taylor to lead the education group, then promptly directed Taylor to forget existing school finance law. Instead, Nelson said Taylor should propose an entirely new system of funding public schools in Texas.

“Start with a clean state,” Nelson said, “and look at how to fix the system.”

Victor / Creative Commons

There are 313,000 victims of human trafficking in the state of Texas, according to a new groundbreaking study by the University of Texas. That puts the number of human trafficking victims in the state at fifty percent larger than the entire population of Amarillo. As The Austin American-Statesman reports, 80,000 of those victims are minors involved in sex trafficking.

debaird / Creative Commons

This week the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the State of Texas that would have restored the state’s controversial voter ID law.

As The New York Times reports, Chief Justice John Roberts left the door open for the Supreme Court to consider the case after further proceedings in the lower courts.

The Oklahoman

The number of new oil rigs has soared recently in Oklahoma, as well as nationwide, The Tulsa World reports.

The rise of the rigs can be attributed to recent optimism in the oil and natural gas sectors.

According to the oilfield service company Baker Hughes, the number of rigs in the U.S. jumped by 35 this week. That’s the largest weekly gain in almost five years. Oklahoma added seven new rigs.

Passport issuance delays expected through 2018

Jan 25, 2017

If you’re planning a vacation outside of the U.S. this year and are needing to either get a passport or renew one beforehand, it might be wise to start that process very soon.

As The Huffington Post reports, the U.S. State Department has issued warnings about a big increase in passport renewals and applications through 2018.

In an effort to improve emergency response for structure fires in and around Hays, the Hays Fire Department and Ellis County Rural Fire Department recently joined forces for a new automatic aid agreement.

Grace Hood / Harvest Public Media

Employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s main research arm, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), received an email from the division’s chief of staff ordering them to stop publicizing their work.

“Starting immediately and until further notice, ARS will not release any public-facing documents,” the email from Sharon Drumm reads, in part. “This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Colorado is being sued by an environmental group over the state’s controversial plan to kill mule deer predators.

San Antonio Express News

Nuclear power plants could be on their way out of the Lone Star State. As the San Antonio Express-News notes, Texas’ nuclear fleet is confronting some of the same issues that have led to plant closings in other states.

The main reason? The success of wind power, combined with oil market oversaturation due to fracking technology.

Norman Transcript

Many employers in Oklahoma have begun to push back against state cuts to higher education.

Last year, higher education funding in Oklahoma was slashed by more than $150 million. The cuts amounted to 16 percent of the overall state budget for higher ed.

Now, as the Norman Transcript reports, some Oklahoma businesses are done sitting on the sidelines.

American Life League / Flickr Creative Commons

This weekend, Texas had plans to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funds in the state. But that plan was blocked late last week by a federal judge, who postponed the ruling on whether the women’s health care provider should be removed from Medicaid coverage.

The funding ouster was initially planned for this past Saturday the 21st. But, as Texas Monthly reports, a federal court now says Planned Parenthood can continue to receive funding until Feb. 21st, while the court deliberates further.

Pixabay

The hearing impaired, among others, can now text 9-1-1 in emergencies. 

As The Prowers Journal reports, the Prowers County Emergency Telephone Authority now offers that option as an integrated service to its 9-1-1 network and 9-1-1 equipment.

There are certain situations that call for a text to 9-1-1 rather than a call.

Ice storm brings much needed moisture to Kansas crops

Jan 24, 2017
Kansas State Research and Extension

While last week’s ice storm wreaked a lot of havoc in the form of power outages, broken tree limbs and icy roads, it also brought much needed precipitation to Kansas’s wheat and alfalfa crops.

Zereshk

Vista College announced Monday that it will no longer be accepting new students at its Amarillo campus.

According to a news release on Vista College’s website, the school announced that it will teach-out current students and not enroll new students at its campus located at 3440 Bell St.

Kansas State Research and Extension

The annual Cover Your Acres Winter Conference is taking place tomorrow and Wednesday in Oberlin.

As Kansas Agland reports, agricultural producers, consultants and experts will gather for the 14th annual conference, which is being held at the Gateway Civic Center.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

President Obama’s two-term agriculture secretary will soon slip through one of Washington’s revolving doors and switch from government official to private sector executive eager to push for an industry agenda.  

Former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday that his first job outside the Cabinet will be heading up a dairy industry trade group that pushes for access to foreign markets, the U.S. Dairy Export Council.

A boy’s life may have been saved by a recently added defibrillator at an elementary school in Wakeeney.

According to the Hays Daily News, the Trego Grade School received automated external defibrillators in July, after an instructor at Fort Hays State University approached the school district about applying for a grant to purchase the AEDs.

Feds reject Kansas' request to extend KanCare

Jan 23, 2017
KanCare.ks.gov

Federal officials have rejected Kansas’ request to extend KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, saying it has failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees.

As reported by The Wichita Eagle, federal investigators reviewed the state’s Medicaid plan in October and found that Kansas is “substantively out of compliance with Federal statutes and regulations, as well as its Medicaid State Plan,” according to a letter sent to the state Jan. 13 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Misguided perceptions

Jan 21, 2017
http://www.cgpgrey.com/

Ask people from outside Kansas to describe our state and many would state definitely, “It’s flat.” A drive across western Kansas on I-70 or Highway 54 would support their idea of monotonously level terrain. What folks passing through don’t realize is that highway planners intentionally select the easiest route to turn into an interstate. It’s cheaper to build and easier to drive. Travelers who never travel the two lane black tops that weave one little community to another don’t have a clue about our river valleys and rolling hills.

news9.com

Convenience store employees in Oklahoma evidently make more than many of the state’s teachers.

As News 9 reports, it can take a teacher 11 years to reach the starting salary for full-time employees of the popular Oklahoma convenience store chain QuikTrip. This is despite the fact that the teachers have degrees, while the QuikTrip employees often have only a high school diploma.

Karol Olson / Flickr Creative Commons

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of supporters of women’s rights will gather in the nation’s capital to try to ensure that their voices are heard and their interests considered by the Trump administration. But hundreds of smaller events are planned on the statewide level as well.

As NewsOk reports, Oklahomans are expected to rally Saturday in Oklahoma City. About the rally, Lindsey Kanaly, an Oklahoma City attorney, said, “We can no longer complain on Facebook, and here is a chance to actually do something.”

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Donald Trump is now the 45th president of the United States. NPR reporters and editors across the newsroom have annotated his inaugural address. 

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Bruce Tuten / Wikimedia Commons

After a long wait that caused no shortage of nervous fidgeting among the ag sector, Donald Trump has finally selected a candidate for Secretary of Agriculture.

Please join us for Special Coverage of the Presidential Inauguration on Friday, January 20, 2017 from 8 am to 3 pm CT.  NPR's Steve Inskeep and Audie Cornish will co-host the coverage from the West Front of the Capitol in Washington, DC, overlooking the presidential platform. The program will feature the swearing in of the President and Vice President, speeches, interviews, live reports from around the Capitol and the National Mall, and analysis from NPR’s Political Team.

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Residents of Colorado will need to provide proof of ownership for certain recreational vehicles to meet a new requirement enacted by the Colorado Legislature to assure that stolen vehicles are not being bought or sold.

Like many other professions, rural Kansas is falling short on teachers, but so are some urban areas in the state. A new program at Kansas State University aims to change all that.

As KCUR reports, K-State has developed a one-year, online program for those with undergraduate degrees to take to get a masters’ degree in elementary teaching.

An international study published in the journal, Nature Communications, reports that harvests in the United States are likely to shrink by a between one-fifth to half their current sizes due to rising temperatures over the next century.

Several Amarilloans - supporters, and detractors alike - Amarillo are attending Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration ceremony in Washington today.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reports, a number of Amarilloans are in Washington D.C. for Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration – some to celebrate, others merely to speculate.

Tom Mechler, state chair for the Republican Party of Texas, arrived in the nation’s capital on Tuesday.

Eddie Seal / Texas Tribune

Last year the Texas Department of Education drew sharp criticism for the low percentage of students who were receiving special education services in Texas, as compared to other states.

Education advocates charged that Texas had intentionally capped the number of students who could receive special education treatment in a given district at 8.5 percent of the total student population. As a result, they said students who fell outside this margin weren’t receiving the help they needed.

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