Jonathan Baker

News Curator

Jonathan Baker recently returned to the High Plains from New York City, where he was the assistant to the editor-in-chief at W. W. Norton & Co. At Norton, Baker worked with a wide variety of authors, including Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Lewis and Larry McMurtry. During his time in publishing, Baker worked on books that were shortlisted for a National Book Award and a Booker Prize, and Norton was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in History.

A former professional comedian, Baker has performed all over the United States and appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. He holds an undergraduate degree in English with a History minor from West Texas A&M University and a master’s degree in the humanities from the University of Chicago. At UChicago, Baker focused on American literature but studied a wide range of topics, from architectural history to 19th-century landscape painting to the history of the natural sciences. His master’s thesis was on glaciers and ice age theory in the Victorian Era.

When not curating stories for High Plains Public Radio, Baker writes advertisements for publications like Esquire and Car & Driver. He also writes crime novels. Baker just finished his fourth book, a murder story set on the barren Texas plains.

Baker is the father of a 12-year-old boy, Inigo. They live in Canyon, Texas, in a tiny wooden house, where they watch a lot of cheesy old horror movies.   

Erika Rich / Texas Tribune

Texas’s controversial “sanctuary cities” law is set to take effect on Sept. 1 and this week marks the beginning of a series of hearings to determine whether the law is actually legal.

As The Texas Tribune reports, some Texas communities began fighting the bill almost as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott signed it.

With Houston signing onto the lawsuit last week, the largest cities in the state are all lodging protests to the immigration enforcement law.

Michael Stravato / The New York Times

The New York Times recently spoke with immigrants in Texas who had fled repressive regimes, and many of them noted unsettling similarities between the countries they left and the current administration in Washington.

More than one of the immigrants mentioned the recent cabinet meeting where President Donald Trump had members of his cabinet go around the room, praising him.

The Oklahoman

The teacher crisis in Oklahoma doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, reports The Oklahoman.

Last year, Oklahoma was forced to certify 1,100 emergency teachers to plug unfilled jobs due to low pay and teachers moving out of state. This year, the state Board of Education has already approved 224 more emergency certificates. Emergency teachers are hired without the traditional training expected of a public-school teacher. These last-minute stop-gap educators are forced to learn on the job.

San Antonio Express News

In a recent editorial in the San Antonio Express-News, two prominent Texas economists suggested ways to revitalize the rural economy in Texas.

Many people in Texas yearn for small-town life, write Thomas Tunstall and Gil Gonzalez, but their rural work options are limited. An investment in rural infrastructure, including broadband, would help this problem.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express News

The State of Texas is putting the brakes on the idea of debtors jail, reports The San Antonio Express News. For decades, the Lone Star State has been tossing people in jail when they were unable to pay fines.

Last year, over half a million Texans served time for unpaid parking tickets and the court fines. But beginning in September, judges will begin considering the economic status of defendants before sending them to jail.

abc7amarillo.com

As Amarillo gears up to welcome minor league baseball to the yet-to-be built stadium downtown, HPPR thought it might be good to help High Plains folks brush up on their minor league knowledge.

Dustyn Rappe / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma will soon make its statewide reading test more difficult, and the change could result in more students being forced to repeat the third grade.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the important, high-stakes test is already difficult for some. Last year, 12 percent of Oklahoma third graders received a grade of “unsatisfactory.”

Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

The Eastern Panhandle Farmers' Market will begin this Wednesday, in Wheeler.

As The Pampa News reports, the market will begin at three p.m. on the east side of the Wheeler courthouse. The Farmer’s Market will welcome vendors from Wheeler, Gray, Collingsworth, and Hemphill counties, and will run until about six p.m. Another market will be held on Saturday July 1, from 9 a.m. til noon, and farmer’s markets will continue through the summer every Wednesday and Saturday until October.

Justyna Furmanczyk / Texas Tribune

Texas has been booming since 2010, and new census bureau numbers show that Hispanics account for a major part of that growth.

amarillo.com

The announcement that Amarillo’s downtown area will soon receive a minor league baseball team is just the latest boon to an already healthy economy in the center of the city.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, Amarillo’s downtown area already has 16 commercial development projects in the works. The projects are worth a combined $150 million dollars to the local economy.

Erika Rich / Texas Tribune

Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill into law, several Texas communities have signed onto a lawsuit in hopes of stopping the law before it goes into effect.

The suit was originally brought by Maverick County and the West Texas City of El Cenizo. But now, El Paso County and the cities of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas have also signed on to the suit.

Sirdle / Flickr Creative Commons

In a new report, the top scientists in Texas have concluded that the hydraulic drilling process known as fracking pollutes the air, erodes soil and contaminates water.

As the San Antonio Express-News reports, the report also confirmed other studies that have found that wastewater disposal from fracking can lead to seismic activity.

Scott Slusher / The Guardian

The world is changing rapidly, and it’s hard not to wonder what the future will look like for the High Plains cowboy.

Locating cowhands to help with branding and vaccinations has been a tough proposition in many communities for years now, and some ranching operations now employ helicopters and drone technology to increase profits.

Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Yesterday HPPR reported on a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll that showed Gov. Greg Abbott outperforming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus among Texas voters. Today, we’re going to see how Texans are feeling about some of the state’s other lawmakers.

The Oklahoman

At the end of this month, Oklahoma’s state Capitol building will celebrate its one-hundredth birthday.

As The Oklahoman reports, the state has several events planned for June 30, to mark the occasion.

The Oklahoma Capitol building, located on over 100 acres in northwest Oklahoma City, holds 650 rooms and 11 acres of floor space.

Jacob Villanueva / Texas Tribune

According to a recent poll, Gov. Greg Abbott remains the most popular politician in Texas.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll shows Abbott with a 45 percent approval rating, while 38 percent of the electorate disapproves of the job he’s been doing. However, Abbott’s disapproval rating has risen five points from 33 percent since the last poll, which was taken in February.

Wallethub

In an increasingly complex world, people want to make sure their communities are safe. To that end, the personal-financial website WalletHub has compiled a list ranking states in order of safety—and the High Plains put in a rather poor showing.

Not a single state in the HPPR listening region appeared in the top half of states when it comes to safety. Colorado performed the best among HPPR states, falling at number 29 on the list.

Creative Commons

The number of kids who participate in Oklahoma's Federal summer-meal program declined again last year.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, participation levels in the summer meal program were already very low, even before the drop.

Last year, fewer than five out of every 100 eligible children took advantage of the free or reduced-price lunches. That number constitutes a decrease of a nine percent from the previous year.

Flickr Creative Commons

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case on Congressional redistricting that could have future implications for the balance of power in the Lone Star State.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the case centers on a redistricting effort in Wisconsin that resembles in many ways the attempts by the Texas GOP to redraw district lines to favor their own party, a process known as "gerrymandering."

San Antonio Express News

Tourism officials in Texas are decrying funding cuts made by the statelLegislature and approved by Gov. Greg Abbott as part of the official state budget.

As The San Antonio Express-News reports, state lawmakers slashed the tourism budget in half this year, dropping funding levels from $68 million down to $34 million.

Jacob Villanueva / Bob Daemmrich / Texas Tribune

Republican voters in the Lone Star State remain staunch in their support of the President, despite the Russian fog that has descended over the White House.

As The Texas Tribune reports, while only five percent of Democrats believe Donald Trump has the right temperament to occupy the Oval Office, more than two out of three self-identified Republicans say Trump is the right kind of person for the job.

Texas Tribune

In the state of Texas, it’s now legal for child welfare officials to use their personal religious beliefs to decide who will be allowed to adopt.

Eben McCue / StateImpact Oklahoma

For decades, the oil and gas industry has been promoting the benefits of fossil fuels in America’s public-school classrooms.

As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, companies like BP and Shell have spent millions of dollars on K-12 curricula, speakers, and after-school programs, all designed to paint oil, gas, and coal in a rosy light.

amarillo.com

Despite a slight drop in the rankings, Canyon is still one of the safest towns in Texas, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

Duncan Banner

Those who choose to drink and drive in Oklahoma will soon face a tougher penalty.

As The Duncan Banner reports, Governor Mary Fallin has signed a law that will result in an ignition interlock on all Oklahoma offenders’ vehicles after their first offense. Previously, the state only required the interlock for multiple offenders and first-timers with a .15 blood-alcohol level.

Texas Standard

This week the radio newsmagazine Texas Standard asked a question that Panhandle folks have been wondering for years. Where exactly does West Texas begin? And why are those of us in the northernmost part of the state referred to as “West Texans”?

The answer, surprisingly , may have to do with oak trees.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

Two weeks after the conclusion of a rancorous legislative session, the State of Texas now officially has a budget. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the $217 billion document into law this week—but not before vetoing $120 million in funding to various state programs. As The Texas Tribune reports, areas receiving funding cuts include poor communities near the Mexican border and environmental groups. Abbott also slashed funding that would have improved air quality in Texas.

Wikimedia Commons

West Texas A&M University in Canyon took a big hit this week, as the budget approved by Governor Greg Abbott slashed funding to the school by almost $2 million.

Meanwhile, the A&M flagship university in College Station received a hefty increase of $14 million in funding.

Programs receiving cuts at WT include agricultural research and small-business development. The Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum also had its funding slashed.

Courtesy photo / San Antonio Express News

Texas’s most prominent and controversial new law may be in trouble already.

In the short time since Gov. Greg Abbott signed the controversial “sanctuary cities” bill into law, at least six Texas localities have filed lawsuits in opposition to the order. Now, as The Huffington Post reports, the federal judge in charge of one of those lawsuits issued a separate ruling this week that indicated he may be sympathetic with plaintiffs who would like to see the law struck down.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Last week Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law a new budget, and green groups were cheered to see what appeared to be a boost in funding to environmental agencies.

However, as StateImpact reports, it appears those funding boosts were nothing but smoke and mirrors.

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