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.   

foodsafetynews.com

Almost 75,000 pounds of beef products have been pulled from store shelves in Texas, reports KFDA.

The recall occurred after reports of E Coli in boneless beef products were received from Waco’s H & B Packing.

Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

Texas Legislators clashed this week in Austin over whether to raise the state’s minimum wage.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, Republicans praised the current rate as an efficient entry-level pay rate, while Democrats called the hourly wage a “misery rate,” too low for anyone to live on.

KFOR

The Oklahoma Senate drew praise from Governor Mary Fallin this week, after passing several measures aimed at improving criminal justice efforts in the state.

As KFOR reports, the eight reforms passed this week were initially recommended by a task force convened by the Governor last year. In her State of the State address earlier this year, Fallin urged lawmakers to consider the proposals.

The Oklahoman

Undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma have evidently become so frightened that many have stopped attending church, citing dread of being deported should they appear in public.

Members of the clergy recently told The Oklahoman that they’ve seen a drop in attendance since news of deportations have spread across the country.

davebloggs007 / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week Wyoming approved a plan to cut $35 million from the state’s K-12 budget. Wyoming is just the latest of several oil and coal states across the country, including Texas and Oklahoma, that have slashed funding for education, reports The Atlantic.

Last year, Oklahoma cut well over $100 million in public school funding, forcing some districts to move to four-day school weeks.

KVII

Sales tax receipts were down slightly in Amarillo in January, according to the latest numbers from the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation.

Creative Commons

Higher education tuitions have been rising lately in Texas. But financial aid packages haven’t been increasing to keep up with the hefty cost of college, reports the Texas Tribune.

Texas lawmakers say they understand that helping students obtain college degrees is vital to the state’s economic future. But the legislative evidence doesn’t seem to be backing up their words.

Stephen Crowley / The New York Times

President Trump unveiled his proposed budget last week, and some parts of America, like military centers, look to be big winners. But other areas, including rural regions that supported the President during his election last year, will be hit hard if the budget is passed.

KVII

Three airmen are dead after an aircraft crashed in Eastern New Mexico last week.

As KVII reports, the U-28A aircraft had taken off from Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis when it crashed outside Texico, near the Texas Panhandle border. It’s been several years since any aircraft from the Cannon base was involved in a fatality.

Steve Sisney / The Oklahoman

The craft beer trend has hit Oklahoma in a big way, reports The Oklahoman.

A few years ago, Oklahoma only had one brewery. Now, the Sooner State boasts 15 breweries--and some of them are gaining national attention.

American Solera was recently honored with a “Best New Brewery in the U.S.” award. And, at February’s Best of Craft Beer Awards held in Bend, Oregon, Anthem Brewing Co. took home a number of awards. Meanwhile, in Europe back in 2010, the Oklahoma brewery known simply as “Choc” won several awards.

KFOR

A new Oklahoma bill that would allow county officials to carry guns into courthouses has passed its first hurdle, reports KFOR.

The bill, proposed, by Republican Rep. Bobby Cleveland, passed the state House of Representatives on an 85-11 vote this week. Now the bill goes to the Senate, and if it passes there it will got to Governor Mary Fallin’s desk for ratification.

news9.com

Kindhearted souls from across the country have banded together to help farmers and ranchers left reeling by the wildfires that ravaged over a million acres last week.

As Wide Open Country reports, one Texas rancher has donated $30,000 worth of hay to feed misplaced livestock. Ranchers across the Lone Star State have followed suit; since last week flatbeds stacked with hay have been seen rolling onto the Llano Estacado from points south.

News Journal

Near the end of the Obama administration, prison reform advocates had grown cautiously optimistic that America’s pattern of incarcerating two million US citizens each year might be coming to an end.

Elvert Barnes / Flickr Creative Commons

Almost a quarter million immigrants call Oklahoma home, and they play an important role in the state’s economy, according to a new study.

As NewsOK reports, these immigrants make up over 20 percent of the state's workforce, and many hold specialized knowledge in career fields like health care, science and technology. Others keep the state economy humming by working in manufacturing, housekeeping, fabrication and landscaping.

Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

Texas Legislators held a hearing this week to debate abolishing the Texas Film Commission, which some lawmakers have referred to as a form of corporate welfare.

As The Austin American Statesman reports, Texas currently budgets about $32 million in tax incentives to attract the movie industry to Texas. That’s down substantially from almost $100 million two years ago.

KFOR

Oklahoma’s budget crisis brought more potential bad news this week, as it was announced that budget cuts could cause many state parks to close across the state.

As KFOR reports, the state tourism industry is hunkering down as Oklahoma announced yet another round of deep cuts to state funding.

KPRC

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bipartisan measure that would end the requirement for vehicle inspections in the Lone Star State, reports KPRC.

State Sen. Don Huffines of El Paso says Senate Bill 1588 would help drivers save $7 per vehicle across the state.  

Huffines called the state vehicle inspection program a “relic of the past,” pointing to modern technological advances in vehicle design and technology that obviate the need for yearly inspections.

tOrange.us / Creative Commons

State agencies in Oklahoma are buckling up for a bumpy ride ahead as lawmakers prepare to slash the budget, in order to get the Sooner State’s $900 million budget deficit under control.

As KFOR reports, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety has announced that it’s been asked to find a way to cut 15 percent of its budget. In a statement, the DPS said such a drastic cut will place citizens, local law enforcement and state troopers at risk.

Steve Snodgrass / Wikimedia Commons

A bipartisan coalition of Texas lawmakers has proposed a series of reforms that would help poor defendants get out of jail, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Wallethub

In all but six states, women outnumber men. Yet in many areas of the U.S., women are being treated poorly. There are still 19 states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and women make up the majority of poor, uninsured adults in those states.  

Heather Carpenter Costello / Creative Commons

Texas lawmakers are taking aim at a boozy trend that has started to take hold in some Lone Star dentist’s offices.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, some dentists have been offering alcoholic beverages to patients while they wait to be seen. Last week Texas legislators called the new idea “appalling” and “irresponsible.”

MyHighPlains.com

For those Texas Panhandle residents who grumble every autumn when the clocks fall back and the sun suddenly sets shortly after five p.m., help may be on the way.

As MyHighPlains.com reports, three bills have been introduced in the Texas legislature this session, all aimed at abolishing daylight savings in the Lone Star State.

KHOU

A newly proposed bill in the Texas Legislature would outlaw red light cameras in Texas, reports KHOU.

A hearing was held on the measure, which is known as Bill 88, last week. Some Texas law enforcement agencies showed up to oppose the bill; they say stoplight cameras decrease accidents in the intersections where they’re installed.

However others in Texas, including the largest city in the state, disagree. Houston removed its red light cameras several years ago.

James Gibbard / Tulsa World

A group of Oklahoma residents grew upset last week after a Republican Oklahoma lawmaker asked them to fill out a questionnaire that they described as “hateful.”

As KFOR reports, State Rep. John Bennett greeted three Muslim students who recently visited his office in honor of Muslim Day, a celebration of the Islamic faith at the State Capitol. Bennett responded to the students’ visit by handing them a questionnaire.

Tulsa World

As the United States—and the State of Oklahoma—remain mired in fights over women’s rights in the twenty-first century, The Tulsa World has published a reminder of Oklahoma’s past.

Edward A. Ornelas / Austin American-Statesman

A federal court has ruled that Texas Republican Legislators tried to discriminate against voters of color when they redrew district lines in 2011, reports The Austin American-Statesman.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that lawmakers drew a map that intentionally diluted the voting power of Latino and black citizens.

Texas Department of Transportation

“Don’t Mess with Texas” is the phrase that has come to symbolize the Lone Star State, more than any other slogan. It’s a source of pride to the state’s residents, and it’s used by people all over the world to poke fun at the bravado and swagger of Texans. But older Texans will remember when the phrase was merely a slogan used to remind Texans not to litter on the highway.

Flickr Creative Commons

Last month was the hottest February on record in Texas, topping every February since record-keeping began in the 19th century, reports The Texas Observer.

This should come as no surprise to West Texans, as some Panhandle counties approached temperatures of 100 degrees in the dead of winter. All-time records were set at weather stations across the state, and this winter is on pace to be the hottest ever in the Lone Star State.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma is looking to store water underground, in hopes of staving off future catastrophe.

Steve Sisney / The Oklahoman

Oklahoma has yet another invasive species that’s causing headaches in the state, alongside feral hogs and eastern red cedar. As NewsOK reports, the Bradford pear tree was once confined to front lawns and mall parking lots, but now the tree has broken free and is spreading out into open prairie land.

The tree began to move into unwanted areas 10 years ago. Now the Oklahoma Invasive Plant Council has put the Bradford pear on its invasive species watchlist.

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