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.   

JONATHAN BAKER / Canyon, Texas

I’m Jonathan Baker, a writer in Canyon, Texas, and I’ve been asked to talk a little about this month’s Radio Readers Book Club Read, The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols. I read this book twenty years ago, after a friend of mine, a Jewish agitator from Austin, got a tattoo of the tequila-toting skeleton illustration on the cover. For me, that was recommendation enough. And I loved the book. I read it again this month, and my affection for it hasn’t changed.

Floflo88 / Wikimedia Commons

An editorial in The Dallas Morning News is calling cattle ranchers “the first casualties of Trump's trade wars.”

Texas State University Journalism Professor Richard Parker noted several ways that Trump’s trade policy may hurt beef markets.

KFDA

A celebrated Amarillo teacher has invited President Trump’s new Education Secretary to visit the Texas Panhandle, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

Shanna Peeples made news across the country two years ago when she was named the National Teacher of the Year. She was personally given the award by Barack Obama, and had a private lunch with the former president in Washington.

Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt appears to have made a good number of enemies within the agency he’ll soon helm, and he hasn’t even started the job yet.

As The New York Times reports, employees of the Environmental Protection Agency mounted an organized campaign to call their senators and plead that they vote against Pruitt to head the agency.

Brett Coomer / Houston Chronicle

Texas has become the first state to actively throw its support behind President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban, reports The Houston Chronicle.

On Wednesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief with the 9th circuit court of appeals. The brief formally affirms  Texas's support of Trump’s White House and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Woodley WonderWorks / Flickr Creative Commons

A new bill being proposed in Oklahoma would forgive student loans for the state’s teachers, reports KFOR.

Rep. Mickey Dollens’s proposed legislation would give Oklahoma teachers student loan forgiveness if they stay at any school for at least seven years. Educators cheered the bill, saying it’s on the right track. But, they added that the new law doesn’t solve the crux of the education problem in Oklahoma, which is low teacher pay.

KGOU

Oklahoma lawmakers continue to struggle with how to lessen the state's onerous budget shortfall.

As KOSU reports, Oklahoma's budget gap is inching back up toward the billion-dollar mark. Governor Mary Fallin has suggested a dramatic change to the state sales tax to eliminate certain exemptions, in hopes of turning the ship around. She says her long-term goal is to change the tax system to better fit the modern world.

Ullstein Bild / Chron.com

Spring is approaching, and that means dangerous High Plains animals will be out on the prowl. The Houston Chronicle has published a helpful guide to know what to do in case of trouble.

If you encounter a wild boar, remain calm and move away slowly. If the boar attacks, climb at least six feet off the ground. If you can’t climb, try to stay on your feet.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

A new study has found that four out of five schools in Texas offer no sex education at all, or opt instead for strict abstinence education.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the study by the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network discovered that 25 percent of Texas school districts offer students no sex education of any kind.

Oklahoma State Legislature

Yesterday the Oklahoma legislature brought a bill to the floor that would make abortions illegal unless approved by the mother’s male sexual partner.

KXAN

Educators in Texas are crying foul over a new legislative bill that they say unfairly harms teachers.

As KXAN reports, the bill would make it illegal for unions to automatically withdraw dues from teacher payrolls. The legislation is being proposed by Sen. Joan Huffman, a Republican from Houston.

This week a large number of educators showed up at a meeting of the the Senate Committee on State Affairs. The teachers gave testimony against the legislation  for over three hours.

Dan Mullin / Flickr Creative Commons

There’s been an unexpected victim of President Trump’s decision to freeze all regulatory action within the Federal Government. The rusty-patched bumblebee has seen its numbers drop by 87 percent in the past couple of decades.

Republicans have been getting ready to make good on long held promises to abolish the Affordable Care Act.

If that were to happen, certain states stand to suffer more than others. The personal finance website WalletHub performed a study to determine which states will be hurt the most, should Obamacare be undone without a replacement.

States that benefited the most from the legislation stand to lose the most, and states that neglected to embrace the legislation won’t be hurt as badly because they don’t have as far to fall.

Steve Sisney / The Oklahoman

Oklahoma has jumped to third in the state rankings, when it comes to wind power production.

As The Oklahoman reports, the Sooner State leapfrogged California to take the third spot. That’s no small feat, given that California bests Oklahoma in land area, population, and general economic might.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

*Correction: A previous version of this story was incorrect. A former accountant of the Oklahoma Beef Council is being investigated for allegedly embezzling $2.6 million from that board. This is a corrected version of the story.*

Federal authorities are investigating the alleged embezzlement of $2.6 million dollars from an obscure Oklahoma board that promotes the beef industry, reports KOSU.

Holly Bailey / Yahoo News

Amarillo saw something of the national spotlight in the wake of President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban.

A Yahoo News story noted that Amarillo has long been a safe haven for refugees. For the last several years, Texas has led the United States in refugee resettlement and Amarillo accepts more refugees per capita than any other city in the state. Amarillo has, for the most part, provided a welcome home to these settlers fleeing terror in their homelands.

Creative Commons

Researchers have discovered a new method of distilling whiskey that shortens the aging process from years to a few days, Quarz.com reports.

For centuries, the maturation of whiskey in wooden casks has been the lengthiest part of the whiskey-making process. But now researchers in Spain have attempted a new process for creating brandy, which is made from distilled wine. The scientists mixed the wine with wood chips, then blasted the mixture with ultrasound waves.

Dick Locke

A group of stargazers in the Sooner State are hoping to pass a law that would grant Oklahoma  an official state astronomical object.

Al Drago / The New York Times

An offhand remark President Donald Trump made on Wednesday has Democratic lawmakers in Texas fuming.

As The New York Times reports, Trump was speaking with a group of sheriffs from around the country when a Texas sheriff asked the president about a state senator who was proposing a law that would not allow Texas to seize a suspect’s assets until that suspect had been convicted by a court.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

A watchdog group is suing Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is currently President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, The Tulsa World reports.

Wikimedia Commons

Controversial Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos was confirmed on Tuesday, and all but one of the ten Senators from the High Plains region helped her win the seat.

As The New York Times reports, the vote came down to a historic 50/50 tie, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tiebreaking vote. This is the first time in history that a Senate vote on a cabinet-level position has ended in a tie.

KVII

The Panhandle of Texas will soon be home to a new alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.

As KVII reports, the Amarillo Recovery from Alcohol and Drugs (ARAD) organization has plans to move into the former Bivins nursing home.

The facility holds 32 beds, and will soon house the area’s only 30-day substance abuse treatment center.

Energy Central

The number of jobs supported by the wind industry has cracked the 100,000 mark, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Energy.

As Energy Central reports, the milestone means wind power now employs more workers than nuclear, natural gas, coal, or hydroelectric power plants. And one out of every four of those wind workers are employed in the state of Texas.

Travis Smith / Waxahachie Daily Light

Freestanding emergency clinics have proliferated across Texas in recent months. Texas is one of only three states to allow these walk-in ER clinics, including three new ones in Amarillo.

But it’s important to know the difference between these freestanding emergency rooms and traditional walk-in clinics.

The major difference, as many panhandle patients have learned the hard way, is cost.

Creative Commons

Ag experts are expecting a revised farm bill this year, as a new administration takes control in Washington.

As Politico has noted, employees from the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation have begun to exert heavy influence over the young administration.

FuelFix

Protesters have been amassing in West Texas, down near Big Bend, to challenge the construction of yet another oil pipeline.

As FuelFix.com reports, the activists are setting up to oppose the Trans-Pecos Pipeline. The protest camp is made up of a combination of environmentalists and ranchers who own the land where the pipeline is being built. The pipeline is being constructed by Energy Transfer Partners, an outfit in Dallas.

Ralph Barrera / Austin American-Statesman

The Texas Board of Education has signed off on a state curriculum that challenges the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

As The Austin American Statesman reports, Republicans on the board voted to put language back into the state science curriculum that challenges the validity of evolution.

Creative Commons

In the past, HPPR has reported on the fact that rural America has been struggling to find enough doctors to serve its populace.

Aurelijus Valeiša / Creative Commons

Amazon will soon begin charging a sales tax in the Sooner State, reports The Oklahoman.

The online retailing behemoth will start collecting the tax beginning on March first. But, unfortunately, those extra collected funds will not go toward easing the burden of Oklahoma’s massive budget shortfall.

That’s because the extra Amazon revenue was already built into Oklahoma’s budget estimates.

Astrid Westvang / Creative Commons

In Texas, foster care providers have clashed with court judges over a senator’s proposal to privatize foster care.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the debate centers around whether private contractors in Texas should be allowed to completely take over supervision of abused and neglected children.

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