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.   

Tamir Kalifa / Texas Tribune

Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Richards had high hopes for his plan to bring on what he called the “feral hog apocalypse.”

okcfox.com

Over half a million uninsured motorists drive on Oklahoma’s roads every day.

Now, reports KOKH, a new program aims to lower that number. The state’s District Attorney Council has proposed a system that would allow law enforcement to scan license plates and determine if the driver is insured.

But, for the plan to work, Oklahoma’s motor vehicle insurance database will need to be upgraded.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

This week the Texas House Public Education Committee heard testimony on a bill that would decrease the number of standardized tests faced by students in the Lone Star State.

At first blush, the idea seems like it might carry broad support among Texas educators. But, as The Texas Tribune reports, teacher opinions on the idea actually constitute a mixed bag.

Billy Calzada / Austin American-Statesman

Beto O’Rourke, a challenger to Ted Cruz’s seat in the U.S. Senate, will make an appearance in Amarillo this Saturday, April 29th.

news9.com

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has announced that she plans to create a task force to deal with the immense backlog of rape kits in the state.

As News 9 reports, the Oklahoma Task Force on Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence will investigate all of the sexual assault forensic evidence kits in Oklahoma, to determine how many have yet to be tested.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

The Texas House of Representatives has passed a bill that would raise the legal age at which accused criminals are tried as adults in the Lone Star State.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the measure is known as the “Raise the Age” bill, and it would ensure that 17-year-old offenders would no longer be classified as adults. Instead, they would be moved to the juvenile justice system, beginning in 2021.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Legislature took a big step last week toward battling health problems in rural parts of the state.

As StateImpact reports, rural Oklahomans have long been fighting a losing battle with diabetes, and obesity. And heart disease is the state’s number one killer.

Austin American-Statesman

A Federal court has once again ruled that the Republican Party in Texas intentionally tried to disenfranchise minority voters when it redrew district lines in 2011.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, the 2-1 ruling attested that the GOP diluted minority votes in an attempt to gain more power in the state.

Flickr Creative Commons

Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s bid for re-election next year may be in jeopardy, according to new polling numbers.

As the Dallas Morning News reports, if the race were held today, Cruz would face an uphill battle against either of his two potential Democratic rivals for the seat.

Lorne Matalon / Marfa Public Radio

Mexico is considering a boycott of corn from the United States, in response to repeated economic threats made by President Donald Trump, reports Texas Standard.

Jennifer Carlson / Wink Threadings Salon

Becoming a licensed hairstylist may soon be a much easier prospect in Texas, if the state Legislature has its way.

As The Texas Tribune reports, three new bills would make the process of obtaining a cosmetology license in the Lone Star State much less arduous.

San Antonio Express News

After a staggering downturn in the state’s oil and gas fortunes over the past few years, Texas appears to be entering what look to be better days ahead, reports the San Antonio Express-News.  

Fibonacci Blue / Wikimedia Commons

The Texas Senate has approved a bill that would allow government clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, on religious grounds. The measure now moves to the House for a vote.

But, as Slate reports, the bill has an interesting provision that hasn’t been seen in other efforts by the Texas Senate to legislate same-sex marriage licenses.

Wallethub

As wind turbines and solar panels continue to crop up across the High Plains, you may have wondered how green your state is, compared to other states.

The personal finance website WalletHub has compiled a list of all states, ranking them according to how friendly they are toward the environment. The site judges states on 20 key metrics, ranging from eco-friendly buildings per capita to share of energy consumption from renewable resources. States in the HPPR listening area did not fare well in the rankings.

Thoughts on Dune

Apr 19, 2017
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, Dune by Frank Herbert.

The novel is a sci-fi epic set in the far-distant future, in a time when a remote desert planet called Arrakis is the only source of the most valued substance in the universe, a mind-altering space-fuel known as Spice. The climate on Arrakis is so hostile that the planet’s sand-dwelling tribe, the Fremen, must wear stillsuits that recycle their own body fluids into water for them to drink. When the Fremen kill an enemy, it’s traditional to convert the body of the vanquished into water and drink that, too.

Brad Gibson / Oklahoma Watch

For decades, Oklahoma public schools have been struggling to retain principals. Last year 73 percent of Oklahoma’s 1,900 principals had held their positions for five years or less.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the constant turnover of principals costs Oklahoma districts thousands of dollars a year.

KFOR

Oklahomans may soon experience deep cuts to their Medicaid subsidies, if the state decides to slash funding to the state’s Medicaid agency, reports KFOR.

The proposed cuts could result in a funding cut of as much as 25 percent. These cuts would severely hurt the state’s patients and hospitals, especially in rural areas.

Elvert Barnes / Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate is considering instituting a rule that would guarantee construction workers frequent breaks, reports The Texas Tribune.

The proposed legislation is an attempt to ease hardship on Texas construction workers, who frequently endure brutal heat and other weather-driven struggles.

Wallethub

How much tax burden do residents of your state carry compared with other states?  

The personal finance website WalletHub has compiled a list of all states, comparing their various tax responsibilities.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

After weeks of momentum, Texas “school choice” was handed a serious setback last week, in what The Dallas Morning News called “a serious, perhaps lethal blow” to the movement.

Guy Montag / Flickr Creative Commons

Canada’s dairy policies may be hurting rural America,  AgNetWest reports.

In response, some U.S. dairies are lobbying the Trump administration to fight the policies, which they’ve labeled as protectionist.

According to the U.S. dairy farmers, America’s neighbor to the north is not honoring its trade agreements when it comes to milk and cheese, by adding difficulties for American dairy exports.

Wikimedia Commons

During a three-day operation performed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 75 foreign nationals were arrested in north Texas and Oklahoma last week on fugitive charges.

Fifty-two of the 75 arrested had criminal histories, according to MyHighPlains.com, with almost half of those charges consisting of DUI convictions.

Creative Commons

When it comes to support for Governor Sam Brownback’s ideas about how taxation should work in Kansas, it appears the tides have turned.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, last week Brownback proposed legislation that would have asked every person in the Sunflower State, regardless of income level, to pay a flat tax of 4.6 percent. But when the measure appeared on the floor of the State Senate, it was resoundingly rejected.

scgwynne.com

West Texas A&M University and the Center for the Study of the American West are welcoming a luminary of the American literary scene this Thursday night. S.C. Gwynne is the author of one of the most celebrated books ever written about the High Plains: Empire of the Summer Moon, a magisterial history of the Comanches and Quanah Parker.

Austin American-Statesman

For 20 years, Texas has granted automatic admission to state universities for all Texas students who rank in the top ten of their graduating class.

But now, as The Austin American-Statesman reports, an Amarillo Senator has introduced a new bill into the Legislature that would do away with the “10 percent law.”

Michael Pearce / The Wichita Eagle

After record-breaking wildfires late last month, Kansas saw another record broken on Saturday.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, southwest Kansas shattered the rainfall record for April first, according to the National Weather Service.

The original record of 1.2 inches had already been broken by six a.m., and the rain kept on coming. By day’s end, Dodge City reported receiving over double the original record, with a total of almost two-and-a-half inches.

KMUW

A Federal judge has ordered Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to produce documents he showed to President Donald Trump in a private meeting.

As The Kansas City Star reports, Kobach was asked by the White House to outline a plan to overhaul the Department of Homeland Security. The district court in Kansas City, Kansas, has requested to see the documents, to determine whether they’re relevant to an ongoing Kansas Voter I.D. lawsuit.

AgWeek

In an opinion piece this week, the editorial board of the weekly agricultural newspaper AgWeek insisted that rural health care has reached a dire state, and must be addressed now.

When it comes to heath care, writes AgWeek, “the worry is greater today than it's ever been.” Hospitals have been closing across rural America at a troubling pace. Many agriculturalists have taken jobs away from the farm, just so they can have health care.

Kansas City Star

This week Democrats in the Kansas House of Representatives attempted to roll back a law that allows concealed weapons to be carried on college campuses across the state.

As The Kansas City Star reports, the effort was ultimately derailed because moderate Republicans decided to side with their colleagues on the right rather than cross the aisle. The law, which was instituted in 2013, allows handguns in most public buildings in Kansas, including college and university buildings.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Legislature is gearing up to end the last remaining major wind-energy tax incentive in the state. And, as StateImpact reports, some in the wind industry are calling the move a betrayal.

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