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.   

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Last week, Amarillo unveiled the first historic Route 66 sign along the famed route that traverses the city.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, State Sen. Kel Seliger and State Rep. Four Price were on hand to celebrate the sign’s reveal.

Dora Meroney is the president of the Old Route 66 Association of Texas, and she said she hopes to erect signs along the entire 178-mile stretch of the former highway in the panhandle.

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Oklahoma now has the highest incarceration rate in the world, reports to The Tulsa World.

According to a new study, Oklahoma recently overtook Louisiana as the state with the highest per capita number of citizens in prison.

Beto O'Rourke for Congress Committee / Flickr Creative Commons

Beto O’Rourke has now appeared in every county in Texas, including each of the counties in the Texas Panhandle.

But, as The Dallas Morning News notes, the young congressman from West Texas still has an uphill battle to unseat Senator Ted Cruz. O’Rourke has been crisscrossing Texas for 14 months, live-streaming his effort to visit all 254 counties in the Lone Star State.

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Texas has removed more Confederate monuments than any other state, according to a new study.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, a new breakdown from the Southern Poverty Law Center notes that, since a 2015 shooting in a historic black church in Charleston, 110 Confederate monuments have been taken down or changed nationwide. Over a fourth of those monuments were in Texas.

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Amarillo will host a town hall today to explore ways to improve broadband access in rural areas today.

Representative Four Price and Senator Charles Perry will be in attendance, in hopes of better understanding the issue of rural broadband and how to better connect rural areas to the internet. 

According to a press release, attendees will be encouraged to voice their concerns “about the obstacles, and potential solutions” for providing better internet to all Texans.

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A proposed policy change by the largest insurer in Texas has been put on hold after a big backlash from doctors across the state.

As Houston Public Media reports, Blue Cross Blue Shield had planned to enact a new policy wherein each of the company’s half-a-million statewide HMO members would have to shoulder the full cost of a non-life threatening ER visit if they went out of network.

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Fewer Texans are reporting domestic violence, and police say the drop is a result of immigrant fears of deportation.

As The New York Times reports, many Texas women who are beaten or raped by their partners fail to report the crimes, choosing to go into hiding rather than appear in court and risk being separated from their children.

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California has banned state-funded travel to the state of Oklahoma, in response to the Sooner State’s recent LGBTQ adoption law.

As the political journal The Hill reports, late last week the California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement reading, in part, “California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry and in support of those who would be harmed by this prejudiced policy.”

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Many sports fans across the Texas Panhandle were left scratching their heads on Wednesday, while others erupted in outrage, as the five finalists for the name of Amarillo’s new baseball team were announced.

The five finalists are: The Amarillo Boot Scoters, the Amarillo Bronc Busters, the Amarillo Jerky, the Amarillo Long Haulers, and the Amarillo Sod Poodles.

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The recent teachers’ strike in the Sooner State has led The New Yorker to publish an investigation into how the somewhat unsuccessful teacher protests have spawned a “movement of politically engaged” Oklahomans.

In response to the walkout this year, Oklahoma Republicans offered the state’s teachers $6,000 raises. The GOP lawmakers funded the raises with a series of measures that will disproportionately hit the wallets of low-income residents.

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In a unanimous vote, the Amarillo City Council has now approved plans for a proposed Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo.

As the Amarillo Globe-News reports, the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has pledged to give almost $70 million toward the completion of the $90 million project.

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A couple of weeks ago, HPPR reported on a herd of buffalo the state of Oklahoma had put up for auction.

The herd, consisting of around 60 head of bison, was located at Foss State Park, near Elk City, about 90 miles west of Oklahoma City. The animals were being auctioned on the state of Oklahoma’s surplus auction site.

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It appears that the Texas foster care system still needs a good deal of work, despite a federal order to overhaul the system.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, last month 50 foster children were forced to sleep in Child Protective Services offices for at least two consecutive nights as they awaited placement.

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Texas voters participated in a runoff election on Tuesday, with decisions being finalized in both major statewide races and local Panhandle races.

Statewide, in the race to decide Gov. Greg Abbot’s Democratic challenger this November, Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez defeated Texas businessman Andrew White. If she’s victorious this November, CNN notes, Valdez would be the state’s first lesbian and first Latina governor.        

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As Texas reels from yet another school shooting, as 10 students were killed in the small suburb of Santa Fe over the weekend, officials in the Lone Star State are at loggerheads about how to deal with the problem.

As USA Today reports, Texas Attorney General Dan Patrick reiterated his belief that state lawmakers should not tighten gun laws in the wake of the tragedy. Meanwhile, the police chief of Houston, the largest city in Texas, of which Santa Fe is a suburb, said he did not believe that “thoughts and prayers” were enough.

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Primary runoff elections will be held across Texas tomorrow.

As The Texas Tribune reports, in more than 30 races statewide, no candidate drew more than 50 percent of the vote. That means Texans will go to the polls to decide between the candidates who placed first and second in those races. The most high-profile race is for which Democratic contender will face off against Gov. Greg Abbott this November.

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Businesses in the Lone Star State are growing increasingly worried that President Trump's “America first” economic policies might do harm to trade between Texas and Mexico.

As the BBC reports, Texas industry leaders are worried that Trump’s hostility toward the North American Free Trade Agreement could cut into profits and lead to job losses.

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Last year, Texas rejected almost 2,500 vanity license plates that violated approval guidelines. As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles turned down the requests for a variety of reasons, including messages that were too political or too sexy.

Some of the requested messages that ran afoul of political guidelines included plates reading NOTRUMP, NOBAMA, and N2TRUMP.

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Oklahoma's Mary Fallin has been much in the news over the past week, as the governor signed one controversial piece of legislation and vetoed another.

As CBS news reports, late last week Fallin vetoed a bill that would have allowed Oklahoma residents to carry firearms without any type of license or certification. This so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill sailed through both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature with only opposition from some Democrats.

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When it comes to the availability of help for those addicted to drugs, Texas performs worse than any other state.

According to a new study by the personal finance website Wallethub, Texas lands at the top of the list of states with the fewest substance abuse treatment facilities per 100,000 residents.

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The State of Oklahoma is auctioning off an entire herd of buffalo, KOKH reports.

The herd of bison is currently located at Foss State Park, near Elk City, about 90 miles west of Oklahoma City. The herd consists of around 50 buffalo.

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A new wind turbine in the Texas Panhandle is the largest in the United States.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the turbine is located at the UL Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility at West Texas A&M University, in Randall County.

The hub of the turbine stands 427 feet above the ground, and the tip of a blade at its highest point rises to 654 feet. By comparison, that’s one hundred feet taller than the Washington Monument, and over twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

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The Texas Panhandle has seen a high number of wildfires in recent years, as climate change and drought take their toll. Last year alone, grass fires in Potter, Gray, Wheeler and other Panhandle counties burned more than half a million acres and killed four people.  

Now, as The Texas Observer reports, that problem may be about to get worse. Experts say a federal initiative called the Conservation Reserve Program has exacerbated the fire risk.

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Beto O'Rourke, the young West Texas congressman who is challenging Ted Cruz for his Senate seat, will be in Amarillo this weekend as his campaign gears up for the final six months before the election.

As KFDA reports, the Democrat will host a town hall meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Sunday evening. The event will be held at In This Moment, at 3941 N. Western in Amarillo.

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Motivated by the rise of Donald Trump, a plethora of first-time candidates have added their names to ballots in Texas--and many of them are women.

As The Guardian reports, these candidates are hoping to ride to victory on what many political observers are predicting will be a blue wave of Democratic voters this November in the Lone Star State.

Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson / The Texas Tribune

Three years after one of the worst droughts in Wichita Falls history, life is returning to normal. But as Texas creeps back into a drought, water experts say residents in the city and around the state can do more to conserve water and prepare for the next shortage, which is always on the horizon.

From The Texas Tribune:

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Oklahoma Gov, Mary Fallin has vetoed a measure that would have moved “Native American Day” in Oklahoma from its current date in November to Oct. 8, which is currently Columbus Day.

As The Tulsa World reports, House Bill 2661 had already passed the state House and Senate by wide margins. The bill was authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin and Sen. John Sparks, both members of the Cherokee Nation. Hoskins called Fallin’s veto “a slap in the face to the 38 federally recognized tribal governments in Oklahoma.”

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You might remember how, three years ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas State Guard to monitor federal military training operations in West Texas. The military exercise was known as “Jade Helm,” and Gov. Abbott insisted he wanted to keep an eye on federal troops in case the training exercise was actually part of a secret plot President Obama was planning, to use the military to round up his political enemies.

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The Oklahoma State Senate has approved a measure that would allow citizens to carry firearms without any kind of permit.

As the online politics journal The Hill reports, the measure passed on a vote of 33 to nine late Wednesday night, after being added to the agenda at the last minute.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera: O'Rourke/Robin Jerstad: Cruz / The Texas Tribune

 "A debate in Spanish would not be very good because my Spanish isn’t good enough," U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said at a campaign event Tuesday afternoon, "but I look forward to debating Congressman O’Rourke."

From The Texas Tribune:

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