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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Mexico has waded into the debate over “Sanctuary Cities” in Texas, reports Bloomberg.

A representative for our southern neighbors told a U.S. appeals court that the law sowed “fear, panic, and uncertainty” among Mexicans legally living in Texas.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

A new poll shows rural support for Donald Trump has declined significantly since the President took office in January, reports Newsweek.

The numbers now show an evenly split divide, with 47 percent of rural Americans disapproving of the President’s performance and the same number approving.

The new numbers reveal an 8 percent drop in approval since the inauguration, when only 37 percent of rural Americans disapproved of the President and 55 percent approved.

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Amazon’s largest wind farm to date is up and running in West Texas, reports Engadget.com.

Known as Amazon Wind Farm Texas, the wind energy operation is located in Scurry County, near Snyder, Texas.

The entire operation includes over 100 turbines and will generate enough clean energy to power more than 330,000 homes. Amazon plans to take whatever energy it needs from the farm, then sell the rest to the state’s energy users.

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Many residents of the High Plains suffer from hearing loss. Experts say if the condition goes untreated, it can lead to social withdrawal, depression and anxiety, along with poor job performance. Yet, in many places, High Plains residents have found that the condition is not covered by their medical plans.

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The average American family spends $2,000 per year on energy. But some states are far more energy efficient than others. The personal finance website Wallethub set out to discover which states are doing more with less energy.

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Suicide rates are rising in the United States and rural areas are being hit the hardest, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As WebMD reports, in the years from 2001 and 2015, suicide rates in the U.S. rose 20 percent. During that period, half a million Americans took their own lives. The problem in small towns was consistently worse than in urban areas, with rural areas showing higher suicide rates across all age groups.

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Evidence is mounting that President Donald Trump’s decision to back out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is taking a heavy economic toll on rural America, reports POLITICO.

U.S. farmers and meat producers had been looking forward to seeing Asian markets opened up to their products. Instead, countries like Japan have taken their business elsewhere, seeking to purchase meats, grains and fruits from countries with lower tariffs.

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Oklahoma’s budget crisis is threatening to eliminate important services for many of the state’s neediest residents. Three weeks ago, Gov. Mary Fallin convened a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature to address the budget gap.

But, as The Tulsa World reports, the special session has yet yielded only three weeks of closed-door meetings—and no answers to the budget dilemma. According to those familiar with the closed-door meetings, a deep political divide has paralyzed the process.

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Elections in Amarillo are less than a month away, and the League of Women voters has distributed helpful and nonpartisan information guides throughout the city to help voters understand their choices. On Nov. 7, residents of Potter and Randall County will go to the polls.

The Voters Guides will help voters gain information on seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution and the $100 million Amarillo Independent School District bond proposal. The guides will be available at some 80 locations in Amarillo and Canyon.

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In the third quarter of fundraising, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz outraised the Democrat who is trying to unseat him, reports The Texas Tribune.

Beto O’Rourke, the Spanish-speaking, Ivy League-educated former punk rocker from El Paso, has gained a good deal of national attention lately for his unorthodox campaign to challenge Cruz.

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Amarillo could soon become home to a professional soccer team from the United Soccer League, according to Soccer Stadium Digest.

As many High Plains residents are aware, Amarillo is in the process of building a new baseball stadium downtown, which will play host to the relocating Double-A San Antonio Missions. But what they may not know is that the stadium is also being designed to accommodate a United Soccer League team.

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Two weeks ago, the coal industry got a bit of good news when former Texas governor and current U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry suggested that failing coal plants be subsidized by United States taxpayers.

But coal's reprieve from bad news was short-lived, as last week the energy giant Luminant announced it would shut down three coal-fired power plants early next year.

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We tend to think of antibiotics as a method humans use to fight diseases. But, as The Guardian reports, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animals, not in humans.

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High Plains health providers are closely eyeing the action in the nation’s capital to see if Congress will find a way to renew programs that fund community health centers and children’s health insurance.

The Senate is in recess this week, and the House of Representatives is out next week, so the timeline for finding funding for the CHIP program is running out. If Congress doesn’t act, Federal funding will drop by 70 percent.

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The Texas Legislature’s controversial “bathroom bill” generated a strong backlash among the business community this year. The proposal was ultimately stopped, largely due to the moderate leadership of House Speaker Joe Straus.

Now, as The Texas Tribune reports, Straus is putting together a committee to make sure Texas is smart about attracting new companies going forward.

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The Mexican government has raised the amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline, in a move that could have a big effect on the oil and corn producers of the High Plains.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, Mexico has upped the allowable percentage of ethanol from 5.8 percent to 10 percent, which is also the level currently allowed in the U.S. Now, some of the world's biggest biofuels companies are jockeying for a position within what is the world's fourth largest gasoline market.

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Three big-name philanthropists from the Texas Panhandle have ensured that six high school students from Miami and Canadian will be able to pay for college, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

The funding comes from the Pickens-Abraham Foundation, which is a partnership between energy magnate T. Boone Pickens and Salem and Ruth Ann Abraham of Canadian. In addition to the tuition funds for the six high school students, the foundation also provides funding for the Canadian and Miami independent school districts.

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There are more than 180 monuments to the Confederacy in the state of Texas. A dozen of those are on the grounds of the State Capitol in Austin.

Now, as The Texas Tribune reports, some state lawmakers are doing their best to have those public symbols removed. Efforts to eradicate the Capitol grounds of confederate memorials sharply increased after a woman was killed during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last month.

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A new rule enacted by Donald Trump’s EPA will allow coal plants to increase the amount of pollution they pump into the atmosphere, reports The Texas Observer.

In fact, the new rule will allow coal power plants to emit almost twice as much sulfur dioxide as the previous restrictions instituted by the Obama Administration.

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Visit the Oklahoma State Capitol these days and you might be awed by the gleaming new marble floor recently installed there. But that floor is drawing the ire of some in Oklahoma, who wish the state’s lawmakers had searched for marble a bit closer to home.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Greg Abbott, the current Governor of Texas, will be seeking another term next year.

But, as The Texas Tribune notes, to claim victory again, Abbott will need to build on the success he had with Latinos when he first ran for the office in 2014.

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Amarillo College has broken ground on a new $2 million greenhouse, reports The Amarillo Globe-News.

The new greenhouse is part of AC’s pan to expand its academic programs to better serve under-represented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—better known as the STEM fields.

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A new study has found that the vast amount of animal-feed crops humans grow to satisfy the global appetite for meat is seriously harming the planet.

As The Guardian reports, the study by the World Wildlife Fund finds that the earth’s environment is being put under a heavy strain by the staggering amount of land and resources needed to grow crops like soy to feed chickens, pigs, and other animals.

Jeff Hall

Jeff Hall, a Republican from Mooreland, Okla., announced his candidacy for State Senate District 27 last week.

An Army veteran, Hall was raised in Northwest Oklahoma, where his family has roots for several generations. Hall served two tours of duty in Iraq, and retired from service in 2014. Hall currently owns a small business in Guymon.

In a press release, Hall indicated that he feared the GOP was “squandering its opportunity to lead.”

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A little-known fact about the Sooner State: Oklahoma is home to more historically black towns than any other state. Sadly, the Great Depression devastated many of these small communities of African-Americans.

But 13 of these black towns still survive, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into how communities shaped the early days of settlement in Indian Territory.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced a federal plan to subsidize coal and nuclear plants, reports Texas Monthly.

The move surprised many observers in the energy community, as the former Texas Governor had made a name for himself in the Lone Star State as a champion of renewable energy, especially wind power.

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For the first time ever in Texas, charter schools will begin receiving state funding for leasing and maintain their properties and facilities, reports The Texas Tribune.

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In recent years, trampoline parks have become a big favorite of kids. In fact, according to KHOU, trampoline parks have grown into a $300 million industry.

But in Texas, trampoline parks remain unregulated, and that could mean danger for your kids. Texas trampoline parks face no state-enacted safety requirements, no state inspections. And there are no penalties for setting up cheap or dangerous equipment.

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In her State of the City address this week, newly elected Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson praised the proactive spirit of the Yellow City.

“‘Get it done’ is part of the fabric of Amarillo,” Nelson said.

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A new report shows that big tax breaks may be causing significant harm to Oklahoma’s economy, reports KFOR. The study by a consulting group in Philadelphia reveals that one specific tax deduction alone has caused the state to lose close to half a billion dollars.

Oklahoma’s capital gains tax deduction has slashed tax revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars, while only creating an estimated $9 million in additional tax revenue.

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