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.   

Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislature has been hard at work this month trying to come up with a budget. And among those watching the proceedings closely, says The Texas Tribune, few have more to lose than Texas’s colleges and universities.

Even as enrollments continue to rise statewide, many schools are likely to see funding cuts. That means less money for more students.

KSN

This week, officers of the Garden City Police Department were called out to investigate a potential threat of violence at Garden City High School.

As KSN reports, this is the third Garden City arrest made in recent weeks, related to teenage bullying or threats of violence.

Colorado Department of Agriculture

Industrial hemp is making headlines once again on the High Plains. The versatile plant—which lacks the levels of THC required to get a person high—still suffers from prejudice by association, and hemp growers aren’t able to access the same farm loans and insurance as other crop growers.

RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post

Colorado Republicans have now pulled the plug on a bill that sought to repeal the state’s health care exchange, reports The Denver Post.

Meanwhile, rural hospitals received a bit of good news. The Colorado Legislature has passed a bill preventing $528 million in cuts to hospital funding. Some conservative lawmakers opposed the bill, as they say it will only lead to more spending and debt. Instead, they said the measure should have gone to the voters.

Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas Legislature continues to struggle with ways to increase tax revenue and fill the state’s staggering budget gap of almost a billion dollars.

As The Topeka Capital-Journal reports, a tax committee appointed by the Senate has proposed a bill to raise the upper rate for income tax while reducing the rate for the lower bracket. The bill would also lower the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax on groceries to 6 percent in 2020.

ACLU / Twitter

In the wake of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s signing of legislation making so-called “sanctuary cities” illegal, the American Civil Liberties Union this week issued a strongly worded “travel advisory” for those thinking of visiting the Lone Star State.

As The Hill reports, the advisory warns that potential travelers to Texas may encounter “illegal arrests,” “racial profiling,” and “demands to see your papers.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

New research suggests the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history may have been caused by hydraulic fracturing that occurred years before the event itself, StateImpact Oklahoma reports.

Elizabeth Brockway / Daily Beast

A new Texas bill could allow adoption agencies to reject potential new parents based on their religion or sexual orientation, CNN reports.

Lawmakers insist their bill does not amount to discrimination, however, because the measure requires that the rejected applicants be given choices from other agencies than the one that rejected them.

MyHighPlains.com

Amarillo held citywide elections this weekend, and according to myhighplains.com for the first time in 70 years, all incumbent candidates on the City Council were defeated.

Bob Daemmerich / Texas Tribune

A bill that would make it illegal for cities to refuse orders to arrest undocumented immigrants cleared its final hurdle in the Texas Legislature last week.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the controversial measure banning so-called “sanctuary cities” now heads to the desk of Governor Greg Abbot, to become law. Abbott is expected to sign it.

Yi-Chin Li / Houston Chronicle

Texans may soon no longer be required to get their vehicles inspected, reports The Houston Chronicle.

State lawmakers last week approved Senate Bill 1588, which would ensure that annual state safety inspections are no longer required for all personal vehicles. Commercial vehicles would still need to be inspected, however, and some cars in urban areas with smog problems will still need to pass emissions tests.

amarillo.com

Amarilloans head to the polls tomorrow to cast their votes in city-wide elections.

According to The Amarillo Globe-News, early-voting turnout has been stronger this election than in the last three Amarillo elections.

Avery White / Oceti Sakowin Camp / Creative Commons

A bill is making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature that would result in stiff penalties for some activists who protest on state land.

As StateImpact Oklahoma reports, House Bill 1123 would outlaw trespassing on what the legislation calls “critical infrastructure,” a blanket term that includes dams, water treatment and chemical plants, to oil and gas hubs, petroleum refineries and storage facilities.

amazon.com

A new book about a troubling episode in Oklahoma’s history is drawing a good deal of attention from critics. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI is an incisive investigation into the mass murder of Osage Indians in Oklahoma—natives who were put to death so that their oil could be confiscated by white speculators.

Texas Tribune

This week the Texas Senate gave the nod to new legislation known as the Sandra Bland Act, named for the black woman who was found hanged in a cell while in police custody two years ago.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A new study has found that the most practical way to deal with leftover wastewater from fracking sites is to reuse the water rather than simply disposing of it. As StateImpact reports, the report from the Produced Water Working Group suggests that wastewater injection can be reduced by reuse.

Miguel Gutierrez Jr / KUT

A recent poll found that, in a head-to-head matchup, sitting U.S. Senator Ted Cruz would lose to Democratic challenger Rep. Joaquin Castro if the election were held today.

Now, as POLITICO reports, that scenario appears to be an impossibility. Castro announced this week that he would not run for the Senate, instead remaining in the House to focus on national security issues.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

While most Texans were asleep in their beds last Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives tentatively approved a Senate bill that would make so-called “sanctuary” cities illegal in the Lone Star State.

As The Texas Tribune reports, the 93-54 vote fell along party lines. The approval came at three a.m., after 16 hours of contentious and sometimes even tearful debate.

Marion Doss / Flickr Creative Commons

In recent eras, America’s big cities grappled with large numbers of young people who weren’t in school and didn’t have jobs.

Flickr Creative Commons

Some High Plains states are proposing bills that would allow climate change denial to be taught in public schools, under the rubric of “academic freedom,” reports Vice.

Stock Photo/Norman Transcript

The number of incarcerated inmates in Oklahoma has reached 62,000, reports The Norman Transcript.

The state’s prisons are currently at 109% capacity. Back in December the state of Oklahoma hit a new prison population record of 61,000. Now, in only four months, 1,000 inmates have been added to that record.

WFAA

A Texas teacher and Army veteran is taking on what he calls state-endorsed shaming at public-school cafeteria counters.

As WFAA reports, Kelvin Holt says he became concerned when he saw a cafeteria worker admonish a child who didn’t have enough money to pay for her meal, then tossing the food out and giving the child a lesser substitute.

Jonathan Baker

Thousands of High Plains residents were without power on Sunday afternoon, reports Amarillo.com, after snowstorms blanketed the region and strong winds brought down branches and power lines.

The snowfall broke records for the end of April across much of the area. According to Wes Reeves, spokesman for Xcel Energy, the power company was working to get more than 13,000 Xcel customers who’d lost power up and running again.

Bies / Flickr Creative Commons

In the State of Texas, the death rate for new mothers is now higher than any other place in the developed world.

Sanofi Pasteur / KUT

Texas has seen 221 cases of mumps this year. That’s more cases than at any time in the past 20 years, reports KUT.

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.

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