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.   

Michael Stravato / Texas Tribune

High Plains residents may be wondering if their states plan to turn over private voting information to President Trump’s controversial commission to investigate supposed voter fraud during the 2016 presidential election.

The commission is already off to a rocky start.

The President has asked all fifty states to hand over a wide range of voting data, and the request has been met with responses ranging from acceptance to skepticism to outrage.

At least 25 states have refused on some level to turn over the requested info.

mytraveltips.org

The feud between Texas and California is growing more heated, and the flames of resentment are being fueled by the President, reports POLITICO. The states have locked horns on matters ranging from tax policy to climate change to immigration policy. California recently instituted a ban on state-sponsored travel to Texas.

Wikimedia Commons

We here at HPPR want to wish our family of listeners a safe and happy Independence Day.

In honor of the holiday, here are some interesting facts about July Fourth, courtesy of Business Insider.

Todd Wiseman / Texas Tribune

An upcoming Supreme Court case involving a Colorado wedding cake shop’s refusal to serve a gay couple could have major implications in Texas.

As The Texas Tribune reports, in 2012 a baker at the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado denied service to a gay couple, citing his own religious exceptions to gay marriage. If the high court rules in favor of the baker, the decision could affect a number of recent prominent cases in Texas.

Clifton Adcock / Oklahoma Watch

New criminal justice laws in Oklahoma, approved by voters last November, went into effect last week but as Oklahoma Watch reports, the laws are still shrouded in uncertainty.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Since before he was elected, President Donald Trump has been touting a $1 trillion proposal to overhaul the infrastructure of the United States.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

Texas and nine other conservative states are threatening to sue the Trump administration unless the White House stops offering deportation relief and work permits to so-called “DREAMers.”

Stephen Pingry / Tulsa World

Oklahoma began its new budgetary year on Friday, and Gov. Mary Fallin published an editorial in the Stillwater News Press defending her state’s accomplishments. While she acknowledged that the past session was challenging, she asserted that Oklahoma lawmakers were able “to fund core mission services such as education, health and human services, and public safety.”

rainbow / Wikimedia Commons

The Texas Legislature will meet next month in a special session, and LGBT advocates are gearing up for battle once again.

As The San Antonio Current reports, champions of LGBT rights have already named the 2017 Texas legislative session “The Session of Oppression.”

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A new service in the State of Oklahoma hopes to ensure that voters never miss another election.

As KOSU reports, the new alert system from the Oklahoma State Election Board will send out notices to interested voters whenever an election is around the corner. The service will also remind voters when it’s time to renew their annual absentee ballot requests.

The issue of vehicle inspections gained some attention earlier this year, after the Texas Senate approved a bill that would make the necessity for inspections a thing of the past.

Erika Rich / Texas Tribune

Texas’s controversial “sanctuary cities” law is set to take effect on Sept. 1 and this week marks the beginning of a series of hearings to determine whether the law is actually legal.

As The Texas Tribune reports, some Texas communities began fighting the bill almost as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott signed it.

With Houston signing onto the lawsuit last week, the largest cities in the state are all lodging protests to the immigration enforcement law.

Michael Stravato / The New York Times

The New York Times recently spoke with immigrants in Texas who had fled repressive regimes, and many of them noted unsettling similarities between the countries they left and the current administration in Washington.

More than one of the immigrants mentioned the recent cabinet meeting where President Donald Trump had members of his cabinet go around the room, praising him.

The Oklahoman

The teacher crisis in Oklahoma doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, reports The Oklahoman.

Last year, Oklahoma was forced to certify 1,100 emergency teachers to plug unfilled jobs due to low pay and teachers moving out of state. This year, the state Board of Education has already approved 224 more emergency certificates. Emergency teachers are hired without the traditional training expected of a public-school teacher. These last-minute stop-gap educators are forced to learn on the job.

San Antonio Express News

In a recent editorial in the San Antonio Express-News, two prominent Texas economists suggested ways to revitalize the rural economy in Texas.

Many people in Texas yearn for small-town life, write Thomas Tunstall and Gil Gonzalez, but their rural work options are limited. An investment in rural infrastructure, including broadband, would help this problem.

Jerry Lara / San Antonio Express News

The State of Texas is putting the brakes on the idea of debtors jail, reports The San Antonio Express News. For decades, the Lone Star State has been tossing people in jail when they were unable to pay fines.

Last year, over half a million Texans served time for unpaid parking tickets and the court fines. But beginning in September, judges will begin considering the economic status of defendants before sending them to jail.

abc7amarillo.com

As Amarillo gears up to welcome minor league baseball to the yet-to-be built stadium downtown, HPPR thought it might be good to help High Plains folks brush up on their minor league knowledge.

Dustyn Rappe / Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma will soon make its statewide reading test more difficult, and the change could result in more students being forced to repeat the third grade.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the important, high-stakes test is already difficult for some. Last year, 12 percent of Oklahoma third graders received a grade of “unsatisfactory.”

Billy Hathorn / Wikimedia Commons

The Eastern Panhandle Farmers' Market will begin this Wednesday, in Wheeler.

As The Pampa News reports, the market will begin at three p.m. on the east side of the Wheeler courthouse. The Farmer’s Market will welcome vendors from Wheeler, Gray, Collingsworth, and Hemphill counties, and will run until about six p.m. Another market will be held on Saturday July 1, from 9 a.m. til noon, and farmer’s markets will continue through the summer every Wednesday and Saturday until October.

Justyna Furmanczyk / Texas Tribune

Texas has been booming since 2010, and new census bureau numbers show that Hispanics account for a major part of that growth.

amarillo.com

The announcement that Amarillo’s downtown area will soon receive a minor league baseball team is just the latest boon to an already healthy economy in the center of the city.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, Amarillo’s downtown area already has 16 commercial development projects in the works. The projects are worth a combined $150 million dollars to the local economy.

Erika Rich / Texas Tribune

Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the so-called “sanctuary cities” bill into law, several Texas communities have signed onto a lawsuit in hopes of stopping the law before it goes into effect.

The suit was originally brought by Maverick County and the West Texas City of El Cenizo. But now, El Paso County and the cities of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas have also signed on to the suit.

Sirdle / Flickr Creative Commons

In a new report, the top scientists in Texas have concluded that the hydraulic drilling process known as fracking pollutes the air, erodes soil and contaminates water.

As the San Antonio Express-News reports, the report also confirmed other studies that have found that wastewater disposal from fracking can lead to seismic activity.

Scott Slusher / The Guardian

The world is changing rapidly, and it’s hard not to wonder what the future will look like for the High Plains cowboy.

Locating cowhands to help with branding and vaccinations has been a tough proposition in many communities for years now, and some ranching operations now employ helicopters and drone technology to increase profits.

Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Yesterday HPPR reported on a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll that showed Gov. Greg Abbott outperforming Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus among Texas voters. Today, we’re going to see how Texans are feeling about some of the state’s other lawmakers.

The Oklahoman

At the end of this month, Oklahoma’s state Capitol building will celebrate its one-hundredth birthday.

As The Oklahoman reports, the state has several events planned for June 30, to mark the occasion.

The Oklahoma Capitol building, located on over 100 acres in northwest Oklahoma City, holds 650 rooms and 11 acres of floor space.

Jacob Villanueva / Texas Tribune

According to a recent poll, Gov. Greg Abbott remains the most popular politician in Texas.

The latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll shows Abbott with a 45 percent approval rating, while 38 percent of the electorate disapproves of the job he’s been doing. However, Abbott’s disapproval rating has risen five points from 33 percent since the last poll, which was taken in February.

Wallethub

In an increasingly complex world, people want to make sure their communities are safe. To that end, the personal-financial website WalletHub has compiled a list ranking states in order of safety—and the High Plains put in a rather poor showing.

Not a single state in the HPPR listening region appeared in the top half of states when it comes to safety. Colorado performed the best among HPPR states, falling at number 29 on the list.

Creative Commons

The number of kids who participate in Oklahoma's Federal summer-meal program declined again last year.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, participation levels in the summer meal program were already very low, even before the drop.

Last year, fewer than five out of every 100 eligible children took advantage of the free or reduced-price lunches. That number constitutes a decrease of a nine percent from the previous year.

Flickr Creative Commons

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case on Congressional redistricting that could have future implications for the balance of power in the Lone Star State.

As The Dallas Morning News reports, the case centers on a redistricting effort in Wisconsin that resembles in many ways the attempts by the Texas GOP to redraw district lines to favor their own party, a process known as "gerrymandering."

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