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.   

storageioblog.com

A group of Oklahoma students have found a way to turn trash into energy, reports KFOR. The students, along with staff members at Oklahoma State University, have patented a process they call “gasification.” The new system could be a game-changer. The name of the project is “Renewable Energy Power on Demand,” or “RE-PODS” for short. The program takes garbage and transforms it into “syngas,” which can run specially-made generators.

Courtesy of Raymond Scwhab

Raymond Schwab, a US veteran and a native Kansan, has become a lightning rod in the interstate battle over legalized marijuana, reports The Guardian. Tensions have been running high between Colorado and neighboring states whose residents want to purchase cannabis.

Rural Blog

The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is scheduled for Feb. 12-15, reports The Rural Blog. That’s this coming Friday through Monday. The National Audubon Society is asking people to take 15 minutes on one or more of these days to count birds from any location. Participants should then create a checklist of the birds they spot. The Great Backyard Bird Count was created in 1998 by the ornithology lab at Cornell University. 

Shutterstock

When it comes to supporting public schools, all 50 states are doing a bad job, according to a new study. A report card was issued this week by the Network for Public Education, says The Washington Post. Some states fared better than others, though no state scored above a C grade.

americanaddictionnetwork.com

Colorado ranks among the best states in the nation when it comes to education, a booming economy, and the well-being of its residents. But there’s another factor where Colorado rates above average, and this one isn’t something to be proud of. Deaths from drug overdoses in Colorado are above national rates, reports Colorado Public Radio. And some counties are among the nation’s highest.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Fees and federal dollars pay for many of Oklahoma’s air and land programs. But the water system is funded by the state. And when it comes to paying for oversight and inspection of its local water systems, Oklahoma is failing, according to member station KOSU. Oklahoma’s Department of Environmental Quality, like many government agencies in the state, has faced years of funding cuts. Legislative appropriations have declined by roughly 30 percent since 2009.

Prowers Journal

The Veteran’s Health Administration is enhancing eastern Colorado’s Veteran’s Choice Program, reports The Prowers Journal. The new eligibility changes will address excessive burdens veterans may face in order to receive VA care. The changes will impact clinics located in Lamar, La Junta, Burlington and Salida.

Gallup-Healthways

Gallup has released a new index, ranking all states according to the well-being of their citizens. Texas's index number is high compared to other states, reports KUT. Even so, Texans say they’re not as well-off as they were a year ago.

Michael Schumacher / amarillo.com

Amarillo.com has published a fascinating glimpse into the life of an Amarillo transit driver. The driver explains what it was like to grow up in the Panhandle as a person of color. “I do remember having a lot of problems during high school integration back in 1967,” explains Clarence Bolton. He continues: “I went from Carver, over in the Heights, to Palo Duro High School. . . . There was a little racism going on as people tried to accept the integration. . . . We were the start of integration. .

Win McNamee / Getty Images

The past few years have seen an aggressive campaign to defund Planned Parenthood in Texas. And now those cuts have resulted in a steep drop in contraception and a 27% increase in births, reports The Guardian. The information comes from a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

By Leaflet - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.07 / Wikimedia Commons

If you enjoyed the massive amounts of rain most of the High Plains received last year, you may not want to get too used to it.  The weather patterns that brought moisture to the southwestern United States in 2015 were unusual. And these wet patterns have become more rare over the last 35 years, reports Colorado Public Radio.

Mose Buchele / KUT news

Since the birth of Texas cattle rustlers have been a scourge in the state. But now, reports KUT, the slumping oil market has given rise to a new kind of criminal in South Texas: oil rustlers. Thieves have been sneaking into well sites and stealing the crude oil, and it’s becoming a big problem.

www.seniorliving.org / Flickr Creative Commons

Thousands of Colorado families could soon be eligible for more than $70 million in refunds, reports KDVR. The new tax rebates are a result of the return of the Colorado Earned Income Tax Credit. This tax credit hasn’t been available since 1999. But lawmakers recently voted to bring it back.

zastayki / Creative Commons

A group of Oklahomans is launching a petition drive to place an alcohol measure on the November election ballot, reports Public Radio Tulsa. The group is calling for the sale of strong beer and wine at Oklahoma’s grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores.

Kansas City Star

Last week a bill was proposed in the Kansas House of Representatives that would have given the governor more control over Supreme Court appointments. But the measure died Thursday, reports The Kansas City Star. The bill would have amended the Kansas constitution and given the governor full authority to select justices, subject to Senate confirmation.

Jen Reel / Texas Observer

Pregnant women are often treated terribly while in Texas jails, according to a revealing new story in The Texas Observer. Since 1980, the number of incarcerated women in the U.S. has quadrupled. But jails and prisons have often neglected the needs of pregnant inmates. 300 to 500 pregnant women are booked into Texas county jails each month. Dozens gave birth while in custody last year.

salina.com

The High Plains has its very own Indiana Jones, and he’s alive and well, reports Salina.com. Bob Levin, a resident of Smith Center, Kansas, is an amateur paleontologist. He’s spent a lifetime hunting fossils. Over the years, he’s amassed a collection of 6,000 artifacts.

Eric Gay / AP photo

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has announced plans to reduce its aerial surveillance on the Texas-Mexico border. On Monday Gov. Greg Abbott and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Laredo Democrat, asked to know why.

Chris Neal / AP photo

Two years later, Kansas lawmakers are still debating a controversial sex ed poster, reports The Kansas City Star. The poster was titled “How do people express their sexual feelings?” and included such terms as “oral sex,” “anal sex” and “vaginal intercourse.” The poster was informational and contained no images. Yet Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, is sponsoring a bill that would make it easier to prosecute teachers for materials considered harmful to minors.

Zitona Qatar / Creative Commons

If you want to be truly happy, says The Rural Blog, you might consider moving to Hawaii. The Aloha State grabbed the top spot in the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index. The poll ranked states based on a 100 point scale for various elements of a happy life, including Purpose, Social, Financial, Community, and Physical wellbeing.

www.travelnursesource.com

Another rural hospital has closed, this time in western Oklahoma, reports The Times Record. Sayre Memorial Hospital in Sayre, Oklahoma, abruptly shut its doors on Monday. The facility blamed “continual financial strain.” Oklahoma’s GOP leaders have refused to expand Medicaid, leading to a drop in income for many hospitals across the state.

Stephen Locke / http://tempestgallery.com

Green Landscapes has rated Kansas in the top seven places in the world to view a sunset. Kansas was the only place in the U.S. selected. Stephen Locke takes some of the most breathtaking sunset photos in the state.

Note: HPPR has permission from the artist to publish these photos.

http://smartercharger.com

The vast majority of air pollution is generated by a very small minority of industrial facilities, reports The Rural Blog. A new study has found that 5% of plants are responsible for about 90% of industry-generated pollution in the U.S. Researchers refer to these facilities as “hyper-polluters.” Almost all of the air pollution created in the United States is pumped out by roughly 800 industrial facilities.

gizmodo

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to legalize marijuana for recreational use, reports globalpost.com. The plan could generate up to 5 billion dollars’ worth of Canadian tax revenue, a study says. Canada’s capital of Ottawa and its provincial governments have been facing revenue crunches in the wake of falling commodity prices. So Trudeau decided to explore how much revenue could be generated from legalizing pot.

Melissa del Bosque / Texas Observer

According to The Texas Observer, more than 1 million poor Texas adults will remain without insurance if Texas doesn’t expand Medicaid, experts say. According to a new report, uninsured Texans say cost is the main reason they do not have insurance. Researchers found that 70 percent of uninsured Texans find health insurance too expensive.

Tom Dart / The Guardian

The World Health Organization recently warned that the Zika virus is spreading “explosively” through the Americas. Some experts estimate there could be as many as four million infections across the two continents over the next year, reports The Guardian. And Texas is perfectly situated to allow the virus to flourish.

amarillolivestockauction.com

There’s a new online auction that could shake up the U.S. pricing model for cattle, reports globalpost.com. The auction made its public debut last week after a test run, with the support of the world's largest meatpacker. Exchange-operator CME Group Inc said the online auction was an effort to improve cattle futures after complaints about extreme volatility.

dailyonder.com

Swaths of western Kansas saw a rise in unemployment over the past year, reports Kansas Agland. The increased jobless rate was concentrated in northwest Kansas and parts of southeast Kansas, according to data from the Department of Labor. Meanwhile, unemployment rates fell in northeast Kansas and the southcentral part of the state. During the past year the overall unemployment rate fell from 4.2 percent to 3.9.

Prairie Plains Resource Institute

From Harvest Public Media:

From the air, the Midwest looks like a patchwork of cropland and pastures. But before the land was turned over to plows and center pivots, most of it was a sea of grass. 

Native grasslands were first plowed by pioneers homesteading on the plains. More land was converted to crops as tractors and machinery arrived on the farm and conversion of land intensified. 

Center for Public Policy Priorities

In Texas the cost of the GED test has tripled in some areas, reports The Texas Observer. To combat the rising test price, Board of Education members approved two new testing options for Texans seeking their state high school equivalency certificates.

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