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.   

KanCare.ks.gov

Three years ago the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback privatized Kansas’s $3 billion Medicaid system and named it KanCare. Since then, the program has been the subject of a great deal of criticism. Last week a number of individuals testified before the joint House and Senate oversight committee, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. Those who spoke before the committee provided “unvarnished critiques” of the program.

ApartmentList.com

According to the new rental report on ApartmentList.com, Texas rental growth is still on par with the nation overall. In Texas, apartment rental rates are now up over the last year by around 3 percent. The average price of a one bedroom in Texas is $1000. For a two bedroom, it’s $1070.

Addison is Texas’s most expensive city, with a median two bedroom price of $1740. Dallas is second.

Public Domain

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service. In celebration, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado is waiving its admission fees for all of 2016. Starting last week, the national park will be free to all visitors. “We think of this as a gift to both the traveling public and local folks,” said Park Superintendent Alexa Roberts. She added, “It seems like a great way [for] those from the local area who have not visited recently to reconnect with the national park here in their own backyard.”

John Hanna / AP photo

Unemployment is down and wages are up in Kansas. But one sector is struggling. Corrections officers are leaving the state in large numbers because of low pay, reports The Topeka Capital-Journal. The exodus has triggered a public safety crisis. Legislators are grappling with the issue on top of trying to fix the state’s budget crisis. Starting pay for Kansas corrections officers is 33 percent lower than the state’s average hourly wage of just over $20.

Kansas City Star

Kansas hepatitis C patients who drink alcohol or stop using their medications could be in trouble, reports The Kansas City Star. A Kansas legislative panel recommended last week that these Hep C patients should lose their Medicaid coverage. The KanCare Oversight Committee also recommended that the state health department use “step therapy.” This is a process that requires Medicaid patients to try cheaper treatments first and receive more expensive treatments only if the other medicines fail.

Joe Amon / The Denver Post

A couple of weeks ago more than 200 Muslim workers walked off their jobs at a Cargill meat plant in eastern Colorado. Now the vast majority of those workers have been fired, reports The Denver Post.

Penn State/pennstatenews / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma women working full time in 2014 earned about 78 percent of their male counterparts, reports NewsOK. The data comes from estimates by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. There was no improvement from last year’s ratio, which was also 78 percent. Oklahoma has a worse percentage than the nation overall. In the U.S., women's median weekly pay was about 82 percent of the pay for men.

Joe Raedle / Newsmakers

Last Thursday marked a historic day for the Texas oil and gas industry, reports Bloomberg. The first U.S. shipment of crude oil to an overseas buyer departed Corpus Christi last week.

Cyrus McCrimmon / The Denver Post

In the past year Colorado’s child abuse hotline received over 200,000 calls. That’s a large number, considering this was the hotline’s first year of existence. But the number is deceiving, reports The Denver Post. Almost 80 percent of those calls came from law enforcement, school officials, and others required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect. That means everyday people, neighbors and community members, simply aren’t picking up the phone.

RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER / Minneapolis Star Tribune

When dating, we often look for that perfect combination of good looks, ambition, and a sense of humor. But according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, there’s another factor you may be considering without realizing it. That extra element is kindness. Researchers have found that benevolence is one of the most important qualities in a romantic partner. 

Texas Tribune

New abortion laws went into effect in Texas on the New Year. Texas Public Radio has published an overview of the way the legislature has tightened restrictions for underage Texas women. State law already required those under 18 to get a sign-off from a parent before receiving an abortion. But a judge can circumvent the requirement if they think the parent will harm the young woman.

Jim Bickel / The Oklahoman

Oklahoma had more earthquakes in 2015 than every continental state combined, reports Oklahoma City station KOCO. 49 U.S. states—excluding the massive Alaska—recorded a total of almost 1,600 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or greater last year. Of those, almost 900 were in Oklahoma. The other states had a combined total of 729.

mcdarius / Flickr Creative Commons

Beginning early next month Kansas Geological Survey crews will begin studying almost 600 Kansas wells. The research is part of an effort to measure changes in groundwater levels, reports KAKE.

Tanya Spillane / Flickr Creative Commons

A raft of new laws went into effect in Colorado last week, reports Fox 31 Denver.

One major law will mean money in the pockets of the state’s lowest-paid workers. The minimum wage jumped eight cents, to $8.31. The minimum for tipped workers is now up from $5.21 to $5.29. However, this is a small raise compared to the $15 wage some workers had asked for. The new rate is merely part of a state mandate that the minimum wage be adjusted for inflation each year.

R0Ng / Creative Commons

Texas’s new open carry legislation took effect last week, and the Austin American-Statesman has published a list of everything you need to know about the new law. There are almost a million Texans with concealed handgun licenses, and these citizens are all now allowed to carry their handguns openly in public. Handguns must be kept in a belt or shoulder holster.

KFOR.com

An animal shelter was at the epicenter of an Edmond, Oklahoma, earthquake last week, reports ABC 13 Houston. The 4.3 magnitude quake rattled the building around 5:40 a.m. last Tuesday. The shaking earth sent tile and light fixtures crashing down on top of cages and cracked cinder block walls.

Kansas City Star

Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which stops at six cities in Kansas, posted a record year with more than 367,000 passengers on its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. The Kansas City Star reports that the Jayhawk state accounted for almost 50,000 of those passengers, a slight increase over last year. Nationwide, Amtrak carried almost 31 million passengers in 2015.

Wikimedia / Creative Commons

On Christmas Eve the Colorado Department of Education announced that the state would switch its mandatory standardized high school test from the ACT to the SAT, reports Channel 9 News Denver. The ACT had been given to Colorado students since 2001. Some parents and educators weren’t pleased with the timing of the announcement.

OK.gov

It’s been a tough year for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin. And things won’t be getting easier anytime soon. When the Legislature convenes in February, it will face a projected budget shortfall of almost a billion dollars, reports Politico.

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