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.   

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.

LM Otero / AP photo

Nearly three years ago in the Central Texas town of West a fertilizer plant exploded. Fifteen died and more than 260 others were injured in the explosion. The proximity of the plant to homes and schools contributed to the widespread damage and death caused by the blast. Now, according to The New York Times, a lack of regulation is putting other communities at risk of disaster.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has approved the transfer of well over a million dollars from the state emergency fund to strengthen Oklahoma’s earthquake response. The money will go toward researching the state’s recent earthquake surge, and toward regulating the oil and gas activity that’s likely causing it.

The New York Times

  The New York Times recently mapped America’s uninsured. And when you view the map as a whole, clear regional patterns are emerging about who has health insurance in America and who still doesn’t. The remaining uninsured are primarily in the South and the Southwest. They tend to be poor people who live in Republican-leaning states. Texas and Oklahoma are particularly dark on the map, showing large rates of uninsured.

RedOrbit.com

When you think of dinosaurs you probably don’t think of the jitterbug. But a new study claims that the ancient creatures were, in fact, known to cut a rug. According to redorbit.com, dinosaurs danced to impress potential mates and as a way of scaring off enemies.

M. Spencer Green / AP photo

A Kansas senate panel has put forth a bill that would make it illegal for banks and other businesses to discriminate against gun dealers. But the law is drawing criticism, reports The Wichita Eagle. Critics are upset that the Kansas legislature would propose a bill to protect discrimination of gun dealers, when officials will not amend the bill to protect other groups that are frequently discriminated against.

Prowers Journal

Colorado’s unemployment rate decreased one-tenth of a percentage point in December to 3.5 percent, reports The Prowers Journal. During the same period, the national unemployment rate remained unchanged from at 5.0 percent. Two southeast Colorado counties—Baca and Kiowa—had the lowest posted unemployment percentages in the state. Otero County had an exceptionally high rate, at 6.7 percent.

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Three weeks ago the federal government took 121 people into custody. The raid was part of a multi-state roundup of Central American families, reports The Guardian. Now seven of those detainees, who are being held in a Texas facility, have written a letter to Barack Obama. In the open letter, the immigrants plead for mercy and freedom for their families.

KFDA

The Texas A&M University system dispatched representatives to Canyon, Texas, last week to announce their support for a new veterinary school. A&M plans to open a branch of their vet school on the campus of West Texas A&M, reports KFDA.

Sue Ogrocki / AP photo

Oklahoma state officials set out a couple of years ago to find which buildings in the state were most vulnerable to earthquakes. Today, lawmakers are no closer to knowing which structures would be most likely to collapse, reports NewsOK. That’s because the team of experts the state hired never performed the work requested of them. The team balked out of fears they might be held liable should their predictions prove wrong.

American Life League / Flickr Creative Commons

Houston found itself at the center of a political firestorm this week, when a grand jury investigating wrongdoing against Planned Parenthood instead indicted two abortion opponents.

David Zalubowski / AP photo

The number of eligible Latino voters will hit a record high this year.

Sean Steffen / amarillo.com

The number of qualified applicants at the Amarillo Police Department is dwindling each year, reports Amarillo.com. Changing societal attitudes toward marijuana and public furor over police-involved shootings are making it harder for APD to attract younger officers.

James M. Dobson / Garden City Telegram

Cremations are on the rise in southwest Kansas, reports the Garden City Telegram. In fact, some funeral home directors expect cremation may become the norm rather than the exception over the next 10 years.

Wikipedia / Creative Commons

Wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power.” The implication is that wind energy is now cheaper than coal and gas power nationwide. But that’s not exactly right, reports The Rural Blog. In most of the nation, traditional power sources are still cheaper, if only slightly.

Brett Deering / New York Times

An intrepid team of insurance counselors is stepping up efforts to enroll Oklahomans in medical coverage. They’re doing all they can before the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period ends on Sunday. But, as The New York Times reports, the group is facing massive resistance. Oklahoma is one of the most hostile states to the health law.

amarillo.com

The Department of Energy recently approved plans to ramp up production of plutonium “pits” at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Pits are the cores that trigger nuclear weapons. The increase could lead to more warhead refurbishment work at the Pantex Plant northeast of Amarillo, reports Amarillo.com.

Texas Tribune

There’s a new law in Texas that makes it a felony to harbor undocumented immigrants, reports The Texas Tribune. In response to the legislation, a national civil rights group is suing the state.

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