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.   

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A couple of weeks ago, HPPR reported on a herd of buffalo the state of Oklahoma had put up for auction.

The herd, consisting of around 60 head of bison, was located at Foss State Park, near Elk City, about 90 miles west of Oklahoma City. The animals were being auctioned on the state of Oklahoma’s surplus auction site.

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It appears that the Texas foster care system still needs a good deal of work, despite a federal order to overhaul the system.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, last month 50 foster children were forced to sleep in Child Protective Services offices for at least two consecutive nights as they awaited placement.

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Texas voters participated in a runoff election on Tuesday, with decisions being finalized in both major statewide races and local Panhandle races.

Statewide, in the race to decide Gov. Greg Abbot’s Democratic challenger this November, Former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez defeated Texas businessman Andrew White. If she’s victorious this November, CNN notes, Valdez would be the state’s first lesbian and first Latina governor.        

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As Texas reels from yet another school shooting, as 10 students were killed in the small suburb of Santa Fe over the weekend, officials in the Lone Star State are at loggerheads about how to deal with the problem.

As USA Today reports, Texas Attorney General Dan Patrick reiterated his belief that state lawmakers should not tighten gun laws in the wake of the tragedy. Meanwhile, the police chief of Houston, the largest city in Texas, of which Santa Fe is a suburb, said he did not believe that “thoughts and prayers” were enough.

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Primary runoff elections will be held across Texas tomorrow.

As The Texas Tribune reports, in more than 30 races statewide, no candidate drew more than 50 percent of the vote. That means Texans will go to the polls to decide between the candidates who placed first and second in those races. The most high-profile race is for which Democratic contender will face off against Gov. Greg Abbott this November.

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Businesses in the Lone Star State are growing increasingly worried that President Trump's “America first” economic policies might do harm to trade between Texas and Mexico.

As the BBC reports, Texas industry leaders are worried that Trump’s hostility toward the North American Free Trade Agreement could cut into profits and lead to job losses.

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Last year, Texas rejected almost 2,500 vanity license plates that violated approval guidelines. As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles turned down the requests for a variety of reasons, including messages that were too political or too sexy.

Some of the requested messages that ran afoul of political guidelines included plates reading NOTRUMP, NOBAMA, and N2TRUMP.

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Oklahoma's Mary Fallin has been much in the news over the past week, as the governor signed one controversial piece of legislation and vetoed another.

As CBS news reports, late last week Fallin vetoed a bill that would have allowed Oklahoma residents to carry firearms without any type of license or certification. This so-called “Constitutional Carry” bill sailed through both houses of the Oklahoma Legislature with only opposition from some Democrats.

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When it comes to the availability of help for those addicted to drugs, Texas performs worse than any other state.

According to a new study by the personal finance website Wallethub, Texas lands at the top of the list of states with the fewest substance abuse treatment facilities per 100,000 residents.

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The State of Oklahoma is auctioning off an entire herd of buffalo, KOKH reports.

The herd of bison is currently located at Foss State Park, near Elk City, about 90 miles west of Oklahoma City. The herd consists of around 50 buffalo.

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A new wind turbine in the Texas Panhandle is the largest in the United States.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the turbine is located at the UL Advanced Wind Turbine Test Facility at West Texas A&M University, in Randall County.

The hub of the turbine stands 427 feet above the ground, and the tip of a blade at its highest point rises to 654 feet. By comparison, that’s one hundred feet taller than the Washington Monument, and over twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

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The Texas Panhandle has seen a high number of wildfires in recent years, as climate change and drought take their toll. Last year alone, grass fires in Potter, Gray, Wheeler and other Panhandle counties burned more than half a million acres and killed four people.  

Now, as The Texas Observer reports, that problem may be about to get worse. Experts say a federal initiative called the Conservation Reserve Program has exacerbated the fire risk.

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Beto O'Rourke, the young West Texas congressman who is challenging Ted Cruz for his Senate seat, will be in Amarillo this weekend as his campaign gears up for the final six months before the election.

As KFDA reports, the Democrat will host a town hall meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Sunday evening. The event will be held at In This Moment, at 3941 N. Western in Amarillo.

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Motivated by the rise of Donald Trump, a plethora of first-time candidates have added their names to ballots in Texas--and many of them are women.

As The Guardian reports, these candidates are hoping to ride to victory on what many political observers are predicting will be a blue wave of Democratic voters this November in the Lone Star State.

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Three years after one of the worst droughts in Wichita Falls history, life is returning to normal. But as Texas creeps back into a drought, water experts say residents in the city and around the state can do more to conserve water and prepare for the next shortage, which is always on the horizon.

From The Texas Tribune:

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Oklahoma Gov, Mary Fallin has vetoed a measure that would have moved “Native American Day” in Oklahoma from its current date in November to Oct. 8, which is currently Columbus Day.

As The Tulsa World reports, House Bill 2661 had already passed the state House and Senate by wide margins. The bill was authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin and Sen. John Sparks, both members of the Cherokee Nation. Hoskins called Fallin’s veto “a slap in the face to the 38 federally recognized tribal governments in Oklahoma.”

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You might remember how, three years ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Texas State Guard to monitor federal military training operations in West Texas. The military exercise was known as “Jade Helm,” and Gov. Abbott insisted he wanted to keep an eye on federal troops in case the training exercise was actually part of a secret plot President Obama was planning, to use the military to round up his political enemies.

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The Oklahoma State Senate has approved a measure that would allow citizens to carry firearms without any kind of permit.

As the online politics journal The Hill reports, the measure passed on a vote of 33 to nine late Wednesday night, after being added to the agenda at the last minute.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera: O'Rourke/Robin Jerstad: Cruz / The Texas Tribune

 "A debate in Spanish would not be very good because my Spanish isn’t good enough," U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz said at a campaign event Tuesday afternoon, "but I look forward to debating Congressman O’Rourke."

From The Texas Tribune:

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In late April, fires raged across the Oklahoma landscape, devastating farming communities.

And as The New York Times reports, relief bales of hay began arriving before the flames were even quenched. The hay is a much-needed respite for farmers and ranchers in the Sooner State, with the cylindrical bales serving as a way to feed cattle who have found themselves in a charred and bleak landscape.

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Many hundreds of workers have fallen ill due to work performed over the years at the Pantex nuclear arms facility northeast of Amarillo.

As The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports, since an employee compensation program began in 2000, over $171 million has been doled out to 1,300 workers and their families, to compensate for various forms of cancers contracted while working with nuclear materials at the plant.

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In the wake of last week's controversial passage of a bill that would allow Oklahoma citizens to carry guns without any kind of permit or license, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed another controversial bill that would allow adoption agencies to reject gay couples and other couples deemed unfit for parenthood on the basis of religious faith.

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A federal appeals court has ruled that the controversial Texas Voter ID law will be in effect for November's elections.

Last year a lower-court had ruled that the law was discriminatory, as it required voters to bring an ID to the polls in order to cast their ballots.

Poor and minority voters often do not have access to IDs, so critics saw the law as an effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters who tend to vote Democrat.

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Yesterday the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a controversial gun measure known as the “Constitutional Carry” bill.

As KFOR reports, if passed, the new law would allow anyone who owns a gun to carry it, even if they don't have a permit for it. The bill was successfully passed after much debate, on a 59-28 vote, with heavy support from Republicans. GOP Rep. Collin Walke cheered the bill’s success, saying, “We ought to be able to carry any gun whether we are licensed or not.”

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Texas plans to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into fixing the state’s beleaguered special-education system.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, the Texas Education Agency plans to spend nearly $212 million over the next five years to help students with special needs. The news comes in the wake of a 2016 study, which found that Texas had been systemically failing to adequately serve tens of thousands of special needs students statewide.

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Living the life of a Texas farmworker 1has always been a precarious proposition. But as Scientific American reports, the onset of global warming is making this work even more difficult.

Each year, ever-increasing heat, drought and mosquito-borne diseases are causing farm workers to worry on a very personal level about the effects of climate change.

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Drivers of electric cars in Oklahoma will soon be able to charge their vehicles much more easily.

As The Oklahoman reports, vehicle charging stations will soon be set up at Walmart stores in the Sooner State. The charging stations are being installed by Electrify America, a unit of Volkswagen Group of America. As of now, only four or five Walmarts in Oklahoma will receive the charging stations, with the possibility of more to come in the future.

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A Texas voting case currently before the Supreme Court could change the shape of districts in the Lone Star State and affect the power balance in the State Legislature.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, the case concerns gerrymandering, which is the practice of redrawing voting districts to favor one political party. Democrats have charged that, following the 2010 census, Texas Republicans redrew the maps to favor their own real elections and give themselves a larger majority in the statehouse.

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Fire dangers continue to threaten Western Oklahoma, as the state recovers from historic blazes that burned up hundreds of thousands of acres and left dozens of homes in ruins.

However, the Oklahoma Forestry Service had not issued any more red flag warnings as of late Thursday afternoon.

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This week Oklahoma teachers declared victory after their historic walkout and returned to classrooms. The protests resulted in a pay increase of $6,100 per teacher—the largest such raise in state history.

Educators also won raises for support staff such as cafeteria workers, and state lawmakers agreed to increase funding to Oklahoma public schools by a total $70 million in recurring yearly revenue.

Meanwhile, many teachers in Colorado believe it’s their turn now.

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