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.   

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.

fivethirtyeight.com / American Museum of Natural History, Ken Carpenter

The Museum of Natural History in New York revealed its latest exhibit this month, reports fivethirtyeight.com. The exhibit features the gargantuan skeleton of a plant-eating sauropod. Many paleontologists think this is the largest dinosaur ever discovered. The dinosaur doesn’t even have a proper scientific name yet. It’s being called Titanosaur in the meantime. The skeleton is 122 feet long and 19 feet high, so big that its head pokes out into the museum’s elevator bay.

Wikimedia Commons

Another year brings another attempt to get evolution out of the classroom in Oklahoma, reports Slate’s education blog. State Sen. Josh Brecheen has been working tirelessly to promote creationism. Every year since his election in 2010, Brecheen has authored legislation aimed at skirting nearly three decades of court decisions that prohibit teaching creationism in public schools.

NewsOK

Oklahoma’s mental health system is fractured and underfunded. The system is “suffocating,” according to a new in-depth NewsOK report. Oklahoma has never made a sustained, significant investment in its mental health system. To quote the NewsOK story, “The majority of low-income, uninsured Oklahomans with mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders who need help do not get it.”

Topeka Capital-Journal

A Kansas state senator’s dress code for women who appear before senate committees has gotten him into hot water, reports WPEC. The senator’s rules prohibit women testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. Sen. Mitch Holmes is a 53-year-old Republican from St. John. He is chairman of the Kansas Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. His 11-point code of conduct does not include any restrictions on men.

Thomas Bougher / Texas Tribune

Texas has lost its bid to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, reports The Texas Tribune. A federal appeals court has denied the Lone Star State’s request to put a stay on the environmental emissions legislation. The judge’s ruling leaves the controversial climate change rules in place as a legal challenge continues to make its way through the courts.

fpat / Creative Commons

It was a comparatively mild year weatherwise for Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle, reports Amarillo.com. Globally, 2015 was by far the hottest year in 136 years of recordkeeping. The worldwide temperature exceeded the 20th century average by 1.62 degrees. However, in Amarillo the temperature never rose above 100 degrees. That hasn’t happened since 2002.

Texas Tribune

Last month a federal judge ordered Texas to clean up its foster care system. U.S. District Judge Janis Jack’s findings were scathing.

Muhammed / Creative Commons

Over the past few years, bees and other pollinators have been disappearing from America, reports The Rural Blog.  Last year the Obama administration called for a national strategy to protect these insects. Bees are essential to many crops, and most states agreed to develop pollinator protection plans.

Tommaso Galli / Flickr Creative Commons

As the price of oil continues to drop, Politico asked a number of experts what the hidden consequences of the crash would be. Their answers varied.

John McLaughlin of Johns Hopkins University said every indication is that prices will not go up markedly. They may even drop further.

Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group says Middle East political structures are brittle and based on oil wealth. He asked, what keeps these countries together when the oil money runs out?

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

When it comes to enrolling the uninsured on Healthcare.gov, Florida is crushing Texas. And the competition isn’t even close, reports The Dallas Morning News. 1.6 million Floridians have signed up for private insurance plans this year. That’s compared to only 1.1 million Texans. Why the disparity, when Texas has more people than Florida? The Sunshine State is more compact. Florida has 75 percent of Texas’s population, crammed into one quarter of its real estate.

Bettman / Corbis

Dinosaurs have become an everyday part of the American imagination. From Jurassic World to The Good Dinosaur, we encounter these ancient behemoths perhaps more than we even realize. But how did this obsession come about? It happened largely thanks to the efforts of one man: Barnum Brown. Brown was born in frontier Kansas in 1873. Named after the great showman P.T. Barnum, Brown would grow up to become a master promoter in his own right.

Texas Senate Video

The Texas Observer just released a list of Texas politicians’ most embarrassing internet moments of 2015, and there are some doozies. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was taken to task for his habit of photographing himself. At one point, Patrick held up a Senate Education Committee hearing so that he could take a selfie in front of the panel.

Jim Hill / KUNC

The governor of Colorado made a big announcement this week for hikers and nature lovers in the state. John Hickenlooper said the state will connect and build 16 hiking and biking trails in all parts of Colorado. The new plan will make it easier for people to access open space and parks, says member station KUNC.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Over the past few years hundreds of teacher have left Oklahoma for better pay elsewhere. This mass exodus of teachers has left the state desperate to fill the empty classrooms, reports member station KOSU. One such teacher said he’s bringing in $30,000 more per year, along with his wife, teaching in Arkansas. He thinks the reason Arkansas pays more is because their taxes are higher. “The difference in Oklahoma,” he said, “is tax cut, tax cut, tax cut.”

Yahoo News

Oil has become incredibly plentiful and cheap recently. So cheap, in fact, that at least one company has suggested that buyers should be paid to take a certain type of low-quality crude. The company is owned by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Laura Buckman / New York Times

Texas is a place where wealth is often measured in acres instead of dollars. And for the past several decades, land prices have followed the price of oil. But oil prices have now collapsed from more than $100 a barrel 18 months ago, to a mere $29 a barrel. And The New York Times reports that some investors are seeing the oil bust as a real estate opportunity.

Huffington Post

Measured against his colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives, Kansas congressman Tim Huelskamp has been spending far more taxpayer dollars on mailouts to promote his own legacy. According to The Hutchinson News, Huelskamp’s tab for mailings and other mass communications added up to almost $120,000 of taxpayer money. And that’s just over just a nine-month period of last year.

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