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.   

Daily Beast

There’s good news for coffee lovers, according to The Daily Beast’s “Daily Burn” column. Science has been going back and forth for centuries about whether coffee is good for you. Back in the 1500s, java was even blamed for promiscuous behavior.

Creative Commons

The U.S. has two long traditions that have recently been battling for the public heart. We are a nation of immigrants, a melting pot, and we have a long history of welcoming refugees with open arms. But we also have another tradition, of locking down our borders from fear of outsiders.

arbyreed / Creative Commons

The federal government’s Clean Power Plan has caused a seismic shift in the way High Plains states approach their energy policy. The plan, unveiled last year,    gives states flexibility to achieve its mandates for reducing pollution. It sets ambitious but achievable goals. And it allows states to meet these goals in creative ways, instead of dictating the methods. The Clean Power Plan also provides credits for innovative ideas.

KFOR.com

A well-known resident of an Oklahoma nature reserve has been killed, reports KFOR. Visitors to the J.T. Nickel Preserve near Tahlequah were often greeted by an 8-year-old bull elk, known as “Hollywood.” But last week someone illegally poached Hollywood. His carcass was found, but his head was missing.

Caden Crawford / Creative Commons

Kansas has one of the highest grocery sales tax rates in the country. And the high taxes are causing Kansans to cross over into other states when they shop, says The Shawnee Dispatch. Critics have long complained that the high sales tax rate hurt the finances of low-income families. But now, it’s also putting the pinch on rural grocery stores and local governments, according to a new study.  In 2013, Kansas lost almost $350 million in food sales.

StateImpact Oklahoma

Last week more than 300 angry residents packed an Edmond, Oklahoma, ballroom to voice concerns over a dramatic rise in earthquakes. Now 14 Edmond residents have filed a lawsuit against a dozen oil and gas companies, reports StateImpact Oklahoma. The lawsuit claims the companies acted negligently. It asserts that companies’ use of disposal wells constitutes an “ultrahazardous activity” that “causes or contributes” to earthquakes.

Christopher Connelly / KERA

Meteorologists say basements are one of the best places to take shelter during a tornado. But for some reason, Texas has a woeful lack of basements, according to KUT Austin. Some say the lack of cellars is due to the expansive soil in Texas. When Texas dirt gets wet, it swells. Then it shrinks again in the summer. That makes building basements difficult.

Caninest / Flickr Creative Commons

Colorado officials are resisting a new wolf policy, reports ABC News. The federal government is expanding plans to restore endangered Mexican gray wolves to the Southwest. The attempt to import the predators has now spread to Colorado. About 110 Mexican gray wolves already roam portions of Arizona and New Mexico.

Shelby Knowles / Texas Tribune

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has announced a new unit dedicated to combating human trafficking, reports The Texas Tribune. Texas has the second-highest trafficking victim population of any state. Last year Texas had 330 cases of human trafficking, according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

Aaron Marineau / Kansas Agland

Two cattle mutilation cases in McPherson and Harvey counties have law enforcement officials still searching for answers – even delving into cases from more than 40 years ago.

Creative Commons

Researchers at Princeton University have discovered a disturbing trend. This century is witnessing an increase in mortality of middle-aged white men and women, according to The Center for Rural Affairs. The news comes after decades of progress in white mortality rates.

Filipa Rodrigues / KUT news

A very old craft is taking on some contemporary qualities, reports Texas Standard. It’s called modern quilting, and it’s inspired by modern art. Traditional quilts have followed a column and row format. But new, modern quilters are changing that pattern up.

Norihiro Kataoka / Texas Tribune

A group of Texas officials, including eleven Republican state legislators, are making a new effort to put a stop to high-speed rail travel in Texas.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Driving an oilfield truck in Oklahoma can be deadly, reports member station KGOU. In the past eight years, 36 people in the state have died in crashes involving trucks hauling oilfield wastewater and equipment. According to recent data, seven percent of all truck companies licensed for oil-field work in Oklahoma have been involved in fatal accidents.

Marjorie Kamys Cotera / Texas Tribune

Rick Perry has a new job. The former Texas governor and presidential candidate is working with the largest privately held dental insurance company in the country. The company, MCNA Dental, was also the top donor to Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign.

nps.gov

The Kansas House budget committee has decided to make nice with the state’s judicial branch, reports The Hutchinson News. The committee has introduced a bill to eliminate a budget provision that was ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court. Controversy erupted in 2014 when the Kansas Legislature adopted a bill to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to select district court judges.

Will Culpepper / Flickr Creative Commons

The ballots for Texas’s primary contests have been set, reports The Texas Tribune. In many cases, the primary races are expected to be more competitive than November’s general election races. You can go here to find a list of all candidates in all races.

Matthew Staver / New York Times

The New York Times reported this week on a hidden treasure in southeast Colorado—what the Times called “a dinosaur lover’s dream.” Picketwire Canyon is located on the Comanche National Grassland south of La Junta.

Darren Braun / Texas Monthly

This month Texas Monthly published a brief feature on the Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s headdress. The most well-known of the Comanche, Quanah’s name is still spoken with reverence in West Texas. He died in 1911, but the headdress he wore is now in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, in Canyon, Texas.

The headdress is “a magnificent assemblage of 62 golden eagle feathers, each trimmed at the top with red turkey or rooster hackles and horsehair.”

Okahoma Lottery

Oklahoma school districts are being forced to slash their budgets in the middle of the school year, reports KFOR. It’s a seemingly impossible task to adjust budgets at this point in the year. And many Oklahomans are wondering, where is the lottery money that was supposed to help the schools?

Star of the Republic Museum via Portal to Texas History

In light of the standoff in Oregon, KUT has published a reminder that Texas has seen its own share of standoffs. In fact, the state’s most famous battle spawned yet another siege of its own 70 years later. In 1908 a Daughter of the Texas Republic barricaded herself in a decrepit building that had once served as the Alamo’s convent.

Center for Rural Affairs

As the holiday season ends and many of us settle back into our routines, we often take a collective sigh of relief. Christmas can be a stressful time for so many of us. It means hectic travel, crowded stores, family squabbles. But John Crabtree at The Center for Rural Affairs recently received a reminder of the importance of the season. Kolt Smith, the six-year-old son of one of John’s colleagues at the Center for Rural Affairs, wrote John an essay.

CPR / Hart Van Denburg

Colorado’s construction industry continues to thrive, reports Colorado Public Radio. Four out of five construction firms in the state expect to hire more workers this year, according to a new survey by the Associated General Contractors of America. Colorado construction is at higher levels than the national average. 81% of all firms surveyed plan to add workers.

StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma oil and gas authorities are finalizing legal action against an oil company in the state. The “financially strapped” Oklahoma energy company has refused to abandon disposal wells suspected of contributing to earthquakes, reports StateImpact. The company, Sandridge Energy, has been ignoring directives from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to shut down six of its disposal wells.

Kansas Historical Society / kansasmemory.org

Fans of High Plains history might be interested in a major new biography of George Armstrong Custer, entitled Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of New America. Author T.J. Stiles takes a different approach with his book. He tells Custer’s story up to—but not including—the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

www.kansas.com

The Kansas Highway Patrol has 82 fewer troopers than it did 10 years ago. And Southwest Kansas is suffering the most from a lack of troopers, reports The Wichita Eagle. 20 counties in Western Kansas have no troopers assigned to them. And 16 of those counties are in the southwest part of the state. Kansas is now seeking an increase in vehicle title fees to reverse that trend.

Colorado Public Radio

Consumers are expected to have a great month at the pump, according to Colorado Public Radio. That’s because gas prices are expected to keep falling in January. A report released Wednesday showed a sharp increase in gasoline inventories. Early this year companies added another eleven million barrels of gasoline. That created the biggest surge in supply since 1993.

Matthew Rutledge / Flickr Creative Commons

In the past, hormone therapy was only available to Texas transgender prisoners who were already undergoing it before they were incarcerated. But now, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is making it easier for these prisoners to access hormone therapy. The updated policy took effect in August, reports The Texas Observer. Prisoners diagnosed with gender dysphoria while in custody are now eligible to receive treatment.

USDA

Rural High Plains students have a higher chance of graduating these days, reports The Rural Blog. That’s according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2015 Rural America at a Glance report. The number of rural adults with a four-year college degree has increased by 4 percent since 2000. And the number of rural residents without a high school diploma or GED has decreased by nine percent in the same period.

Billy Hathorn / Texas Tribune

Texas’s new open carry law is making headlines and causing controversy. But there’s one place you might not expect the battle to play out: at your local zoo. According to The Texas Tribune, that’s because zoos are funded through private foundations but located on public property. That means the laws are hazy for zoos if they want to keep firearms off their property.

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