Rita Daniels

Reporter

Rita Daniels was raised off the grid in the Wild West by a pack of hippies and Pueblo Indians. She's pretty sure these unique circumstances have something to do with her love of the oral tradition as well as her unyielding obsession when it comes to to capturing personal stories about the human experience. Upon graduating from Emerson College in the Media Arts, Rita began recording and producing radio stories while roaming the planet.  In 2010 she was invited to join NPR's Snap Judgment Team as a founding producer.  Building on her previous work with The National Radio Project, Rita is now trying her hand reporting the news of New Mexico for KUNM.

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Local News
8:19 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Secretary Of Education Skandera Still A Secretary-Designate

Today the Senate Rules Committee failed to advance Skandera's confirmation.
Credit Photo: manyhighways via Flickr

For the third time since her appointment in 2011, New Mexico Education Secretary-Designate Hanna Skandera’s confirmation was blocked by lawmakers.

On Monday members the Senate Rules Committee tied 5-5 in a vote over whether to send Skandera’s confirmation out of committee and to the Senate floor where a majority of Senator's were expected to approve her nomination.

Republican Lawmaker Stuart Ingle said that generally education unions oppose her, and they've managed to influence members of the panel.

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Local News
8:32 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Lawmakers Staging For Battle Over Education Funding

Credit 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

One of the biggest parts of the state budget is funding for public education to the tune of over $2.7 billion. Lawmakers are working through the weekend on HB3, the Education Appropriation Act, a hotly debated bill this session.

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Local News
7:19 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

Albuquerque's Police Chief Announces He's Moving On

Albuquerque's Interim Police Chief announced he is leaving town.
Credit WikiMedia Commons

 

The interim Chief of Albuquerque's embattled police department has announced he is stepping down and heading to Texas. 

Allen Banks was named interim chief last summer when his predecessor was told by the City Council that it was time for new leadership. The president of the police officers' union said she believes Banks is leaving because Mayor Berry took too long deciding whether to keep him permanently. 

Banks announced his impending departure to his department in a video message.

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Local News
6:45 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

Report: More Than Half Of NM Graduating Seniors Aren't Ready For College

The LFC report found that when students have to take even one remedial course, their chances of graduating from college plummet.
Credit New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee report "College Readiness"

A new report by the Legislative Finance Committee shows that there’s a serious disconnect between Public High Schools and Colleges and Universities in New Mexico.  If found more then half of graduating high school students are not actually ready for college classes.

The committee analyzed data from the state Higher Education Department and found that 51 percent of public school graduates have to take remedial courses their freshman year.

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Local News
6:26 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

Many Cooks In The Kitchen When It Comes To Passing A State Budget

Doland says passing a budget is like making pasta. There are many recipes but the trick is that lawmakers and the governor must compromise, merge recipes and serve up a hot meal.
Credit WikiMedia Commons

 

 The New Mexico State Legislature convened for a 30-day session this week and for three more weeks lawmakers will be focusing mainly on how to divvy up about $6 billion in state money for state agencies and programs.

The majority of those funds will be appropriated to education and healthcare.

In legislative sessions it often seems like not a lot happens and then at the end there's a flurry of action, and sometimes it's hard to determine what decisions were made and when.

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Local News
7:01 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

School Districts Adopt Alternative Graduation Requirements

Credit Photo via www.modoc.k12.ca.us

School superintendents across New Mexico are working to make sure that students who are in jeopardy of not graduating this year due to changes in requirements will be able to don a much deserved cap and gown come spring.

What’s changed? Students must pass every single segment of the state Standards Based Assessments Test, something they’ve not had to do before. That means 20 percent of the class of 2014 might not graduate.

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Local News
7:08 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Poll: Majority Of Voters Believe There Is Corruption In New Mexico Politics

Common Cause works to produce research reports about campaign contributions and their correlation with important legislation.
Credit CCNM

A recent poll found a majority of registered New Mexico voters, nearly 4 out of 5 surveyed, believe corruption is prevalent when it comes to state politics.  The poll was commissioned by Common Cause New Mexico to find out what would-be-voters across the state think about money in state politics.  

Common Cause Executive Director Viki Harrison said the purpose of the survey was to give state lawmakers and Governor Susana Martinez some insight into what voters think.

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KUNM News Update
5:12 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

News Roundup: State Finds No Fraud By Mental Health Provider

State Finds No Fraud By Mental Health Provider - The Associated Press

Attorney General Gary King says investigators found no fraud by a behavioral health provider in Alamogordo although Medicaid was improperly billed for $19,000 in services.

King's office announced Thursday it had finished an investigation of the first of more than a dozen nonprofit mental health providers that had their Medicaid payments suspended last year by the Human Services Department because of allegations of fraud, mismanagement and billing problems.

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Local News
7:05 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Report: Alleviating Poverty In New Mexico Will Improve Education

A state by state comparison of additional funding provided in schools for at-risk students living in poverty.
Credit New Mexico Center On Law And Poverty

  In New Mexico, more then one in three children come from families living on less then $23,000 a year. It's the highest rate of childhood poverty in the country. At the same time, the state has the lowest educational outcomes based on test scores and graduation rates.

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Public Health New Mexico
1:41 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

New EPA Report Details Threat Of NM Jet Fuel Spill

Current EDB contamination shown in relation to drinking water supply wells. Plume contouring based on 4th quarter 2011 data for the shallow zone.
Credit EPA

A new report from the US Environmental Protection Agency is projecting it could be 30 years before Albuquerque's drinking water wells are contaminated with jet fuel from a decades-old leak at Kirtland Airforce base.  But the impact could be felt much sooner for wells closer to the original contamination site.

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Local News
5:00 pm
Fri January 10, 2014

NM To Trade Pronghorns For AZ Turkeys

The pronghorn species is named for its prong-shaped horns.
Credit Wiki Media Commons

Early Monday morning, the New Mexico Game and Fish Department will begin rounding up hundreds of pronghorn in northeastern New Mexico. The antelope-like animals will be relocated to areas with minuscule or non-existent herds. 

 

The pronghorn is the fastest moving land mammal in North America and since the 1930's New Mexico officials have been trying to restore the population in its native short grass prairie habitat. A dramatic decline in their numbers at the turn of the 20th century was due to excessive hunting and left the creature fighting for survival.

 

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Local News
3:33 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

New Mexico's Education Performance Ranked Last In The Nation

Quality Counts 2014 State Report Cards
Credit Education Week

 

New Mexico came in dead last in a report card that measures education performance across the nation.  The annual Quality Counts Report from the Education Research Center gave New Mexico a D+ when it comes to a student's chance for success. The index measures the role of education in a person's life from cradle to career. 

 

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Local News
6:58 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

A Shortage Of Water Means Not A Drop To Spare

Credit Laura Paskus/KUNM

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently warned water contractors all the way from Red River, north of Taos, to Belen, south of Albuquerque, that for the first time ever there may be a shortage of water due to drought. Over a dozen contractors use water from the San Juan-Chama Project for drinking and irrigation.

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Local News
4:25 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Naman's Photos Of Distorted Faces Go Viral

The image of Rebekah Wiggins has proven to be the most popular in the Scotch Tape Series.
Credit Wes Naman

When Albuquerque photographer Wes Naman invited friends to pose for a series of what was meant to be goofy portraits, neither he nor his models had any idea the images would end up reaching millions of people across the globe.

The so called Scotch Tape Series was a game changer for the artist whose first love was creative writing.  However, a while back, he realized people are more likely to look at a single image, like a painting, then they are to sit down and read an entire book or essay. So he shifted his story telling palette and began taking pictures.

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Local News
6:47 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Cavers Find Bat Bones, Blue Clay In New Carlsbad Cavern

The Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns is a popular tourist destination.
Credit WikiMedia Commons

 

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southeastern New Mexico is considered to be a natural wonder of the world. Recently, cavers surveying the limestone caverns formed over millions of years came across an unexplored chamber. It's the largest discovery at the park in decades.  

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Local News
6:43 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Storm Dumps Snow, Leaves 1 Dead In New Mexico, 7 Others Dead Across West

Cold temperatures harken winters arrival.
Credit National Weather Service

UPDATE Mon 6:30a: Snow accumulation with gusty winds are expected today as wintry weather tapers off through tonight.

 

Snow showers crossing into New Mexico will continue through much of the morning. Local accumulations could reach 1-2"

 

North winds will develop over the northeast plains in the wake of the departing storm system this afternoon, with gusts expected to reach 50 miles an hour. 

 

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Local News
2:19 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Exploring Flamenco: One Dancer's Journey

The artist dancing in Spain earlier this year.
Credit Courtesy photo

Flamenco was born when wandering Roma gypsies blended dance and musical traditions with those of southern Spain. Award winning dancer and Albuquerque native Alice Blumenfeld recently spent a year in Spain delving into the tradition. 

 

"I don't know, maybe I was born dancing ," she said. "I started taking dance classes when I was 3, starting with ballet."

 

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Local News
5:26 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Comet Lovejoy Can Be Seen With The Naked Eye

Rise early and catch a glimpse of four comets in the sky.
Credit NWS
Local News
6:42 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Oil-Drilling Ban In Mora County Prompts Lawsuit

Mora County is being sued for an ordinance that bans oil and gas drilling within the county.
Credit Rita Daniels

The move by Mora County Commissioners to ban oil and gas development within the county this Spring has prompted the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico to team up with local landowners and take the issue to federal court.

A lawsuit filed yesterday claims the ordinance is unconstitutional. Richard Gilliland with the Petroleum Association says they decided to sue after the measure was approved. 

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Local News
12:58 pm
Thu November 7, 2013

A History Of Horse-Slaughter In The United States

Horses rounded up in Arizona, set to be sold to "kill-buyers" from slaughterhouses in Mexico.
Credit Rita Daniels

Recently a federal appeals court issued an emergency injunction against the U-S Department of Agriculture that halts all inspections at domestic horse slaughter plants.  

The move effectively freezes the opening of the Roswell Valley Meat Company in Southern New Mexico  as well as a processing plant in Missouri that was set to open its doors during the first week of November. 

Earlier this year the Humane Society and other groups sued the USDA, citing a lack of environmental oversight at the plants. Human Society President Wayne Pacelle says horses are companion animals.

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Local News
5:41 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Ground Breaking Efforts To Improve The Odor In Albuquerque's South Valley

Residents from Albuquerque's Mountain View Neighborhood break ground on the new Pre-Treatment facility alongside Councilman, Plant Workers and Board Members from the Water Utility Authority.
Credit Courtesy of ABCWUA

 

One Tuesday members from Albuquerque's South Valley Mountain View neighborhood association picked up shovels alongside folks from the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, and dug into the dirt, breaking ground for a new pre treatment facility.

 

For years now the the area has been described as a nightmare due to the stench, because literally every time a toilet is flushed in the 300 square mile zone, all the sewage is funneled to this one plant.

 

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Local News
2:43 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Rural New Mexico Faces Water Supply Crisis

Wagon Mound is one of almost 300 communities in New Mexico that rely on a single source of water. The state's Environment Department says these mostly rural towns are extremely vulnerable.
Credit Rita Daniels

 

 

WAGON MOUND, N.M. — For years now the southwestern United States has been crippled by drought. At the beginning of summer in New Mexico that meant dry, brittle landscapes. Several communities ran out of water, and now hundreds of vulnerable towns are trying to keep that from ever happening again.

The village of Wagon Mound is smack dab in the middle of New Mexico's sprawling Eastern Plains. With a population somewhere around 300, the community has been drawing its water from a natural spring that gushes up from the ground about a mile from town.

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Local News
7:13 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

NM Ballooning: Not Just A Century Of Hot Air

Balloon Glows, when inflated hot air balloons are lit up simultaneously at night, are some of the most popular events at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
Credit Avi Dolgin via Flickr

 

Since the early 1970s, hot air balloons have taken to the skies en mass at this time of year in Albuquerque. Tom Garrity, with the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, said the local tradition goes back much further.

"Ballooning has actually been taking place in New Mexico since the late 1800s," he said, "with gas balloons."

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Local News
8:07 pm
Thu October 3, 2013

22 Months Later, It's A Girl! Baby Elephant Born At ABQBioPark

This is Little Miss Independent.
AbqBioPark

There are 40,000 Asian elephants in the world and early yesterday morning at the ABQ BioPark, the endangered species gained one new member. 

Sprawled out in the sand, 20 year old Asian elephant Rozie gave birth to her second calf. Her oldest, Daizy, was born at the BioPark 4 years ago.

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Local News
6:26 pm
Mon September 30, 2013

National Parks Service: 13 Words To Say 'We're Closed'

Interior formations at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Credit Carlsbad Caverns National Park via Wikimedia Commons

There are about 400,000 acres of Public Lands in New Mexico managed by the National Park Service.  If the federal government shuts down, parks like Carlsbad Caverns, Chaco Canyon and the Petroglyph will shut down, too.

Patrick O'Driscoll works with the National Parks Service regional office in Denver. "If, when we report to work, nothing has changed," O'Driscoll explained, "then we would have no more than four hours each to clear our desks and leave. We even shut down our website. That's how far down we go."

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Local News
6:48 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

The First Freeze Of Fall

This weekend's forecasted freeze in parts of New Mexico brings home the changing of the seasons.

Grey skies and bustling winds are all part of the Pacific storm system that's been cruising across New Mexico. Brent Wachter, with the National Weather Service, said the system will be moving out of the region. In it's wake we'll be left with downright cool temperatures.

Lows will be in the 20s and 30s. Wachter said people need to keep in mind that forecasts are given for temperature gauges, which are usually between six and ten feet from the ground.

 

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Local News
5:11 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

LANL Assesses Flood Damage To Water Monitoring Stations

Flooding in the Valles Caldera on September 15, 2013.
Credit Larry1732 via Flickr

The epic rainstorm that brought over seven inches of rain to the Los Alamos area over a four day period earlier this month wreaked havoc on hundreds of environmental monitoring stations.

Los Alamos National Laboratory controls the system that tracks all surface water that runs both onto and off of lab property and feeds tributaries to the Rio Grande.

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Local News
7:06 pm
Thu September 5, 2013

Navajo Nation Seeks To Balance Resources With Feral Horse Roundups

Credit Rita Daniels

 

Ongoing drought and decades of overgrazing have devastated grasslands on the Navajo Reservation.  With a wild, feral horse population in the tens of thousands, the tribe has made the difficult decision to round up as many of the animals as possible.  Most of those horses will end up at a slaughterhouse in Mexico.  

At daybreak a group of Navajo cowboys hired by the tribe’s Department of Agriculture set up a corral at a lone windmill. Then they spread out on horseback and atv's in search of the animals. The man in charge, Ray Castillo, was scouting from a hilltop.

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Local News
8:48 am
Wed August 28, 2013

More Marriage Licenses For Same-Sex Couples And A Mass Wedding

Two men hold hands after getting married Tuesday in Albuquerque.
Rita Daniels

In what's being called the largest wedding New Mexico has ever seen, same sex couples gathered in Albuquerque's Civic plaza Tuesday, after the Bernalillo County Clerk received a court order stating that it was unconstitutional to deny marriage licenses based on gender discrimination. 

By high noon, over eighty same sex marriage licenses had been issued and many of those couples made their way out onto the Civic plaza to wed. Officiates from a slew of faiths joined a metropolitan judge to do the honors.

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Local News
7:09 pm
Thu August 8, 2013

When It Comes To Opiate Use, Santa Fe Looks To Treatment Rather Than Incarceration

Credit NEUROtiker

The City of Santa Fe is trying out a new way of dealing with drug offenders.  Recently the City Council passed a resolution to use a model that focuses on treatment instead of jail. A task force that included the Chief of Police, the City District Attorney and members of the community studied the relationship between property crimes and illegal opiate drug use. 

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