Rita Daniels

Reporter

Rita Daniels is an award winning reporter and radio producer who 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 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 reporting the news of New Mexico for KUNM.

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Local News
7:05 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Civil Rights Group Sues New Mexico Over Schools

This is the second lawsuit against the state alleging that the New Mexico constitution is not being upheld in regards to public education.

On Tuesday a civil rights group filed what is the second lawsuit against the state of New Mexico, alleging that the public education system violates the constitutional rights of low-income children and those for whom English is a second language.

 

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund brought the lawsuit on behalf of 51 plaintiffs made up of parents and students of 6 different school districts scattered across the state.

 

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KUNM News Update
2:56 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Momentum Builds at Sunday APD Demonstration

Credit A still from the Daily Lobo's news show "The Howl"

  

Late Sunday night, protesters convened again in front of police headquarters, and tear gas was dispersed for the second time. The group disbanded but vowed to return. Stay tuned to KUNM 89.9 and kunm.org for updates.

The day started with city government websites going dark. The hacker collective Anonymous had called for a protest of the Albuquerque Police Department.

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Local News
11:06 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Class Action Lawsuit On The Horizon After Citizens Take To Streets In Protest Of Police Shootings

Protesters horrified by the recent killing of James Boyd by members of the Albuquerque Police Department march in front of police headquarters.
Rita Daniels

UPDATE: Sat., March 29,  FBI Looking at police recordings of foothills shooting.

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Local News
4:44 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Fatal Shooting Prompts Members Of ABQ Police Oversight Task Force To Call For Reform

In response to APD's March 16th killing of homeless man James Boyd, members of the Albuquerque Police Oversight task force called for an independent investigation of the incident.

Horrified by the recent deadly shooting of 38 year-old James Boyd, members of Albuquerque's Police Oversight Task Force addressed reporters this morning, calling for an independent investigation into the incident. 

 

The group, appointed by the city council, is asking that their recommendations, which call for heavy handed civilian oversight of the Albuquerque Police Department, APD, be adopted in full.

 

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Local News
5:09 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Lawsuit: Parents Demand More Money For Education

A lawsuit filed against the State of New Mexico on behalf of parents and students is calling for more money to go towards education.

Parents frustrated by a lack of funding for public schools filed a lawsuit this week against the state of New Mexico, saying it's violating the constitution by not providing enough money for education. 

Gail Evans, director at The Center on Law and Poverty, says the state constitution mandates that schools are required to provide sufficient and uniform education to all students. A bipartisan report from 2008 showed that schools across New Mexico were underfunded by 15 percent. Since then, funding has been cut even further.

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Public Health New Mexico
5:03 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Prediction Models Differ On Kirtland Fuel Spill Advancement

Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Regulators have been creating various models in order to try to predict when a plume of contamination from a decades old jet fuel leak at Kirtland Airforce Base will reach Albuquerque drinking water wells. 

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Local News
10:26 pm
Fri February 28, 2014

Retrofitting Our Vision Of Fire In The Face Of Climate Change And Drought

Experts say people need to shift the way they think about fire, like the Baldy fire burning through the Gila National Forest in New Mexico in May, 2011.
Credit Southwest Fire Consortium

This week President Obama introduced legislation that would change the way money is used to manage wildfires. It makes more funds available for fire prevention by shifting the source of cash needed to fight raging fires from the Department of Agriculture to the the disaster relief fund.  It's a move that land managers have been calling for for some time.

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Local News
7:11 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

It's A Wrap! 2014 Legislative Session Adjourns

The 2014 Legislative Session adjourned at noon on Thursday February 20, 2014.
Credit Wiki Creative Commons

Thursday marked the final day of the 2014 legislative session. During this year’s 30-day session lawmakers were tasked first and foremost with passing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

New Mexico PBS and New Mexico In Focus correspondent Gwyneth Doland says education funding was heavily debated before lawmakers approved a budget and sent it to Governor Susana Martinez for a signature.

 

 

  

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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 / Creative Commons License

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
12:29 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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