Rita Daniels


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.


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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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.

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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Local News
6:28 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Interview: Attorney General Gary King On Behavioral Health Fraud Investigation

Attorney General Gary King, left, and HSD Secretary Sidonie Squier review behavioral health audit findings before Squier’s testimony to the Legislative Finance Committee earlier this month.
Credit Bryant Furlow


New Mexico's Human Services Department recently accused 15 of New Mexico's largest Behavioral Health Care providers of Medicaid fraud, after results from an audit aroused suspicion. Providers have had their Medicaid funding frozen, and many have been forced to turn over their case loads to Arizona companies.  The audit has been released to the Attorney Generals office for a full investigation. Recently AG Gary King  announced that his office was fast tracking the investigation. He spoke with KUNM's Rita Daniels to explain just what exactly that means.


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Local News
5:42 am
Fri July 26, 2013

Local Provider Says Arizona Co. Not Certified For Specific Behavioral Health Services

Easter Seals El Mirador,  one of 15 providers recently audited and accused of fraud by the state's Human Services Department, provides behavioral health services to hundreds of children in New Mexico.

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Local News
8:24 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

State Auditor To Have Access To Behavioral Health Provider Audit

Credit publik15 via Flickr

UPDATE 7/25 8p: The attorney general's office says an agreement has been reached for State Auditor Hector Balderas to have access to an audit that identified potential overbillings and fraud by behavioral health providers.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Al Lama said Thursday a state district judge in Santa Fe has been asked to issue an order making clear the audit report will be protected from public disclosure once it's provided to Balderas.

The auditor and Human Services Department support the request.

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Poverty and Public Health
6:43 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

Hundreds Gather, Urging Officials To Reinstate Funding For Behavioral Health Services

Those gathered were from affected communities across the state.
Mark Venner

Exercising the right to peacefully assemble, this afternoon hundreds of people from across New Mexico stood shoulder to shoulder in a Legislative Finance Committee meeting, urging lawmakers and the Cabinet Secretary of the Human Services Department to reinstate funding for Behavioral Health Services across the state.

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Local News
3:52 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

July 4th Fireworks Spark Debate

Credit Merrit Boyd via Flickr

Governor Suzanna Martinez'  recent plea to tribes and local governments to ban the sale and use of fireworks this year due to the drought has resulted in some big changes across New Mexico. 

Now many items that were once considered imperative to have a celebratory Fourth have become contraband.  Here is a list of Fireworks Restrictions, county by county. 

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Local News
6:55 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

What Overturning DOMA Means For Local Military Family

Married couple Jennifer and Christina Altamirano at Christina's latest promotion ceremony in the US Army Reserves.



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Local News
5:07 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Three More Couples Join ACLU Same Sex Marriage Lawsuit Against New Mexico

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Advocates of same sex marriage are celebrating the US Supreme Court's ruling today that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has added three more couples, for a total of five, to a same sex marriage lawsuit against the state of New Mexico.

Peter Simonson is the Executive Director of the ACLU-New Mexico. "Our case is asking the court to rule on the constitutional question," he says, "of whether or not same sex couples can be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation."

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Local News
3:29 pm
Wed June 26, 2013

Local Moms Work Together To Donate Much Needed Breast Milk

Breastmilk donor Jessica Ventura Ewing feeding her own daughter, Savannah.
Credit Sarah Perry

Chances are you've heard of local food movements. They've swept the nation over the past few years as communities work to raise and grow food for their own consumption. But one rather imperative human food staple that you may not have thought too much about is one that is a necessity for the youngest members of communities: breast milk.

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Local News
4:06 pm
Fri June 21, 2013

Rocket Carrying NM Student Experiments Launches Successfully

SL-7 Rocket shooting skyward from its launch tower at Spaceport America.
Credit Heriberto Ibarra




A NASA rocket was successfully propelled on a suborbital mission in what was described as a spectacular launch from Spaceport America early this morning.  The craft carried nine payloads containing scientific experiments from students across New Mexico, as well as from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Defense.

The rocket sailed 74 miles into the air and also contained the cremated remains of dozens of people, including the late Hatch Mayor, Judd Nordyke. 

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Local News
1:26 pm
Thu June 20, 2013

Young Scientists Look To Traditional Herb For Cancer Cure

9th graders Nora White, Arasely Rodriquez and Priscilla Martinez make up the team of young scientists looking to cure cancer with traditional herbs.
Credit Rita Daniels

Over the past year, a group of Taos High School students have been literally trying to cure cancer. Specifically mouth cancer caused by chewing tobacco.  After long hours toiling over laboratory equipment, their extracurricular endeavor has paid off.  The multi-ethnic crew, who call themselves The Wyrmies, have been chosen as finalists in the E-Cybermission competition for their use of the traditional Native American herb Cota.

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Local News
5:58 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Remains of "E.T." Atari Games To Be Unearthed From Landfill

Credit soundfromouthere via Flickr

A landfill in southern New Mexico, rumored to be the final resting place of the 1982 Atari video game ET, is about to be excavated. Rita Daniels reports, the big dig for ET, is part of a Canadian Television companies attempt to document the game, and its role in crashing the fledgling home gaming industry.

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