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.

Ways To Connect

eggroll via flickr

 

The board that oversees New Mexico's medical marijuana program this week unanimously rejected rule changes proposed by the state Department of Health. 

Dr. William Johnson chairs the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advisory Board which is made up of doctors.  He says many of the changes proposed by the Department of Health would hurt patient access to medical marijuana. 

 

Natalia Jacquez

 

UPDATE 11:30p - The Albuquerque City Council voted overwhelmingly Monday night to dissolve the Police Oversight Commission while the police oversight process is overhauled.

The Albuquerque Journal reports eight councilors voted to halt the operations of the commission. The U.S. Department of Justice found the POC was ineffective and contributed to a pattern of unreasonable use of force by APD officers. 

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Courtesy of Han Family

Family members of civil rights lawyer Mary Han are appealing a judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit against Albuquerque officials for mishandling evidence at the scene of Han’s death. Her death in 2010, said by police to be a suicide, raised suspicions of foul play.

 

Colin Baugh is a spokesperson for the family and says ultimately they want to get to the truth of what happened on the day of her death.

 

NWS

A flash flood warning is in effect Monday across central and western New Mexico. Recent rains have already saturated the ground creating prime conditions for flooding.

The air around Albuquerque has been unusually thick with humidity since Friday night when an epic 100-year storm dumped more then 2 inches of rain in less than an hour.

Portions of downtown were completely flooded out because the downpour overwhelmed some of the city's pumping stations. 

Rita Daniels

Kirtland Air Force Base held their quarterly Citizen Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday to talk about cleaning up the fuel spill threatening Albuquerque's drinking water supply. People learned they may see more action in the coming months than they have over the past 15 years.

The evening kicked off with a brief power point presentation as one of Kirtland’s project managers went over various clean up efforts.  Then the public was allowed to ask questions.

eggrole via Flickr

The state Department of Health will not be moving forward with two proposed rule changes to New Mexico’s medical marijuana program.  The program’s advocates say it looks like the Governor Susana Martinez's administration is finally starting to see things from the patient’s point of view.  

At an interim legislative committee hearing on Thursday a spokesman from the Department of Health surprised virtually everyone in the room when he announced they had decided to back off some proposed changes, including reducing the number of plants a patient could grow for themselves.  

Rita Daniels

New Mexico's largest city has a plan to make cycling safer. It includes everything from expanding existing bike lanes to eliminating some of the hazards that cause flat tires.

For years, cyclists in Albuquerque have been navigating a disjointed system of trails and roads where bike lanes suddenly disappear in areas of heavy traffic and trails peter out into nothing.  But now the city has come up with a proposal that would fill in those gaps.

National Drought Mitigation Center

    

We’ve gotten some rain recently in New Mexico, but that doesn’t mean the drought is letting up. Climatologists say it’s going to take more than just a sprinkle or two.

Extreme drought conditions are actually spreading in parts of New Mexico, despite the arrival of monsoon storms. A new map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows drought conditions worsening, especially in San Juan and Rio Arriba counties.

  

A Taos High School Advanced Placement English teacher has turned down a $5,000 bonus from the state education department, criticizing Governor Susana Martinez’s education initiatives.

When Francis Hahn received a letter from the Public Education Department informing him that his application for a stipend for teaching AP students had been approved, he was confused. The literature and composition teacher had never heard of the bonus, so he made some calls and found out the reward was based on his students’ AP test scores from a couple of years ago.

ABQ Biopark

 

The state's largest biopark held its third and final feedback session this week on a new master plan that would dramatically change the zoo's catwalk. The area made up of caged caves with bobcats in one stall, clumped right next to tigers, would no longer exist.  

Rita Daniels

 

Kirtland Air Force Base’s deadline to submit a plan to remove toxic chemicals from Albuquerque's groundwater has been extended by 30 days. The base is required to show the state that clean up of a decades old fuel leak is underway by the end of the year.

The Air Force was under a June 30th deadline to submit a plan to the state environment department that describes how they would remove a plume of ethylene dibromide - or EDB – from groundwater that feeds city drinking water wells.

Rita Daniels

UPDATE 7/2 11:30a: The Associated Press reports a wildfire burning in northern New Mexico's Jemez Mountains continues to expand but officials say expected favorable weather may help.

Officials said Wednesday morning says the lightning-sparked Diego Fire has burned more than five square miles, an increase of about 400 acres since Tuesday.

However, the fire remained zero percent contained.

Still, some residents say they felt isolated and uninformed about the fire's dangers. And ranchers who have livestock roaming in the fire area are worried about their cattle.

Sierra Club and 350 New Mexico

A group of environmentalists unveiled a plan today that would call for the state’s largest electric utility to increase their renewable energy portfolio.  This alternative to PNM’s plan would also drastically reduce water usage in a time of severe drought.

Rita Daniels

On Monday members of Bernalillo County's water utility gathered around what they call the purest and most productive water well in the entire county. They demanded that the U.S. Air Force implement a more aggressive approach to dealing with the underground jet fuel leak that threatens Albuquerque's water supply.

 

In 1999 Air Force officials discovered millions of gallons of jet fuel had been leaking, probably for decades, at Kirtland Air Force Base. It's believed that toxins in the fuel are making their way towards the city's drinking water.

 

eggrole via Flickr

  On Monday the Department of Health will hear comments from the public on proposed rule changes to the state's medical marijuana program.

Last month the agency published a hefty rewrite to the regulations that have been in place since 2010.

Former PRC commissioner Jason Marks, who is an attorney in Albuquerque representing a majority of New Mexico's licensed non-profit producers, says the changes being proposed are onerous. 

National Weather Service

6/11/14 Editor's note: We are conducting follow-up research that may change the facts presented in this story.  Look for a related story soon.

About a week ago, meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque noticed a spike of reflectivity on their radar equipment. The machine sends out pulses of electromagnetic energy, which bounce off whatever happens to be in the atmosphere. Usually, that's rain or hail.  

But the skies were pretty clear, and as the breeze blew east and then west, the pattern of reflectivity changed—literally with the winds.

Rita Daniels

  About 75 people gathered last night in Albuquerque's southeast heights for a teach-in about the Kirtland Air Force Base jet fuel leak. 

A panel of elected officials, scientists and environmental activists went over what is and what is not being done to clean up the plume of millions of gallons of contamination creeping towards the city's drinking water supply wells at a rate that has many people alarmed. 

Center for Western Priorities

The oil and gas industry is booming in New Mexico. Journalist Laura Paskus sat down with KUNM's Rita Daniels to talk about a new interactive map that shows where oil and gas spills have happened. The map, which helps us visualize the impacts the energy explosion is having on the land, was created by the Center for Western Priorities.

eggrole via Flickr

After a survey last fall of card carrying medical marijuana patients in New Mexico found demand out-stripped supply, the state Department of Health has been under direct orders from a district judge to solve an annual 8,000 pound medical marijuana shortage.

credit: Nic McPhee

With college graduation right around the corner some New Mexico lawmakers are drawing attention to a bill in Congress that would allow people to refinance their old student loans with the federal government for lower interest rates.

So far 32 lawmakers have signed onto the measure, including New Mexico’s Senator Martin Heinrich, who says the government shouldn’t be in the business of predatory lending.

“I don’t think we should be financing our government operations by charging high interest rates to student loans,” Heinrich said.

my_southborough via Creative Commons

KUNM's Public Health correspondent Marisa Demarco recently completed a three part series on the use of solitary confinement in New Mexico prisons and jails.

A recent report co-authored by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the American Civil Liberties Union New Mexico found the practice to be not only ineffective, but inhumane and expensive.  

Demarco explained to KUNM's Rita Daniels that some inmates were put in segregation for really long periods of time, over two years in one case.

Wiki Creative Commons

New Mexico’s Democratic Congressional delegation is teaming up with a state lawmaker in an appeal to the US Customs and Border Patrol to change their policy of seizing medical marijuana. 

The federal government has said as long as states abide by 8 specific guidelines - like not selling marijuana to minors or allowing people to drive under the influence – they won’t prosecute for marijuana. However, Border Patrol agents continue to confiscate medical pot. 

Rita Daniels

Americans throw a lot of food away, and that’s having a huge impact on the environment.   A study by the UN Agriculture and Land commission found that if buried food scraps in landfills were a country of their own they would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. New Mexicans are working to keep food out of the landfill, but the efforts are ripe with challenge.

Courtesy of NPS

 

There are almost 100 miles of rural uninhabited land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historic Park in North Western New Mexico. The area has long been known as an epic place to view the wonders of the night sky. On Thursday, the park is celebrating it's designation as an International Dark Sky Park.

With virutally zero light pollution around, once the sun sinks below the horizon, visitors are engulfed in utter darkness.

A scathing report has been released by the Department of Justice that accuses Albuquerque Police Department of engaging in patterns and practices of excessive force. 

After a spike in officer-involved shootings, federal investigators spent 16 months poring over police reports and interviewing hundreds of people who claim they or their family members were victims of police brutality.  

 

For the 3rd time since its inception, the reality public television series Antiques Roadshow is coming to Albuquerque. We go behind the scenes and explore what makes inanimate objects valuable. For a chance to win free tickets to the upcoming New Mexico event, apply here by Monday, April 7th.

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.

 

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.

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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