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
7:11 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

New Plan For ABQBioPark Mimics Rivers Of The World

Under the proposed master plan, animals at the zoo would be grouped with other species that share the same environment in the wild.
Credit 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.  

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Local News
6:01 pm
Tue July 1, 2014

Deadline Extended For Kirtland Cleanup Plan

Albuquerque's drinking water wells are being threatened by millions of gallons of jet fuel from Kirtland Airforce base that leaked for decades.
Credit 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.

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Local News
5:11 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Favorable Weather May Slow Wildfire

Management efforts of the Diego Fire burning in the Santa Fe National Forest near Abiquiu reservoir have been upgraded after the fire grew exponentially on Sunday afternoon.
Credit 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.

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Local News
5:38 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Advocates: Renewable Energy Saves Water

PNM has plans to increase solar energy production but critics say a new proposal is not enough.
Credit 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.

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Local News
5:41 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Albuquerque Water Utility Board Demands Clean Up Of Fuel Leak

The Ridgecrest Well Number 5 is the most productive well in Bernalillo County. It is in the path of the expanding plume of contamination from the Kirtland fuel spill.
Credit 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.

 

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Public Health New Mexico
5:53 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Public Speaks Up Regarding Medical Cannabis Regulations

Constructive criticism around the proposed rule changes regulating New Mexico's medical cannabis program will be heard on Monday.
Credit 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. 

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Local News
4:17 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Swarming Locusts Confound Meteorologists

The high reflectivity returns showing up on the National Weather Service radar in Albuquerque are mutated grasshoppers.
Credit 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.

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Public Health New Mexico
8:49 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Advocacy Group Hosts Teach-In On Kirtland Fuel Spill

Water Utility Authority board member Rey Garduño says if the Ridgecrest wells get contaminated, some of the city's purest water won't be usable.
Credit 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. 

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Local News
6:00 pm
Thu May 22, 2014

Tracking Oil And Gas Spills In New Mexico

The new interactive map put out by the Center for Western Priorities shows oil and gas spills in New Mexico.
Credit 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.

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Local News
7:05 pm
Tue May 20, 2014

"Blunt Adjustments" To The State's Medical Marijuana Program Explained

Proposed rule changes to New Mexico's medical marijuana program would drastically raise fees.
Credit 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.

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Local News
5:42 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Some New Mexico Lawmakers Support Cutting Student Loan Interest Rates

Proposed legislation would allow holders of old student loans to refinance at a lower rate with the federal government.
Credit 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.

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Public Health New Mexico
3:13 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Solitary Confinement And Public Health

Credit 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.

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Local News
7:14 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Border Patrol Line Hazy On Medical Marijuana

Lawmakers are asking Border Patrol agents in New Mexico to respect the states medical marijuana laws.
Credit 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. 

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Local News
6:07 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Turning Food Trash Into Treasure

Diverting food scraps from the waste stream can have a significant impact on climate change.
Credit 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.

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Local News
7:28 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

A Dark Sky Shines Bright At Chaco Canyon

The dark sky at Chaco Culture National Historic Park is world-renowned for star gazing.
Credit 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.

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Public Health New Mexico
9:25 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Feds Find Patterns of Excessive Force in APD

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.  

 

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Local News
7:16 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

Antiques Roadshow Comes To New Mexico

Antiques Roadshow comes to Albuquerque July 19th. The deadline to apply for free tickets is Monday, April 7th.

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.

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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.
Credit /

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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