Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Assistant News Director

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago. There, he created the award-winning mini-show, Clever Apes. Having also lived in Alaska and California, Gabriel feels he’s been closing in on Seattle for some time, and has finally landed on the bullseye.

Gabriel received his Master's of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and his degree in English at Cornell University. He’s been honored with the Kavli Science Journalism Prize from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and won awards from the Association of Health Care Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists and Public Radio News Directors, Inc. He lives in West Seattle with his wife Ashley and their two sons, Ezra and Oliver.

Gabriel’s most memorable KPLU moment was: “In just my second week here, I found myself covering the unfolding story of a mass shooting and citywide manhunt. It was a tragic and chaotic day, when the public badly needed someone to sort the facts from the rumors. It made me proud of our profession.”

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Pot Moratorium
2:01 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

Citing State Law, Judge Upholds Fife's Pot Ban; No Comment On Federal Preemption

FILE - This July 1, 2014, photo shows marijuana plants in containers at Sea of Green Farms, a recreational pot grower in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

The city of Fife’s ban on recreational marijuana will stand, following a ruling by a Pierce County judge Friday.

Judge Ronald Culpepper said local jurisdictions have the right to opt out of marijuana legalization under state law. He added the pot shop owners who brought the suit did not meet the burden of proof necessary to overturn the ban in Fife.

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Pot Moratorium
3:26 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Legal Spat Over Pot Shops In Tiny Fife Imperils Washington's Whole Marijuana Law

FILE - Clerk Havilah Nokes arranges packets of marijuana for sale at Cannabis City on the first day of legal recreational pot sales Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Seattle.
Elaine Thompson AP Photo

A court case in Pierce County Friday will decide whether the city of Fife can ban marijuana businesses. But it could have a much larger side effect, putting Washington’s entire system for regulating legal pot in peril.

A handful of pot businesses are challenging Fife’s right to keep them out. The city is presenting two defenses. First, city officials say state law lets them opt out — a point on which they have backing from Washington’s attorney general. But if that fails, they have a second argument, which raises the stakes considerably: They say federal law trumps Initiative 502, and should strike most of it down.

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Brain Science
5:01 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Seattle Scientists Find Brain Area Linked To Motivation To Exercise

Mice without a functioning dorsal medial habenula didn't feel like running in their wheels.
Kaytee Rlek Flickr

Seattle scientists have zeroed in on a part of the brain that seems to have an interesting job: motivating the brain’s owner to exercise. The findings could have implications for understanding depression.

The dorsal medial habenula is a little structure tucked inside the brain, above the brainstem. Psychiatrist Eric Turner of Seattle Children’s Research Institute knew it had something to do with regulating mood, but not a lot more.

“People asked me, 'Well, what does it do?' And I actually didn’t know. And when I looked it up I found that very little is known about this area of the brain,” he said.

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Women Entrepreneurs
3:23 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Cantwell Takes Aim At Gender Gap In Access To Business Loans

File image
Paul Morigi/Invision for JPMorgan Chase & Co./AP Images

Women entrepreneurs aren’t getting the same access to business loans as their male counterparts nationwide, and a new report shows the gender gap is even bigger in Washington.

Women own about 30 percent of American businesses, but get just 13 percent of the dollars lent by the federal Small Business Administration. In Washington, it’s just 11 percent, according to a new report commissioned by a U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, chaired by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. 

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Legal Marijuana
4:09 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Wash. Attorney General: If You Like Legal Marijuana, Support Local Pot Bans

In this photo taken July 1, 2014, a one-gram packet of a variety of recreational marijuana named "Space Needle" is shown during packaging operations at Sea of Green Farms in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren AP Photo

Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson has intervened in a lawsuit over whether local governments can keep marijuana businesses out. Ferguson says if you want pot to stay legal in Washington, you should want cities to be allowed to ban it.  

The city of Fife, like many others around Washington, has said it won’t allow pot businesses within city limits. A couple of would-be entrepreneurs sued the city to overturn the ban.

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Space
4:00 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

UW Astronomer Gets His Hands On Pieces Of Far-Flung Stars

False color image of diffraction pattern from Orion.
Zack Gainsforth

An unmanned NASA research mission led by a Seattle scientist has caught what are believed to be seven tiny pieces of distant stars and brought them back to Earth.

The Stardust Mission sent a spacecraft on three trips around the sun, dipping into an extremely faint jet of interstellar particles flowing into the solar system. It grabbed seven motes of interstellar dust, giving us a glimpse of what stars other than the Sun are like.

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Neural Engineering
5:01 am
Wed August 13, 2014

The Dark Side Of Brain Science: Seattle Pair's 'Thought Experiment' Plays Out Onstage

Chris MacDonald and Devin Rodger play Miles and Candace in the play Brain Trust.
Alison Marcotte KPLU

Here’s a thought experiment: You’re a scientist researching a treatment for depression, and you’ve become profoundly depressed. Your work is slow and painstaking, and involves methodical experiments with monkeys. It’s likely years before anything you might discover would become available for people.

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Clinical Trials
5:01 am
Mon August 11, 2014

Northwest Hospitals To Bring Experimental Cancer Treatments To Underserved Areas

File image
Gerry Broome AP Photo

For someone with cancer who lives far from a big city, it can be hard to access cutting-edge care, but a network of Northwest hospitals is getting millions to bring clinical cancer trials to far-flung communities.

Clinical trials study experimental drugs and therapies, and they're the main tool for bringing new treatments to market. But they can also have more immediate benefits for the people enrolled in a study.

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Marijuana Advertising
4:55 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

Seattle Sees First Marijuana Billboards, Gigantic Aerial Banner To Follow

Dama's billbaord in Lower Queen Anne doesn't show any cannabis.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Passersby in several Seattle neighborhoods might notice the benign-looking billboards picturing a fit young couple with backpacks atop a mountain, or a bearded, flannel-clad man in front of a tent. You have to look a little closer to notice that the billboards are doing something brand new: openly advertising a cannabis company.

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Oil Train Hazards
5:05 pm
Mon August 4, 2014

King County To Lead Rehearsal Of Oil Train Disaster Response

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Quebec, Canada, Saturday, July 6, 2013.
Paul Chiasson AP Photo/The Canadian Press

Local and federal responders plan to rehearse how they’d handle the fiery crash of an oil train in Seattle – a hypothetical disaster that will play out around a table in King County.  

King County’s Emergency Management Department is coordinating with about a dozen different agencies in what they call a “tabletop exercise.” Staff will present the scenario, and responders around the table or on the phone then go through the motions of what happens next.

“Let’s say [it's] just a day like today, a nice wonderful day in Seattle. Oil train derails, oil spills, ignites, there's a large fireball in the sky,” said department director Walt Hubbard. “Who would you coordinate with? How would you communicate?”

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Marijuana Edibles
5:01 am
Mon August 4, 2014

At State's First Licensed Edible Pot Company, These Brothers Are All Business

The three Devlin brothers (left to right: Patrick, Michael and Dan) created the first company licensed in Washington to produce marijuana-infused edibles.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Washington’s recreational pot shops still aren’t selling marijuana food, partly because making the rules for it turned out to be so complicated. But the three brothers behind the state’s first licensed edibles processor are embracing the regulations, and generally looking to be the grown-ups in the new industry.

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Health
5:00 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Certain Birth Control Pills Linked To Breast Cancer Risk, Say Seattle Scientists

This undated photo provided by the American Cancer Society shows a mammogram procedure
AP Photo/American Cancer Society

Seattle researchers have found a troubling link between certain kinds of birth control pills and a risk of breast cancer. But the lead scientist says women should not panic.

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Veterans Affairs
4:33 pm
Tue July 29, 2014

Patty Murray Praises VA Reforms But Warns Of More Troubling Revelations

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the reforms are a step in the right direction.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Washington’s senior U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says a new deal to spend billions on fixing the Department of Veterans Affairs is an essential step, but she warns the reform efforts are likely to unearth even more problems.

Bipartisan negotiators in Congress took a while to settle on a $17 billion package of reforms meant to address long waits for care at VA hospitals and clinics across the country.

As the Senate voted to confirm Robert McDonald as the new VA Secretary, Murray, the former chairwoman of the Senate veterans affairs committee, praised both the nominee and the reforms he’ll be overseeing. But she also warned there could be more troubling revelations to come.

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Bertha The Boring Machine
4:55 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

Tunnel Company Says Bertha Rescue Is Already A Month Behind Schedule

Placing the concrete pilings, as seen in this conceptual drawing, is taking longer than expected.
Seattle Tunnel Partners

Just six weeks after the contractor managing the State Route 99 tunnel project laid out its timeline for getting back to digging, the company said it’s about a month behind on repairs to its tunneling machine.

Crews are working to burrow down from the surface to where the machine known as Bertha is sitting idle. An early step is to sink a circle of interlocking concrete pillars that will line the access shaft and protect surrounding structures, but that’s proving harder than what the company was planning for in mid-June.

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Oso Slide
4:34 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Scientists Say Smaller 2006 Landslide Set The Stage For Oso Disaster

The 2014 Oso slide "remobilized" the zone of a smaller slide from 2006.
WSDOT

A small landslide in 2006 set the stage for the catastrophe that claimed 43 lives in Oso, Washington this past March, say a panel of scientists in a federally-funded study.

The hills above the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River had slid before, at least 15 times over the centuries, according to the study.

But one slide in particular left Oso vulnerable. In 2006, that smaller slide left a loosely-packed mass of debris perched dangerously above the Steelhead Haven development and its neighbors.

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