Gabriel Spitzer

Health & Science Reporter / Sound Effect Host / 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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Providence Olympia Facebook page

The state’s largest nonprofit hospital chain is getting into a new line of business: venture capitalism.

Providence Health & Services, which runs 34 hospitals and hundreds of clinics, wants to be a player in the startup scene. The Catholic-affiliated chain has created a venture capital fund with about $150 million to invest in companies pioneering new health care models, especially ones focused on technology.

Seattle Children's Hospital

Health officials have confirmed that two patients treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital have tested positive for Enterovirus D68. That puts Washington in the company of 18 other states with confirmed cases of the virus, which mainly sickens children and is especially dangerous for kids with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The two Children’s patients were stabilized and discharged, according to a statement by the hospital. One is from King County and the other from Snohomish.

NASA

The planet could be much more crowded by the end of the century than previously thought, according to a new report by University of Washington researchers.

That contradicts a general consensus that world population growth is likely to stabilize before long. The population has been expected to rise from the current seven billion or so to about nine billion, before leveling off and possibly declining.

But new projections, based on new statistical models, suggest the numbers will not tail off after all. Instead, statistician and sociologist Adrian Raftery said we could hit 11 billion and counting by century’s end.

401(K) 2012 / Flickr

If you’re a shareholder in a company, you probably want that business to run as efficiently as possible. Lately it’s gotten easier to apply that mentality to nonprofit charities, too, with online rating sites that score charities on how much of your gift goes directly to the mission, and, in some cases, call out organizations with high overhead.

It sounds like a smart way to give, but Eric Walker says it’s a troubling trend.

“Wouldn’t that be a good thing if 99 cents of my dollar went to the soup in the soup kitchen?” Walker asked. “The problem is there's a whole bunch of work to put that soup in the pot and get it to the soup kitchen that there’s nobody to pay for.”

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

A King County public health clinic slated for closure is getting a bailout, but three more clinics remain on the line as the health department confronts a big budget shortfall.

The public health clinic at White Center has been on borrowed time this year, along with clinics in Auburn, Bothell and Federal Way. Now the city of Seattle is proposing to kick in $400,000 to keep it open. Public Health Seattle & King County will continue providing WIC services and other support for new mothers, but will turn its family planning services there over to Planned Parenthood.

Jenny Ingram / Flickr

A virus that has sickened children across the Midwest may have arrived in western Washington. Public health officials said 15 children have been hospitalized at Seattle Children’s Hospital, including five in intensive care, with symptoms that match infection from Enterovirus D-68.

That virus has sent at least 84 children to the hospital in states from Colorado to Kentucky, but this appears to be the first sign of it on the West Coast. The virus usually causes cold-like illness, but sometimes comes with severe respiratory symptoms like coughing and difficulty breathing.

WCN 24/7

Residents of a rural Pennsylvania county who live near natural gas wells reported more health problems than their neighbors who live farther away. That and other findings by a University of Washington researcher raise questions about the health effects of the practice known as fracking.

Researchers went door to door in tiny Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, where gas is extracted by underground hydraulic fracturing. They didn’t tell residents they were there investigating fracking, calling it simply a general environmental health survey. They asked randomly selected households representing almost 500 people about a number of different of symptoms.

University of Washington

A researcher in genetics at the University of Washington has won a prominent award, sometimes referred to as the American version of the Nobel Prize, in part for a key contribution to understanding breast cancer.

Mary-Claire King knew that breast cancer runs in some families, but it wasn’t clear why. In the 1970s and '80s, genetic research was much more cumbersome and expensive than it is today, and the very idea that a gene could trigger a complex disease like cancer was controversial.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Seattle City Council is marking a cultural anniversary Monday: 40 years of legal busking in the city. Seattle musician Jim Page was behind the ordinance that legalized street performing back in 1974.

Page said he was playing guitar and singing one day in front of Oliver’s Meats, near Pike Place Market.

“I’m just singing along, and a motorcycle police officer pulled over,” Page said. “And he shouted at me over his motor and said, ‘Do you have a permit?’ I said no. He said, ‘Next time I see you,, I’ll give you a ticket.’”

Page said he offered to get a license, but was told he couldn’t do that, since he was not blind.

Seth Wenig / AP Photo

An appeals court has affirmed that a pair of early education ballot measures will appear on the ballot not as two yes-or-no votes, but as a multiple-choice question.

The ruling upholds an earlier decision, which established that Seattle voters who support expanding preschool can’t vote “yes” on both the measures before them in November. Instead, they’ll have to pick which one they like best.

It’s a victory for the city, which has proposed a small preschool program as a step toward universal pre-K. That plan will now go head-to-head with a union-backed measure to create a training institute for educators and hike their pay.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Chugrad McAndrews of Seattle / "The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook," published by Ten Speed Press.

Seattle author David George Gordon would be more than happy to share his recipe for his three bee salad or cricket nymph risotto. Try the deep-fried tarantula, the bloomin’ onion of arachnids.

Gordon is known as “the bug chef,” and has written one of the more comprehensive cookbooks showcasing bugs and their kin. He is also a true believer in insects as a food source for an ever-hungrier planet, as laid out in a lengthy U.N. report last year.

Billy V / Flickr

Fighting fires is a dangerous job, and new research on firehouses around Washington state has revealed another hazard — one that lurks on firefighters’ boots, their trucks and even their TV remotes.

MRSA is a nasty and sometimes deadly bacterium that’s hard to kill with antibiotics. It’s normally associated with hospitals, nursing homes or prisons, but researchers at the University of Washington School of Public Health recently tested 33 firehouses for the presence of MRSA. They found the bug at 19 of those firehouses. Twelve crews reported having at least one member who’d gotten an infection requiring medical care.

Charles Krupa / AP Photo

When a traumatic event happens, some people find ways to cope while others get caught in the grip of post-traumatic stress disorder. A new study led by a Seattle researcher and enabled by an unexpected disaster suggests a way we might be able to predict who’s most likely to struggle.

Gabriel Spitzer

The human papillomavirus is a bit like a tiny hacker — black hat, of course — that sneaks into your cells, hijacks your hardware and uses it to copy itself. For nearly 80 million Americans, this is happening right now, and nearly all sexually-active people will pick up HPV at one time or another.

For a smaller number of us, that bit of forced entry touches off a chain of events that leads to cancer — mainly cervical cancer, but also penile, rectal, throat and tongue cancers. If scientists could figure out exactly how that happens, they might able to intervene and disrupt the process.

Map by Malcolm Griffes

Twenty four retailers around Washington state received a special email today, giving them official approval to open their doors and start selling marijuana. The licenses clear the way for the state’s first recreational pot shops to open sometime Tuesday.

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