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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Veterans Day
3:42 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

Blitz, Boats, and Buchenwald: One Seattle Veteran's Story

Norma Strecker with a picture of the Ile de France, the ship that took her across the Atlantic to the European Theater of World War II.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Norma Strecker’s birthday comes just three days before Veterans Day, and this year, she’s turning 92.

Seven decades have passed since she was serving in the U.S. Army, drawing maps of France to be used by Allied troops in the coming invasion. She spent five months in London, under nightly bombing by the Germans during the so-called “Little Blitz.”

“We would put an overcoat on and go down one block to the Mayflower Hotel, down in their basement. And we’d come up and see blocks burning. But as long as ours was there, well, we went back,” Strecker said.

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Politics
11:09 am
Thu November 7, 2013

McGinn Concedes Defeat in Seattle Mayor's Race

Mayor Mike McGinn prepares to concede his run for reelection.
Elaine Thompson Associated Press

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has conceded his run for re-election, and called his successor, Ed Murray.

McGinn’s tone was relaxed and candid at the press conference held at his campaign headquarters Thursday.He offered few regrets, but acknowledged he’d made missteps in office and on the campaign trail.

“I may have to question my tactics and how I played it,” said McGinn. “To use a basketball analogy I probably dribbled the ball off my foot a couple of times when I could have made a good pass instead.”

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Marijuana DUI
9:15 am
Thu November 7, 2013

A Timeline of Wash. State's Changing Drugged Driving Laws

Associated Press

Before December, 2012: 

It's a crime to drive under the influence of marijuana if the intoxicant impairs your driving "to an appreciable degree." Prosecutors can use blood analysis, along with other evidence, to prove a person is impaired. But even though marijuana itself is illegal, there's no agreement on what level of THC in the blood constitutes a crime. 

As of December, 2012: 

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Marijuana DUI
5:01 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Test Case Shows Pot DUI Law Still Murky Despite Per Se Limit

Ronnie Payton is a medical marijuana patient.
Justin Steyer KPLU

When is someone too stoned to drive? Washington's new marijuana law includes a new way to answer that question: a blood limit for the drug.

It's supposed to set a standard just as clear as the .08 blood alcohol content police use for drunk drivers. But one year after voters legalized pot, the line is looking almost as blurry as ever.

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urban renewal
4:06 pm
Wed November 6, 2013

SDOT Reviving Rough Downtown Spots by Recruiting Food Trucks

Gabriel Spitzer

You might think of the Seattle Department of Transportation as the city’s pothole-fillers and construction crews. But SDOT is also involved in a whole range of what you might call social-engineering projects—efforts to create vibrant public spaces. 

And SDOT has turned to food trucks in an attempt to transform troublesome downtown spots into welcoming public spaces.

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taxing marijuana
10:31 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Will Wash. State's Legal Pot Taxes Go to Health Care?

Associated Press

One selling point of Washington's new legal marijuana law was that a huge chunk of pot-related tax revenue would be devoted to health coverage for low-income residents.

But it's not clear the money will go to health care after all.Under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," a would-be recipient of the pot taxes— Washington's Basic Health Plan—is being eliminated. The plan, which provided low-cost health insurance to the working poor, is being absorbed by Medicaid and will end Dec. 31, according the state Health Care Authority.

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Medical Marijuana
5:00 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Ex-'Pot Czar' Gives Mixed Marks to Proposed Medical Pot Rules

Associated Press

Washington’s former “pot czar” says a proposed overhaul of medical marijuana could drive lots of business to the coming state-licensed pot stores. And though they’ve come in for criticism from some advocates, Mark Kleiman says the proposed changes would probably be good for patients, too.

Kleiman is the UCLA professor hired to advise the Washington state Liquor Control Board. That contract has now ended.

Right now, medical marijuana users in Seattle buy pot at one of an estimated 240 loosely-regulated dispensaries. But state agencies are recommending rules that would basically shut those stores down. Patients would have to shop instead at one of the state-licensed stores set to open next year under Initiative 502.

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Budget Conference
3:49 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Despite Public Pessimism, Murray Remains Optimistic about Budget

Senator Patty Murray says she's hopeful a deal can be reached, but she understands the low expectations.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Washington Sen. Patty Murray is the top Democrat on a conference committee charged with hashing out a budget by mid-December, and she’s well aware many pundits and citizens have low expectations.

“I don’t blame anybody for being pessimistic about this,” Murray said at an appearance in Seattle. “Our country’s been through a lot.”

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Affordable Care Act
5:24 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Strong Enrollment for Wash. Health Exchange, Medicaid Plan

On the day President Barack Obama acknowledged major flaws in the rollout of health insurance marketplaces, Washington’s exchange reported strong enrollment. Washington Healthplanfinder announced some 35,000 people have enrolled in a plan through the website, and another 56,000 are working their way through the process.

Michael Marchand, a spokesman for the exchange, said Washington’s site was designed to get the basics right.

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Election 2013
12:00 am
Mon October 21, 2013

Behind 'Political Grandstanding,' Shared Views on Street Safety

Sea_Turtle Flickr

The race for mayor of Seattle has put public safety downtown front and center, and at first it might seem to be following a familiar storyline: a polarized fight between the get-tough camp and the services-oriented approach. 

"There are hotspots, and we’ve been very, very slow to act,” said challenger Ed Murray, advocating the hiring of 100 new police officers. 

"You know, that's political grandstanding," said Mayor Mike McGinn, arguing we "can't arrest our way out of the problem."

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Death Toll of Iraq War
3:42 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Seattle Researchers: Death Toll for Iraq War Likely Near Half Million

Justin Steyer

Seattle researchers led an effort that has produced a new estimate of war-related deaths in Iraq, finding 461,000 Iraqis have died. The study is the first of its kind to cover the entire span of the Iraq War, from 2003 to 2011.

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Low-Power FM
8:16 pm
Mon October 14, 2013

Microradio Boom: Local Groups Vie for Low-Power FM Licenses

A map of organizations seeking low-power community radio licenses.
Courtesy of Sabrina Roach Brown Paper Tickets

Your radio dial could be getting a bit more crowded in the next few years depending on where you live.

At least 13 Seattle-area nonprofits are expected to apply for eight low-power FM radio licenses. They include a southeast Seattle community development group, two universities and a group that organizes in immigrant communities (see below for the full list). Each station would broadcast at about 100 watts—enough to cover at least a 3.5-mile radius.

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Sounds of song
9:45 am
Mon October 14, 2013

Hear What a Familiar Tune Sounds Like with a Hearing Implant

Cochlear implants are a lifesaver for many deaf people, but they can't recognize changes in pitch.
National Institutes of Health

Cochlear implant, a bionic inner ear that allows deaf or hearing-impaired people to hear speech—albeit in kind of a robot voice, can be a lifesaver for people without hearing. But when it comes to music, this very practical device can’t carry a tune to save its life.

Here’s what a familiar tune by Simon and Garfunkel sounds like to someone with a conventional cochlear implant:

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Science
5:01 am
Mon October 14, 2013

UW Engineer's Design Could Help Deaf People Enjoy Music

Cochlear implants are a lifesaver for many deaf people, but they can't recognize changes in pitch.
National Institutes of Health

Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a way for some deaf people to enjoy music. The findings could help people with cochlear implants, a bionic inner ear that allows deaf or hearing-impaired people to hear speech, albeit in kind of a robot voice.

Cochlear implants can be a lifesaver for people without hearing, but when it comes to music, this very practical device can’t carry a tune to save its life.

The implants simply aren’t sensitive to pitch and what’s called timbre—the qualities of a sound that make, say, a guitar sound different from a harp.

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Affordable Care Act
4:05 pm
Fri October 4, 2013

Suit Alleges Children's Hospital Left Out of Health Exchange Plans

jennyonthespot Flickr

Seattle Children’s Hospital has filed a suit against the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner, alleging it was largely cut out of the state’s new health insurance exchange.

There are eight insurance companies on Washington HealthPlanFinder, the marketplace that opened this week for individuals shopping for coverage. Six of them don’t include Seattle Children’s Hospital in their networks.

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