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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Comb Jellies
5:01 am
Thu May 22, 2014

A Shimmery Sea Blob From The San Juans May Have Just Upended Evolutionary History

Comb jellies may actually represent the first branch on animals' evolutionary tree.
Smithsonian Institution

A squishy little sea creature fished out of the Salish Sea may be rewriting our history of how animal life first evolved.

They’re called comb jellies, and they have nothing to do with hair products. They are translucent blobs that propel themselves with rows of shimmering threads called cilia.

Scientists captured specimens at the University of Washington Friday Harbor Laboratories and analyzed their genomes, coming to two pretty startling conclusions. First, these animals have nervous systems, but they look almost nothing like those of people or fish, or any other animal on Earth.

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Weather with Cliff Mass
9:18 am
Fri May 16, 2014

Cliff Mass: Gloom Looms As Sunshine Takes The Weekend Off

The sun sets over the Seattle waterfront on Thursday, May 15, 2014.
Aaron Brethorst

The weekend curse is back, according to KPLU weather expert Cliff Mass.

After a week of unseasonably warm and dry weather, reaching up into the 80s more than once, temperatures are set to drop about 10 degrees on Friday, and step down another 10 or so over the weekend.

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Ancient Americans
11:00 am
Thu May 15, 2014

First Kennewick Man, Now Naia: Seattle-Area Scientist Probes Secrets In Ancient Skeleton

Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3D model.
Courtesy of Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

They call her Naia. She was probably about 16, a forager living mainly on fruit in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. One day she ventured into a cave when the floor gave out. She plunged maybe 100 feet and died.

And that’s how divers would find her, some 12,000 years later, alongside saber-tooth cats and other extinct animal bones in the now-underwater cave system.

“It’s the most complete female paleoamerican skeleton, period,” said James Chatters, owner of the Bothell-based company Applied Paleoscience.

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Affordable Care Act
5:10 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Wash. Health Insurance Rates To Increase, But By Less Than In Recent Years

Office of the Insurance Commissioner

The cost of health insurance for individuals is probably going up next year in Washington, but in a key test of the market under the Affordable Care Act, the rate hikes will be lower than in recent years.

How Obamacare would affect insurance rates has been one of the law’s big mysteries. There weren’t big price hikes this year, but now that the law has been fully in effect for some months, would there be a big jump for 2015?

According to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the answer is no. In paperwork filed with the OIC, the 17 insurance companies have asked for an average increase of 8.25 percent increase. Commissioner Mike Kreidler says that's the smallest increase in seven years.

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Transit Cuts
4:31 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Seattle Mayor Taps Brakes On Transit Funding, Prepares His Own Plan

Mayor Ed Murray said the first round of planned bus service cuts would likely go through even if voters pass a new funding measure.
Atomic Taco Flickr

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is urging voters and elected officials not to get behind a local property tax hike to fund mass transit. Instead, the mayor plans to introduce his own proposal next week.

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Nuclear Weapons
5:01 am
Thu May 8, 2014

More Washington Nuclear Weapons Workers To Be Screened For Cancer

Two tanks under construction at Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Some construction workers there were exposed to multiple carcinogens.
Department of Energy

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Brain Injuries
5:22 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

A 20-Minute Chat Might Help Boost Recovery For Patients With Brain Injuries

A short intervention by a social worker might help people recover from mild traumatic brain injuries.
Joint Base Lewis McChord Public Affairs Office

Spending just 20 minutes talking to a social worker might boost recovery from head injuries, and the benefits seem to last for months according to new research out of the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

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Police Chief
2:42 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

Short List For New Seattle Police Chief Down To Three Names

Ryan Healy Flickr

A committee searching for Seattle’s next police chief has handed three names to Mayor Ed Murray. The finalists are Elk Grove, California police chief Robert Lehner, Mesa, Arizona chief Frank Milstead and former Boston police commissioner Kathleen O’Toole. Committee co-chair Ron Sims said each candidate is a “change agent,” who clears a very high bar set by the mayor.

“They don’t make people like he just demanded that we meet. Where are they? But we found them. And I think the public will be incredibly well served by any of these three,” Sims said.

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May Day
6:32 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

9 Arrests, Scuffle Between Anarchist And Superhero During Seattle's May Day March

A marcher is seen spraying silly string at a man dressed up as a superhero.
Tim Durkan

Seattle police arrested nine people during an unpermitted May Day march that involved a scuffle between an anarchist and a man dressed as a superhero, wardrobe changes by the anti-capitalist marchers and no major property damage.

The fight between the anarchist and the man in costume broke out near Fifth and Pike when the anarchist sprayed silly string at the man, who responded with a punch to the face. The incident lasted only a few minutes before police intervened, and the march resumed with protesters chanting "F--- the police!" and setting off fireworks.

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Heart Disease
4:06 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

'Shivers Up My Spine': UW Scientists Take Big Step Toward Healing Damaged Hearts

Implanted graft of cells derived from human stem cells (green) meshed and beat with monkeys' heart cells (red).
Courtesy of the Murry Lab University of Washignton

Seattle researchers have taken a key step toward beating back the world’s leading cause of death by regrowing damaged heart tissue in monkeys.

Scientists had long thought getting heart tissue to regenerate was impossible. But stem cell research began to raise hopes in the 1990s, and over the years, researchers like Chuck Murry of University of Washington Medicine’s cardiology division started to get some traction.

First came successes with rats, then with guinea pigs. Now Murry’s team has managed to repair heart tissue in an animal more closely related to humans: monkeys called pigtail macaques.

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Narrow Networks
3:21 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

New Wash. Rules Target Cheap Health Plans

File image
AP Photo

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler has signed off on new rules for health plans, shrugging off criticism from insurers and medical providers.

The rules target a practice insurance companies have been relying on more lately: offering low-cost plans that cover care at fewer hospitals and other providers.

Kreidler says the new rules simply protect consumers’ right to know what they’re giving up for those lower premiums.   

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Horse Sense
10:05 am
Mon April 28, 2014

WSU Researchers Sift Spit For Evidence That Therapeutic Horse Programs Work

Washington State University

Horses have been used therapeutically for years, but new research from Washington State University provides some of the first scientific evidence that it works to reduce stress.

Under stress, the body produces a hormone called cortisol, which is supposed to rise and fall in a particular way over the course of a day.

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Affordable Care Act
5:45 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Wash. Health Exchange Reports Strong Enrollment Numbers Despite Early Glitches

CEO Richard Onizuka announces the latest enrollment numbers for Washington's health exchange.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

After a rocky start, Washington’s health benefits exchange is taking a victory lap. Officials say the exchange got the late surge in enrollments it was counting on, pushing up its final numbers.

The first open enrollment period of Obamacare ended in March, and now that the exchange has processed most of the stragglers, it has released new numbers: 164,062 people enrolled in private plans, with another 423,205 enrolling in Medicaid through March 31. Factor in those now required to use the exchange’s website to re-up their Medicaid, and the number exceeds a cool million.

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Bertha Blues
3:04 pm
Mon April 21, 2014

Seattle Tunnel Partners: Bertha Won't Be Eating Dirt Again Until Next Year

Gabriel Spitzer

Tunneling beneath downtown Seattle likely won’t resume for almost another year, according to Seattle Tunnel Partners, the company managing the project.

Delays have mounted in repairing Bertha, the tunneling machine that has been at a standstill with damaged parts since December.  

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Health Insurance
5:00 am
Mon April 21, 2014

New State Rules Could Limit Cheaper Health Plans With 'Narrow Networks'

Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidelr (File image)
Ted S. Warren Associated Press

The practice of offering relatively inexpensive health plans with bare-bones provider networks has created tension between making health care affordable and keeping it accessible. It’s set to come to a head this week in Olympia.

The growth of “narrow networks” in Washington comes as the Affordable Care Act limits the ability of insurance companies to control their costs. That’s made it harder to offer plans at a range of prices — something the companies want to do as they compete for comparison shoppers on the health exchanges.

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