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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Affordable Care Act
9:49 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

On Wash. Health Exchange, Strong Numbers and Some Anxiety

Washington Health Benefits Exchange CEO Richard Onizuka is optimistic about early enrollment.
Gabriel Spitzer KPLU

Washington’s new health insurance exchange has been touting its strong enrollment numbers, especially in comparison to the deeply-troubled federal exchange. But members of the board overseeing the exchange are starting to express some anxiety about meeting their signup goals.

The exchange reports 98,399 enrollments, as of mid-November. But the vast majority, 88 percent, are enrolled in the government-sponsored Medicaid program. The state needs to get many more people into private qualified health plans, or QHPs, to create a functioning market.

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Education
3:00 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

Four Arrested for Trespassing at Vacant Horace Mann School

Florangela Davila KPLU

Seattle police have arrested four people occupying the vacant Horace Mann school in Seattle's Central District. Some activists inside had refused to leave the building even after they were warned against trespassing on school district property.

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Affordable Care Act
5:01 am
Mon November 18, 2013

For the 'Unbanked' in Wash., a Barrier to Accessing Obamacare

Patrick Semansky Associated Press

Washington’s health exchange has been a bright spot in the slipshod rollout of Obamacare, but one requirement for signing up could be a barrier to the very people the new law is supposed to serve.

To sign up for coverage on WAHealthPlanFinder.org, you have to make your first payment by credit card, debit card or electronic funds transfer from a bank account.

But recent studies show about one-fourth of Washington households are either “unbanked” with no access to an account, or “underbanked" with limited access. The number of those affected is even higher in low-income and minority communities to which many of the exchange’s target audience belong.

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Happy Accidents
3:31 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Chance Finding at WSU Lights Up Possibilities in Physics, Computing

Researcher Marianne Tarun seals an ampoule containing a unique crystal.
Washington State University

An accidental breakthrough by Washington State University researchers might someday lead to much more powerful computers.

It began when graduate student Marianne Tarun was working with a particular kind of crystal, strontium titanate, in a WSU physics lab. The crystal has strange electrical properties, which interests engineers and computer scientists.

One day she discovered, to her surprise, that something had changed.

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Affordable Care Act
2:05 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

No Health Care Policy Extensions in Wash. State

File image
Ted S. Warren Associated Press

Washington state’s insurance commissioner says he will not allow companies to extend canceled policies. State commissioners are able to overrule the concession President Barack Obama announced Thursday.

Commissioner Mike Kreidler said allowing people to keep their old plans would warp the whole marketplace.

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Election 2013
3:28 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Why We're Seeing Such Wild Swings in Election Results

In this photo taken Nov. 4, 2013, Socialist candidate for Seattle City Council Kshama Sawant, right, speaks outside City Council chambers in Seattle.
Ted S. Warren Associated Press

Several races have swung wildly since the first vote count on Election Day, and it may be because campaigns are getting the hang of Washington’s all-mail elections.

University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto said it’s not uncommon for races to swing a percentage point or two in the days after election night, but not much more than that.

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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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