Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Bird Flu Prognosticator Stuns World With Reputation-Risking 50/50 Outbreak Odds Prediction

Webster: Deaths of millions contingent on which half of his apocalypse scenario proves to be correct. Many prognosticators hail Webster's professional bravery, while others denounce him as a maverick.

Washington--In a world fraught with credibility landmines, many are loathe to venture out into the real-world arena of predictions.

Such is not the case with Bird Flu expert Robert G. Webster.

Webster stunned his colleagues this morning when he told ABC News that the chances of a human-to-human outbreak of the H5N1 virus "could go either way, depending."

"The rest of the world is clamoring for this kind of rhetorical leadership," said one unnamed bird flu expert. "He has definitely shown the moxie that I personally don't have."

Webster's contention that the bird flu "may or may not" kill "half the population" definitely makes him an outlier in a profession that maintains a consistent 80-20 prognosticatory range, almost 90% of the time.

Still, not all in his profession are impressed.

"This 50-50 book-make is a cheap ploy for headlines, and really--an unnecessarily large panic pill for the public to swallow," said one colleague of Webster's. "And God help us if he's dead on with his prediction, because we'll see a plethora of 50-50 predictions coming in from all over--and about everything."

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