Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Crazy is as Crazy Does?

Idaho suffers from a continuing reputation as a home for wackos and extremists. The danger is always present that this stuff will go mainstream. Now, apparently, it has in the form of the weatherman at the NBC television affiliate in Pocatello, ID, KPVI, who claims Hurricane Katrina was caused by the Japanese mafia using a weather machine made in Russia in the 1970s.

I am not kidding. This guy is serious and so is the news article about him in today's Idaho Falls Post Register. Idaho TV weatherman Scott Stevens' theory about the cause of the storm falls in the same category as theories put forward by religious nuts that the wind and rains that came ashore on the Gulf Coast were a punishment from God for human wickedness.

It seems that superstition and madness are now coming into your home via over-the-air TV and not from an obscure web site. KPVI is one of four on-air television stations in eastern Idaho. The region is also served by cable TV, wireless, and satellite TV providers. If KPVI allows Stevens to stay on the air it is only because the controversy surrounding his views generates curiosity viewing and thus boosts ratings. It is going to be interesting to see if it sells more dog food, personal care products, and cars.

Tuesday September 20, 2005
Unique weather outlook

Channel 6 weather forecaster catches national attention by saying mobsters caused hurricane



The predictions of local weather forecasters are not usually national news, except in the case of KPVI meteorologist Scott Stevens. Stevens has recently gained national attention for his theory about Hurricane Katrina and deadly storms in general.

He believes the Japanese mafia created Katrina as revenge for Hiroshima. The Japanese group is one of several, Stevens says, that likely possess the required technology: an electromagnetic generator developed in 1976 in Russia. He predicts the gangsters, Japan's Yakuza, intend to destroy another U.S. city within the year, probably by unleashing an earthquake or volcanic eruption in the West.

An Internet search of his theory turns up thousands of hits.

Most of the publicity is negative.

An article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette includes Stevens' theory under the heading "Wasn't joking, Part III." It follows the claims of a street evangelist who says God unleashed the hurricane because New Orleans hosts five abortion clinics and a yearly homosexual convention, and an Israeli rabbi who says the storm was God's way of punishing America for President Bush's support of the Gaza Strip pullout.

Another Web site labels Stevens' assertion "the worst conspiracy theory ever."

But Stevens said fringe theories are often initially debunked by the mainstream.

He first hit on the theory about six years ago.

"I was having trouble with accuracy of forecasting in 1998 and 1999," he told The Science Detective, an Internet radio program.

He stumbled onto a Web site describing the concept and technology, which is detailed on Stevens' Web site, www.weatherwars.info. He says a little-known oversight in physical laws makes it possible to easily generate large amounts of electromagnetic energy to create and control storms.

Physicists say this is preposterous, pointing to conservation of energy -- the basic physical law dictating that energy can be neither created nor destroyed. No violation of this principal has ever been found.

Yet Stevens believes it's false and says the $6 trillion energy industry doesn't want huge reservoirs of free energy exposed.

He points to mysterious chirping that's audible on shortwave radio (evidence of Russia's weather-controlling machine, he said) and "unnatural" cloud patterns as evidence supporting his theory. He said he was convinced by a Montana cold front he saw last year.

"I just got sick to my stomach because these clouds were unnatural, and that meant they had it on all the time," he said. "I was left trying to forecast the intent of some organization rather than the weather of this planet."

Stevens said oddities in Katrina's behavior support his theory.

"The center of the storm passing over the national hurricane center, that was a clear calling card," he said. "It's saying, 'You idiots! Look what we can do.' The whole behavior of the storm was curious."

National hurricane expert Rob Young said Stevens' theory is not based in reality.

"I have been doing hurricane research for the better part of 20 years now, and there was nothing unusual to me about any of the satellite imagery of Katrina," said the Western Carolina University professor, who will appear Friday on a PBS special about Katrina. "It's laughable to think it could have been man-made."

He points to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's successful prediction of Katrina's path as evidence the storm was not controlled by man.

"I think if there was some Japanese mafia steering the storm, NOAA predictions wouldn't have done as well as they have," he said.

Stevens' claims fulfill five of the seven warning signs of bogus science outlined by Bob Park, a university physics professor and author of "Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud." Those warning signs include a discoverer who must propose new laws of nature to explain his theory, pitches the claim directly to the media, says a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his work, provides only anecdotal evidence to support his claim, and works in isolation.

Bill Fouch, KPVI's general manager, said Stevens is entitled to his opinions, comparing them to political or religious beliefs journalists suppress on the job. Fouch said Stevens' growing exposure isn't a problem "as long as he keeps the TV station and the ownership out of it and acknowledges that it's his opinion."

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