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October 30, 2007

Is Sylvia Browne for real?

Jon Ronson on America's most controversial psychic Sylvia Browne | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

By the exceptional Jon Ronson.

It is Tuesday evening and I am on a luxury Mediterranean cruise ship called the Westerdam. I'm in the audience in the Vista lounge. A grouchy woman is sitting on a beige and golden throne on the stage. She's complaining about builders and dispensing dietary advice. Her name is Sylvia Browne and for years I've wanted to interview her. She's America's most controversial psychic. She's become famous for telling the parents of missing children what happened to their kids. Distraught parents go to her during her weekly appearance on The Montel Williams Show on CBS television. Montel is like Oprah. Sylvia tells them, "Your child is dead" or "Your child was sold into slavery in Japan."

She really did once say that, in 1999. A six-year-old, Opal Jo Jennings, had a month earlier been snatched from her grandparents' front yard in Texas while playing with her cousin. A man pulled up, grabbed her, threw her into his truck, hit her when she screamed and drove off. Her distraught grandmother went on Montel's show and said, "This is too much for my family and me to handle. We want her back. I need to know where Opal is. I can't stand this. I need your help, Sylvia. Where is Opal? Where is she?"

Sylvia said, "She's not dead. But what bothers me - now I've never heard of this before - but she was taken and put into some kind of a slavery thing and taken into Japan. The place is Kukouro."

Beaten high school student suing school district for failing to prevent violence

Student beaten at Hayward High can sue district, appeals court says

A man who says he was badly injured by gang members on his second day at Hayward High School while campus safety supervisors sat in their offices nearby, oblivious to the attack, has won the right to a trial in his lawsuit against the school district.

The plaintiff, identified by a state appeals court as Luis M., suffered a ruptured spleen and other injuries in the February 2003 attack, his lawyer, Robert Abel, said Monday. The state First District Court of Appeal ruled Friday that he can go to trial on his negligence claim against the Hayward Unified School District.

Abel said Luis M. was a 15-year-old sophomore and unaffiliated with any gang when the attack happened. He had just transferred from San Francisco to Hayward, where his mother thought the environment would be better for him, Abel said.

Americans too fat for Disney's It's a Small World ride

Obesity: We're Too Big For Disneyland's "It's A Small World"

Anyone else have that song in their heads now?

The Small World ride now must accommodate adults who frequently weigh north of 200 pounds, which it often cannot do. Increasingly, overweighted boats get to certain points in the ride and bottom out, becoming stuck in the flume.

The ride monitors attempt to leave empty seats on many boats to compensate for the hefty, but this routinely antagonizes the hundreds of paying customers waiting in line. When a boat does bottom out, a long line of other boats backs up behind it, their passengers slowly going mad from listening to the ride's theme song.

The ride monitors must then track down the stuck boat and attempt tactfully to help a rider or two to exit at one of the emergency platforms, which the riders in question do not always deal with graciously.