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Monday, April 30, 2012

Baby's first birthday party turns to tragedy when he is killed by family's mastiff dog

By Laura Pullman

Tragedy: Jeremiah Eshew-Shahan has died after the family dog attacked him during his first birthday party

A baby boy has died after he was attacked by his family’s mastiff dog during his first birthday party.

A day after turning one, Jeremiah Eshew-Shahan was at his grandmother’s house in Las Vegas when he crawled over to the dog – a mastiff-rhodesian mix weighing about 120 pounds – and started to pet him.

The dog then attacked the baby, sinking his teeth into Jeremiah’s head and shaking him.

Deadly attack: The dog a Mastiff/Rhodesian mix weighing 120 pounds sunk his jaws into the baby's face and shook him around

The boy’s distraught father, Chris Shahan, believes Jeremiah, who was just learning to walk, tried to grab the dog’s fur to stand up when the animal turned vicious.

The boy's grandmother desperately tried to pull Jeremiah out of the mastiff’s jaw while Shahan rushed to save his son.

‘It took me about 20 seconds to run downstairs and I got the dog off of the baby. The baby’s face was torn off,’ Shahan told KSNV.com.

Disaster: Baby Jeremiah died within days of his first birthday - the family dog who killed him will now be put down

Devastated: The baby's father, Chris Shahan, managed to grab Jeremiah from the dog and he was airlifted to hospital but sadly it was too late to save him

The baby was rushed to St. Rose Dominican Hospital-Siena Campus and then flown by helicopter to UMC's Trauma Unit, police said.

Jeremiah, who had turned one on Thursday, died from his injuries at approximately 1.45am on Saturday morning.

The six-year-old dog, named Onion, will be put down after he is quarantined for rabies.

The Mastiff had been around the baby since he was born and the family said he had never been aggressive towards people.

Shahan said the pet was a 'good dog' who had helped get his mother through her lung cancer.

Police said they are still investigating why the dog attacked the baby.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

The night LiLo and Kim met Barack and Michelle: Wise-cracking President hosts star-studded White House Correspondents' Dinner

-Journalists, politicians, government officials, and celebrities gathered for the 98th annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington last night
-Event was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, host of ABC's late night show Jimmy Kimmel Live
-Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian were among crowds of A-list celebrities who were invited to dine with Washington's elite, including Obama himself
-In his speech, President Obama lampooned the GOP, Secret Service, Mitt Romney, and even Hillary Clinton

By Beth Stebner

Comedian-in-chief: President Obama was in fine form Saturday night and delivered a comedy routine that left the audience in stitches. No one was safe from mockery, including the shamed Secret Service and likely GOP adversary Mitt Romney

Worlds collided in the nation's capital last night, as President Obama shared a meal with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan at the 98th annual White House Correspondents' Dinner.

The president enjoyed a genial evening with the members of the press, thanking them for their time and dedication.

Nothing was off limits during Washington’s night of levity, including the recent Secret Service scandal in Colombia, 'dog socialism', and the state of media today. And of course, he didn't shy away from the political arena.

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Dazzling: First lady Michelle Obama was beaming at the dinner in a modified version of Naeem Khan's paisley organza ball gown from the Fall/Winter 2011 collection, while host Jimmy Kimmel, left, looked a little more sombre

A night to remember: Lindsay Lohan, left, managed to make it to the dinner, and Kim Kardashian, right, covered up in forest-green velvet for her evening with the president

Job well done: President Obama high-fived Jimmy Kimmel, right, who hosted the night's events as Caren Bohan, centre, of Reuters, looks on delighted

Sharing a laugh: Host Jimmy Kimmel, left, sits alongside First Lady Michelle Obama, during the dinner

Candid chat: Mrs Obama leans in to hear what must be a snarky comment from Kimmel

Effortless: The first lady laughed alongside host Jimmy Kimmel, left, and accessorised her Naeem Khan gown with good hoop earrings and a soft pink lip gloss

The president appeared in high spirits as he began his comedic routine. ‘We gather during a historic anniversary,’ he said. ‘Last year at this time, in fact on this very weekend, we finally delivered justice to one of the world’s most notorious individuals.’

That man wasn’t Osama bin Laden - no, a picture of none other than Donald Trump flashed on the screen.

Jabs at his likely GOP rival Mitt Romney came soon after.

‘I’m not going to attack any of the Republican candidates - take Mitt Romney,’ the president deadpanned, adding that the former Massachusetts governor would call the luxurious Hilton ballroom 'a little fixer-upper.'

He continued: '[Romney] and I actually have a lot in common… We both have degrees from Harvard. I have one, he has two.’ After a pause, he added: ‘What a snob.’

Four years ago, Mr Obama recalled, he was locked in a tough primary fight with Hillary Rodham Clinton, now his secretary of state.

'Now she can't stop drunk texting me from Cartagena,' he said, referring to their recent trip to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, where Clinton was photographed drinking a beer and dancing.

Kardashian klan: Kim Kardashian, left, and her mother Kris Jenner sit at their table during dinner; the President made several cracks at Kardashian

Night on the town: Lindsay Lohan was seen at her table talking animatedly to fellow guests

Worlds collide: Former Senator Rick Santorum spoke with Lindsay Lohan, bottom left, at the dinner

Getting political: George Clooney speaks with Chris Wallace of Fox News as they attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner

Night out: Newt and Callista Gingrich arrive at the dinner waving, left, and Attorney General Eric Holder and his wife, Sharon Malone, seen right

Former offices: Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, left, laughs in a hallway in the Hilton, while former Secretary of State Colin Powell, right, smiles for the camera

Boys club, girls club: Director Steven Spielberg has U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta enjoying a laugh, left, while U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) poses with actress Reese Witherspoon, right

Butt of a joke: Kimmel poked fun at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, right, who was sitting next to actress Sofia Vergara

Animated: Actress Sofia Vergara flashed a large smile as she was talking to Kim Kardashian, left, and Kris Jenner, right

Next up was a video satirising Mr Romney’s highly politicised event of strapping his dog Seamus to the roof while on home from a family vacation.

In the faux-political video, the announcer hinted at what a horrible world it would be if 'socialist' first dog Bo Obama were allowed another four terms in office.

'America’s dogs can’t afford four more years of Obama - that’s 28 years for dogs.'

The video finished with the slogan: ‘I’m an American, and dog gone it, I ride on the outside. (Paid for by the Wolf Pack of America).'

Throughout the routine, Mrs Obama could be seen laughing at the dinner table. The first lady was wearing a modified version of Naeem Khan’s one-shouldered paisley organza ball gown from the Fall/Winter 2011 collection.

The version that went down the runway had a twisted strap over the left shoulder, but Mrs Obama seemed to prefer a dress that better displayed her d├ęcolletage.

She accessorised the look with detailed gold hoop earrings and a loosely-waved bob, as well as a large cocktail ring worn on her left hand.

The first lady also elected to wear a bright pink lipstick to match the colours of her gown.

Earlier, the president gave a knowing nod to several instances of 'hot microphone' instances, lampooning himself in a monologue, asking who the Kardashians are, and why exactly they're famous.

'What am I doing here,' he asked off stage. 'I'm opening for Jimmy Kimmel and telling knock-knock jokes to Kim Kardashian.'

The crack drew a thumbs up from former Pennsylvania Sen Rick Santorum, who dropped out of the presidential primary campaign earlier this month.

Santorum had called Obama a snob for encouraging young Americans to attend college.

But Mr Obama touched on serious themes as well, remembering The New York Times' Anthony Shadid and Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times of London who died while covering the uprising in Syria.

'Never forget that our country depends on you to help protect our freedom, our democracy and our way of life,' he said.

Then he returned to the lighter side: 'I have to get the Secret Service home in time for their new curfew.'

The president then passed the podium on to ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, who he noted got his start on a program called The Man Show.

Glamour girls: Both Arianna Huffington, left, of the Huffington Post, and NBC's Ann Curry, right, opted for bright colours and sleeves

Famous friends: CNN's Wolf Blitzer and actress Eva Longoria, left, and CNN's Piers Morgan with actress Goldie Hawn, right

Blonde ambition: Sen John McCain's daughter Meghan McCain, left, and news anchor Diane Sawyer, right

Newsmakers: ABC News Global Affairs anchor Christiane Amanpour and her husband, James Rubin, left, and living legend Barbara Walters, right

‘In Washington, that’s what we call a congressional hearing on contraception,’ he said.

Kimmel began joking straight out of the gate, saying: ‘It’s an honour to be here. Mr President, remember when the country rallied around you in the hopes of a better tomorrow?

'That was hilarious. That was your best one yet. There’s a term for guys like President Obama. Probably not two terms, but there is.’

No one was safe from the wry jokes of the outspoken host of Jimmy Kimmel Live.

He poked fun at everyone from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (‘I think you’re misunderstanding New Jersey’s slogan. It’s not the Olive Garden State’) to Newt Gingrich (‘It’s great to see the Gingriches here, because that means the check cleared.')

He also picked up on the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia, saying he told the Secret Service that for $800 he wouldn't joke about them, 'but they only offered 30.'

'If this had happened on President Clinton's watch, you can damn well bet those Secret Service agents would have been disciplined with a very serious high five,' Kimmel said.

Among those who attended Saturday night's dinner were former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the cast of the hit TV show 'Modern Family,' singer John Legend, actor George Clooney, Army Chief of Staff Gen Ray Odierno, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, director Steven Spielberg, and actress Zooey Deschanel.

Proceeds from the dinner go toward scholarships for aspiring journalists and awards for distinction in the profession.

The association was formed in 1914 as a liaison between the press and the president.

Running the gamut: The president displayed a range of emotions during the course of the night

Jovial: President Obama waves alongside Caren Bohan, right, of Reuters, President of the White House Correspondents Association, alongside Reuters Editor in Chief Steve Adler, left

Women in white: Claire Danes, left, Kate Upton, centre, and Ginnifer Goodwin, right, all opted for bright white looks and dramatic makeup on the red carpet

Glamour girls: Zooey Deschanel, left, Dakota Fanning, centre, and Charlize Theron, right, all opted for floor-length gowns with interesting detail

Every president since Calvin Coolidge has attended the dinner. Some of the proceeds from the dinner pay for journalism scholarships for college students.

Several journalists were also honored at the dinner, including:

-Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Chris Hawley of The Associated Press, for winning the Edgar A. Poe Award for their stories about the New York City Police Department's widespread surveillance of Muslims after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It's the fourth major prize for the series, which has also won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting and a George Polk Award.

-ABC's Jake Tapper and Politico's Glenn Thrush, Carrie Budoff Brown, Manu Raju and John Bresnahan, for winning the Merriman Smith Award for excellence in presidential coverage under pressure. Tapper won in the broadcast category for breaking the news that rating agency Standard & Poor's was on the verge of downgrading the federal government's triple-A credit rating because of concerns over political gridlock in Washington. In the print category, Thrush, Budoff Brown, Raju and Bresnahan of Politico won for their report on the deal between Obama and congressional Republicans to raise the U.S. debt ceiling.

-Scott Wilson, of The Washington Post, for winning the Aldo Beckman award. Wilson was recognized for his 'deeply reported and nuanced stories, his evocative writing and his clear presentation of complex issues, particularly on the foreign policy front.'

Watch video here


David Cameron's heartbroken former lover becomes a nun called Sister John Mary: 'I thought of marriage... then God called,' says PM ex

-She dated Cameron in the 1990s while working at Conservative Party HQ
-It's thought he was so shaken by their split that he never romanced someone in politics again
-By 2008 she had apparently become overwhelmed by problems with substance abuse

By Caroline Graham and Sharon Churcher

The ex who found God: Sister John Mary features in new documentary God is the Bigger Elvis

With her long serge habit, make-up-free face and closely cropped hair hidden by a traditional wimple, she appears indistinguishable from her fellow Benedictine nuns.

Sister John Mary is devoted to a never-ending ritual of worship and work at her convent with the 36 sisters who follow the Rule of St Benedict on an isolated 400-acre farm.

It’s a life she was called to but it is hardly one the 44-year-old glamorous blonde seemed destined for when she worked in London at Conservative Party HQ - with her ambitious young boyfriend David Cameron.

Sister John Mary’s real name is Laura Adshead. She is a former pupil of £24,000-a-year Cheltenham Ladies’ College, from where she went up to Oxford - meeting Mr Cameron when they were young undergraduates.

Laura dated him from the spring of 1990 until summer 1991, and while he worked at Conservative Central Office, she went on to become the then Prime Minister John Major’s correspondence secretary.

Then their lives took different turns. Mr Cameron was selected for political stardom, while Laura left politics to study at the Wharton business school in Philadelphia.

She became an executive in Manhattan for Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency that inspired the television drama Mad Men - but the stresses of success, and, perhaps, of personal rejection, finally proved too much for her.

She descended into a world of drinking and addiction before finally finding salvation in God at the abbey in the Connecticut hills, three hours north of New York City.

New life: Laura at the abbey, in smart dress and pearls, before becoming Sister John Mary

‘I did think my life would progress on the normal tracks of meeting someone, marrying, having children, but that’s not the path that God has led me,’ Sister John Mary says in a new documentary revealing her story.

Photographs are shown of her when she was a young woman, posing in a leopard-skin top, dragging on a cigarette and savouring a glass of wine.

But she admits that her lifestyle then brought her little except loneliness.

She says: ‘I feel like I tried most things in life that are supposed to make you happy. That journey took me down into alcoholism and drug addiction.’

It has been suggested that her downward spiral may have started soon after her break-up from the future Prime Minister.

In a 2007 biography of Cameron, a former colleague of the pair at Conservative headquarters recalled Laura being granted a ‘period of compassionate leave’ to recover from the heartbreak.

The authors say Mr Cameron was also shaken by the split and its aftermath, and add: ‘Perhaps as a result of the fall-out from his affair with Adshead, Cameron thereafter dated women outside politics.’

Laura later went out with the historian Andrew Roberts, one of Mr Cameron’s friends.

When she moved to New York to work as a strategic planning director at Ogilvy & Mather, she found herself part of a social whirl that included aristocratic Europeans and American trust fund heirs.

Newspaper diaries chronicled her presence at society events - at one polo match she mingled with Prince Albert of Monaco, Estee Lauder’s granddaughter, Aerin, and a billionaire polo-playing friend of Prince Charles, Peter Brant, who is married to model Stephanie Seymour.

She spent freely, renting a £15,000-a-month summer home with pool and tennis court in the exclusive enclave of The Hamptons on Long Island, regarded as the summer seaside playground of America’s wealthy elite.

But by 2008 she had apparently become overwhelmed by problems with substance abuse, and declared that she had decided to become a nun. She recalls: ‘I remember having to tell my mother, “I’m going to join the abbey,’’ and she said, “Yes, I can see this world has no real meaning for you any more.’’ I looked at this place and saw women who had what I wanted.

‘You make a decision here to surrender your life to God.’

Laura seems to have embraced the lifestyle wholeheartedly. The film shows the formal ceremony that she went through in order to join the order of nuns.

She is seen dressed in a smart fuchsia dress and knotted pearls - then happily allowing the sisters to untwist her long blonde hair from a bun and cut it back.

A wimple is then placed around her head before she is introduced to the congregation by her new name.

‘This is the only place I could see myself being - because this is where it’s at,’ she says.

She is seen at prayer, weeping with emotion. ‘She really is committed to the abbey,’ said a source who met her at a service to which the public were admitted.

‘Her mother and sister were at the service. The nuns chanted in Latin. It was very beautiful.’

Last week, answering a telephone call from The Mail on Sunday, the convent’s porter, Mother Deborah Joseph, described how, as a novice, Laura must go through an apprenticeship known as ‘formation’.

Laura took her vows four years ago, but formation lasts for as long as five-and-a-half years.

Only at the end of this apprenticeship will she be eligible to take holy orders and assume the title of ‘Mother’.

Asked whether Sister John Mary could speak, Mother Joseph said she was too busy to come to the phone, explaining: ‘She’s out of the house and on the land. She’ll be busy until Vespers.’

To outsiders, the regime at the Abbey of Regina Laudis may seem harsh. The first bell of the day rings at 2am to announce Matins.

Then it clangs at first light, again at 8am for Mass and then at regular intervals until Vespers, at 5pm.

Chores for interns such as Laura include mopping the chapel floors, tending a herd of dairy cattle and scrubbing the pails that senior nuns use to churn butter.

Laura is embracing the lifestyle, despite the apparent hardships. ‘A monastic life, this is where the struggle is,’ Laura says in the film.

‘There’s no way out. You don’t get to leave and go to a movie.

‘You don’t get distraction from all the human emotions. It’s like this hothouse where things get worked out.’

The film featuring Laura is called God Is The Bigger Elvis, the title referring to the convent’s Prioress Mother Dolores and her former life, which was also glamorous.

She is a one-time Hollywood starlet, Dolores Hart, who appeared with Elvis Presley in two of his films, Lovin’ You and King Creole, before entering the order in 1963.

Happy couple: The Prime Minister married Samantha in June 1996


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The ultimate dog's dinner: Hundreds of caged canines saved from the cooking pot by quick-thinking Chinese activists

By Lee Moran

Sickening: Dogs destined to be slaughtered and served up in China's restaurants were saved when the truck transporting them was intercepted by animal rights activists

Dogs destined to be slaughtered and served up in China's restaurants were saved when the truck transporting them was intercepted by animal rights activists.

The vehicle, carrying 505 canines packed into just 156 tiny cages, was stopped on Yunnan Province's highway from Fumin to Kunming after other drivers spotted its sickening cargo.

A number posted pictures and comments about the load on the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Weibo, prompting the police to stop the lorry at the next toll gate.

Shocking: A total of 505 desperate-looking dogs were packed into just 156 tiny cages

Deaths: Due to the terrible conditions a number of the dogs had already died by the time they were discovered

It was then directed to a nearby police station where animal lovers, alerted to the news over the internet, began to arrive.

Sadly, due to the terrible conditions a number had already died by the time they were discovered.

One activist said: 'They were cramped together. A cage could be stuffed with seven to eight. Our hearts were broken in seeing that.'

Volunteers removed the cages from the lorry and spent the night feeding, watering and treating the animals.

Helping hand: Volunteers removed the cages from the lorry and spent the night feeding, watering and treating the animals

Cramped: Activists said seven to eight dogs were packed into each cage

Unbelievable: Horrifyingly, officers from the local Animal Inspection Department investigating the matter discovered that the transportation of the dogs was legal

Horrifyingly, officers from the local Animal Inspection Department investigating the matter discovered that the transportation of the dogs was legal.

The person who owned them did indeed have a licence and police were unable to act despite suspecting the dogs were headed for dog meat restaurants.

Another activist added: 'We can't stop them from eating dogs, as we don't have an animal welfare law. We just hope the government could stop dog mongers from doing dog business.'

However, a private dog rescue centre then stepped forward and brought all of the dogs off their owner for 60,000 Yuan (£5,900).

The animals will now be cared for until new owners can be found for them.

Sad: The person who owned them did indeed have a licence and police were unable to act despite suspecting the dogs were headed for dog meat restaurants


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Unimaginable horror as helicopter-borne poachers massacre 22 elephants before hacking off their tusks and genitals

-Record numbers of ivory seizures amid rise of organised crime gangs

By Simon Tomlinson

In a scene of inconceivable horror, these slaughtered elephant carcasses show the barbaric lengths poachers will go to in their hunt for nature's grim booty.

The bodies were among a herd of 22 animals massacred in a helicopter-borne attack by professionals who swooped over their quarry.

The scene beneath the rotor blades would have been chilling - panicked mothers shielding their young, hair-raising screeches and a mad scramble through the blood-stained bush as bullets rained down from the sky.

Barbaric: In a scene too graphic to show in full, the carcasses of some of the 22 massacred elephants lay strewn across Garamba National Park in the Congo after being gunned down by helicopter-borne poachers

When the shooting was over, all of the herd lay dead, one of the worst such killings in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo in living memory.

'It's been a long time since we've seen something like this,' said Dr Tshibasu Muamba, head of international cooperation for the Congolese state conservation agency, ICCN, as he surveyed the macarbre scene at Garamba National Park.

After the slaughter, the killers set about removing their tusks and genitals before likely smuggling them through South Sudan or Uganda, which form part of an 'Ivory Road' linking Africa to Asia.

Elephant and rhino poaching is surging, conservationists say, an illegal piece of Asia's scramble for African resources, driven by the growing purchasing power of the region's newly affluent classes.

Massacred: Members of the Pilanesberg National Park Anti-Poaching Unit stand guard as conservationists and police investigate the scene of a rhino poaching earlier this month in South Africa, where nearly two rhinos a day are being killed to meet demand for the animal's horn, which is worth more than its weight in gold

Rising trend: Elephant and rhino poaching is being driven by the growing purchasing power of the continent's newly affluent classes

'Biggest challenge': Conservation group TRAFFIC, which monitors the global trade in animals, said 2011 was the worst year for large ivory seizures in the more than two decades it has been tracking the trends

A record number of big ivory seizures were made globally in 2011 and the trend looks set to continue in 2012 as elephant massacres take place from Congo to Cameroon, where as many as 200 of the pachyderms, listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as 'vulnerable', were slain in January.

In South Africa, nearly two rhinos a day are being killed to meet demand for the animal's horn, which is worth more than its weight in gold. More are being killed each week now than were being taken on an annual basis a decade ago.

Conservation group TRAFFIC, which monitors the global trade in animals and plants, said 2011 was the worst year for large ivory seizures in the more than two decades it has been running a database tracking the trends.

After the trade in ivory was banned at the end of the 1980s - a policy implemented to stem a slaughter of elephants at the time - the illegal trade declined sharply, helped by the co-operation of Japan from where most of the demand had been coming.

Conservationists say there was a spike in the mid 1990s driven by emerging Chinese demand that bubbled for a few years, then dropped off as red flags were raised.

Targeted: An elephant walks through scrub in the dusk light in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa's North West Province. Hundreds of the pachyderms, listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as 'vulnerable', were slain in 2011

Endangered: A White Rhino and her calf walk in the dusk light in Pilanesberg National Park. More than 180 have been killed in South Africa so far this year

Zimbabwe-based Tom Milliken, who manages TRAFFIC's Elephant Trade Information System, said since 2004 'the trend has been escalating upwards again, dramatically so over the last three years.'

Ben Janse van Rensburg, head of enforcement for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the international treaty that governs trade in plants and animals, said: 'The biggest challenge is that in the last few years there has been a big shift from your ordinary poachers to your organized crime groups.'

This was on display in Congo last month, where investigators determined the poachers shot from the air because of the trajectory of the bullet wounds.

Helicopters do not come cheaply and their use points to a high level of organization.

Ken Maggs, the head of the environmental crimes investigation unit for South African National Parks, said one person recently arrested for trade in rhino horn had 5.1 million rand ($652,400) in cash in the boot of his car.

South Africa is the epicenter of rhino poaching because it hosts virtually the entire population of white rhino - 18,800 head or 93 per cent - and about 40 per cent of Africa's much rarer black rhino.

As of the middle of April, 181 rhinos had been killed in South Africa in 2012, according to official government data.

At this rate, more than 600 will be lost to poachers this year compared with 448 in 2011.

A decade ago, only a handful were being taken.


A stranger in the house! Russell Brand appears before Commons select committee wearing a torn vest, a cowboy hat and with tattoos on show and addresse

-Comedian said the death of his friend Amy Winehouse must not be 'in vain' and should prompt a major overhaul of drugs policies
-When told the committee was pushed for time, Brand quipped: 'Who’s next? Theresa May? She may not turn up. Ask her if she knows what day it is'
-Told the select committee is not a variety show, Brand replied to MP: 'You’re providing a little bit of variety though, making it more like Dad’s Army'

By Graham Smith

Centre of attention: Comedian Russell Brand gives evidence about this own battle with addiction to MPs reviewing the Government's drugs policy in his own inimitable style today

Comedian Russell Brand today gave evidence about his battle with addiction to MPs reviewing the Government's drugs policy in his own unique style.

The 36-year-old arrived for the select committee hearing at Portcullis House in Westminster wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that showed off his heavily-tattooed arm, copious jewellery, cowboy boots and hat, and a long trenchcoat.

His testimony was no less colourful as he addressed MPs as 'mate' and described how he became addicted to drugs because of emotional and psychological difficulties, adding 'it was rough'.

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Colourful: Brand, sat next to detox centre boss Chip Somers, told the hearing at Portcullis House in Westminster how he became addicted to drugs because of emotional and psychological difficulties

Flamboyant: Brand said society needs to change the way it views addicts

When pushed for time by chairman Keith Vax near the end of the lively and energetic 30-minute hearing, Brand replied: 'Time is infinite. We can’t run out of time.

'Who’s next? Theresa May? She may not turn up. Ask her if she knows what day it is.'

And when Labour MP David Winnick told Brand the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee was not a variety show, Brand replied: 'You’re providing a little bit of variety though, making it more like Dad’s Army.'

The flamboyant film star said addiction should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal matter.

He called for 'abstinence-based recovery' as he gave evidence about his own battle with addiction to MPs reviewing the Government’s drugs policy.

And he said the death of Amy Winehouse must not be 'in vain' and should prompt a major overhaul of drugs policies.

Winehouse’s death last year should become a 'force for change and good policy', he added.

He told the committee: 'Amy’s life should not have been in vain. It can be a catalyst and force change and good policy in this country.'

Brand has given frank accounts of his battle to overcome drug addiction and has said society needs to change the way it views addicts.

Brand said he was not calling for 'a free-for-all where everyone goes around taking drugs'.

'Addicts will always be able to get drugs', he said, 'whether they are illegal or not.'

However, he added he was not qualified to talk about legalisation.

Instead, he said addiction should be treated as an illness and society should recognise that addicts, with the proper help, can become active and useful members.

He said society should not 'discard people, write them off on methadone and leave them on the sidelines'.

Instead, society should 'neutralise the toxic social threat they pose as criminals'.
Asked if there should be a carrot and stick approach, he said it should be more about 'love and compassion'.

Outlaw: The 36-year-old arrived for the select committee hearing wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, jewelley, scruffy jeans, cowboy boots and hat, and a long trenchcoat

Speaking rapidly and addressing committee members by their first names, Brand dismissed suggestions that addicts cared where their drugs came from or the consequences of their production.

'I don’t think they’re going to be affected by that because they’re normally on drugs,' he said.

Asked about the role of celebrities, he said: 'Who cares about bloody celebrities?'
Brand said that, instead, he wanted to offer people 'truth and authenticity'.

Chip Somers, chief executive of the detox centre Focus 12, where Brand sought help with drug dependency, said: 'Just to park people on methadone for four to seven years is criminal.'

Abstinence was an 'admirable aim for everybody', he said, but he admitted that not everyone would achieve it.

'I don’t think methadone is a good thing.'

He added he thought many methadone users were also using other drugs.

Both Brand and Somers said the number of people criminalised for possession should be reduced.

Man of the people: As he left Portcullis House, Brand met with children visiting the Palace of Westminster

Brand said he would back the decriminalisation of drugs, adding there was 'a degree of cowardice and wilful ignorance around this condition'

Brand said he would back decriminalisation of drugs, adding there was 'a degree of cowardice and wilful ignorance around this condition'.

'I’m not a legal expert. I’m saying that, to a drug addict, the legal aspect is irrelevant,' he said. 'If you need to get drugs, you will.

'The criminal and legal status, I think, sends the wrong message.

'Being arrested isn’t a lesson, it’s just an administrative blip.'

He added that he was not telling people not to take drugs if it was causing no harm, but said he wanted to see more funding for abstinence-based recovery.

Members of the public packed the hearing room to hear Brand’s evidence.


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