Hit & Run: Brother bother

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama can count himself lucky. His much younger half-brother George has caused a flutter by getting arrested for marijuana possession. But on the Richter scale of sibling embarrassments, this one is a barely discernable tremor.

For one thing, the two barely know each other. For another – so what? The president himself has admitted trying marijuana and cocaine when he was young. Most important of all, the offence happened half a world away, in Kenya. Whatever else, the errant George is not in the US, subject to the pressures and temptations, financial and otherwise, to which First Brothers are so often prone. Consider a few case histories.

The most recent example was Roger Clinton, a lovable dopehead and would be rock-star who spend a year in prison on a 1984 cocaine distribution charge. Roger was a constant worry throughout Bill's two terms. Aptly, his Secret Service codename was 'Headache.'

Before that there was Billy Carter, who debuted as a national celebrity during Jimmy's 1976 White House campaign by holding forth to reporters at his petrol station in Plains, Georgia, a can of beer in his hand. "My mother went into the Peace Corps at age 68. I got a sister who's a holy roller preacher. I got another sister who rides motorcycles. I got a brother who thinks he's going to be President of the United States. I'm the only sane one in the family."

His Libyan connection was another matter entirely. Billy took a $200,000 loan from the Gaddafi government and eventually had to register as a lobbyist for one of America's Middle Eastern enemies. Billy, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1988 at the age of 51, rates a massive 7 on the presidential Richter scale.

A decade earlier came Sam Houston Johnson, LBJ's sibling. In his book My Brother Lyndon, Sam admits to having been a problem drinker – which is why, some say, he lived as a near-prisoner at the White House, to keep his boozing under wraps.

Even before that, Donald Nixon was creating problems. Back in 1957, Donald accepted a $205,000 loan from Howard Hughes to keep his hamburger restaurant chain out of bankruptcy. The deal, with its whiff of political favours, long haunted Nixon. Years later, when Richard was president, Donald and his son Donald Jr. also helped channel financial contributions from the fugitive financier Robert Vesco.

And finally, inevitably, there's the sibling of George W Bush. Not Jeb – the former Florida governor whose reputation as the best politician of his generation of Bushes has, if anything, been enhanced by his brother's wretched presidency – but Neil. If there was a family black sheep, it was not George W. but Neil, second youngest of Dubya's three brothers. Back in the late 1980s, Neil caused problems for his father, president-to-be George H.W. Bush, when he was a director of Silverado, a failed Colorado savings and loan bank.

When George W. was in the White House, Neil cashed in on his name and connections to secure business deals, and was involved in a messy divorce. Rupert Cornwell

Shoot the puppy (please!)

She's Hollywood's gym-toned, steely-eyed, go-to girl for the Hollywood romcom machine; he's the unlucky-in-love party boy famous for his roles in frolicsome flicks such as Shanghai Noon and Wedding Crashers. Together, Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are the human stars of what looks like the sickliest feel-good film of all time – Marley and Me. It's the story of a high-spirited Labrador puppy bringing meaning into the lives of two disillusioned but well-groomed newlyweds, and the soppy promotional flyer is awash with big grins, glossy coats and mischievous dogs. And the prospect is enough to make Hit & Run's hardened heart long for Cujo. Rebecca Armstrong

A perfect 10 – but she wears an 11

So, Asda is launching a range of women's jeans in odd sizes – 11, 13 and 15 – to cater for those who aren't a perfect 10, 12 or 14. Getting away from standard sizing is a nice idea, but hardly revolutionary, because jeans measured by the waist often already come in odd numbers, while at £12 a pair, any advantage of the new system is likely to be cancelled out by an unflatteringly basic cut and style. And what will be the repercussions for size zero? Will all those Hollywood twiglets soon be striving to be a size -1? Carola Long

Now the couch potato can look like a sack of spuds

If you know what a Snuggie is, you probably own one already and are past redemption. Not since the advent of Crocs have the pioneers of crappy "comfort" fashion come up with such a terrifying garment. Indeed, the full horror of the Snuggie, a sort of fleece cloak, would surpass the Croc, were it not designed to be worn solely at home.

Calling it a "fleece cloak" is generous. A Snuggie is a blanket with arms. Or a robe worn backwards. A cassock, perhaps. In the hyper-cheesy American TV ad, a proud couple standing tall in matching scarlet Snuggies look primed for genuflection towards their all-powerful Snuggie master.

Four million of these execrable items have been sold in the US. There are pro- and anti-Snuggie Facebook groups, and the official page has almost 10,000 fans. So deep has the Snuggie, or "Slanket", reached into America's pop-culture consciousness that Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres have built comedy routines around them. Rumour has it that there was a Snuggie wearer in the crowds watching the Obama inauguration, and a "Cult of Snuggie" clip on YouTube has received more than 300,000 hits.

As the ad points out, regular blankets are limiting. With a Snuggie, your couch-potato digits are free to poke down pies and guzzle cola, and you get to look like a Jedi knight, too. Sophie Morris

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