Newspaper headlines: Cuba-US thaw, first woman bishop and Al-Sweady 'lawfare'

One phrase - "in from the cold" - features in many reports on the end of diplomatic hostility between the US and Cuba.

The Guardian describes Cubans "huddled around their television sets" in an animated Havana, as President Raul Castro announces the news in an address timed to coincide with that of President Barack Obama, in the US. The paper also notes the role of Pope Francis in the deal, describing 18 months of secret talks as "the biggest success for the Vatican's ultra-discreet diplomacy for at least 30 years".

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Philip Sherwell, in the Telegraph, describes the financial backdrop: "For several years, Cuba's economy has been kept afloat by 80,000 barrels of oil a day from Caracas... But with oil prices plummeting and Venezuela's economy in freefall, it was unclear how long that economic lifeline could last. The older Castro [ex-president, Fidel] would never have countenanced a rapprochement but his more pragmatic brother reluctantly conceded that he would have to talk to the regional superpower for economic survival, despite the risks that poses to his political power."

Tim Walker runs through the decades-old feud for the Independent, pointing out the US suspension of arms shipments to dictator General Fulgencio Batista's Cuba helped Fidel Castro seize power in 1959. The new Cuban leader was then welcomed to the US, given a tour of Yankee Stadium and allowed to speak at Harvard University. However, by the early 1960s, he writes: "There were several outlandish CIA plots against the Cuban leader, including one infamous plan to kill or maim him with an exploding cigar."


Policy test

Papers note the policy will prove highly controversial in the US, where a complete lifting of the embargo would require the approval of the Republican-led Congress. The Daily Telegraph suggests the deal will be President Obama's "legacy" but suspects the rest of the world might ask: "What took you so long?" Its editorial argues: "Years of sanctions have had little effect; there was no reason to believe Cuba was a state sponsor of terrorism; and the embargo was harming the Cuban people rather than the party leadership."

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For the Times, Jacqui Goddard visits Miami's Little Havana district - the social and business hub for 1.5 million Cuban Americans - to find protesters angry at President Obama for doing a deal with "Castro the terrorist". She writes: "People gathered around TVs and radios to listen for news of any guarantees that Raul Castro's regime may have given regarding the restoration of democracy and an end to political and social oppression. There was none."

John-Paul Rathbone writes in the Financial Times that other Cuban-Americans have been among the most enthusiastic champions of engagement. "Although several Cuban-American legislators remain opponents of rapprochement, over 300,000 of their peers travelled to Cuba last year... Cuba's exiles remain part of the island's solution not, as is so often thought, part of the problem."

Pointing to President Castro's liberalising reforms in agriculture and private ownership, and some expansion of personal freedoms, the Times says the policy deserves a chance. "In setting out its plans, the Obama administration made clear that it sought better conditions for Cuba's people, notably in democratic reforms and improved observance of human rights. Accomplishing those changes will be the test of whether this turn in US policy works," it argues.


'Stained glass ceiling'

The announcement that Rev Libby Lane will become Bishop of Stockport, making her the first woman to be consecrated by the Church of England, prompts the Telegraph's John Bingham to explore how she broke the "stained glass ceiling". Her father's encouragement to believe anything was possible led her to be among the first women ordained in 1994, along with her husband, the writer says. Rev Lane was initially a "vicar's wife" as she brought up their children, before effectively switching roles with her husband. He's quoted joking: "Nobody has written the book about the role of the bishop's husband. But I will wait for that contract."

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The Independent gives the lowdown on the bishop's new home of Stockport, describing "cultural gems" such as a museum housing 400 hats from around the world, and the town's viaduct being the largest brick structure in western Europe. "Stockport also briefly had a cannabis cafe in 2001, until it was closed down 10 minutes later by the police," it adds.

The Times welcomes the "long overdue" appointment but - noting the church has begun a "shared conversation" about sexuality - says what it does next will "say a great deal about its capabilities and willingness to survive as a force in modern society". It adds: "The manifold prejudices that rack the church will not subside until there are no 'women bishops' or 'gay bishop' - only bishops."

"Hallelujah!" says the Daily Mirror, welcoming an appointment "just in time for Christmas". However, its Kerber and Black cartoon pictures her male counterparts laying down the law by saying: "Thou must honour God, thou must serve thy congregation, and thou must not speak during the footie."

They needn't worry about that given, as the Sun puts it, Rev Lane is into "sax and devils", being both a keen musician and fan of Manchester United. Meanwhile, the Mail's Pugh cartoon imagines the new bishop wearing mitre and robes while being driven to church by her husband, who tells her: "You do realise darling, you wore that outfit last Sunday."


'Act of lawfare'

An inquiry's ruling that allegations of murder and torture made by Iraqi detainees against British soldiers were "deliberate lies" provokes much anger in the press.

The Daily Star calls the claims "a terrible slur on our brave boys". Noting that £31m of taxpayers' cash was spent on an inquiry that amounted to "nothing more than a get-richer-quick scheme for money-chasing lawyers", it demands "changes to ensure this farce never happens again".

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"Much worse is that some of our bravest men and women have been forced to spend a decade fighting for their reputations," argues the Sun.

The Mail's sketchwriter, Quentin Letts, captures the anger in Defence Secretary Michael Fallon's Commons statement on the matter, much directed at the lawyer who pressed the Iraqis' claims. "That solicitor, said Mr Fallon, was 'Mr Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers'. I don't think I have heard a name mentioned with such a clear sense of loathing."

Pointing out that both the Royal Military Police and International Red Cross had already investigated - and dismissed - the claims, the Telegraph argues: "We must question how this farrago of justice was allowed to go on for so long at such a cost both to the taxpayer and the integrity of the Army. One reason is that a crucial document showing that the alleged civilian victims were in fact insurgents was not disclosed in good time."

Afghanistan and Iraq veteran Col Richard Kemp, writing in the Independent, describes the claims as an "act of lawfare... the increasing use of human rights laws, the laws of armed conflict and other legislation to undermine the capability of Western democracies to fight effectively in the 21st Century". He adds: "The cumulative effect of years of legal attack on our troops is to risk making both soldiers and commanders unnecessarily cautious in battle, endangering the lives of civilians that they have to protect."


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