Heroes of 2014: Reuven ‘Ruvi’ Rivlin, president of Israel

Reuven ‘Ruvi’ Rivlin is an unlikely hero. He is a lifelong member of Israel’s Likud party, and on the right of that rightwing bloc. He is an advocate of Greater Israel, swallowing up the occupied territories that ought to form an independent Palestinian state. And yet ever since his elevation to Israel’s largely ceremonial presidency in June he has acted as something like his country’s conscience – both castigating what he sees as a national slide into racism and intolerance, and standing up for the civil rights of Palestinians.

Published by: The Guardian

The Pope Francis stardust worked over Cuba. Could it work with Isis and the Taliban?

Stalin had quite a knack for the soundbite. “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.” That’s said to be him. “The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election. It’s the people who count the votes who decide an election.” Him too. And, among the most enduring, the dictator’s mocking riposte on hearing that the pope was urging an end to the oppression of Catholics under Soviet rule. “The pope? How many divisions has he got?”

Published by: The Guardian

CIA torture: Homeland and 24 make great TV, but they’re no way to govern

Reality rushes in where fiction fears to tread. The events of the real world constantly outstrip even the most creative maginations. As Philip Roth famously complained, “The actuality is continually outdoing our talents” – contriving situations that few novelists would dare offer, lest they seem outlandish and far-fetched. The latest proof is the US Senate intelligence committee report on the CIA’s use of torture in the course of fighting the “war on terror”.

Published by: The Guardian

George Osborne may live to regret his rush towards Wigan pier

It’s on the edges of living memory now, but in the folk memory it lives on. The very words – the 1930s – instantly evoke poverty and the Great Depression. Slum housing, queues for food, dirt-faced workers, children without shoes. Little wonder George Osborne took such exception to the suggestion by the BBC’s Norman Smith that if the chancellor implemented the cuts promised in his autumn statement, Britain would eventually reach 1930s levels of public spending.

Published by: The Guardian

Gordon Brown: without winning an election, he has left a legacy greater than Tony Blair’s

Even at the end, he still had them talking. For the best part of a quarter century, Gordon Brown has had the political press corps either scratching its collective head, trying to divine his latest tactical gambit, or else making a gag at his expense. As Brown formally announced his intention to stand down as an MP after a 32-year Commons career, some speculated that the timing was a classic Brownian ploy to sabotage preparations for George Osborne’s upcoming autumn statement, a last bit of partisan news management by a master of the art. Others said it was typically Brown in another sense: the re-announcing of news he’d already pre-announced last week.

Published by: The Guardian