4th December 2019

Written by Juan Palenzuela, Researcher

Edited by David Gaffney, Partner

Good morning,

“The Bible has returned to the palace”. 

These were some of the first words by Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, as she entered the presidential palace in La Paz, Bible in hand, to fill the power void created by the ousting of Evo Morales. During his presidency, Morales modified the constitution and removed Catholicism as the state religion of Bolivia, declaring a new secular state.

Divergent views on Catholicism's place in society are being played out around the globe. On October 21, a group of conservative Catholic militants broke into the Church of Santa Maria in Traspontina in Rome to steal statues of the Pachamama, an Andean goddess, that were brought from the Amazon during the most recent episcopal synod there. The thieves subsequently threw the statues into the Tiber river, recording and sharing the whole episode on YouTubebecause according to them the controversial idols "did not belong in a Catholic church". The synod had been organised by the Vatican to discuss the future of the religion in the Amazon basin, and it led to bishops voting in favour of allowing married men to be ordained as priests in that region. 

That synod was an important step in recognising an undeniable trend: the church is losing some of its influence -, to both a lack of new believers and to evangelism in the developing world. At the same time, it is facing a backlash from the poor handling of sexual abuse cases. In response, the Pope began taking unprecedented steps to reform an entity that is known to be rather reluctant to change. The synod exemplifies these efforts, but so does the increasing willingness to spread awareness around climate change and diversity

But the reforms could well get out of control. On Sunday, the Central Committee of German Catholics (CCGC) officially began a two-year consultation period to discuss critical issues such as celibacy, the position of women within the church, sexuality and power. Although in theory the outcome of the review will not change Catholic doctrine, the intention is to accelerate the debate across the wider community. Notably, the two-year period was called by the CCGC independently, attracting criticism from the Vatican and from the Pope himself who fears that the conference could ultimately lead to the fragmentation of the church. 

This is the first time since 1962 that the Holy See is undergoing serious structural reform, albeit this time at a higher and even more radical pace. To succeed, the Pope will have to manage the delicate equilibrium between reformists and conservatives within the church. Above all, however, he must communicate his strategy clearly to not just the Vatican clique, but to all believers around the world alike.


Nato Leaders are due to meet near Watford today to begin formal two-day talks marking the organisation’s 70th anniversary. The talks have been shadowed by clashes between allies, as explained here yesterday. Turkey is one of the key issues at hand and, before departing for the summit, President Erdogan said he would oppose a Nato defence plan for the Baltic region if the bloc did not support Turkey in its fight against Kurdish groups in Syria that it considers terrorists. 

Kamala Harris dropped her bid for the Democratic nomination yesterday, citing a lack of sufficient financial resources to continue, in an email to supporters of the campaign. With the departure of Harris, the remaining top five candidates ahead of the Iowa caucuses in two months are Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Andrew Yang; while nine other candidates with negligible support still stand. 

China announced it would sanction US NGOs working in the country in retaliation for legislation passed last week by the US Congress backing pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. It is the latest in a string of tit-for-tats to have overshadowed prospects of a potential trade deal between the two nations. Global financial markets have recorded losses as a result, as analysts believe that the countries will fail to sign an interim trade agreement before 15 December, when a new set of American tariffs on Chinese goods is set to be applied. 

Business and economy

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, have announced that they are stepping down from running Alphabet, Google’s parent company. They serve as CEO and president of the group, respectively. Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, will now replace Page as chief executive of Alphabet. Page and Brin will, however, remain on the board of Alphabet with controlling voting shares. 

Renault chairman Jean-Dominique Senard addressed speculation of a merger between his firm and Nissan, which currently operate in a strategic alliance. Senard denied the prospects of that scenario, arguing that convergence between the two carmakers was imperative, but that a full merger was not the ideal step at the moment. Combining the two firms was until recently a very real prospect, after the fall-out from the arrest of former CEO Carlos Ghosn put the alliance at the brink of bankruptcy. 

Sky Studios has announced plans to create a complex just north of London that could see the creation of nearly 2,000 jobs, as the company tries to compete with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The proposed site will allow Sky to produce several films or television series simultaneously when it opens in 2022, and it will help Sky achieve its previous commitment to double spending on original programmes to more than £1bn a year by 2024. 

Columns of note

Writing for the Financial Times, Brooke Masters argues that Boeing’s close relationship with regulators in the US is starting to backfire for the manufacturer. The civil regulation authority deregulated the testing of new models in the past, leaving the task to the manufacturers themselves. That benefited Boeing greatly but now, with the scandal surrounding the 737 Max, the jets were grounded and the regulator will have to come up with ways to supervise the testing and approval of the planes, delaying the delivery of 737 Max even further. 

Also in the FT, John Gapper discusses the surge of TikTok, the video app that has come to greater prominence in the past few months. While China allows ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, to operate freely outside of China, its technology is claimed by some to be serving as a “Trojan horse” for censorship. ByteDance, argues Gapper, has no choice but to obey President Xi Jinping’s government, as it found out last year, when Zhang Yiming, director of ByteDance, was made to apologise publicly for “deviation from public opinion guidance”. 

Source: The Times


What happened yesterday?

Global equities were hit by the increasing tensions between the US and China, as analysts reduced their expectations for an interim deal to be signed before 15 December, when a new set of American tariffs on Chinese goods is set to kick in.  

In America, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.01% at 27,502.81, while the S&P 500 was 0.66% weaker at 3,093.20 and the Nasdaq Composite saw out the session 0.55% softer at 8,520.64. 

In Europe, meanwhile the Stoxx 600 was down by 0.63% at 398.48, as Germany's Dax edged up 0.2% to 12,989.29 but the French CAC 40 dropped by 1.03% to 5,727.22. Meanwhile, London's FTSE 100 was 1.75% weaker at 7,158.76. 

Despite the wider trend, UK equities performed positively on solid unemployment and productivity data. The FTSE 100 was called to open 10 points higher at 7,168. 

What's happening today?


Impax Asset Management Ixico PCF Bank Stock Spirit AGMs Ceres Power Frontier Ip

Interims Loungers Plc Quiz Sdcl Energy Ef. VP

Int. Economic Announcements (08:55) PMI Composite (GER) (08:55) PMI Services (GER) (09:00) PMI Composite (EU)  (09:00) PMI Services (EU)  (12:00) MBA Mortgage Applications (US)  (14:45) PMI Composite (US) (14:45) PMI Services (US) (15:00) ISM Non-Manufacturing (US) (15:30) Crude Oil Inventories (US)

UK Economic Announcements (09:30) PMI Services

Source: Financial Times

Did you know?

The Big Bang theory was proposed for the first time by Georges Lemaître, a Jesuit priest, in 1927.

Parliamentary highlights

TODAY House of Commons The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019 House of Lords The House will next sit on Monday 16 December 2019 Scottish Parliament

Ministerial Statement Auditor General Report into Prisons Members' Business S5M-18826 Jenny Gilruth: Making Glenrothes a Living Wage Town Scottish Government Debate Scottish Government Support for Veterans and the Armed Forces Community in Scotland Committee Announcements Members' Business S5M-18901 Jeremy Balfour: #PurpleLightUp, a Global Movement for Change


Scottish Parliament

First Minister's Questions

Member's Business S5M-19957 SCAN Art in Action Campaign

Portfolio Questions Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity

Scottish Government Debate Disability Sport and Participation