Egyptian regime: Closes many churches, Builds one cathedral

By: Dr. Ashraf Ramelah | Voice of the Copts

This Christmas Eve, January 6, Coptic Christians celebrated mass during the grand opening of the brand-new state-built Nativity of Christ Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the state’s new administration district of Cairo. Those in attendance rejoiced the occasion while many rural villagers had no local church to attend. Cairo now has another (a third) cathedral, thanks to President Al-Sisi who is also responsible for the rise in church closings in 2017. This brings the total number of shut-downs for Christians to twenty-seven hundred.

Roughly half of all Orthodox churches in the country are nonoperational. This did not happen overnight. It was a gradual process beginning with the Nasser regime that continued through the subsequent Islamization of Egypt. In 2017, Law 80-2016 was enforced by the Al-Sisi regime so that all premises used for worship by Christians, yet still without permits, would be grandfathered in and issued one.  When all clergy around the country responded to the state’s request for comprehensive lists of churches for this purpose, local police instead used the master list to legally close them down. The Al-Sisi government never responded.

Last year, Copts experienced an increase in violence. A common thread in most cases was that police, if at all present, stood down or were nowhere to be found in crucial moments. This fact reflects poorly on Al-Sisi who has vowed to protect Christians. The final two weeks of December alone demonstrates their vulnerability after four years with a president who claims favor with the Copts.

Year-end terror targeting Copts

Approximately two thousand worshipers leaving a mosque ambushed a village church in the Giza governorate, north of Cairo, in order to stop the erection of a church bell (disallowed by law). It turned out to be a false accusation. Injuries to seven parishioners and damage to sacred property was a result of the weaponized use of wooden clubs, heavy rocks and steel bars. Satisfied, the attackers dispersed. Police patrols stood down and watched, then stepped in to board up the church.

Seven days later two men with bombs strapped to their bodies fired rounds from machine-guns and killed a church guard (uniformed police officer) during a church service south of Cairo in Helwan. Parishioners heard the rapid fire from inside the church and ran to lock the doors while the gunmen proceeded to kill ten Christians on the church grounds. One perpetrator was shot and killed by the church guard before the guard was in turn killed. The other spent ten minutes more at-large while police patrolled the perimeters and surrounding streets doing nothing to step in. Finally, a pedestrian snatched up the gun of the dead guard and shot the second perpetrator, injuring him. He was captured by civilians and handed over to police who suddenly appeared.

On New Year’s Eve two Coptic Christian men with their children stopped to visit a store owner and friend in Omranya, the suburban town of Cairo, on their way back home from a church service. Two masked gunmen who yelled slurs and curses at Christians opened fire and killed the two brothers. Traumatized, the children survived the bloody scene begging for their fathers.

Copts celebrating Al-Sisi in the new state cathedral

After a terrible year of violence and church closings, Copts who attended the Cairo cathedral’s Christmas Eve service paid homage to Egypt’s head-of-state. On what is normally a solemn religious occasion, congregants waved Egyptian flags and leapt over pews — yelling praise at the president upon the dais. The strictly conservative clergy allowed this commotion, making an exception in order for parishioners to celebrate the visiting president. Coptic support for Al-Sisi is at an all-time high as he approaches his re-election campaign in March.

Orthodox clergy including the pope overwhelmingly support the president. Symbolically, two gold framed poster-sized portraits of the pope and the president hung prominently side-by-side on the interior side wall of Nativity Cathedral. This is completely out of character for the church as the sanctuary only ever carries pictures of saints and never insinuates politics.

This violation of centuries-old Orthodox tradition represents the strong influence of the Islamic state and President Al-Sisi over the church and Pope Tawadros II. By all appearance, the pope is submitted to Islam and with him is the Orthodox body. He recently met with the Grand Imam and declared that while God protects Christians from heaven, “Muslims protect us in the earth.” His diplomacy apparently included the removal of his ever-present cross worn upon his chest so as not to offend Islam’s religious head. Is this the pope’s strategy to bring safety and peace to the Copts? If so, it’s not working.

The US Congress is aware of the bloodshed and so recently presented a bill to deal with the discrimination and oppression of the Egyptian Coptic minority. However, Pope Tawadros II condemned the American attempt to alleviate persecution of Christians by deeming it “interference” and not welcome. He is not the first pope to show his loyalty to the Islamic state and the regime, forsaking his people by appeasing their oppressors.

More and more Copts are beginning to openly criticize clergy statements and actions. In their observations and discussions of the pope resides a daring never before seen. Strong opposition and questioning can be heard within blogging circles. Although the discontented have both voice and sound reason, it is unlikely any sort of unified political voice will emerge in the near future for the Coptic community as long as the clergy fills this role.


What Could Push Oil To $100?

If anyone thought the latest oil market outlooks of the EIA and the IEA are upbeat, here’s an even more upbeat one from Energy Aspects: The consultancy expects crude demand this year to grow by 1.7 million bpd, and says Brent could touch above $100 a barrel in 2019.

According to Energy Aspects, the reason for the further jump in prices will be a drop in new production outside the U.S. shale patch. It’s a little hard to buy that, however, if one remembers that there is 1.8 million bpd in production capacity ready to be tapped again once OEPC and Russia taper their production cuts. That alone should take care of the demand growth that the consultancy predicts for this year. That is, unless it booms by 2 million bpd, which is the top of the range forecast by Energy Aspects. But even then, the U.S. and Russia alone could take care of it: The Russian state majors are itching to expand production in eastern Siberia.

Of course, the likelihood of OPEC and Russia bringing all that production online is highly debatable, as the partners in the cut deal seem still determined to continue with the original plan. Nevertheless, the barrels are there, so there’s no urgent need for actual new production yet. However, if global demand grows so much so quickly, does anyone have any doubts that the new, expanded oil cartel will be flexible enough to make the best of the situation? Hardly.

So how likely is this demand growth? According to Energy Aspects, there is currently “no real drag on demand growth.” The global economy is in growth mode, which lends strong support to the price momentum, and the short-term forecasts for the top consumers of crude oil are all bullish. Yet, there’s one potential drag: prices.

Here’s what Bloomberg Gadfly’s Julian Lee says: “Rising prices can have a chilling effect on demand growth, and benchmark crude prices have risen more than 55 percent since their rally started in June. End-user retail prices are feeling this.”

But that’s not all. While Lee acknowledges that higher prices at the pump will affect demand in Europe and North America, the effect of more expensive fuels will be much more palpable in developing nations, which are the main drivers of global growth, after all. There, Lee notes, governments used the oil price slump to reduce fuel subsidies, and now that prices have started climbing up again, the end-user price jump will be much higher. This will inevitably interfere with economic activity, potentially undermining that growth everyone is talking about.

And then there’s gas — the bridge fuel, the alternative. Both countries and oil majors are investing a large percentage of total capex in natural gas production and infrastructure, with China as the best example. Gas is cheap, the market is oversupplied and unlikely to swing into a deficit anytime soon, given the number of large-scale LNG projects in Australia coming online. True gas-fueled cars are few, and car fuels account for the biggest portion of oil demand. But higher prices are higher prices. Too high, and people start using public transport if it’s available.

But let’s forget about prices at the pump and the switch from oil to gas. Let’s talk about that economic growth that the IMF forecast in its latest World Economic Outlook and that so many consultancies are also predicting. There are voices being heard — including from the IMF itself — that the next recession is not far away.

In fact, according to some, such as Forbes’ Michael Lynch, a recession is pretty close by. Lynch uses an indicator he calls “more money than brains” to anticipate recessions. Describing it as “conspicuously ridiculous consumption”, he exemplifies it with the current fad of raw water. He also notes that the U.S. stock market is at historic highs. It is time for a correction, Lynch says, and he is not the only one. With a correction in stock markets and a slowdown in the economy of the world’s largest consumer, what are the chances of Brent hitting $100 a barrel? Slim.

Link to original article: https://oilprice.com/Energy/Oil-Prices/What-Could-Push-Oil-To-100.html

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com


Fourth Quarter GDP Released At 8:30 AM

By: Kent Engelke | Capitol Securities

There is a strong probability the economy ended last year with the longest stretch of 3% or better growth since 2005. Consumer spending is solid. Business investment spending is accelerating. Housing is robust and rebounding. GDP is expected to rise by 3.0% after a 3.2% gain in the third quarter and 3.1% in the previous period.

I think the tax cuts amplified by an increase in monetary velocity should permit a first quarter growth rate in excess of 3.0%, the first such year of 3% plus growth since 2003-04. And then there is the dollar which is around three year lows, a decline that should make US products more competitive. Against this backdrop, JP Morgan’s Dimon is suggesting a 4% pace.

Wow! Growth at this rate would shatter all assumptions.

President Trump presents today at Davos, the first President to speak since President Clinton. President Trump is the antithesis of the leaders of Davos…economic nationalism versus globalism.

As I have commented several times, global leaders are still espousing multipolarity while their societies have endorsed economic nationalism. Many have pontificated China will fill the void as the US focuses domestically.

It is very evident why China has adopted this globalization philosophy. China is an export dominated economy defined as their growth is dependent upon the health and trading practices of the west, specifically the US. If the US changes philosophy, it has a major impact upon China. It is generally accepted an export dominated country is a sign of weakness not strength.

Commenting about global trade, global trade is thriving after Trump’s first year. Data is suggesting world trade rose by 4.1% in three-month year-on-year terms in November. Exports from the Euro zone are up almost 8% in 2017. Asian trade is up about 5%.

Is this a function of an accelerating US and global economies and from the recognition that Trump’s rhetoric is just where his words fall short from reality?

What I find interesting is that many are now expecting four interest rate hikes in 2018, the result of growing trade and accelerating global economies led by the US. A month ago, two rate hikes were all that was to be expected believing the Fed was off course with their forecasts of three.

If four hikes were to occur and if historical relationships are to be maintained, 2018 could be regarded as the worst year for Treasuries in over 50 years, eclipsing the 1994 fiasco when rates were then increased at a rate faster than expected. During 1994, the economy and profits expanded at a greater rate than expected, but equities were flat to down.

Commenting about yesterday’s market activity, averages were again bifurcated with the Dow posting a nominal advance and the S & P / NASDAQ flat.

Last night the foreign markets were up. London was up 0.41%, Paris was up 0.87% and Frankfurt was up 0.08%. China was up 0.28%, Japan was down 0.16% and Hang Sang was up 1.53%.

The Dow should open nominally higher ahead of Trump’s 8:00 AM speech and 8:30 GDP data. The 10-year is off 7/32 to yield 2.65%.


#TRUMPDreamers?? Lindsey Graham confident Trump will agree to DACA Amnesty

By: Renee Nal | New Zeal

BIZARRO WORLD: Lindsey Graham tweeted this meme on January 25 2018.

On Friday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted a video of himself with a group of illegal alien activists. In the tweet, Graham breathlessly reports: “Great to speak with these young people who will be #TRUMPDreamers.”


Perhaps Graham missed the memo, but Americans voted for Trump in part because of his strong stand against illegal immigration. Additionally, Americans voted for this president due to their intense distrust for the Republican establishment of which Lindsey Grahamnesty is firmly entrenched.

Today, he doubled down, using the insanely out-of-touch and seriously offensive hashtag:

It appears that Lindsey Graham, an establishment republican and well-known amnesty advocate, is confident that President Trump will make a deal that will grant amnesty to DACA recipients and most likely, their families.

What Lindsey Graham MUST know is that the push for DACA Amnesty is a highly organized, decades-old goal of a chilling and little known organization called NAKASEC.

NAKASEC (and their Chicago affiliate HANA Center) was founded by fugitive activist Yoon Han Bong who fled from South Korea during the May 18th Gwangju People’s Uprising of 1980 and became a “primary contributor to the progressive Korean American grassroots movement.” 

Yet here he is.



The question is: Is it possible to be any more out of touch than Lindsey Graham? It is this author’s fervent hope that President Trump stops listening to this man.