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Tags: People | Giving | Up | US Citizenship | Canada Plans to Spy On Social Media 24-7 | Huge Oil Find Called Death Knell for OPEC | Christians Under Attack in Africa

More People Giving Up US Citizenship; Canada Plans to Spy On Social Media 24-7

By    |   Sunday, 08 December 2013 03:40 PM

Insider Report

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Huge Oil Find Called 'Death Knell for OPEC'
2. Record Numbers Are Renouncing US Citizenship
3. Christians Under Attack in Africa's 'Forgotten Crisis'
4. Canada Plots to Spy on Social Media
5. Daughter Sasha Has 'Big Say' in Where Obamas Will Live
6. Amtrak Loses More Than $800 Million on Food Services

1. Huge Oil Find Called 'Death Knell for OPEC'

The discovery of massive oil deposits in Australia could shake up the world's energy industry and threaten OPEC's grip on oil markets.

Australia's Linc Energy has released reports, based on exploration near the remote town of Coober Pedy in South Australia, estimating the amount of oil in the untapped Arckaringa Basin could range to as high as 233 billion barrels.

That could turn Australia from an oil importer into a large-scale exporter.

Estimates of 233 billion barrels are just 30 billion fewer than the estimated reserves in Saudi Arabia, 263 billion barrels. They are more than in Venezuela (211 billion barrels), Canada (175 billion), Iran (137 billion), and Iraq (115 barrels), and could be worth more than $20 trillion.

The discovery isn't fresh news, however — reports about Coober Pedy's potential date back to January 2013. The news is that there hasn't been more news about the find, according to oil industry adviser Dr. Kent Moors, Ph.D., who thinks the discovery could be even larger than estimated.

"The find may land at 300 or 400 billion barrels, making it one of the greatest unconventional oil discoveries any of us will see in our lifetime," said Moors, a professor in the Graduate Center for Social and Public Policy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and founder and editor of the Oil & Energy Investor newsletter.

"It represents a bona-fide redrawing of the global energy map as we know it, and the mainstream media is completely ignoring it."

He calls the discovery "the death knell for OPEC" and a "death blow for Saudis," predicting that Australia could become "one of the world's biggest oil exporters."

Linc Energy managing director Peter Bond told Australia's Herald Sun that the company plans to drill up to six wells to confirm the estimates of shale oil deposits, adding that "it's one of the key prospective territories in the world at the moment."

Saudi Arabia and the rest of OPEC are already threatened by the shale oil boom in the United States, which has reduced America's dependence on foreign oil.

Back in July, Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal warned in a letter to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi and others that "America and some Asian countries made big discoveries in shale gas extraction which will affect the oil industry around the world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular."

Editor's Note:

2. Record Numbers Are Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

So far this year, a record 2,369 people have either given up their American passports or surrendered their green cards after long-term residency in the United States.

That is a 33 percent increase from the previous record set in 2011, when the Treasury Department published the names of 1,781 people who had given up their citizenship or green cards, and this year's total is likely to rise before year's end.

The chief reason cited for Americans renouncing their citizenship: avoiding U.S. taxes.

Unlike many other nations, the United States taxes people based on citizenship, not on residency. So Americans who move out of the country still have to file with the IRS.

Andrew Mitchel, a tax lawyer in Connecticut, attributes the increasing numbers of expatriates to "the IRS cracking down on people with overseas accounts."

He told CNBC: "All this publicity has really made people more aware of these U.S. tax obligations and all the penalties that can go along with not filling out the forms," which can be large enough to bankrupt an overseas American.

Renouncing U.S. citizenship not only removes the obligation to file with the IRS and pay U.S. taxes, it also solves a common problem for Americans living overseas.

"They don't want to tell foreign banks that they're an American, because the banks often don't want American money in the bank," said Robert Wood, a San Francisco-based attorney.

That's because a law requires American taxpayers to report information about certain foreign financial accounts and offshore assets, according to CNBC. And it requires foreign banks to register with the IRS and report information about accounts held by American taxpayers.

There is a potential downside to renouncing American citizenship, however. Those who do must obtain a visa to come back to the United States, and there is a risk the U.S. government will not let them in.

The Reed Amendment, introduced by then-Rep. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and enacted in 1996, states: "Any alien who is a former citizen of the United States who officially renounces United States citizenship and who is determined by the Attorney General to have renounced United States citizenship for the purpose of avoiding taxation by the United States is inadmissible."

But people are not required to state why they are renouncing their citizenship, and Mitchel said to his knowledge the law has never been enforced.

Editor's Note:

3. Christians Under Attack in Africa's 'Forgotten Crisis'

Tens of thousands of Christians have fled violent attacks by Muslim rebels in the Central African Republic, and a French official warns that the country is "on the verge of genocide."

Some 400,000 people have been displaced during the ongoing conflict in the nation of 4.6 million, and thousands are seeking refuge at a Catholic mission in a town 250 miles north of the capital, Bangui. The United States estimates that 68,000 people have fled to another country.

An Islamic rebel alliance, the Seleka Coalition, is carrying out attacks on Christian civilians, with "murders, summary executions, pillaging, sexual violence, and church burnings reported," according to CNS News.

The landlocked Central African Republic (CAR) is about 50 percent Christian and just 15 percent Muslim.

Last March, Seleka overthrew President Francois Bozize, a Christian former army chief who seized power in 2003. The rebel coalition installed its leader, Michel Djotodia — a Soviet-educated Muslim — as president.

He supposedly disbanded Seleka, but the government has no power outside the capital and the attacks continue. Christian vigilante groups have been fighting back since September.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council that the country is in the grips of "widespread horror."

"Some call this a forgotten crisis," he said, warning that "if this situation is left to fester," it "could easily spill over into neighboring countries."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: "The country is on the verge of genocide. France, CAR's neighbors, and the international community are worried. The United Nations will give permission to African forces, the African Union and France to intervene."

A 2,500-strong regional peacekeeping force is due to be beefed up in December and come under African Union command, Reuters reported. But there are appeals for broader international action as the conflict escalates.

France already has about 400 troops in the country, mainly protecting the airport and French assets in the capital.

The Christian religious freedom advocacy group Open Doors is reportedly helping victims of rape in the CAR to obtain medical attention and trauma counseling.

Open Doors USA President/CEO David Curry said the conflict is "not a world focus right now, but it should be."

Editor's Note:

4. Canada Plots to Spy on Social Media

A document released by a Canadian agency indicates the country's federal government is planning to inaugurate round-the-clock monitoring of social media.

A procurement document posted by Public Works and Government Services Canada states that the government is seeking a firm that "continuously monitors social media content on a daily basis in near real time and [can] provide Web-based, online metrics and reporting capabilities."

That includes combing through "blogs, micro-blogs, social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, forums and message boards, traditional news websites and comment sections, media sharing websites (videos, photos and user-generated content websites including YouTube.)"

In the United States, the National Security Agency has already been monitoring some social media.

The Canadian job includes gauging the sentiment and tone of posts and determining their reach, CBS News reported.

The contractor is also being asked to monitor English- and French-language Internet news sites and blogs. And the procurement document specifies that the contractor must be able to provide the service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"Is it creepy? Yeah, for the vast majority of the public it will seem creepy because the sense is the government is looking over their shoulder," said digital public affairs analyst Mark Blevis of FullDuplex.ca.

"But it's open data, it's open information. If it's publicly accessible, why should the government have any less privilege accessing it than anyone else in the public eye?

"What they will do with it is going to be the big question."

Editor's Note:

5. Daughter Sasha Has 'Big Say' in Where Obamas Will Live

President Obama's now 12-year-old daughter Sasha could determine whether the family remains in Washington after Obama leaves the White House.

In a recent interview with ABC News, the president said Sasha "will have a big say in where we are."

When Obama leaves office in January 2017, daughter Malia, now 15, will be in college and Sasha will be a sophomore in high school, The Chicago Sun-Times noted. Both girls now attend the exclusive Sidwell Friends School in Washington.

Obama said no decision has been made, but he hinted that tearing Sasha away from her friends might be asking too much, noting that his wife and daughters have already made "a lot of sacrifices on behalf of my cockamamie ideas, the running for office and things."

Obama and his family lived in Chicago before moving to the nation's capital.

After leaving the White House, George W. Bush moved back to Texas, and Bill Clinton bought a home in Westchester County, N.Y.

Editor's Note:

6. Amtrak Loses More Than $800 Million on Food Services

The taxpayer-supported passenger railroad Amtrak has once again come under fire for losing millions of dollars on its food and beverage service.

At a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in November, Amtrak Inspector General Ted Alves testified that the railroad last year lost $72 million providing meals on its 374 daily trains traveling over more than 31,400 miles of track.

The losses on food and beverage services "contribute directly to the need for federal subsidies to support operations," Alves said.

But critics of Amtrak, including Government Operations Subcommittee Chairman John Mica, a Florida Republican, have long been critical of what they claim are wasteful practices at Amtrak.

In one example cited by Alves, Amtrak's Auto Train from Virginia to Florida offers riders complimentary wine and cheese, and three long-distance routes provide free wine and champagne to sleeper-car passengers.

Amtrak employees traveling on free passes also receive free meals on the Auto Train.

"Somehow some of this has to be revised," Mica declared.

Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., countered that most of the losses are on long-distance trains that Congress requires Amtrak to provide, while the cafe cars on the Northeast corridor trains between Boston and Washington break even or make a profit, Bloomberg reported.

Thomas Hall, Amtrak's customer service chief, told the committee that losses have been reduced by 30 percent since 2006.

But Mica said the reported improvements result from transferring some of increased ticket revenue to food service accounts.

"The Amtrak Inspector General has confirmed that Amtrak cooked the books to cover up food service losses," he added.

Alves noted that trains in Maine and Alaska use private contractors for their dining car services. The states pay from $7.75 an hour to $13 an hour with no benefits, while on-board Amtrak employees earn $41.19 including benefits.

The hearing echoed another committee hearing last year disclosing that Amtrak loses about $80 million a year selling food and beverages, and had lost $834 million since 2002 alone.

Alves testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in August 2012 that the previous year, Amtrak spent $206 million providing food services but collected only about $121 million, The New York Times reported.

Republican committee staff members showed charts during the hearing revealing that Amtrak charges about $2 for a soft drink while the cost to taxpayers is about $3.40 when labor is included. A $9.50 hamburger costs taxpayers $16.

Mica said the food and beverage service is "an outrageous cost to taxpayers."

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Editor's Note:

Editor's Notes:

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People,Giving,Up,US Citizenship,Canada Plans to Spy On Social Media 24-7,Huge Oil Find Called Death Knell for OPEC,Christians Under Attack in Africa,Daughter Sasha Has Big Say in Where Obamas Will Live,Amtrak Loses More Than 800 Million on Food Services
Sunday, 08 December 2013 03:40 PM
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