Good morning. Here’s your Daily Situational Awareness for Wednesday, 16 August 2023.
- READ TIME: 5 Minutes
- Inside the Beltway
- (1) Gaetz Reintroduces USPS Surveillance Protection Bill
- (2) Feinstein Family Explodes Over Inheritance Fight
- Domestic INTSUM
- (3) S&P Global: IRA to Drive Critical Mineral Shortages
- (4) Possible Cuts to Bank Credit Ratings
- Global SITREP
- (5) Soros Foundation to End Most European Operations
- (6) NATO Chief of Staff: Ukraine May Cede Territory for Membership
- (7) Chinese MSS Issues Warning Against Internal Color Revolutions
- (8) War in Sudan to Exacerbate Refugee Crisis for Europe
INSIDE THE BELTWAY
- (1) GAETZ REINTRODUCES USPS SURVEILLANCE PROTECTION BILL: Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced the U.S. Postal Inspector Service (USPIS) Surveillance Protection Act, which would prohibit funding of the Internet Covert Operations Program under the USPIS.
- Gaetz said the U.S. Postal Service should focus on delivering the mail on time and not running a covert surveillance program monitoring political activity on social media.
- Why It Matters: The Internet Covert Operations Program under the U.S. Postal Service is only one piece of a vast government surveillance apparatus that was revealed with the release of the “Twitter Files” beginning in December 2022. Gaetz attempted to push a similar bill through in 2021 when Democrats had control of the House. This bill may make it through the House, but there’s a chance it will die in the Senate. And even then, it is only cutting one head off the surveillance hydra, including intelligence agencies, law enforcement, private social media companies, academic centers, and NGOs. – R.C.
- (2) FEINSTEIN FAMILY EXPLODES OVER INHERITANCE FIGHT: Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) daughter Katherine is suing the family of Feinstein’s late husband, Richard Blum, for elder abuse and breached fiduciary duties over a Blum’s trust worth millions.
- Katherine Feinstein said the trustees, Blum’s daughters from a previous marriage, tried to give themselves a greater share of money through gifts and deprived Senator Feinstein of necessary medical care.
- Why It Matters: Feinstein is the first clear indicator that political elites are aging out of effective governance. Her children and step-children are picking the bones while Senate aides effectively direct the Senator to make policy decisions and votes. – R.C.
- (3) S&P GLOBAL: IRA TO DRIVE CRITICAL MINERAL SHORTAGES: According to a new report from S&P Global, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) mandates that domestic sources be used for critical minerals on new tech manufacturing projects could cause future critical mineral shortages in the U.S. supply chain.
- The report said Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries will drive increased demand for key minerals cobalt, lithium, nickel, and copper.
- Why It Matters: S&P Global is sounding the same alarm we at Forward Observer have for months now. Biden administration policies are not focusing on necessary critical infrastructure for key minerals, and policy that shifts demand wholly to weak U.S. key mineral mining and production will exacerbate shortages. – R.C.
- (4) POSSIBLE CUTS TO BANK CREDIT RATINGS: After lowering its assessment of the banking industry in June, major credit rating agency Fitch could cut the credit ratings of more than 70 U.S. banks.
- If Fitch downgrades the banking industry’s “operating environment” score, the agency could also cut the credit scores of JPMorgan and Bank of America – America’s top banks by assets – from AA- to A+.
- Higher interest rates for longer would pressure the banking industry’s profit margins – the biggest factor for potential credit downgrades, according to Fitch.
- Why It Matters: So far, higher interest rates have mostly impacted small, regional banks. Meanwhile, Wall Street banks like JPMorgan, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup beat their second-quarter revenue and earnings estimates. But if the Fed holds rates higher for longer – which we expect – then even Wall Street banks may not avoid credit downgrades, which would mean less demand for these banks’ bonds. – H.B.
- (5) SOROS FOUNDATION TO END MOST EUROPEAN OPERATIONS: Open Society Foundations (OSF), founded by legendary globalist investor George Soros, is closing down most European operations.
- OSF also announced a 40% cut in employees and said the “radical shift of strategic direction” comes ahead of “a new operating model” that will shift focus to “other parts of the world” under George Soros’s son, Alexander.
- Why It Matters: The Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes have decreased the amount of offshore dollars that normally flow to European banks, financial institutions, and non-governmental organizations. OSF’s sudden lack of dollar funding has forced the organization to prioritize the United States’ 2024 elections over European operations. OSF involvement in key swing states could determine control of the Presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives. – H.B.
- (6) NATO CHIEF OF STAFF: UKRAINE MAY CEDE TERRITORY FOR MEMBERSHIP: Stian Jenssen, chief of staff for NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, was quoted in the Norwegian press that Ukraine could give up some territory to Russia in return for membership in NATO.
- Jenssen said that Ukrainian cession of territory to end the war has been discussed among some NATO countries.
- Ukrainian officials strongly objected to the idea, saying the war could only end with a Russian defeat.
- Why It Matters: Jenssen’s proposal includes offering Crimea to Russia in return for a Ukraine NATO membership but fails to take into account that Russia already annexed Crimea – with no credible threat that Ukraine could change that status quo. It is unlikely that Russia would accept Ukraine’s NATO membership without a significant buffer zone between it and the Russian-led Union State. The reality is NATO is likely looking for an appropriate negotiating agenda to bring the conflict to a close before Ukrainian forces are depleted, and Russia goes on the attack. Kiev cannot refuse NATO since it has no economy or military without daily support from its Western patrons. Expect NATO to refine Jenssen’s proposal into a more realistic and attainable negotiated settlement. – M.M.
- (7) CHINESE MSS ISSUES WARNING AGAINST INTERNAL COLOR REVOLUTIONS: The Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS) published a statement to a Chinese social media platform saying that political security is its primary national security concern and that their main focus was securing the country against color revolutions fomented by unspecified foreign countries.
- Why It Matters: Chinese authorities have been preoccupied with the threat of color revolutions following a series of protests and alleged coup attempts in Central Asia. While the threat of color revolutions and U.S.-fomented unrest is undoubtedly a real concern, Chinese security services could also be increasing measures ahead of a 2008-esque financial crisis where the country’s youth unemployment rate, already at 21%, worsens the social and political security situation. – M.S.
- (8) WAR IN SUDAN TO EXACERBATE REFUGEE CRISIS FOR EUROPE: Fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) has resulted in over 1 million refugees fleeing to neighboring countries and Europe.
- The United Nations warned that those remaining in the country are running out of food and dying due to a lack of healthcare.
- Large swaths of the country are suffering from increasingly common power blackouts, and farmers have yet to plant this year’s crops.
- Why It Matters: Over 1 million Sudanese have fled the country, and an estimated 3.4 million internally displaced citizens are likely to leave in the coming months – if they can. Over the next year, the conflict in Sudan will likely create a new wave of African refugees to Europe, overwhelming immigration services in destination countries. Expect political ramifications for incumbent European governments already on the hot seat for tacitly supporting current rampant immigration inflows. – M.M.
— END REPORT
M.S. indicates analyst commentary from Mike Shelby
M.M. indicates analyst commentary from Max Morton
J.V. indicates analyst commentary from Jared Vaughn
R.C. indicates analyst commentary from Robert Cook
H.B. indicates analyst commentary from Harrison Burge
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