Beltway Insider: Obama/Afghanistan Policy; Iran Sanctions; Lockerbie; Gun Case; Dem Debate; WH Live

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In 1988, Pam Am Flight 103 originating from Frankfurt, Germany, in route to the United States was destroyed by a terrorist bomb and this week, Abu Agila Mas'ud and Abdullah Senussi, have been named as the main suspects, 27 years later.

According to Gallup, President Obama's job approval, over the past week, decreased one percentage point to 46% of those polled who approve of his effectiveness as President and those who disapprove of his effectiveness as President increased one percentage point to 50%.

Obama Backtracks on Afghanistan

President Obama announced a change in his Afghanistan policy that results in continued involvement and additional boots on the ground instead of a de-escalation of military presence and an end to the War which he repeatedly promised during his re-election campaign.

"I'm absolutely confident this is the right thing to do. So here, you have a situation where we have clarity about what our mission is.  We've got a partner who wants to work with us.  We're going to continually make adjustments to ensure that we give the best possibilities for success. And I suspect that we will continue to evaluate this going forward, as will the next President. And as conditions improve, we'll be in a position to make further adjustments," Obama said.

Although less than 10,000 troops are scheduled to remain in Afghanistan, which is a significant reduction than when the President took office which had more than 100K men and women stationed in Afghanistan, all military involvement had been scheduled to end by December 2015.

Obama unveiled his reasoning, presented in four parts, to reporters. Beginning with the "current posture of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan." They will remain through most of 2016 with the mission remaining the same: training Afghan forces and maintaining a pursuit after Al-Qaeda.

Secondly, the Kabul embassy presence will be staffed by nearly half of the military troop presence. 5,500 troops will be stationed at a "small number of bases, including Bagram, Jalalabad and Kandahar."

Third, the United States will remain part of a 42 Nation coalition and "our NATO allies and partners can continue to play an indispensable role in helping Afghanistan strengthen its security forces including respect for human rights."

Lastly, the President indicated that the need remains for those in charge to remain vigilant in "combating corruption, strengthen institutions and uphold rule of law. We cannot separate the importance of governance with the issues security. The more effective these reforms happen he better the security situation is going to be."

Iran Nuke Adoption Day: The Issuing of Sanction Waivers

President Obama signed an order, Sunday, the official Day of Adoption, which mandates Iranian Sanction Waivers be issued even as they don't hold any value other than symbolic and won't go into effect until, possibly, January 2016.

The "Day of Adoption" is the given term to represent the three month (90 day) window after the United Nations Security Council vote has expired. The next major hurdle in releasing sectorial sanctions in agreement with the provisions of the Iranian nuclear deal, is the verification by the International Atomic Energy Agency, (IAEA).

"On 18 October 2015, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency was informed by the Islamic Republic of Iran that, effective on Implementation Day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran will provisionally apply the Additional Protocol to its Safeguards Agreement, pending its ratification by the Majlis (Parliament), and will fully implement the modified code 3.1 of the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement," read a released statement issued from the IAEA.

"And implementation day will be at some point in the future when the IAEA will have been able to verify that Iran has taken those steps and therefore would qualify for promised sanctions relief.  So the date that's coming up is adoption day, and the date in the future will be implementation," said Josh Ernest, White House Press Secretary.

The sanction waivers, in essence, allow members of the Obama administration to understand what terms, conditions and boundaries are present, all deadlines, and what can be released to the deeply stretched Iranian government.

Supreme Court Defers Decision on Gun Case

The Supreme Court will render a decision early this week on whether they will agree to hear the case brought by Dr. Arie Friedman of Highland Park, a tony suburb of Chicago, and the Illinois Rifle Association, who are alleging their constitutional rights are violated by the Highland Park law that prohibits ownership of certain semi-assault weapons and magazine clips that hold more than 10 rounds.

The two most recent cases heard by the High Court District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), both occurring before Sandy Hook, focused on the right to defend one's home, which is the foundation of the Second Amendment.

However with the ever changing American landscape and the plague of mass shootings that have impacted such a wide cross section of the population, the highest court may be able to define which areas of the law may be changed making the way for the possibility of common sense gun reform.

Certainly, the opinions of those entrusted to make law will be worth hearing.

Update: Lockerbie/Malaysian Airliner Attacks

National Security Council Spokesperson Ned Price reiterated, this week, the White House position on the downing of Malaysian Air Flight 17, (MH17) which comes after the Dutch Safety Board concluded the 747 Jet carrying 238 passengers and crew members was shot down by the Russian separatists.

"Our assessment is unchanged, MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine," Price said.

The White House remains diligent in bringing to justice those responsible for the downing of Malaysian Air Flight 17.

Lockerbie Update

In 1988, Pam Am Flight 103, flying from the United States with stops in London and Frankfurt, Germany, was destroyed, mid-air, by a terrorist bomb. All 243 passengers, 16 crew were killed instantly. Sections of the plane fell in the debris field killing 11 on the ground.

A single Libyan was jailed and eventually convicted for the attack and murders. He maintained his innocence his whole life. He received a compassionate release in 2009 after a prostate cancer diagnosis. He died in 2012.

Eventually Libyan General Muammar Gaddafi, now deceased, admitted the Libyan government held some responsibility for the attack although it was not ordered and compensation was made to the families.  Abu Agila Mas'ud, the alleged bomb expert, and Abdullah Senussi, the head of Libyan intelligence at the time of Lockerbie bombing have been named as suspects.

Scottish prosecutors have released the names of two additional Libyans who named as suspects in the 1988 bombing. The release of the names came two days after a documentary, My Brother's Bomber, by filmmaker Ken Dornstein whose brother was killed in the attack, on the Lockerbie Bombing aired.

A formal request has been sent to the Libyan Government stating "The Lord Advocate and the US Attorney General are seeking the assistance of the Libyan judicial authorities for Scottish police officers and the FBI to interview the two named suspects in Tripoli."

There has been no response from the Libyan government.

Democratic Debate

The Democratic Presidential hopefuls took to the stage this week, in Las Vegas, Nevada, for the first of several democratic debates sparring over the issues, and clarifying for the nation that which makes them more qualified.

Participating former Secretary of State and New York State Senator, Hillary Clinton, (D), Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffe,(D),  former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and former Senator Jim Webb (D-VA). The debate was moderated by Anderson Cooper and aired on CNN. The panel of media asking additional question included Dana Bash, Juan Carlos Lopez. Don Lemon presenting questions from Facebook.

Of the five, Senator Bernie Sanders, (I-VT), the only registered member of the Independent Party gained more social media followers during the 2.5 hour debate, 46K Twitter and 35K Facebook Likes, and managed to stay relatively close to the party front runner, Hillary Clinton, in featured air time with 28:05 to Mrs. Clinton's 31:05.

Senator Sanders also made one point very clear, "The American people are tired of hearing about your damn emails."  Referring to Mrs. Clinton's email server issues. She agreed and reached across the podium and shook his hand.

The Party de facto nominee, Mrs. Clinton, effectively put forth her opinions, and appeared prepared.

The candidates presented themselves very well. Speaking eloquently on the issues, they acknowledged the issues and with skill presented their positions.

The next debate will be November 9 2015 in Rock Hill, South Carolina followed by November 14, in Des Moines, Iowa, and to finish up the year the candidates will gather in Manchester, New Hampshire on December 19, 2015.

2016 begins with a debate January 17, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina and a final debate scheduled after the Iowa Caucus scheduled for February 1, 2016 and New Hampshire Primary scheduled for February 9, 2016.

Should the final scheduled debate be held any time after March 1, 2016 the participants should be narrowed to the respective candidates as 11 States hold primaries Tuesday, March 1, 2016 bringing the total number of states whose primaries were already held by March 2, 2016 to 15.

The Biden Waiting Game

Invited to participate in Tuesday's CNN/Facebook Debate, Vice President Biden did not. As the incumbent, the Vice President has the luxury of a well thought out decision making process and the possibility of a run for the Presidential position would have been considered, with any other candidate, a given.

His age at 72, is a factor. Although he presents a younger image, clearly healthy with vigor. He is mentally sharp and capable to lead. The issue becomes the ability to make decisions in real time.

The longer the mulling process the more the question becomes, and as VP, the real time decisions making process is almost mute as he partners with the president on all matters. Is the Vice President capable of making real time instant decisions necessary for the safety and security of the nation?

The longer he draws out his Presidential candidacy decision the possibility of the lengthy time frame backfiring.

In Performance at The White House

A favorite opportunity for the President, First Lady, family, staffers and now through the power of YouTube and other live streaming technologies, is the "In Performance at the White House" musical series that opens the doors of the East Room for very special musical evenings.

This week the President hosted "A Celebration of American Creativity" coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the Endowment for the Arts with powerhouse performances by Ms. Carol Burnett. Buddy Guy,  Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Audra McDonald,  Brian Stokes Mitchel,  Keb' Mo',  Smokey Robinson, Trombone Shorty,  Esperanza Spalding,  James Taylor and Usher.

"We have lofty expectations of ourselves, but we don't often do lofty in our music.  American music is grounded in the stories of real people living real lives, telling their stories.  Whether jazz or blues, country or rock and roll, Broadway or hip-hop, it's rooted in records of slavery and segregation, Dust Bowl and Depression, winning wars and coming home, working and losing that proud factory job; tales of hometowns and the 'hood; always tales of falling in love and having your heart broken," the President said.

Highlights of the event, which will air live in January, can be seen here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/performances.

Astronomy Night

The next event the President and White House will be hosting is Astronomy Night which can also be livestreamed.

Open to the public, with previous authorization, the 2015 White House Astronomy Night is a celebration of science, technology, and space.  Students, teachers, scientists, engineers, astronauts, and others will spend the evening stargazing, learning about some of the newest astronomical discoveries, and checking out the cutting-edge technologies that enable us to explore and live in space.

The event can be seen on the https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/white-house-astronomy-night.

For more information on President Barack Obama:www.whitehouse.gov

Sources: Whitehouse.gov, Wikipedia.com

Names of Lockerbie Suspects sourced from The World.com.

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