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Lech Walesa: Obama Has Failed, ‘America no Longer Leads the World’.


Image: Lech Walesa: Obama Has Failed, 'America no Longer Leads the World'

By Cathy Burke

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning former president of Poland, Lech Walesa, says President Obama has failed to reclaim America’s role as a world leader.

In an interview with CNN aired Wednesday, the 70-year-old Walesa — who supported Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 election — said the Obama administration has been a dangerous disappointment.

“When he was elected… there was great hope,” Walesa said. “…. we were hoping Obama would reclaim moral leadership for America,” adding: “That failed.”

“…. in terms of politics and morality, America no longer leads the world,” he said. “…America did not regain its leadership status. We were just lucky there were no big conflicts in the world,” saying the world has relied on a strong America to maintain the balance of power around the globe.

“… It’s a dangerous situation so we are awaiting a president who will understand that,” he said.

Walesa went from a shipyard electrician to a union leader who helped overthrow the communist government in Poland, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and seven years later, becoming the first democratically elected president in Poland.

“I managed to destroy a bad system,” he told CNN in the interview in Washington. “…. now we must be excellent at building new things. It doesn’t take that much.”

In 2012, Walesa effectively endorsed Romney in his bid for president.

“I wish you to be successful because this success is needed to the United States, of course, but to Europe and the rest of the world, too,” Walesa was heard after meeting Romney in Poland, the Weekly Standard reported at the time.

“Gov. Romney, get your success — be successful!”

Walesa is the subject of a documentary that will be considered for an Academy Award this year, “Walesa, Man of Hope.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Incandescent Light Bulb Ban Ushered in With New Year.


Image: Incandescent Light Bulb Ban Ushered in With New Year

By Andrea Billups

Incandescent light bulbs, which have been in use in the United States for more than a century, are on their way out in the new year. The federal government has prohibited their manufacture and import starting Wednesday.

The latest ban covers 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs. The 100-watt and 75-watt varieties had already been phased out. The bans were signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Opponents of the law protest that the government is making decisions for consumers rather than letting the marketplace determine the products people want.

“When we make a purchase, it’s about quality, price, how much money we have now, can I use that money for a better investment? I don’t need the government to say that I am making the incorrect decision and therefore I should buy energy-efficient products,” said Daren Bakst, research fellow in agricultural policy at the Heritage Foundation.

He decries the light-bulb ban as representing heightened government overreach.

“The light-bulb issue is about a complete ban of a product. It’s overkill. Now you have something you can no longer buy. That’s really indefensible,” he said.

“Forget about choice. It’s basically saying not only can you not make smart choices, we have so little faith in you that we will make sure you can’t buy those goods anymore.

“Here you have a central-planning bureaucrat that knows everything, saying we’re going to make sure you do the right thing. Granted, Congress passed the law, but this looks like the state knows better than the public does,” Bakst said.

The prohibition has also led to U.S. job losses, as factories that made incandescent bulbs have been forced to close.

Because of the ban, General Electric closed a factory with 200 employees in Winchester, Va., that was the last major incandescent manufacturing facility in the United States. Now the work is going to places such as China, where some of the new compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are made.

Energy efficiency experts say the new light bulbs benefit consumers, who will pay more on the front end for the new-generation bulbs but will save money over time because they last longer — up to 23 years for LED bulbs and about nine years for CFLs.

CFL bulbs use about 75 percent less energy, government estimates say, while LEDs use about 85 percent less than incandescent bulbs, but they cost about 10 times more.

“The reason why the federal government legislated the change is because these incandescent bulbs use four times or more energy than other technologies,” Kevin Hallinan, a University of Dayton engineering professor who studies renewable energy,told the Dayton Daily News, noting that incandescent bulbs emit more heat.

“That’s more pollution coming out of the power plants, that’s more carbon emissions, so this is really a good thing for the U.S,” Hallinan said.

Consumers can still purchase the incandescent bulbs as long as supplies last, and they remain in stock at many home-product retailers around the country. Once those are gone, however, the newer bulbs will be the only ones available.

Some Republican members of Congress have sought a repeal of certain elements of the ban, but have had no success despite cries of a “nanny state” imposing its will on consumers.

In 2011, a trio of Republican lawmakers — Reps. Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee — offered the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, but the legislation failed to pass the House.

The Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and eight co-sponsors, was also floated in 2011 but died in a House subcommittee.

Current laws under the federal government’s Energy Star program are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is in charge of new guidelines for light fixtures. The guidelines for a fixture to earn Energy Star ratings increased in 2013 as part of the federal law’s broader energy efficiency plan.

The light bulb issue marks a continued pattern of what some say is the federal government’s overextending its power in recent years, including spying on news reporters’ sources, forcing menu labeling laws in an attempt to change what people eat, and intimidating certain groups, including conservatives, through IRS intrusion.

Former presidential candidate Herman Cain said in a speech to the Faith and Freedom Coalition‘s annual conference:

“We’ve got the IRS abuse. FEC intimidation. EPA discrimination. DOJ intimidation. NSA corruption. And it goes on and on and on in terms of the abuse and the corruption in the government that wants to control all of our lives.”

Said Bakst, of the Heritage Foundation:

“We certainly have seen far more government intrusion in the last few years than we have before. It has become the expectation that the government has the proper role in the free choices that we make.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Chief Justice Roberts: Federal Courts Need More Funds.


Image: Chief Justice Roberts: Federal Courts Need More Funds

Congress and the White House need to restore funding to the nation’s federal courts to keep from undermining “the public’s confidence in all three branches of government,” Chief Justice John Roberts said Tuesday in his year-end report.

Roberts has made similar calls for more money in the past.

“I would like to choose a fresher topic, but duty calls. The budget remains the single most important issue facing the courts,” he said.

The courts have been severely affected by government cost-cutting, Roberts said.

“The combined effects since July 2011 of flat budgets followed by sequestration reduced on-board court staffing levels by 3,100 (14 percent) to about 19,000 employees — the lowest staffing level since 1997, despite significant workload increases over that same period — and reduced federal defender offices staffing by 11 percent in fiscal year 2013 alone,” he said.

What would happen if the sequestration cuts continue? If Congress instead freezes court funding at sequester level, it “would lead to the loss of an estimated additional 1,000 court staff,” Roberts said.

“The first consequence would be greater delays in resolving civil and criminal cases. In the civil and bankruptcy venues, further consequences would include commercial uncertainty, lost opportunities and unvindicated rights. In the criminal venues, those consequences pose a genuine threat to public safety.”

Court officials are calling for $7.04 billion for fiscal year 2014, which they calculate at less than two-tenths of 1 percent of total federal outlays.

“In the coming weeks, and into the future, I encourage the president and Congress to be attentive to the needs of the judicial branch and avert the adverse consequences that would result from funding the judiciary below its minimal needs,” Roberts said.

“The judiciary continues to depend on the vision and statesmanship of our colleagues in the executive and legislative departments. It takes no imagination to see that failing to meet the judiciary’s essential requirements undermines the public’s confidence in all three branches of government.”

The judiciary system also is working to save money by ensuring any new space requested by a judicial circuit is offset by an equivalent reduction in the same fiscal year. The courts also are looking to reduce their overall space by 3 percent by the end of fiscal 2018.

“The only exceptions from these policies are new courthouses and repair and alterations projects specifically approved by Congress,” Roberts said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Ex-NYPD Chief Kerik: My Attorney Helped Send Me to Prison.


Image: Ex-NYPD Chief Kerik: My Attorney Helped Send Me to Prison

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Former NYPD Commissioner and 9/11 hero Bernard Kerik has filed a complaint with the New York state bar accusing his high-profile attorney Joe Tacopina of working with prosecutors to send him to prison.

Kerik was sentenced to time behind bars after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor charges and admitting accepting $165,000 in apartment renovations from a company that was allegedly tied to the mob, The New York Daily News reports.

Tacopina, representing Kerik, assured him his legal troubles were over, but two years later Kerik was sentenced to 48 months in federal prison.

Kerik now accuses his attorney of helping federal investigators put him behind bars.

In his complaint to the bar, Kerik accuses Tacopina of being involved in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and/or misrepresentation.”

He also accuses Tacopina of revealing information crucial to his defense to federal investigators, improperly contacting Kerik in 2007 after he was indicted, and attempting to defraud Kerik of a seven-figure finder’s fee as part of a real estate deal.

The charges were filed before the disciplinary committee of the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department.

Tacopina denies the claims, and his attorney Lanny Davis says that if any of the accusations were true, Tacopina already would have been sanctioned.

“Mr. Tacopina in 22 years of law practice has never received a bar complaint, let alone any discipline,” Davis told the Daily News. “Mr. Tacopina’s spotless record with the bar speaks far louder than the lies and innuendo that are being spread by those with an obvious agenda.”

One of Kerik’s major complaints is that Tacopina met with prosecutors, an accusation Tacopina denies. He says he only met with prosecutors once or twice for less than two hours to authenticate financial records.

But Kerik says that in March 2007, prosecutors disqualified Tacopina from representing him and then converted him into a witness against his former client.

Kerik says Tacopina then contacted him, which is against court rules. Tacopina’s attorneys deny that claim.

Kerik is also considering a malpractice suit against Tacopina, said one of his attorneys, Boston-based Raymond Mansolillo.

“We’ll assess the information that we’ve gleaned, and we’ll determine which avenue to take,” Mansolillo said. “I’m looking into whether any [of Tacopina’s representation] had any indirect or direct effect on where Bernie ended up.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in White Plains, which prosecuted Kerik, declined requests for comment.

But documents obtained by The Daily News show that the office questioned Tacopina.

“You can’t talk about things that would lead your client into an ambush,” Mansolillo said. “We have information that they did talk. We don’t know why. Those questions may have to be revealed by the U.S. attorney. It could go in a lot of directions.”

The men were close friends and business partners for years before Kerik faced the federal charges.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Boehner Ends Rough Year on High Note.


Image: Boehner Ends Rough Year on High Note

It says a lot about House Speaker John Boehner‘s rough 2013 that even friends debate when the low point hit.

Some say it was Jan. 3, the first day of the 113th Congress. With the Ohio Republican’s family watching from the House gallery, a dozen defiant GOP lawmakers refused to back his bid to be re-elected speaker.

The mini-rebellion fell short, but it delivered an embarrassing rebuke from conservatives.

To others, the nadir came in September. That’s when Republicans ignored Boehner’s advice and embraced a politically disastrous strategy of partly shutting down the government in a futile effort to force repeal of President Barack Obama’s prized healthcare law.

Boehner, 64, still has serious problems with tea party conservatives inside and outside Congress that limit his power. But many say that he stabilized his standing among  Republicans in the final weeks of 2013 and that he ends the year stronger than ever with them.

“The speaker started out, like the Republican Party, really in a ditch,” said Ron Bonjean, a GOP consultant and former congressional leadership aide. By the time the year was over, Republican lawmakers had learned, “If they listen to him, he can guide them correctly.”

Boehner’s ups and downs underscore the difficulties of managing a narrow 232-201 GOP majority — with two vacancies. The 2010 and 2012 freshman classes’ tea party members would be tough for any leader to control, Democrats and Republicans agree.

October’s 16-day partial government shutdown ended in a Republican defeat that damaged Boehner’s party in public opinion polls but won him the respect of GOP colleagues. The 12-term House veteran let conservatives play out their ill-fated effort to dismantle the healthcare law, and his warnings proved correct.

At year’s end, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that will likely avert a government closure for the next two years, enabling Republicans to spend the 2014 election year on offense, attacking Democrats over their unpopular healthcare law.

“I think his stock has risen tremendously, and certainly he has great security as our leader and our speaker,” conservative Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said of Boehner at the conclusion of the October shutdown.

“He needed to demonstrate, not only to our membership but probably to the Republican base outside Washington, that he was willing to go as far as possible and maybe farther than was prudent in pursuit of conservative goals,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a Boehner supporter. “And he was spectacularly vindicated, where it ended up.”

Even so, Boehner’s relations with many conservatives remain icy. That’s a problem, considering the dozens of tea party-backed Republicans who sometimes abandon him on House votes and the GOP’s desire to motivate conservative voters for next year’s congressional races.

Boehner highlighted the schism between him and prominent conservative organizations twice this month, accusing groups like Heritage Action for America, the Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks of “misleading their followers” in hopes of driving up their own membership and raising money.

Such groups often pressure GOP lawmakers to oppose bills, including the recent budget deal, which Boehner strongly backed.

“He certainly ended the year on a sour note, declaring war not on national groups like FreedomWorks but on a huge constituency of voters that are a decisive factor in Republican elections,” said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks.

Democrats say Boehner is becoming the face of the deeply unpopular Congress, a clear political liability. They consider him a weak speaker who has little clout with tea party members and thus only tenuous control of the chamber.

On several crucial bills this year, they note, Boehner could get only a minority of House Republicans to vote for them and needed strong support from the Democratic side of the aisle to prevail.

Those included an October measure ending the government shutdown, a bill to provide billions of dollars in aid for Hurricane Sandy victims, and last January’s “fiscal cliff” law, preserving former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts except for the wealthiest Americans.

“Talk about leading from behind. It’s very clear that for most of this year, the far-right forces in his caucus have essentially led him,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

As 2013 began, Obama had just won re-election easily and Democrats had gained a few seats each in the House and Senate. For Republicans, things then got really fractious.

On New Year’s Day, Congress approved the fiscal cliff bill — opposed by many Republicans because it allowed tax increases on high-income Americans. Boehner backed it but House Republicans overwhelmingly voted “no,” including the Nos. 2 and 3 GOP leaders, Reps. Eric Cantor of Virginia and Kevin McCarthy of California.

That same week saw Boehner hammered by both parties for postponing a promised vote on Sandy aid, a package that was approved soon afterward.

As the year went on, there was a mix of GOP wins and losses.

Over opposition by most House Republicans, Congress extended the Violence Against Women Act, removing an issue that could have haunted GOP candidates. Lawmakers also voted to keep student loan rates low for now.

Congress stood by most of the automatic cuts triggered last spring in federal agency budgets — called the sequester — but made an exception for air traffic controllers.

The House also rejected a sweeping farm bill. And, though Boehner made supportive comments about helping children brought illegally into the United States, immigration legislation was divided up into piecemeal bills that never reached the House floor.

Then came the shutdown battle, which saw the House repeatedly pass bills that would reopen but also delay or debilitate the health care law — a tack Republicans eventually surrendered.

When House Republicans met privately before finally giving in, attendees say Boehner received a standing ovation — even though most ended up opposing the legislation.

“He was pretty frustrated during the shutdown,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., a Boehner friend from Burr’s House days. “But he was in fairly high spirits” by the time the House left town, Burr said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Putin Vows to Annihilate ‘Terrorists’ After Suicide Bombings.


Image: Putin Vows to Annihilate 'Terrorists' After Suicide Bombings

VOLGOGRAD, RussiaPresident Vladimir Putin on Tuesday vowed to annihilate all “terrorists” following two deadly bomb attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd that raised security fears ahead of the Winter Olympics.The uncompromising remarks in a televised New Year address were Putin’s first public comments since suicide bombers killed at least 34 people in attacks less than 24 hours apart on a railway station and a trolleybus on Sunday and Monday.

But after two decades of violence in the North Caucasus, Islamist militants continue to pose a threat beyond their home region. Russia’s Olympic Committee chief said no more could be done to safeguard the Games since every measure possible was already in place around Sochi, beneath the Caucasus mountains.

The bombings just ahead of Russia’s biggest annual holiday followed another suicide bus blast in Volgograd in October and came little more than a month before the start of Games on whose success Putin has staked his personal reputation.

“We will confidently, fiercely and consistently continue the fight against terrorists until their complete annihilation,” he said in remarks from the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, where he met victims of severe floods.

Acknowledging “problems and serious tests” in 2013, including the Volgograd bombings, he vowed to ensure the security in the year ahead, when Russia stages the Winter Olympics from Feb. 7-23.

Putin, who came to power when Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation on New Year’s Eve 14 years ago, won popularity early in his presidency by crushing efforts to forge an independent state in Chechnya but he has been unable to stop Chechen and other Islamist militants across the North Caucasus.

Police detained dozens of people in sweeps through Volgograd on Tuesday but there was no indication any were linked to the attacks, for which no one claimed responsibility.

Mourners laid flowers at the site of the bombing that tore the bus apart and left residents fearing further violence.

“I’m frightened,” said Tatyana Volchanskaya, a student in Volgograd, 400 miles northwest of Sochi. She said some friends were afraid to go to shops and other crowded places.

SOCHI SAID SECURE

Putin ordered tighter security nationwide after the blasts, but Russian Olympic chief Alexander Zhukov said no additional measures would be taken at Sochi: “As for the Olympic Games, all necessary security measures have been foreseen,” Interfax news agency quoted him as saying on Monday.

“Additional measures will not be taken in Sochi as a result of the terrorist act. Everything necessary has been done as it is.”

Putin has staked his prestige on the Games in Sochi, which lies at the Western edge of the Caucasus mountains and within the strip of land the insurgents want to carve out of Russia and turn into an Islamic state.

Insurgent leader Doku Umarov has urged militants to use “maximum force” to prevent the Games from going ahead.

Russia drove separatists from power in Chechnya in a war that boosted the popularity of Putin, a former KGB officer.

But the insurgency that spread across the North Caucasus region in the aftermath of that conflict has persisted despite Putin’s repeated, strongly worded pledges to eliminate the militants whose attacks have cast a shadow over his rule.

As prime minister in 1999, he vowed to wipe the militants out and in 2010, after female suicide bombers killed 40 people on the Moscow metro, he ordered police to find those who had directed the attacks and “scrape them from the bottom of the sewers.”

Less than a year later, in January 2011, a bomber from the North Caucasus killed 37 people at a busy Moscow airport.

The rail station bombing in Volgograd was the deadliest attack outside the North Caucasus since then, killing 18 people. Citing unnamed sources, Interfax said the suspected attacker was an ethnic Russian convert to Islam who moved to Dagestan where he joined militants early in 2012.

Investigators said they believed a male suicide bomber was also responsible for Monday’s morning rush-hour blast.

PUTIN’S LEGACY

Volgograd — formerly Stalingrad — is a city of a million and a transport hub for an area of southern Russia that includes the North Caucasus.

A car bomb killed a prosecutor’s assistant in Dagestan on Tuesday and two people were killed in a bomb blast there late on Monday, authorities said.

In Volgograd, more than 5,000 police and interior troops were mobilized in “Operation Anti-terror Whirlwind”, Interior Ministry spokesman Andrei Pilipchuk said. He said 87 people had been detained after they resisted police or could not produce proper ID or registration documents, and that some had weapons.

State television showed helmeted officers pushing men up against a wall. But there was no sign any were linked to the bombings or suspected of planning further attacks.

Itar-Tass news agency said police were focusing on migrant workers from the Caucasus and ex-Soviet states — groups that rights activists say face discrimination from police.

The success or failure of the Olympics will form a big part of the legacy of Putin, 60. He secured the Games for Sochi in 2007, during his first stint as president, and has not ruled out seeking a new six-year term in 2018.

Intended to showcase how Russia has changed since the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991, the Games have also been a focus for complaints in the West and among Russian liberals that Putin has stifled dissent and encouraged intolerance.

This month, Putin freed jailed opponents including oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the Pussy Riot punk band in what critics said was an effort to disarm Western criticism and improve his image.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

Rep. Westmoreland: NY Times Wants to ‘Absolve’ Clinton of Benghazi Blame.


Image: Rep. Westmoreland: NY Times Wants to 'Absolve' Clinton of Benghazi Blame

By Wanda Carruthers

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland joined Donald Trump Monday in claiming The New York Times is trying to “absolve” Hillary Clinton of any blame for the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya to make it easier for her to run for president in 2016.

“I don’t know why they put it out, unless it was for political reasons,” the Georgia Republican said on “Fox & Friends,” referring to a Times report over the weekendclaiming that al-Qaida and other terrorist groups weren’t responsible for the attack.

The Times also reported, as the Obama administration initially claimed, that an American-made anti-Muslim video was partly responsible for setting off the violent outbreak in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012 that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

Westmoreland suggested the report is aimed at “laying the groundwork” for a presidential run by former Secretary of State Clinton, who Republicans blame for the lax security in Benghazi.

“This thing is eventually going to fall back on the State Department, when all the truth gets out there. Of course, Secretary Clinton was in charge at the time,” Westmoreland said.

“I think they’re just . . . trying to absolve her from the lack of security that was sent over there, the number of requests for security that was turned down. So, I think they’re just trying to take the pressure off her and the administration,” he added.

Earlier on “Fox & Friends,” Trump all but accused the Times of trying to help cover up what actually happened the night of the attack in Benghazi to make it easier for Clinton to make another run for the White House.

Westmoreland continued to maintain that the anti-Islam video “never came into play” in the Benghazi bombing, saying that watching a video “doesn’t give you instructions on how to shoot five mortar rounds.”

“If you go to some of the research, or the people that study these media, social media outlets, and stuff, there was nothing even on the radar in Libya or in Benghazi actually until the next morning,” he said, referring to some reports the video may have spurred a crowd to form and then attack the U.S. compound.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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