Guess Who Leads the Bribery World?
The USA is the most corrupt country in the world and I have 10,000 posts that point heavily to that fact…

Rocky Anderson’s radical third way | Gary Younge December 12, 2011

As a progressive former Democrat in Utah, the most reliably conservative state in the country, Rocky Anderson is no stranger to long odds or short shrift. Among other things, Anderson has been a fierce opponent of the Iraq invasion, supports gay marriage and is an ardent environmentalist. (Think former London mayor Ken Livingstone surrounded by conservative Mormons.)

As the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah’s capital and largest city, he also has a knack for framing an agenda in search of the broadest possible audience. “We don’t talk about gay liberation in Utah,” he told me in an interview in 2005. “We talk about healthy families and strong communities and say that in the most intimate aspects of our lives the government ought to butt out.” He served two terms before bowing out voluntarily.

In the next year, he’ll have to harness both that experience and savvy for the task he has now set himself: launching a new political party, the Justice party, and running for president in 2012.

His agenda is a familiar one on the left. Broadly speaking, he wants to break the hold of corrupting corporate influence on the two main parties and give a voice to ordinary working people. It also chimes with the general thrust of the Occupy movement, even though the latter has steered clear of engagement with electoral politics.

“The more time has gone on, the more it has become clear that we’re not going see change in this country with these two parties,” he says. “There are lots of good individuals in the Democratic party, [but] without Democrats voting the way they did in Congress, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. We wouldn’t have suffered as a nation because of these Bush tax cuts.

“Obama received more money from Wall Street than any presidential candidate ever. And they got a great return on their investment.”

This would represent the first attempt to apply the principles of the Occupy movement within the electoral area. Anderson points out discussions about launching the party preceded the emergence of the Occupy Wall Street. But while there are no organisational links, he says there is plenty of common ground. “There is clearly a convergence of interests regarding the concerns we have and the concerns of Occupy Wall Street. There’s little I’ve heard from the Occupy movement that I would disagree with and I think there’s little we support that they would disagree with.”

Politically, that’s likely – but strategically, it’s questionable. For some Democrats and progressives will have just two words to say to Rocky: Ralph Nader.

Nader stood as a Green candidate in 2000 when George W Bush took the presidency. Nader won just 2.74% of the national vote but that was enough, arguably, to perform a role as spoiler to Al Gore. Many Democrats still spit his name, insisting he handed Bush victory.

This particular accusation is flawed on two main counts. First, as those same people will also tell you, Gore actually won the 2000 election. It was the supreme court that handed it to Bush. Second, the claim that somehow Gore had a divine right to progressives’ votes and that Nader stole them is both arrogant and ridiculous.

Nonetheless, Nader’s candidacy did make a difference, forcing Gore to watch his left, as well as his right, flank. And it is a reasonable to enquire whether the pursuit of a progressive agenda is best served by mounting an electoral campaign that could make it easier for Republicans to win.

Anderson believes progressives have been paralysed by the fear that they’ll be accused of acting as a Trojan horse for the right; and their inaction has resulted in growing cynicism and political and economic deterioration.

“As long as the fear of being a spoiler prevents people from moving in a direction that will change the corrupt system that’s in place, then we’ll never see change in this country,” he says. “At least, we’ll never see changes move in a positive direction. The choice people have now is to either support a very different way that would signal a revolution and vast correction of the systemic problems in our government – or they can carry on going in the same direction they have been going all these years that’s resulted in so much tragedy for people in this country and the world.”

There are a couple of reasons why it would be a mistake to expect a re-run of 2000.

First, Anderson is nothing like Nader. He has held elected office and won re-election by a seven-point margin during a particularly reactionary period. Also, he is a charismatic figure. I have seen passengers cheer after a pilot announced that he was travelling on a plane from Salt Lake to DC (and he was in coach!). I’ve seen people ask to have their picture taken with him while he’s out for a drink in Salt Lake.

Second, 2012 is nothing like 2000. Approval of the work of Congress is at an all time low and Americans are deeply disaffected with both parties. A recent Gallup poll showed that only 13% of Americans approve of how Congress is handling its work. And even though a narrow majority would keep not vote out their own representatives, 76% say most representatives do not deserve to be re-elected. Many Democrats feel disappointed by Obama; many Republicans despair of their primary choice.

Meanwhile, an organisation calling itself “Americans Elect” has been busy collecting the necessary signatures to facilitate a third-party run. Backed by several millionaires, the party will hold an online nominating convention of its own in June. Whoever wins will have to choose a running mate from another party.

All of that in the midst of the deepest recession for several generations and a culture of political gridlock that shows little sign of changing soon.

“It’s a perfect storm for an alternative party that would be a major force in American politics,” says Anderson. “The system’s completely broken. Everyone in this country knows that’s why we’re not seeing policies coming from the White House or Congress that really serve the interests of the American people. They keep selling out. Not because they’re bad people, but because they’re part of the system.

“We don’t only have a two-tier economic system in this country. We have a two-tier judicial system, where the rich and powerful don’t have to worry about violating the law. Not one person from Wall Street has been arrested, charged or convicted for what has happened during this financial crisis.”

Still, third parties fare notoriously badly in America, even when they have pots of money. The most recent example of someone who did make inroads was Ross Perot in 1992. He netted 19% of the vote – and not a single Senate seat. Notwithstanding his complaints about the role of big money in politics, Anderson insists that the fact that he has no money won’t matter.

“Communications are now radically democratised so that a campaign no longer needs to depend on tv advertising,” he says. “Revolutions have taken place around the world recently without that kind of money, but instead, building on social media and grassroots organising. It’s the people who will have ownership of the campaign and the results.”

Quite what effect Anderson’s bid has remains to be seen. He hasn’t made it yet: the party is due to launch soon, perhaps as early as this week. With less than a year to go until election day, he’s now busy trying to get his party on the ballot across the country. “We’ve been hearing from people in 15 to 20 states in the last week,” he says.

It would be easy to write Anderson’s effort off prematurely. American politics are in an incredibly volatile state. In a world where Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann have both been seriously considered as presidential contenders, anything could happen.

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Gitmo Forever? Congress’s Dangerous New Bill December 10, 2011

December 9, 2011

by legitgov


Gitmo Forever? Congress’s Dangerous New Bill By David Cole 08 Dec 2011 For nearly ten years now, Guantanamo Bay’s military prison has been an international symbol of United States lawlessness and a recruiting boon for al-Qaeda. If Congress gets its way the facility will stay that way for the indefinite future. Both houses of Congress have now approved versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill that would require the use of military detention and military courts for suspected terrorists and make it virtually impossible to close Guantanamo.

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Attorney general questioned in Fast and Furious inquiry December 8, 2011

Washington (CNN) — A top GOP critic of President Barack Obama’s Justice Department cranked up the political heat Thursday on Attorney General Eric Holder, threatening possible impeachment over the handling of Operation Fast and Furious, a severely flawed and now discredited federal gun-sting plan.

“Heads should roll,” Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner told Holder during an appearance by the attorney general before the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee.

“There is really no responsibility within the Justice Department. The thing is, if we don’t get to the bottom of this — and that requires your assistance on that — there is only one alternative that Congress has and it is called impeachment.”

Sensenbrenner did not make clear if he was referring to the possible impeachment of Holder or other top Justice Department officials.

Operation Fast and Furious, which started in 2009, allowed illegally purchased firearms to be taken from gun stores in Arizona across the Mexican border to drug cartels. The intent of the operation was to monitor the flow of weapons to their ultimate destination.

However, hundreds of weapons were lost or unaccounted for, and a storm of outrage erupted when two of the missing weapons were found at a site where Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was killed in December 2010.

Blame for the botched operation “must go to your desk,” California Rep. Darrell Issa, the GOP’s point man on Fast and Furious, told Holder. Congress has been “systematically lied to” by department officials.

Issa opens investigation of DEA

Pressure on Holder: Fast and Furious guns

Holder: Fast and Furious unacceptable

For his part, Holder told committee members the operation relied on “unacceptable tactics” and was “inexcusable.” But he insisted that Justice Department officials have cooperated with congressional investigators, and he said that any previous misleading information provided on the matter was not part of an intentional deception.

“It all has to do with your state of mind and whether or not you had the requisite intent to come up with something that can be considered perjury or lie,” Holder said.

The attorney general also tried to turn the tables on his GOP critics, accusing them of engaging in “inflammatory and inappropriate rhetoric … in an effort to score political points.”

It’s time to end “politically motivated ‘gotcha’ games,” he said.

Last month, Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the controversial operation “should never have happened, and … must never happen again,” hitting hard at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives practice that has now tarnished his tenure at the Justice Department.

Despite his insistence that Congress has never been intentionally misled in the matter, a number of Republicans have called for Holder to step down. Last month, Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar said the attorney general’s “refusal to take responsibility for the actions of his department is inexcusable.”

Earlier this week, Issa, head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he is broadening his investigation to also include recent allegations of U.S. agents laundering money for Mexican cartels — accusations that have infuriated officials on both sides of the border.

“These allegations, if true, raise further unsettling questions about a Department of Justice component engaging in a high-risk strategy with scant evidence of success,” Issa said in a letter to Holder.

“The existence of such a program again calls your leadership into question,” Issa added.

Sen. Charles Grassley, a R-Iowa, said Wednesday that Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer should also resign because he misled Congress about his awareness of a February 4 letter that denied any gun-running operation existed.

The Justice Department recently withdrew the letter due to inaccurate information, and Grassley said that e-mails turned over to congressional investigators showed Breuer saw various versions of the letter — including the final one submitted to Congress — before it was sent in February.

In addition, Grassley said Breuer knew in 2010 of a previous gun-running operation by the ATF in the Bush administration, but he failed to notify superiors or Congress about it.

“Mr. Breuer’s failure to be candid and forthcoming before this body irreparably harms his credibility,” Grassley said, later adding: “Mr. Breuer has lost my confidence in his ability to effectively serve the Justice Department. If you can’t be straight with the Congress you don’t need to be running the criminal division. It is time to stop spinning and start taking responsibility.”

In response, Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Breuer “has acknowledged his mistake in not making — and therefore not alerting department leadership to — a connection between the allegations made about Operation Fast and Furious and the unacceptable tactics used years earlier.”

But Holder “continues to have confidence” in Breuer’s ability to lead the department’s criminal division, Schmaler said.

Breuer and Holder previously apologized to a Senate committee and to Grassley in particular about the false information in the February letter. Both have insisted they did not know the assertions were wrong when the department sent the letter.

However, Grassley said Wednesday that the additional documents recently provided to congressional investigators show that Breuer should have been aware that the letter contained false assertions, due to his knowledge of a similar previous program called Operation Wide Receiver.

In Mexico, the case has drawn nationwide attention and sharp criticism from top officials, who have long stressed that U.S. weapons are fueling the country’s drug war.

The Mexican attorney general’s office demanded a quick U.S. investigation of the matter in March and said authorities must hold accountable anyone who was responsible for the operation.

CNN’s Alan Silverleib, Tom Cohen, Terry Frieden and Jim Barnett contributed to this report.

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US politics live: Eric Holder faces ‘Fast and Furious’ questions in Congress

1.20pm: Virginia Tech is in lock-down after shots were heard near the campus:

Virginia Tech says a police officer has been shot, and a possible second victim has been reported at a parking lot near the campus.

Authorities are seeking a suspect.

A campus-wide alert tells students and faculty to stay inside and lock doors.

Virginia Tech, as most people will recall, was the site of the tragic shooting of 32 students and staff members by a student on the campus in 2007.

1.15pm: Erick Erickson, the influential conservative Republican and co-founder of RedState, says that the Republican presidential nomination may go to the floor of the Republican National Convention in Tampa next year:

I think it is time to move beyond wishful thinking and take seriously the idea of having a brokered convention with someone other than the current crop of candidates becoming the nominee.

Erickson is not a nut – and this is a sidelight in a longer piece he has written on the state of the GOP race. And my view that there is some wishful thinking going on there. But Erickson isn’t alone among Republicans in saying this.

1.01pm: The morning-after pill decision mentioned earlier has been the subject of considerable controversy, with the American Academy of Pediatrics calling Sebelius’ decision to keep the pill on sale behind pharamcy counters “medically inexplicable”.

AP reports:

Pediatricians say the morning-after pill is safe — containing a high dose of the same female hormone that’s in regular birth control pills — especially compared to some existing over-the-counter medicines.

“I don’t think 11-year-olds go into Rite Aid and buy anything,” much less a single pill that costs about $50, added fellow AAP member Dr Cora Breuner, a professor of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the University of Washington.

With all due respect to Dr Breuner, at my local branch of [national drugstore chain], a bright 11-year-old could probably get a job behind the counter.

12.43pm: At Eric Holder’s hearing, the attorney general says there is a suspect in the killing of US border agent Brian Terry – thought to have been killed by a gun obtained from the botched Fast and Furious operation – but that he can’t speak any further because a court has sealed the matter.

12.36pm: At Obama’s mini press conference, the subject of the “Plan B” morning-after pill came up, and the decision by the Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius to keep the drug behind pharmacy counters rather than on open shelves.

In response to a question, Obama says Sebelius was concerned a 10-year-old could get the medication, which could be dangerous. “Most parents would probably feel the same way,” Obama said.

The morning-after pill will still be available without a prescription to those 17 and older who can prove their age.

12.30pm: Some massive grandstanding going on by Darryl Issa, complete with props – a set of boxes showing the information he has received from a gun-dealer compared with a solitary box showing the information he received from the Justice Department.

I’m not quite sure what his point is but it looks good on television. Well, C-Span 3.

Sample quote from Issa: “When he comes before us saying he will clean house, no house has been cleaned.”

12.22pm: The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent overview of the position Eric Holder finds himself in over Fast and Furious and the chorus of Republicans calling for his resignation.

It also notes this:

While the White House has remained relatively quiet on Fast and Furious, other Democrats have come to Holder’s defense, saying Republican calls for resignation are clearly partisan, in part because they’ve largely ignored a smaller-scale gun-walking program, “Operation Wide Receiver,” implemented during the Bush administration. However, that program, unlike Fast and Furious, was a joint operation with Mexican authorities.

12.10pm: Back to Eric Holder, who is being grilled, baked and roasted by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee over the failure of Fast and Furious.

Earlier, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin told Holder:

If we don’t get to the bottom of this – and that requires your assistance on that – there is only one alternative that Congress has, and it’s called impeachment, where our subpoena powers are plenary and there can’t be any type of a legal immunity or privilege that can be asserted on that.

Now, you know, I’ve done more impeachments than anybody else in the history of the country. It is an expensive and messy affair. And I don’t want to go this far.

A rare moment of humour happened shortly after, from veteran Democrat John Conyers: “I merely wanted to clear the record with Jim Sensenbrenner. I’ve had far more impeachment experience than he has.”

12.04pm: And there’s this news: Iran’s state television appears to be showing video of the top secret US RQ-170 Sentinel drone that crash-landed inside Iran last week.

If the video is legitimate, the drone looks like it is intact.

12 noon: Asked about his vow to cut short his holiday until the payroll tax holiday is extended, Obama says he will delay his vacation to Hawaii until Congress acts: “I will not ask anybody to do something I’m not willing to do myself.”

With grim humour he looks at the assembled journalists and says: “Maybe we’ll have a white Christmas here in Washington.” Someone groans softly in the background.

11.56am: Obama is asked about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and what he means when he says he’s looking at all the options:

Obama: All options means I’m not taking any options off the table.

Reporter: Can you tell us what those options might be?

Obama: No.

Obama does go on to say that the US has imposed the toughest level of sanctions against Iran of any administration, and that Iran can either be isolated or “act responsibly”.

11.53am: On the European debt crisis, Obama says “obviously I am very concerned about what’s happening in Europe”. He says that he has repeatedly spoken to European leaders such as Merkel and Sarkozy, and the only question is political will:

It’s not as if we’re talking about some improvished country … this is Europe, with some of the wealthiest countries on earth.

Obama goes on to say:

We’re going to do everything we can to push them in a good direction on this … if we see Europe tank, that obviously could have a big impact on our ability to create jobs.

11.49am: Obama says he is still committed to appointing Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Finance Protection Board – and won’t rule out a recess appointment (a constitutional device that allows the president to circumvent congressional approval):

Why wouldn’t we want somebody just to make sure people are being treated fairly? Especially when not only is a family affected but our whole economy is affected.

We have Republicans in Congress who appear to have entirely forgotten how we got into this mess.

The bottom line, according to Obama, “is we’re going to look at all our options. My hope is the Republicans come to their senses.”

11.42am: Speaking from the White House briefing room, President Obama says there was no reason for the Senate to block Richard Cordray’s nomination: “This makes absolutely no sense.”

Obama is now taking questions – and the first one is on the accusations by Republican presidential candidates that he has guilty of “appeasement” of Israel’s enemies.

Here’s Obama’s pithy response:

Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaida leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that.

Hard to argue with that.

11.20am: More Congressional gridlock: the Senate blocks the nomination of Richard Cordray as head of the new consumer watchdog, the Consumer Finance Protection Board. Despite winning the vote 53 to 45 Cordray’s nomination failed to clear the 60 votes required for cloture, in effect filibustering the nomination:

Republicans said they had three demands. One was for a five-member board to oversee the agency. Another was for “safety and soundness” checks of the agency’s decision-making. And they wanted the agency’s funding to be approved by Congress rather than have its budget approved by the Federal Reserve.

President Obama is to speak on the subject shortly.

11.13am: In attempt to derail the Newt Gingrich bandwagon, the Romney campaign sent out two surrogates this morning to attack his record – a sign that the GOP fight is getting more brutal, as the Los Angeles Times reports.

Former Missouri Senator Jim Talent – who served under Gingrich when he was Speaker of the House in the mid-1990s – and a Romney supporter, appeared at a press conference:

The speaker’s running as a reliable and trusted conservative leader. And what we’re here to say, with reluctance, but clearly, is that he’s not a reliable and trusted conservative leader because he’s not a reliable or trustworthy leader.

Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu laced into Gingrich for his remarks about the Medicare proposals of Republican congressman Paul Ryan earlier this year:

For Newt Gingrich, in an effort of self-aggrandizement, to come out and throw a clever phrase that had no other purpose than to try and make him sound a little smarter than the conservative Republican leadership, to undercut Paul Ryan is the most self-serving, anti-conservative thing one can imagine happening.

That’s reference to Gingrich calling Ryan’s plans “right-wing social engineering”.

Things are heating up nicely.

11.41am: The committee is now going into recess to allow members to vote.

10.40am: Darryl Issa, the Republican chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is next up to take a swing at Holder:

My committee just next door was systemically lied to by your own representatives. There is a high likelihood individual was deliberately duped, but he was duped by people who still work for you today, still work for you today.

The president has said he has full confidence in this attorney general. I have no confidence in a president who has full confidence in an attorney general who has in fact not terminated or dealt with the individuals, including key lieutenants who from the very beginning had some knowledge and long before Brian Terry was gunned down knew enough to stop this programme.

10.37am: Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is quickly on the attack, telling Eric Holder:

I am disappointed in the department’s repeated refusal to cooperate with this committee’s oversight request.

This lack of cooperation is evident in the department’s handling of inquiries related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Operation Fast and Furious and the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010. And inconsistent statements from department officials about who knew what and when have only raised more concerns.

10.32am: Perhaps forlornly, Eric Holder says investigators should avoid soring political pints. That ship has sailed, I’m afraid.

Holder also attempts to address the death of US law enforcement officer Brian Terry – who may have been killed by a gun smuggled as part of the Fast and Furious operation:

Nearly one year ago, working to protect his fellow citizens, US Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry was violently murdered in Arizona. We all should feel outrage about his death, and – as I have communicated directly to Agent Terry’s family – we are dedicated to pursuing justice on his behalf.

The Department is also working to answer questions that the Terry family has raised, including whether and how firearms connected to Fast and Furious could end up with Mexican drug cartels.

10.29am: More from Holder – who warns that the guns lost during Fast and Furious will be found for “years to come”:

Although the Department has taken steps to ensure that such tactics are never used again, it is an unfortunate reality that we will continue to feel the effects of this flawed operation for years to come. Guns lost during this operation will continue to show up at crime scenes on both sides of the border.

In other words, Fast and Furious will be a running sore for the administration.

Holder attempts to put the figures into the context of the huge flow of arms from the US to Mexico:

As we work to identify where errors occurred and to ensure that these mistakes never happen again, we must not lose sight of the critical challenge this flawed operation has highlighted: the battle to stop the flow of guns to Mexico. Of the nearly 94,000 guns that have been recovered and traced in Mexico in the last five years, more than 64,000 were sourced to the United States. In the last five years, the trafficking of firearms across our Southwest Border has contributed to approximately 40,000 deaths.

10.20am: Eric Holder is now before the committee – you can follow it live via C-Span 3 – and in his opening remarks describes the failure of Fast and Furious as “inexcusable”.

Holder told the committee that “addressing the unacceptable rate of illegal firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico” led to the disasterous policy:

Unfortunately, in the pursuit of that laudable goal unacceptable tactics were adopted as a part of Operation Fast and Furious. As I have repeatedly stated, allowing guns to walk – whether in this Administration or in the prior one – is wholly unacceptable. The use of this misguided tactic is inexcusable. And it must never happen again.

Police on the streets of Monterrey, Mexico. Photograph: Tomas Bravo/Reuters

10.11am: By way of background on the influence of US-sourced guns in Mexico’s drug war, the Guardian’s Chris McGreal has just visited Texas and published this investigation:

It’s a war sustained by a merry-go-round. The cartels use the money paid by Americans for drugs to buy weapons at US guns stores, which are then shipped across the frontier, often using the same vehicles and routes used to smuggle more narcotics north. The weapons are used by the cartels to protect narcotics production in their battle with the Mexican police and army, and smuggle drugs north.

Good morning: US Attorney General Eric Holder appears before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions over the government’s failed operation known as Fast and Furious, a gunning-running sting that led to weapons being passed in the hands of Mexico’s drug cartels.

It’s a complex subject but Republicans in the House of Representatives have been investigating the Justice Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and how the Mexican cartels ended up with hundreds of firearms as a result.

Here’s the background:

Two years ago, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched a “gun walking” operation that permitted several gun shops in Arizona to sell a total of more than 2,000 semi-automatic weapons destined for drug cartels with the intention of tracking the guns and busting the smuggling operations.

But the agents carrying out Operation Fast and Furious lost track of about 1,400 of the guns – some of which were later identified as being used in killings in Mexico and other attacks, including an incident in which a Mexican military helicopter was shot down. Two of the weapons were also recovered after a gun battle in Arizona last year in which a US border patrol agent, Brian Terry, was killed.

Now Holder appears before the House Judiciary Committee to be grilled once more on who knew what and when.

Elsewhere, the Republican presidential hopefuls are out and about, with more polling evidence of Newt Gingrich surging in the polls – and the Mitt Romney campaign organising a firm response this morning, rolling out some heavyweight surrogates to attack Gingrich’s record and shore up Romney’s base in New Hampshire, site of the first presidential primary on 10 January.

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No US-Canada deal on Keystone XL

Harper and Obama describe themselves as friends and had a ‘candid’ discussion

A controversial oil pipeline linking Canada and the US must be assessed for environmental impact, the US president has told Canada’s prime minister.

Meeting Canadian PM Stephen Harper at the White House to sign a border deal, Barack Obama rejected US Republican calls to approve Keystone XL.

Mr Obama had an “open mind” on the project, Mr Harper told reporters, but wanted a full assessment carried out.

The 1,600-mile (2,700km) pipeline would run from Canada to the Texas coast.

“He’s indicated to me, as he’s indicated to you today, that he is following a proper [process] to eventually take that decision here in the United States, and that he has an open mind in regards to what the final decision may or may not be,” Mr Harper said.

‘New, modern border’

Canada’s prime minister has long backed the Keystone XL plan, which would create jobs in the US and in Canada and enable oil from the Canadian province of Alberta to reach the world market.

But the Obama administration last month delayed a decision on the pipeline until a new assessment of the environmental impact of its route is completed.

That is not expected to be finished until 2013 – after the US presidential election.

Mr Obama, meanwhile, explicitly rejected calls from Republicans in the US Congress to link approval for Keystone XL to Mr Obama’s push to renew a soon-to-expire payroll tax cut.

“Efforts to tie a whole bunch of other issues to what’s something that they [Congress] should be doing anyway will be rejected by me,” Mr Obama said.

In the main business of the day at the White House, the two leaders unveiled a trade deal and perimeter security agreement that Mr Harper said would create a “new modern border”.

“Together, they represent the most significant steps forward in Canada-US cooperation since the North American Free Trade Agreement,” he said.

The deals would allow easier access to ports and increase harmonisation of security checks and procedures at land borders.

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