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Texas Gov. Rick Perry followed the lead of his fellow Republican presidential contenders, offering sharp criticism of President Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Here’s Perry’s statement:

“I'm deeply concerned that President Obama is putting political expediency ahead of sound military and security judgment by announcing an end to troop level negotiations and a withdrawal from Iraq by year's end. The President was slow to engage the Iraqis and there's little evidence today's decision is based on advice from military commanders.

"America's commitment to the future of Iraq is important to U.S. national security interests and should not be influenced by politics. Despite the great achievements of the U.S. military and the Iraqi people, there remain real threats to our shared interests, especially from Iran.

“The United States must remain a firm and steadfast ally for Iraq, maintaining an ongoing diplomatic, economic, and military to military partnership with this emerging democratic ally in the Middle East.

“As a veteran and commander-in-chief of national guard forces, I cannot express enough appreciation for our military service members who have protected and defended American interests in Iraq. Our Iraq war veterans made enormous sacrifices to make our nation and world safer, and I know all Americans will welcome them home with great pride and appreciation.”

Updated at 3:44 PM ET House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is abruptly pulling out of a scheduled Friday lecture on income equality at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School, according to the school.

Progressive and labor groups, including Occupy Philadelphia,, the local AFL-CIO, and AFSCME, were planning a protest for the event. According to Cantor's office, the Congressman pulled out after discovering that the speech would be open to the public and seeing reports that the university was allowing protestors to gather on the campus itself.

"The Office of the Majority Leader was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met," Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said in an e-mailed statement. "Wharton is a educational leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Majority Leader appreciated the invitation to speak with the students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the UPENN community."

In a statement, the school denied that they had changed their rules as to who could attend the event in advance of the speech.

"The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed," the university said. "We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader's office on the staging of his presentation."

Mike Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, which is organizing the protests, told TPM that the demonstration will continue regardless of whether or not Cantor proceeds with the speech.

"If he has in fact cancelled it says he's willing to meet with the elites but not willing to meet with the 99%," he said. "As soon as he hears there's going to be everyday folks outside...he decides to cancel."

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Mark Nicastre, condemned Cantor's decision to cancel the speech as well.

"Majority Leader Eric Cantor canceled his speech on income inequality after his office learned the speech was open to the public," he said in a statement. "It shows that Eric Cantor is afraid to face the public with his policies because he knows that Republicans are wrong on the middle class. Republican policies, driven by the Tea Party, have favored corporate special interests over the middle class - from the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it to Republican opposition to investments in middle class families."

The DCCC piled on criticism of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor after he canceled an income inequality speech at the University of Pennsylvania Friday.

“As soon as Eric Cantor found out that everyday Americans would be able to hear his speech about Republicans protecting ‘people at the top’, he cancelled it,” said Jesse Ferguson of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Not only does Eric Cantor not listen to the American people, now he doesn’t even want them listening to him. For 290 days, Majority Leader Cantor and House Republicans have refused to budge on making billionaires and Big Oil pay their fair share, so we can create middle class jobs and help small businesses grow – and it looks like that’s going to continue for day 291.”

Michele Bachmann’s campaign manager responded late Friday to reports that the Republican presidential contender’s New Hampshire staff resigned en masse:

“We have a great team in New Hampshire and we have not been notified that anyone is leaving the campaign,” Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian said in a statement. “We look forward to spending more time in the Granite State between now and the primary, but our campaign has emphasized that our main focus is the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa and we are continuing to build efforts there. While she will campaign in other states, Michele will spend the majority of her time in Iowa, doing what she does better than all the other candidates – retail politics – leading up to the all important caucuses.”

Update: The New York Times is reporting that Jeff Chidester, Bachmann’s campaign manager in New Hampshire, is in fact leaving.

Embattled former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is heading to Fox News as a paid contributor, the New York Times reports.

President Obama addressed the White House press corps Friday afternoon, announcing that United States forces will fully withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year:

"As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end, for the sake of our national security and to strengthen American leadership around the world," Obama began. "After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by 2011. As Commander-in-Chief, ensuring the success of this strategy one of my highest national security priorities.

"Last year, I announced the end to our combat mission in Iraq, and to date we've removed more than 100,000 troops. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country's security.

"A few hours ago I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki. I reaffirmed that the United States keeps its commitments. He spoke of the determination of the Iraqi people to forge their own future. We are in full agreement about how to move forward."

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A green revival could be in store for GM's Hummer, that late 20th century icon of gas-guzzling excess famously associated in the public mind with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The notoriously oversized passenger car was based on the military's Humvee, and now the U.S. Amy is unveiling two next-generation Humvee prototypes that use 70 percent less fuel than a comparable model, the M1114 Humvee.

One of the new prototypes is a diesel-fueled model called the Fuel Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator, or FED Alpha for short. It has been undergoing testing at the Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland.

The other prototype, FED Bravo, has a hybrid-electric drive. It will be ready for testing later this year.

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Herman Cain says he wouldn’t apply the 9% flat tax of his “9-9-9” tax plan for those at or below the poverty line. The move followed criticism that the flat tax portion of the plan would unfairly punish the poorest of Americans.

Yet the Washington Post is reporting that the elimination of the middle 9 doesn’t quite fix the problem.  “Poor families would see a smaller tax increase than they otherwise would see, but they will still see a tax increase,” they quote Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center.  

The Tax Policy Center released an analysis earlier this week that criticized the 9-9-9 plan as raising taxes on 84% of Americans while lowering them for only the richest households.

The largest scientific study yet by sample size investigating the link between cell phone use and cancerous tumors in the central nervous system -which surveyed some 358,403 adult cell subscribers age thirty and over in Denmark over a 17 year period and compared them to all non-subscribers - has concluded that "there were no increased risks of tumours of the central nervous system, providing little evidence for a causal association."

Still, the results of the study, published in the British Medical Journal on Thursday, note that a "a small to moderate increase in risk for subgroups of heavy (cellphone) users" remains to be determined in further study.

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