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President Obama announced a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, a decision he said fulfills a campaign promise to bring the war to a responsible end.

"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 is one of my highest national security priorities," he said Friday, addressing the White House press corps.

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Republican candidates are reacting to President Obama's announcement that American troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year. And so far, both Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have released statements slamming the news.

Both Romney and Bachmann focused on the reports that the Iraqi government did not agree to a continued U.S. presence. For example, Romney wrote: "President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women."

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American troops may be leaving Iraq before the end of the year, but U.S. contractors aren't going anywhere soon.

ABC News reports that the State Department "is expected to have about 5,000 security contractors in Iraq as of January 2012 (they already have about 3,000 in country)." There will also be 4,500 "general life support" contractors to provide food and medical services.

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Eric Cantor may have cancelled Friday's lecture on income inequality out of concerns protestors would dominate the audience, but you can still read his prepared remarks, in which the congressman calls on students to take after Steve Jobs and start their own business. The GOP Majority Leader's office sent the complete speech to The Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn's campus newspaper.

"There is a ladder of success in America," Cantor wrote. "However, it is a ladder built not by Washington, but by hard work, responsibility and the initiative of the people of our country."

He offered his own family as an example, recounting how his grandmother managed to make a life in America after emigrating from Eastern Europe even though "in the early 20th century, the South wasn't often the most accepting place for a young Jewish woman."

Cantor addressed the growing debate over whether the rich are paying their fair share, but never mentioned the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, whose planned protests led to his speech's cancellation, by name.

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The first launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from outside of the former bases of the Soviet Union took place on Friday at the Guiana Space Center near Kourou, French Guiana at 6:30 a.m. ET.

The launch was historic for another reason: The Soyuz rocket was transporting the first two of 27 satellites of the European Space Agency's $7.2 billion independent satellite navigational system, Galileo, which will free the continent from using American-owned Global Positioning System (GPS.)

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Senate Democrats will continue their push to pass pieces of President Obama's jobs bill by forcing another test vote, in just over a week, on legislation to fund key infrastructure projects, and to seed an infrastructure bank, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced Friday.

The legislation would provide $50 billion worth of direct investment to transportation and other infrastructure projects, and create a federal infrastructure bank, with authority to loan money to states and private companies to build out public-use infrastructure.

The kicker is that it will be paid for with a 0.7 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year. That's a slight tick higher than the minuscule surtax Democrats proposed to pay for legislation to hire teachers and emergency first responders that Republicans filibustered late Thursday night.

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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, MoveOn.org, 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."

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