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Special Report

John Edwards Charges a Steep Fee for a Speech on Poverty

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Talk Isn't Cheap

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards — who made his fortune as a trial lawyer before getting into politics — was paid $55,000 to speak to students at the University of California at Davis last year.

The topic — "Poverty — the Great Moral Issue Facing America." His campaign tells FOX News the speech was part of a series at the school and was funded by sponsors and the sale of tickets — which went for as much as $45.

Edwards' financial records show he pocketed $285,000 for speeches to nine colleges and universities last year, in addition to the nearly half million he made in consulting fees from a hedge fund where he worked, he said, to learn more about the financial market's effect on poverty.

Paperwork Late

A few minutes ago we told you about the complaint against Democratic Congressman John Murtha over his behavior toward a Republican colleague — when Murtha was challenged on money for a program in his home district.

Now The Hill newspaper reports Murtha submitted the earmark certification letter for the project more than five weeks after the deadline — and apparently violated House rules by sending the letter only to the Intelligence Committee chairman — and not also to the ranking Republican member.

Democrats say the project was not considered an earmark at the time of the deadline.

But Republicans say Murtha was trying to sneak it into the intelligence budget.

The administration wants to close the National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — saying it duplicates services provided elsewhere.

Efforts Damaged

Syrian dissidents and pro-Democracy advocates say their efforts were critically damaged by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Damascus last month.

Activists tell The New York Observer that theAssad government has cracked down hard on dissent because it feels the pressure is off.

"Pelosi's visit made the regime feel that Americans were divided on how to deal with Syria," said one women's rights activist.

Dissidents point to a five-year prison sentence for Syria's best-known human rights lawyer — and other harsh punishments for pro-Democracy activists since Pelosi came.

And hundreds of people were arrested in one town for protesting rigged parliamentary elections.

Show of Force

The superintendent of public schools in Indianapolis is bringing in as many as 30 police officers to keep this month's high school graduation ceremonies orderly and dignified.

Media reports say superintendent Eugene White wants to ensure enforcement of his new rule forbidding parents from cheering when their child's name is called.

At least ten people were thrown out or left the ceremony at one of the city's schools last night, and White threatened to shut it down completely if outbursts continued.

He wrote to parents earlier — "It is a joyous time, a proud time and a formal time. It is not a party. It is not a pep rally."

One parent says the students deserve to be cheered, and suggests that the announcers simply pause between names — so that all would be heard.

—FOX News Channel's Martin Hill contributed to this report.