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Special Report

Preferential Treatment at Presidential Presser?

Now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine:

Prior Knowledge?

A number of White House reporters were left scratching their heads Tuesday after a blogger for the liberal Huffington Post Web site was escorted to the front of the briefing room and given what appeared to be preferential treatment at the president's news conference.

Nico Pitney was the second person called on by the president, who seemed to have a not so veiled advance read on Pitney's question:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Since we're on Iran, I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post. I know that you and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Pitney says President Obama did not know the specific question he would ask. But, White House officials knew the blog had been accepting questions said to be coming from Iranians. Pitney also insists he was helped to the front of the room only "because he was late."

The move generated a lot of commentary on the Web. Politico's Michael Calderone wrote: "Reporters typically don't coordinate their questions for the president before press conferences, so it seemed odd that Obama might have an idea what the question would be."

Fully Covered

In his speech to the Muslim world on June 4 in Cairo, Egypt, President Obama said that Muslim women should be allowed to wear the traditional full body covering known as the burqa or hijab: "It is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear."

Well, at least one U.S. ally says not so fast. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday: "In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity.... The burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement."

The French Parliament Tuesday created a commission to study the burqa, which could lead to legislation officially banning the garment.

Funny Money

We brought you a similar story from Los Angeles and now one from the other coast: Hundreds of New York City schoolteachers are being paid to do nothing.

The city's education department says taxpayers are shelling out $65 million a year on 700 teachers who are awaiting disciplinary hearings on charges ranging from insubordination to sexual misconduct.

The department blames union rules requiring teachers to continue their jobs in some fashion. So they report each day to off-campus office space, where they spend time playing Scrabble, surfing the Internet, painting and practicing yoga.

— FOX News Channel's Zachary Kenworthy contributed to this report.