Grapevine: Billion dollar cell phone bill

High cost of subsidized federal phone program


And now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine...

Billion Dollar Cell Phone Bill

A subsidized federal phone program for poor people cost consumers more than $1.5 billion last year.

The Lifeline system provides low-income Americans with free basic cell phones or land-lines and covers up to 250 free minutes each month.

Telecom companies are required to foot the bill and generally pass along those fees to consumers.

Lifeline enrollment has jumped dramatically in the past few years and costs have more than doubled.

Last month the FCC announced an overhaul of the program after an audit showed subscribers were abusing the system.

Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill complained she received an invitation in the mail to apply for the program even though she is a multimillionaire.

On Ice

New research by the University of Colorado shows the Earth's polar ice is melting less than previously thought.

The Guardian reports scientists used satellite data to determine the Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in the past 10 years.

The findings have reportedly stunned scientists who maintain that despite the unexpected results -- quote -- "The new data does not mean that concerns about climate change are overblown in any way."

Dear John

Finally, more bad news for former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.

His trial surrounding campaign finance violations over money used to hide a sexual affair was delayed last week after his lawyers revealed Edwards has a serious heart condition.

Now, newly filed finance reports show his presidential campaign spent nearly $900,000 last year even though he dropped out of the running in early 2008.

The money went to airfare, hotels, and legal fees despite a ruling from the federal election officials that Edwards still owes taxpayers more than $2 million in public matching funds he received after he left the race.