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Special Report

Grapevine: How easy is it to get a free 'Obamaphone'?

Now some earlier-than-usual fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine...

Phoning It In

New allegations of misconduct involving the so-called "Obamaphone" program.

The taxpayer-funded cell phones are supposed to be available only to low-income Americans.

But a TV news producer in Los Angeles recently found that getting a free phone is really easy even if you do not qualify.

Many contractors tasked with enrollment to the Lifeline program earn a commission for new sign-ups. And that apparently is motivating some to blatantly ignore the rules.

Various workers suggested the producer have someone qualified order the phone for her, or just use someone else's ID card, or allow the helpful sales person to construct a fake card with a fraudulent social security number.

One of the vendors involved says it routinely audits sign-ups, and the employees caught on tape have been fired.

Nice Work if You Can Get It

You -- the taxpayer -- have now paid a group of workers at the EPA more than a $1 million to stay home and not work.

An inspector general's report finds that eight employees were on paid administrative leave ranging from four months to four and a half years -- tallying up more than 20,000 hours of pay.

Acceptable reasons for leave include attending funerals, voting, inclement weather, donating blood and disciplinary actions.

The IG notes there are no parameters on how long is too long to be on paid leave.

Clueless Barbie

And finally, Mattel is apologizing for a book that many parents say depicts Barbie as a helpless girl, clueless when it comes to computers.

I can be a computer engineer -- tells the story of Barbie -- creating a computer game featuring a dog performing tricks.

But to make the game work she has to call in the boys.

Quote -- "I'm only creating design ideas. I'll need Steven and Brian's help to turn it into a real game."

Barbie then proceeds to download a virus onto her computer, which she then spreads to her sister's laptop.

That's when the boys swoop in to save the day and fix the computer.

Reviews of this book are not kind, to say the least. 

Now, Mattel is apologizing, saying going forward its books will portray an empowered Barbie.