New Obama technology chief on leave after FBI office raid

March 13, 2009
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WASHINGTON - An aide to President Obama is on leave from his new job after the FBI raided his old District of Columbia government office yesterday, arresting a city employee and a technology consultant on corruption charges, a White House official said.

The charges were lodged against the two men at a federal court hearing as the FBI finished searching the city's technology office, which was led until recently by Obama's new computer chief, Vivek Kundra.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs would not say whether the White House knew the investigation was underway when it named Kundra last week but called the case "a serious matter."

Yusuf Acar, the acting chief security officer in the city's technology office, was ordered held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday. Prosecutors said $70,000 was found during a search of Acar's Washington home and that he posed a serious flight risk. Acar worked under Kundra, but a spokeswoman for Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington said she was "very confident" Kundra is not a target of the investigation.


Finance committee vote backs Kirk for trade post
WASHINGTON - The Senate Finance Committee voted yesterday to back the nomination of Ron Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, to be US trade representative.

The panel's voice vote sends the nomination to the full Senate, and its approval would fill one of the last empty slots in President Obama's Cabinet.

Kirk is expected to win confirmation, even though the Finance Committee's vetting process revealed errors in his tax returns for 2005 through 2007. He paid about $10,000 in back taxes over some speaking fees he donated to his college alma mater and some business-related entertainment expenses he took for Dallas Mavericks basketball tickets.

Kirk, a friend of Obama, told the Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing Monday that he would push to make sure that other countries live by the commitments they have made in international trade pacts, and put less emphasis on negotiating new agreements.

Meanwhile, the White House announced Obama plans to nominate Demetrios Marantis, a senior Senate Finance Committee aide, to be one of Kirk's deputy trade representatives. Marantis worked for the trade representative's office from 1998 to 2002, then for the US-Vietnam Trade Council, before joining Senator John F. Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.


First lady shows support of military families in visit
Michelle Obama, who has declared supporting military families as one of her signature issues as first lady, stressed that issue yesterday in her first out-of-town trip.

She toured the Fort Bragg Army base in North Carolina, where she walked into a dining hall to cheers and applause, chatted with soldiers and civilians who were eating, posed for pictures, and gave hugs before going into a private lunch with 20 family members and five Fort Bragg volunteers.

Later, she read "The Cat in the Hat" to a prekindergarten class and spoke to community organizations in nearby Fayetteville that provide support to the soldiers and their families.

President Obama, in announcing his Iraq withdrawal plan last month at the nearby Camp Lejeune Marine base, pledged to improve pay and programs for service members, veterans, and their families.


Palin's daughter breaks up with father of her baby
Bristol Palin, 18, , the daughter of Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, was a teenage mother. Now, she's a single mom.

Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston, 19, the father of the baby born in December, have broken up and called off plans to get married this summer, the Associated Press and People magazine reported. Johnston told the AP that the couple decided "a while ago" to end their relationship. He also said some details of the breakup, rumors of which had been swirling on the Internet, were inaccurate.

Bristol Palin said in a statement issued through a spokeswoman for her mother's political action committee that she was "devastated."

The couple was thrust into the spotlight last September when Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, disclosed the week of the GOP national convention that Bristol was pregnant. She and John McCain's presidential campaign made the disclosure to stop what it called "out of control" Internet rumors that Sarah Palin's youngest child was conceived by her daughter and that the Alaska governor faked her pregnancy to cover that up.


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