National briefs: 3/8/12

Budget deal may unravel
INGTON -- Conservatives dominating the House are pushing to scrap last year's budget pact with President Barack Obama and impose new cuts on domestic agencies in an election-year drive to show voters they're serious about shrinking the government.

The move is popular with freshman lawmakers elected on a tea party wave in 2010. But veteran lawmakers warn it will produce gridlock later, when Congress has to follow up the springtime debate on a broad budget blueprint with actual spending bills reflecting the new cuts, and get them enacted into law.

Driving the discussion is frustration among many Republicans that they haven't done enough to cut spending or curb deficits that still exceed $1 trillion a year. The upcoming budget debate is maybe the last, best forum to demonstrate their bona fides to voters -- especially core conservatives they're counting on to turn out in large numbers to maintain the GOP's majority in the House.

Threat from cyber hacking

WASHINGTON -- A day after authorities arrested several hackers from the Anonymous movement, the FBI director, Robert S. Mueller III, warned members of Congress that terrorist groups might use hackers to attack the United States.

"Terrorists have shown interest in pursuing hacking skills," Mr. Mueller said Wednesday in written testimony to a House appropriations subcommittee reviewing the bureau's budget.

Mr. Mueller said that the federal government must act swiftly to prevent such attacks and economic espionage from other countries because they pose a "potentially devastating" threat to the country's businesses and infrastructure.

Obama touts policies

MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. -- President Barack Obama brought his reelection message to a manufacturing town in this important battleground state Wednesday, hoping to build enthusiasm for his campaign in the region where he will accept the 2012 Democratic nomination this summer.

Mr. Obama toured a Daimler Trucks plant and touted the company's recent growth and commitment to developing alternative fuel technologies, which the Obama administration has promoted as a strategy to wean the country from foreign oil at a time of rising gasoline prices.

It was Mr. Obama's 13th appearance in North Carolina, a state where he eked out a victory in 2008 over John McCain by a mere 14,000 votes.

Public trust damaged?

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New York Police Department's surveillance of Muslims has damaged the public's trust in New Jersey law enforcement and jeopardized some of the relationships agents had sought to build in the community since Sept. 11, the head of the FBI in New Jersey said Wednesday.

Michael Ward, agent in charge of the FBI's Newark division, said Muslims have become less cooperative in investigations, which "creates additional risks, it creates blind spots."

NYPD spokesman Paul Browne criticized Mr. Ward's comments, pointing to several cases in which his department had worked in conjunction with New Jersey law enforcement, such as the arrest of two men, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to join an al-Qaida-affiliated group.

Medical pioneer dies

BALTIMORE -- Christopher Lyles, whose cancerous windpipe was swapped in November for a synthetic one seeded with his own cells in only the second operation of its kind, died on Monday in a Baltimore hospital. He was 30 and lived in Abingdon, Md.

His death was announced by his family on the website of HelpHopeLive, an organization that helps patients and families facing transplantation or dealing with catastrophic injury. The family did not disclose the cause of death.

-- Compiled from news services

First Published 2012-03-07 23:31:53