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Congress is urged to look into conviction

WASHINGTON - Forty-four former state attorneys general have asked Congress to investigate whether politics at the Justice Department influenced the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges.

Mr. Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted last year of bribery and other charges.

He began serving a seven-year prison sentence last month.

Democrats have long maintained that his prosecution was politically motivated, and recent allegations that White House officials were steering decisions at the Justice Department have added weight to the claims.

Last month, a GOP lawyer who once worked on Republican Gov. Bob Riley's campaign signed a sworn affidavit saying she overheard conversations among campaign officials in 2002 suggesting that the White House was involved in Mr. Siegelman's prosecution.

She has offered to testify to any investigative agency or in court.

Coastal 'dead zone' to reach largest size

NEW ORLEANS - Researchers predict the recurring "dead zone" off the Louisiana coast will grow this summer to its largest size in at least 22 years, 8,543 square miles.

The forecast, released Monday by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, is based on a federal estimate of nitrogen from the Mississippi River watershed to the Gulf of Mexico.

It discounts the effect large storms or hurricanes might have.

The "dead zone" in the northern gulf, at the end of the Mississippi River system, is the second-largest area of oxygen-depleted coastal waters in the world.

Low oxygen, or hypoxia, can be caused by pollution from sources including farm fertilizer, soil erosion and discharge from sewage treatment plants, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

As a result, fish, shrimp and crabs can die or otherwise be adversely affected, the consortium Web site says.

- Edited from wire reports


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Augusta jobless rate worsens

Metro Augusta's unemployment rate increased to 8 percent in July, the Georgia Department of Labor announced Thursday.
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