Algae bloom results in Calif. seafood warning

LOS ANGELES - A bloom of ocean algae that produces a toxic acid has sickened and killed birds, sea lions and dolphins in California, and could threaten humans who eat seafood, environmentalists said.

Birds and animals have been washing up on shores from San Diego to San Francisco Bay. The state warned consumers Friday against eating sport-harvested shellfish and seafood caught between Santa Barbara and Orange County.

Domoic acid is produced by microscopic algae. Birds and sea mammals ingest the acid by eating fish and shellfish that consume the algae. People who eat fish and shellfish tainted with the acid can experience nausea, seizures and even death.

The algae population increases or "blooms" every year as the ocean waters warm, but this year's bloom seems early, extensive and "very, very thick," said David Caron, who teaches in the biological sciences department at University of Southern California. - AP

Pain doctor convicted of drug trafficking

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A pain-management doctor who prescribed large amounts of opiates and drew patients from across the country to his northern Virginia clinic has been convicted on 16 counts of drug trafficking by a federal jury.

The jury acquitted William E. Hurwitz on 17 other counts on Friday, and a judge dismissed 17 others, including the most serious charge - drug trafficking resulting in death.

It was the second time in three years that a federal jury convicted Hurwitz of drug trafficking. His 2004 conviction - and 25-year prison sentence - was tossed out by a federal appeals court, which ruled that a judge improperly barred the jury from considering whether Hurwitz was acting in good faith. Hurwitz faces up to 20 years on each count when he is sentenced on July 13. - AP

Marchers blast pace of New Orleans recovery

NEW ORLEANS - The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Mayor Ray Nagin led hundreds of marchers yesterday to the crumbling houses that still dominate the Lower Ninth Ward to draw attention to the area's slow recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Jackson said the Bush administration and much of the nation had largely forgotten the working class and mostly black hurricane victims in the Lower Ninth, while areas that draw tourists and more affluent sections recover more quickly.

"The waters have subsided, but the abandonment continues. The president did not mention Katrina in his last State of the Union address," Jackson said. - AP

Elsewhere:

Former U.S. senator and onetime presidential hopeful Carol Moseley Braun was attacked and injured by a mugger early yesterday outside her South Side Chicago home. She suffered a broken wrist.

Flames and smoke poured into the sky yesterday over an oil refinery in Wynnewood, Okla., where lightning set off a fire and an explosion that was felt miles away, authorities said. No injuries were reported.