ASPCA USES PHOTOS IN FIGHT OVER PUPPY MILLS: LOS ANGELES (AP) — The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is bolstering its campaign against puppy mills by showing photos of sick puppies and harsh kennel conditions taken by the federal agency that licenses commercial breeders. The organization has added 10,000 photos to its “NoPetStorePuppies” website showing dogs at breeders across the U.S. with matted hair, bloody stool, long nails, injured eyes and dental disease. The pictures were taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the past few years and were obtained through a public-records request. The breeders were warned or given citations to correct the problems. The ASPCA wants people to boycott puppy sales in pet stores and on the Internet, the places where most puppy mill animals are sold. It included the photos in a database that can be searched by breeder, license number or ZIP code.
KAISER FINED $4M BY STATE: SACRAMENTO (AP) — State officials have fined Kaiser Permanente $4 million, alleging the health care giant failed to provide adequate mental health services. The Sacramento Bee reports (http://bit.ly/149RSi0) that the fine issued on Tuesday by the California Department of Managed Health Care is the second largest it has ever issued. Anthem Blue Cross was accused of wrongly rescinding health care coverage and hit with a $10 million fine in 2008. Investigators say Kaiser failed to see mental health patients fast enough. They also found the company’s description of its mental health services complicated and misleading. According to the managed care department, Kaiser was only fined after it failed to move fast enough to correct deficiencies. Kaiser Permanente officials say they are making improvements and will challenge the fine, which they say is too stiff.
ELVIS’ CADILLAC AMONG ITEMS AT AUCTION: SANTA MONICA (AP) — Elvis Presley’s Cadillac, Steve McQueen’s old truck and prescription sunglasses worn by John Lennon are among hundreds of items once owned by celebrities that are scheduled to be auctioned in California next month. The Mecum Auction Company said Wednesday it will be displaying and auctioning about 2,000 pieces of celebrity-related memorabilia in Santa Monica, Calif. on July 26-27. Mecum, which specializes in the sale of collector cars, says one of the auction’s highlights will be Elvis’ 1972 Cadillac Custom Estate Wagon. “The King of Rock n’ Roll” owned the car from 1972 until his death in 1977, according to Mecum’s Web site.
SAN FRANCISCO TRANSIT WORKERS AUTHORIZE STRIKE: OAKLAND (AP) — San Francisco Bay area transit workers moved a step closer to a work stoppage after voting overwhelmingly to allow union officials to call a strike if contract negotiations fail, union leaders said on Wednesday. More than 98 percent of BART train drivers, mechanics, station agents and maintenance workers who voted on Tuesday’s strike authorization measure approved it, according to union officials. The workers are represented by two unions, Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1555. Leaders of the two unions said they remain committed to negotiating a new contract and have no plans currently to call a strike after the current contract expires on Sunday. A strike would affect hundreds of thousands of daily commuters, snarling transportation in the Bay area.
2 HELD FOR YOSEMITE-AREA ARSON FIRES: COARSEGOLD (AP) — California fire officials say they’ve arrested a couple suspected of setting dozens of grass fires, including one that destroyed a home near Yosemite National Park. State fire spokesman Daniel Berlant says 40-year-old Kenneth Alan Jackson and 46-year-old Allison Marie Waterman of Coarsegold were arrested Tuesday night and remained jailed Wednesday in Madera County. Berlant says they’re suspected of setting at least 30 grass fires in recent months in the area of Yosemite Lakes Park, a community between Yosemite and Fresno. Most of the fires were quickly doused but Berlant says some grew to 100 acres and had the potential to cause major destruction because of dry conditions. He says the fires burned a home and damaged several outbuildings.
ADULTS-ONLY ‘PARTY TRAIN’ PLANNED: LAS VEGAS (AP) — A group hoping to begin running adults-only “party train” service between Southern California and the Las Vegas area is talking about putting their destination station about 10 miles north of the Strip. Las Vegas Railway Express official Dianne David Barron says in a statement issued Tuesday that the company is negotiating for a North Las Vegas site for what she calls the Vegas X Train Station. Barron says a formal announcement is planned in coming weeks. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/11GiZSn) the company had been considering a downtown Las Vegas site. Backers say the X Train “‘nightclub on wheels” will offer cocktails, big TVs, recliners and two lounges for the five-hour trip between Fullerton, Calif., and the Las Vegas area. They want to begin service by New Year’s Eve.
STUDENTS SELECTED FOR NASA RESEARCH FLIGHTS: POMONA — Students from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, are among 14 teams of undergraduates from around the U.S. that have been selected by NASA to participate in research flights that simulate weightlessness. A NASA statement Wednesday says the teams will build experiments at their campuses and then bring them to Johnson Space Center in Houston in November for roller-coaster-like flights that create microgravity conditions. The teams were selected from institutions that serve minorities under a NASA program aimed at sustaining a diverse workforce.