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State news briefs
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DEVELOPER PROPOSES MASSIVE THEME PARK IN TRACY: TRACY (AP) — A developer is proposing to build a $1.2 billion entertainment hub in Tracy that would be four times bigger than Disneyland.

City officials gave James Rogers and Spirit of California LLC the exclusive right to negotiate for 628 acres north of Tracy.

The Los Gatos developer says the Spirit of California project would include an amusement park, race track, casino, hotel, convention center, wine-tasting center and marina.

Rogers is still commissioning studies on the project, but says he wants to break ground in two years and have it built by 2024.

But the project is likely to run into opposition from residents worried about its environmental impacts. Local Sierra Club member Eric Parfrey calls the idea a "nonstarter."

PIT BULLS GNAW MINIVAN IN BID TO GET KITTEN: PALM SPRINGS  (AP) — Attacking pit bulls trying to get to a stray kitten hiding in the engine compartment of a Southern California minivan flattened the vehicle's tire and chewed away big chunks of the fender and bumper.

Four pit bull terriers had chased the kitten into the Dodge minivan engine compartment.

The vehicle's owner changed the tire on Monday and drove 25 miles from Banning to Palm Springs before he discovered the 7-week-old kitten, which had moved into a hollow part of the front bumper.

The Desert Sun of Palm Springs reports an animal control officer freed the kitten following a 40-minute process that involved removing the bumper.

The kitten is OK and available for adoption at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter.



FOOD PRODUCTS SEIZED FROM RAT-INFESTED WAREHOUSE: FREMONT  (AP) — Authorities seized food products owned by San Francisco Herb & Natural Food Co. in Fremont, weeks after inspectors found live and dead rodents and insects on and around food at the company's warehouse.

The Contra Costa Times reported that the U.S. Marshall's Service on Tuesday took the food items after a federal court order, and will destroy them if they remained unclaimed after 30 days.

Federal and state inspectors in July found the rodents nesting in materials in food, urine-stained packages and rodent excrement on the company's food.

The company closed July 11.

LIGHTNING SETS PALM SPRINGS PALMS ABLAZE: PALM SPRINGS  (AP) — Lightning strikes have set palm trees ablaze in Palm Springs.

Police Sgt. Mike Kovaleff says a storm cell moved into the Coachella Valley late Wednesday morning and a downpour pounded Palm Springs during a five-minute cloudburst.

Kovaleff says the Fire Department has been called out to extinguish several lightning strikes that ignited palm trees.

MCDONALD'S ENDS SLAUGHTERHOUSE BUYS: HANFORD (AP) — McDonald's Corp. has joined a growing list of companies that have severed ties with a California slaughterhouse at the center of a federal cruelty and food safety investigation.

The world's largest fast-food chain announced Wednesday that it took immediate action against Central Valley Meat Co. when it learned the U.S. Department of Agriculture had suspended operations at the plant.

The plant came under fire this week after an undercover video showed workers kicking, shocking and shooting downed animals in an attempt to get them to walk to slaughter.

McDonald's said behaviors in the video appear to be unacceptable.

The video was shot in June and July by an undercover operative working for Compassion Over Killing.

Also on Wednesday the USDA announced it was suspending purchases from the company for school lunch and other nutrition programs. It bought 21 million pounds of beef last year.

INMATE WHO SUED GOV'T OVER ILLNESS GETS $425K: LOS ANGELES (AP) — An inmate who sued the federal government after contracting "Valley Fever" in a Central California prison has been awarded $425,000 in a settlement.

The government admitted no fault in the settlement Judge Gary Allen Feess signed Wednesday.

Convicted methamphetamine dealer Arjang Panah sued after he was contracted Coccidioidomycosis, or cocci, at the Taft Correctional Institution after being transferred there from New York in 2005.

The disease is more commonly known as Valley Fever and is caused by a fungus found in soil, particularly in the southwestern United States.

Attorneys for Panah had argued the government was negligent in sending their client to a prison where there was an outbreak of the illness. Panah has since been released.

NEW SEA OTTER COUNT SHOWS SLOW POPULATION GROWTH: MONTEREY  (AP) — New data show a slight increase in the number of threatened California sea otters swimming in coastal waters, a comeback made more difficult because of a recent uptick in shark attacks.

The U.S. Geological Survey on Tuesday said the sea otter population — a group nearly wiped out by fur traders about a century ago — has increased 1.5 percent since 2010.

USGS said there are now 2,792 sea otters in California waters, compared with 2,711 in 2010.

Marine scientists said shark attacks have slowed the otters' recovery, with 335 of the furry critters found dead from bites in 2011.

The uptick in shark attacks has vexed researchers; sharks do not eat otters.

In 2011 sharks accounted for 30 percent of otter deaths, up from eight percent in the 1980s.

MORE THAN 14K SOUGHT TREATMENT AFTER REFINERY FIRE: RICHMOND (AP) — More than 14,000 people sought treatment after a fire at a Chevron Corp. oil refinery that sent a massive plume of black smoke into the sky.

KGO-TV reported ( that Dr. William Walker, Contra Costa County's public health officer, said Tuesday that the majority of people seeking treatment after the Aug. 6 blaze reported difficulty breathing and eye irritation.

While most people were treated and released, Walker said three people were hospitalized.

The fire ignited after an old pipe carrying a diesel-like fuel sprung a leak, sending a large plume of flammable vapor into the air.

Federal investigators have said more than a dozen workers made it out of the area just before the blaze ignited.