British boy gets proton therapy in Prague in controversial brain tumour case

PRAGUE—British boy Ashya King underwent his first proton beam therapy session for a life-threatening brain tumour in Prague on Monday, a week after the 5-year-old boy was flown here from Spain.

Ashya’s case caused an international uproar after his parents removed him from an English hospital last month without doctors’ consent and police launched a manhunt to find him.

Ashya’s parents, Brett and Naghmeh King, had fought a protracted battle to get him proton beam treatment, which targets tumours more directly than radiotherapy, but isn’t yet available for brain tumour patients in Britain.

Now, an 11-year-old Czech boy who had the same disease as Ashya and was treated with proton beam therapy wants to give Ashya some advice.

“He can’t say to himself: ‘I’m ill, so I’m not going to do anything,’” Miki Roth told The Associated Press. “He should read or exercise, try to walk, exercise his legs with therapists that visit him.”

Miki was diagnosed with medulloblastoma about two years ago. Following surgery, he received radiation therapy at Prague’s Proton Therapy Center.

The treatment worked well for Miki, who was in a wheelchair when he arrived at the centre for the first time. He walked on his own after 30 sessions, followed by a year of chemotherapy at Prague’s Motol hospital.

Monday’s treatment for Ashya was the first of 30 planned radiation sessions, the proton centre said, combined with chemotherapy to be applied at Motol where he was admitted last week.

Spanish police arrested Ashya’s parents on Aug. 30. The parents travelled to Spain to sell an apartment they owned there to raise funds for the Czech treatment privately. They spent a night in jail, but were released after British authorities cancelled an arrest warrant.

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Ford family is building a political dynasty

Hereditary rule or a duty to serve? Either way, the Fords of Etobicoke appear intent on building a political dynasty.

Doug Ford, 49, is replacing Mayor Rob Ford, 45, on the mayoral ballot. Rob Ford is running for his old council seat (Ward 2, Etobicoke North), which Doug Ford held for the past years.

And their nephew Michael Ford, whom Rob and Doug had convinced to run in Ward 2 this time, has switched to a race for school trustee.

The Conservative clan has always been politically minded, Doug Ford said in a recent interview. The call to action, he said, was Bob Rae’s election as the province’s first NDP premier in 1990.

When their late father, Doug Sr., millionaire owner of the family label firm, was yelling at the TV about communists at Queen’s Park, they persuaded him to run provincially. He defeated a Liberal incumbent in Etobicoke Humber, serving from 1995 to 1999.

The brothers helped out with other campaigns, including Doug Holyday’s successful 1994 Etobicoke mayoral bid, before Rob took an unsuccessful run at Toronto council in 1997 and a winning shot in 2000, cementing their suburban power base.

In an emotional speech Friday, Toronto city councillor Doug Ford vowed to carry on his brother’s legacy. Rob Ford dropped out of the mayoral race after a tumour was found in his abdomen.

Doug credits his dad, a Rotarian and sponsor of good works, with instilling in the big, prosperous family a duty to pay back through public service. “Once you get involved with the community you feel obligated to stay in there, keep in the fight and take care of the people,” he says.

Asked if the family has a sense of political destiny, the councillor said: “A destiny, a drive, there’s an obligation to the people … They say, ‘Keep going, don’t let us down and don’t quit on us.’ It weighs on your shoulders because sometimes they feel like they didn’t have a voice. A lot of times they didn’t have a voice.”

Doug Ford previously mused privately about having his daughter Krista run in this election to replace him. In 2010, the family and its advisers talked about Doug’s wife, Karla, a competitive adult cheerleader, running for office. They have also talked about moving into provincial and federal politics.

The power of the Ford name is evident, particularly in Etobicoke and Scarborough. Michael, who is in his early 20s with no non-family political credentials, was en route to victory in Ward 2 against better qualified candidates, polls suggest. He legally changed his last name from Stirpe in February.

Rob Ford is expected to win the ward whether or not his treatment for an abdominal tumour allows him to campaign.

Councillor Gloria Lindsay Luby (Ward 4, Etobicoke Centre), whose ward includes the homes of several Fords, and who has known the family for many years, sees the proliferating populist politicians in a less charitable light.

“I guess, recognizing how large the family is, we won’t run out of Fords any time soon,” said Lindsay Luby, who is not seeking re-election.

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Manicure, spa and tattoo health violations disclosed

A Toronto nail salon that breached health regulations during three straight inspections in June is the first to receive a court conviction under the city’s new online disclosure system.

The operator of Nice One Nails at 2210A Jane St. in North York pleaded guilty in court Aug. 19 for using pumice stones and wax rollers — which must be disposed of after each use to prevent the spread of bacteria — on more than one person. The salon was fined $300.

The offences at Nice One Nails were among more than a dozen logged by inspectors in 10 failed inspections out of 28 at the salon dating back to March of last year, according to Toronto Public Health data.

Repeated requests for comment at the store received no response.

Four other establishments — a tattoo shop, a therapy centre, a hair and nail salon and a spa — have also been ticketed and fined by inspectors in recent months.

The city’s BodySafe website, launched last year amid a Toronto Star/Ryerson University investigation detailing public health violations inside esthetics studios, tattoo parlours, barber shops and electrolysis clinics, now publishes the inspection histories of Toronto’s 3,000 “personal service settings.”

The Star/Ryerson investigation found that a lack of mandatory training for tattoo and piercing practitioners, along with sometimes lax enforcement against repeat offenders in Toronto, posed serious health risks.

Many of the establishments perform invasive procedures that break the skin, with risks ranging from minor skin infections to blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

On three occasions — in 2011, 2013, and again in February of this year — city heath officials asked the Ontario Health Ministry to impose a province-wide training regime for practitioners inside personal service settings. That has not happened. Toronto Public Health officials have received no response from provincial officials, a spokesperson said.

On June 17, inspectors cited the Nice One Nails salon for used pumice stones “found at every footbath station,” reads an inspection report obtained by the Star. “Pumice stones cannot be cleaned and disinfected between uses. They are single use.”

Two days later, the same inspector returned and found the same thing.

“The operator informed me that one of the girls forgot it there,” the inspection report reads. “Reminded them again, pumice stones are single-use and immediately discarded after use . . . They cannot be cleaned and disinfected between uses. This needs to be communicated to all the employees who work here.”

Pumice stones, used to scrape the skin, are rough and can cause bleeding that can lead to the spread of disease if used repeatedly on different people, says Cecilia Alterman, Toronto Public Health’s manager of infection control and infectious disease.

“If somebody has a blood-borne infection, it could remain on the pumice stone that’s used on you and you could get an infection. There’s a risk there.”

In a third straight inspection on June 23, the Nice One Nails salon was again handed a “Not Satisfactory” inspection report for re-use of a wax roller tool on more than one client.

“With waxing you have open pores on your body and perhaps some bleeding,” says Alterman. “They roll it over and over in the same area and there is a possibility of bacterial infections that could go back into the wax.”

Because of the three straight incidents, Toronto Public Health chose to take the charges to court rather than the typical approach of issuing a ticket, she said.

After a re-inspection on June 25, inspectors gave the salon a “Satisfactory” pass and the salon passed its latest inspection on Aug. 14.

Nail salons, tattoo parlours and spas are typically visited only once a year by city inspectors. Nice One Nails received far more attention from inspectors because of a combination of complaints and concerns about public safety, Alterman said.

“This place did have complaints. And I actually assign additional inspection for premises I keep my eye on. I want operators to know we’ll be in there more than once a year if you don’t comply. I think this operator has learned and will ensure his staff will follow the requirements short term personal loans.”

The BodySafe website, modelled on the city’s popular DineSafe website that logs restaurant inspections results and has dramatically increased compliance with health regulations, is already proving effective, said Alterman.

“Places that might have got a conditional pass last year are getting a pass this year. I think it will definitely have a huge impact. It’s an improvement for compliance in the future. There’s no question they have improved substantially.”

OTHER ESTABLISHMENTS ISSUED ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS:

NY NY Body Piercing and Accessories (1700 Wilson Ave.) was issued a ticket following a March 27 inspection. Inspectors allege staff “failed to properly record use of mechanical sterilizer.”

It’s the latest in a string of offences alleged by the city.

In 2011, Toronto Public Health publicly urged customers of the chain’s two locations — on Queen St. W. and Wilson Ave. — to get tested after finding improper infection control practices.

In September 2012, city inspectors issued another order against store owner Reza Sattar for again failing to produce spore tests that showed machines used to sterilize instruments were in working order, the Star/Ryerson investigation reported last year.

Sattar has denied the city’s findings in the past and continues to deny the allegations contained in the current ticket, which comes with a $150 fine.

But he says he will be pleading guilty.

“Inspectors come and they can say anything and give a ticket,” said Sattar, adding he has been in the piercing business for 14 years and has clients across the globe. “None of them are highly qualified at the health department. I could countersue them or argue, but I don’t want to argue with them anymore. I will plead guilty . . . I don’t want to fight.”

The most recent inspection on the store was satisfactory.

Rekha’s Soft Touch Spa and Hair (3351 Markham Rd.)was ticketed by Toronto Public Health inspectors after two straight unsatisfactory inspections in June.

An inspector documented health breaches on June 5, including re-use of “single-use” equipment on clients and insufficient cleaning and disinfection of footbaths.

Four days later, the spa failed inspection again for cleaning and disinfection problems and “surfaces that may be contaminated with blood/body fluids.”

The store was fined $250.

Rekha Kothari, the owner of the store for the past six years, is challenging the ticket in court.

“I think it’s unfair. That’s why I want to fight it. My customers are very happy here. How can we clean everything right away? We have a client there. I couldn’t understand.”

An inspection of the store later in June found conditions were satisfactory.

Pleasant Hair Salon and Nail (1410 Victoria Park Ave.) had two tickets issued in April totalling $600 for re-using tools improperly and not cleaning and disinfecting equipment.

“At time of inspection, no combs were disinfected between clients,” reads the April 7 inspection report. “At time of inspection no electric hair clippers were disinfected between clients … Asked operators to clean and disinfect during inspection.” Two days later, an inspector again noted hair clippers were not disinfected.

The shop pleaded guilty to the ticket charge. The shop’s owner did not respond to an interview request.

Nature Health Therapy Centre (4385 Sheppard Ave. E.) pleaded guilty to a June ticket fining it $300 for improper cleaning and disinfection and “items not in good repair.”

Along with cleaning and disinfection notes, a June 23 inspection report obtained by the Star said “some nail clippers have signs of rust.” Four days later, another inspection report notes further cleaning and disinfection issues. On July 2, inspectors again noted rust on nail clippers and said, “Removed again from use. Ensure not to use rusty implements to avoid infections.”

No comment was offered when a reporter called requesting an interview.

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Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy dies at 93

ATLANTA (AP) — Chick-fil-A founder and billionaire S. Truett Cathy rose from poverty, building a privately held restaurant chain that famously closes every Sunday but drew unwanted attention for the Cathy family’s opposition to gay marriage.

Cathy died early Monday at 93.

He opened his first postwar diner in an Atlanta suburb in 1946 and by 1967 he had founded and opened his first Chick-fil-A Inc. restaurant in Atlanta. Over ensuing decades, the chain’s boneless chicken sandwich he is credited with inventing would propel Chick-fil-A expansion to more than 1,800 outlets in 39 states and the nation’s capital. By early 2013, the company says on its website, annual sales topped $5 billion as the chain offered up a taste of the South that went beyond chicken to such offerings as sweet tea, biscuits and gravy.

Under the religiously conservative founder, the chain gained prominence for its Bible Belt observance of Sunday. None of its hundreds of restaurants are open on that day, to allow employees a day of rest. Its executives often said the chain made as much money in six days as its competitors do in seven.

Those religious views helped win Cathy and his family a loyal following from conservative customers, but also invited protests when Cathy’s son defended the company’s donations to groups campaigning against gay marriage.

Cathy’s son, Dan, currently chairman and president of the chain, had told the Baptist Press in 2012 that the company was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.” Gay rights groups and others called for boycotts and kiss-ins at Cathy’s restaurants. The Jim Henson Co. pulled its Muppet toys from kids’ meals, while politicians in Boston and Chicago told the chain it is not welcome there.

The controversy later subsided.

The family-owned company has said it has had 46 consecutive years of positive sales growth. Cathy’s $6 billion fortune put him on the yearly Forbes magazine list of the wealthiest Americans in the country. The company listed him on its website as its chairman emeritus after he left day-to-day operations to younger generations.

Truett Cathy began his career in the restaurant business in 1946 by opening with his brother an Atlanta diner called The Dwarf Grill, named for the short and stout shape of the restaurant.

He attributed his hardworking nature to growing up poor. Even as a little boy he made money by selling six bottles of Coca-Cola for a quarter

“I’ve experienced poverty and plenty and there’s a lesson to be learned when you’re brought up in poverty,” he said in 2007. “I had to create some good work habits and attitude.”

Even well into his 80s, Cathy was actively involved in the chain’s operations payday loan online.

“Why would I retire from something I enjoy doing?” Cathy said in a 2007 interview. “I can hardly wait to get here.” He set up a contract with his children that said they may sell the privately-owned chain in the future but the company must never go public.

An opportunity in 1961 led to the development of the restaurant chain’s trademark chicken sandwich when a company that cooked boneless, skinless chicken for airline meals wanted to sell him pieces that were too big for the airline customer’s needs. Cathy cooked them in a pressure cooker and served them in buttered buns.

The sandwich was sold at independent restaurants for a few years before he opened his first Chick-fil-A restaurant at an Atlanta shopping mall in 1967.

“He often talked about how he never planned for Chick-Fil-A to be the size that it is today. For Truett, it was so much more than building a national chain,” Chick-Fil-A Senior Vice President of Operations Tim Tassopoulos said Monday. “It was also a place where Truett could invest in people, giving them a first job, a place to learn about hard work and a place for many to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.”

In 1984 he created the WinShape Foundation to help “shape winners” through youth support programs and scholarships. He also created a long-term program for foster children that has foster care homes in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Brazil.

His sympathy for children was demonstrated in August 2008 when he worked out a deal with the parents of two girls who were accused of causing $30,000 in damage to a home he owned in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The girls were banned from watching TV and playing video games. They also had to write “I will not vandalize other people’s property” 1,000 times.

He told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that he didn’t want them prosecuted and left with a criminal record. Cathy also spent 50 years teaching Sunday school to 13-year-old boys.

His 2007 book “How Did You Do It, Truett?” outlined his strategy for success that included setting priorities, being courteous, cautiously expanding a business and not being burdened with debt.

“There’s really no secret for success,” he said then. “I hope it will open eyes for people. They don’t have to follow my recipe but this is what works for me.”

Cathy is survived by his wife of 65 years, Jeannette McNeil Cathy; sons Dan T. and Don “Bubba” Cathy; daughter Trudy Cathy White; 19 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, according to a company statement.

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Congress coming back, must act to avoid shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers are streaming back to Capitol Hill after their summer vacation for an abbreviated September session in which feuding Democratic and Republican leaders promise action to prevent a government shutdown while holding votes aimed at defining the parties for the fall campaign.

Republicans control the House and want to pad their 17-vote majority, so they intend to follow this simple rule: first, do no harm.

Last fall, they sparked a partial government shutdown over the implementation of President Barack Obama’s health law. Now, Republicans are pressing for drama-free passage of a temporary spending bill to prevent a shutdown at month’s end and fund government agencies into mid-December.

The Senate is sure to go along if the measure is kept free of objectionable add-ons.

House Republicans also plan votes aimed at drawing attention to legislation they say would boost jobs and energy production.

“We’re set up to paint a very stark contrast between ourselves and the Democrats who run Washington — if we take advantage of it by getting our work done and getting our message out,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told colleagues in a conference call last week.

Boehner said that message — “our closing argument,” he called it — would focus on ways to get people back to work and “restore opportunity” for Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., seems most intent on getting endangered incumbents from Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina back campaigning as soon as possible.

He is planning to adjourn the Senate by Sept. 23 after dispensing with the spending measure and holding votes — destined to lose — on Democratic planks such as raising the minimum wage and block the flow of unlimited, unregulated campaign cash from the wealthy, including the billionaire Koch brothers.

There are few must-pass items that require cooperation between the feuding House and Senate.

Atop the list is the spending measure to keep agencies funded at current levels through mid-December. That would give House and Senate negotiators ample time to work out a trillion-dollar-plus bill during a lame-duck session after Election Day.

Boehner is looking to settle a split among Republicans over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which provides credit guarantees that help foreign buyers purchase U.S. exports such as Boeing airplanes and heavy equipment built by Caterpillar.

Many conservative Republicans, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, oppose extending the bank. But Democrats and a host of business friendly Republicans may have the upper hand.

GOP aides said it’s likely that an interim deal would extend the bank’s authority until perhaps early next year.

Also in play is a freeze that prevents state and local governments from taxing access to the Internet.

Under current law, the freeze expires Nov. 1, exposing Internet users to the same kind of connection fees that often show up on telephone bills faxless payday advance. Legislation to extend the tax moratorium is expected to be attached to the must-do spending bill, according to senior House GOP aide.

The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal party deliberations.

Republicans and Democrats are clamoring for legislation authorizing Obama to use military force against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. But the abbreviated session and a lack of consensus raise doubts about whether any congressional action is possible.

Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday, with the threat posed by the militants a likely topic of discussion.

Some lawmakers say the president has the power to act under the 1973 War Powers Resolution and no new permission is necessary. Several Republicans say they are unwilling to grant Obama blanket authority without a detailed strategy from the administration.

Several lawmakers are pressing for new economic penalties against Russia in response to its aggressive moves in Ukraine, but it’s doubtful Congress can move quickly on such a measure.

One certainty is the first open hearing of the special House committee investigating the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. The committee will hold a session the week of Sept. 14 to examine whether the State Department has put in place recommendations to improve security at U.S. embassies and diplomatic posts.

The issue that dominated lawmakers’ attention in the final days before recess — the crisis of unaccompanied minors at the border with Mexico — has faded because the numbers arriving at the border has dropped sharply in the hot summer months. Congress never came to agreement on Obama’s emergency spending request to deal with the matters, and there’s unlikely to be an effort to revisit it.

With the list of must-do items so short, expect votes aimed at motivating each party’s core supporters.

In a memo to Republican lawmakers last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., outlined some politically motivated pieces of the GOP’s September agenda, including votes on bills to promote energy production and ease taxes and regulations on businesses.

Reid planned a test vote Monday on a symbolic but futile attempt to amend the Constitution to give Congress the power to set stricter limits on campaign cash.

Reid said last month that he may force new votes on failed measures to raise the minimum wage, make college more affordable, and guarantee contraception coverage despite the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision that said employers with religious objections could opt out of the new health care law’s contraception mandate.

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Some good news — and some troubling news — for health insurance premiums

WASHINGTON • For all of the dire warnings about health insurance premiums spiking in the coming year, the numbers this summer have been pretty ho-hum. Although no one’s ever going to tell you that they’re particularly happy about seeing their premiums go up, the overall landscape of rates in the individual market has shown relatively modest increases so far.

It’s often hard to parse what’s actually happening with premiums. They naturally vary from person to person, and there’s plenty of variation at the local level. And the amount of federal assistance people get to purchase insurance depends on what type of plan they actually have.

One key metric to watch for in the Affordable Care Act’s second year of enrollment is the cost of benchmark “silver” health insurance plans. These mid-range plans, which were especially popular in the first enrollment period, are important because they’re used to calculate how much subsidy a person could receive for a plan purchased on an Affordable Care Act exchange. The second-lowest-cost silver plan offered in a particular area sets the benchmark for that subsidy, at which a person’s premium contribution is capped. So if a person picks another health plan that costs more than the benchmark, that person will have to contribute more toward premiums.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis Friday morning examining the prices of these benchmark plans in 16 cities finds that they will fall, on average, by 0.8 percent next year. That means some of the most attractive plans will be cheaper, and it could mean the federal government will pay less in subsidies than expected instant credit report. Of course, this doesn’t tell the whole picture of what’s happening to rates across the country, but it provides some important insight into how the individual insurance market is shaping up for the second year of the ACA’s expanded coverage.

Now the concerning news: in 12 of the 16 cities that Kaiser studied, at least one of the insurers that offered a benchmark plan in 2014 no longer has benchmark status for 2015. That means that insurer might have raised rates, or another insurer is offering lower prices in 2015. Either way, if a person remains enrolled in what used to be a benchmark plan, that person (assuming life circumstances haven’t changed) will have to pay more toward their premium.

That’s all to say that shopping around for insurance this year could be really important for the new enrollees. New enrollees are particularly price sensitive. Yet past research also shows people generally stick with the plan that they have.

The Obama administration has set rules trying to make it easy for people to do as little as possible to remain enrolled in their health plans in 2015. But that could come at a higher cost.

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Commission rejects London mayor’s plan for airport

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Airport Commission has rejected a plan to build a four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary, describing it as more problematic and more expensive than other options.

The commission said Tuesday it rejected the estuary proposal pushed by London Mayor Boris Johnson because it would cause economic disruption and because environmental hurdles may make it impossible to deliver.

The commission, headed by Howard Davies, is examining how to best expand Britain’s airport capacity amid growing international competition. Heathrow, once the world’s biggest hub airport, has argued it needs to add at least one runway to be competitive.

Johnson says he’ll fight on for the idea, arguing that “in one myopic stroke the Airports Commission has set the debate back by half a century.”

Three proposals remain under the panel’s consideration.

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Tesla Motors dealing as states play factory poker

LOS ANGELES (AP) — From the start, little has been typical about Tesla Motors’ plan for a $5 billion factory to make batteries for a new generation of electric cars.

It’s not just the project’s massive scale, the cutting-edge technology, or even the bonanza of 6,500 good-paying jobs.

It’s how Tesla is deciding where to build.

Through a series of unusual plays, Tesla has five states bidding up subsidy packages to land the coveted plant. The winner is expected to offer the luxury car-maker publicly financed incentives exceeding a half-billion dollars.

Tesla signaled this would be no ordinary competition last fall, when it gathered economic development officials from seven Western states and unveiled its vision for a “gigafactory.” (”Giga” refers to the large amount of power that batteries produced at the plant will store.)

This spring, CEO Elon Musk announced Tesla would take the extremely unusual step of spending millions to prepare sites in two states — or perhaps even three — before the finalist was chosen. Then, over the summer, Musk said the winning state would pitch in about 10 percent of the cost, effectively signaling a minimum bid of $500 million.

“We don’t usually see companies setting a floor at which states will be considered,” said Leigh McIlvaine of the research group Good Jobs First, which tracks large subsidy packages by states.

For all the public anticipation Musk has created, much about the process remains secret.

While an industrial park in the desert outside Reno, Nevada, is one known site, the other — or others — remains a mystery. Tesla has asked states not to discuss their offers, and states aren’t talking.

The effect is a game of high-stakes poker, with the states as players and Tesla dealing.

“You can’t see any cards at all. Do you stay in or not, push more chips onto the table or fold?” said Kim Hill, who studies incentives at the nonprofit Center for Automotive Research in Michigan.

The factory promises something that every state wants but rarely gets these days: thousands of good-paying factory jobs and all the residual economic benefits they bring.

So far, Nevada, California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico remain contenders. They have passed tax breaks, promised worker-training funds or proposed shelving environmental regulations that could slow the factory’s construction. There is talk of special legislative sessions to sweeten the bids.

When The Associated Press filed public records act requests for documents about the competition with each of the five finalist states, none released much useful information and most refused to release anything at all, citing the competitive need to keep their offers secret.

In one glimpse behind the curtain of confidentiality, California provided an email from a Tesla official to the governor’s senior adviser for jobs and economic development. It contained a newspaper story speculating on a possible site and said, simply: “This is unhelpful.” What might be unhelpful was unclear, and the governor’s office of business and economic development refused repeated requests to discuss its pursuit of the factory.

Tesla needs the factory to make cheaper batteries for its Model 3, a mass-market electric car the company hopes to sell by 2017 for around $35,000. Currently Tesla only offers the Model S sedan, which starts at $70,000.

The tight production timeframe compels Tesla to prepare at least two sites, said spokesman Simon Sproule, who likened the approach to “an insurance policy.”

Tesla will pay about half of the factory’s cost; the other major investor is Panasonic, which will manufacture the lithium-ion battery cells and invest in equipment.

Musk has said to expect groundbreaking on at least one other site in coming months and a final decision by year’s end.

The last comparable bidding frenzy for a factory, according to John Boyd of the New Jersey-based site selection firm The Boyd Company, involved competition to attract automaker Saturn in the 1980s, at the leading edge of the South’s car manufacturing boom.

The competition for the gigafactory began at an October meeting at Tesla’s auto assembly plant in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont — a rare approach to opening a site selection process. Tesla executives laid out what a winning bid must have: “Green” energy such as solar or wind at a low cost, an affordable and well-trained labor force, good transportation links to Tesla’s Fremont assembly plant. And a robust package of incentives.

Tesla required states to submit their proposals within three weeks, an early indication of influence the company would wield. “Given the scale, it was a very short turnaround time,” said Susan St. Germain, the lead business recruiter for Washington, who attended the meeting but whose state did not make the short list.

Along the way, there has been plenty of political theater. Texas Gov. Rick Perry drove to California’s state Capitol in a Tesla and California state Sen. Ted Gaines delivered a gold-painted shovel to Tesla headquarters. Cities in both states pitched Tesla directly. Tucson, Arizona, sent the company a preapproved building permit.

The director of the industrial park outside Reno where Tesla prepared land said he’s seen plenty of secrecy before, but never anything like this.

“It has been a very, very unusual transaction,” said Lance Gilman of the Reno Tahoe Industrial Center, which at 167 square miles is the nation’s largest industrial park. “They have played their cards so close to the vest.”

Texas has done business with Musk before. The state is providing his commercial space company, SpaceX, $15.3 million in incentives to develop a rocket-launching site. The money comes from what is regarded as the nation’s most generous “deal-closing fund” of incentives, which has doled out $487 million since 2003.

New Mexico’s governor has said that, if needed, she will ask the Legislature to consider changes in law to help land the plant. California Gov. Jerry Brown got lawmakers to pass language helping battery manufacturers, and Musk said Brown is working to address his concerns that California’s arduous environmental reviews would make the project’s three-year timeframe impossible to meet.

Nevada may hold a special session of its part-time legislature to discuss incentives.

“There’s kind of a bidding war out there with the state of California and the state of Texas,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We’ll have to wait and see. I’m not going to start counting the jobs until it happens.”

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Scott Sonner in Reno, Nevada; Barry Massey in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Juliet Williams in Sacramento, California; Emily Schmall in Dallas; and Bob Christie in Phoenix.

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