WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY & WINTER STORM WARNING

SATURDAY EVENING THROUGH EARLY MONDAY

The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY for all of West Michigan except counties along the Michigan-Indiana border, effective from 7 pm Saturday until 6 am Monday. A strong storm will be crossing the Ohio Valley Sunday, bringing snow to West Michigan, with some areas perhaps seeing as much as 10-12" of accumulation. Snowfall will be heaviest south as opposed to north, so along/south of I-94 is where the highest accumulations are expected... 6-10" possible. However, Allegan, Barry, Eaton, Ottawa, and Kent could see anywhere from 4-6". Additionally, gusty winds will be blowing the snow quite a bit, causing drifting on roads along with poor visibility. Travel is discouraged from late Saturday night through Sunday night.

The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER STORM WARNING for the following counties in West Michigan, effective from 7 pm Saturday until 4 am Monday: Berrien, Cass, St.Joseph, Branch, and Hillsdale. A strong winter storm moving into/across the Ohio Valley will bring periods of heavy snow to the Warning area, beginning late tonight and extending through at least Sunday evening. Forecast models indicate between 8 and 12" of accumulation are possible. Additionally, strong winds will cause blowing and drifting snow. Driving conditions will be hazardous Sunday. Travel is not encouraged.

Stay with Newschannel 3 and wwmt.com for the latest updates.

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I-Team looks into violent past of Kalamazoo cab driver accused of rape

Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 |
I-Team looks into violent past of Kalamazoo cab driver accused of rape story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The I-Team is looking into a cab driver who is facing multiple charges, after being accused of a brutal attack on one of his fares.

38-year-old Robert Prescott is a felon who was out on parole.

But now, he's in the Kalamazoo County Jail on 15 felony charges, including criminal sexual conduct and carrying a firearm.

Tuesday night, his alleged victim told her story exclusively to the Newschannel 3 I-Team. She feels as though there is a much larger issue in play, and is hoping to help other women avoid what happened to her.

The alleged victim says she received rides from Prescott in his taxi about five times in the last few months.

She says he seemed sweet and lonely, and she never had any indication of his violent past.

She believes Godspeed Taxi never should have allowed Prescott to be a driver, and she wants the City of Kalamazoo to mandate change.

On Sunday, January 12, Prescott picked up the alleged victim near 9th and Stadium in Oshtemo, but she says Prescott wasn't heading to her house.

"He was like, 'well, we're going to hang out at my house.'" she recalled. "I was like, 'no we're not!'"

She says Prescott ended up driving his Godspeed Taxi to a parking lot off Stockbridge, where he forced her into the back of the cab and raped her.

The alleged victim says Prescott dropped her off at her home at around 6:30, and the police were there by 7:00.

"He was texting me and calling me when the police were here," she said of Prescott.

Kalamazoo Public Safety waited outside Godspeed Taxi and arrested Prescott around 11:30.

Michael Bowling, a Southern Baptist minister of over 30 years, started Godpseed Taxi in 2009, and says Prescott started working for the company late last year.

He says one of his clients recommended Prescott and called, asking that Bowling hire him.

Bowling says at that point he didn't know much about Prescott's criminal record.

It goes back 20 years and includes felony assault of a police officer in 2006, and also a guilty plea to assault and battery charges less than three months ago.

Bowling says seeing Prescott's criminal record probably wouldn't have made a difference.

"That's what I do; I look to minister to people to help them get their lives back on track," he said.

"In this country, we're innocent until proven guilty, and until I find out different, I will support him," Bowling added.

That's part of the reason the alleged victim is so upset.

"If they would have done their due diligence on checking into him, this would have never happened to me," she said, adding that she hasn't slept a full night since the attack.

When reached for comment earlier Tuesday, City Commissioner Stephanie Moore offered the following statement:

"As a champion for equal opportunities for everyone, I believe in second chances.  In every situation it is important that you put the right people in the right position according to their skill set, especially when providing direct services. 

Of course I support policy that is written not to exclude but to include everyone and provide equal opportunity for all.

Currently the City of Kalamazoo no longer ask the question on our resumes "have you been convicted."  Individuals can apply for employment and enter the process based on their skill and work history.  Of course background checks and drug test are a part of the hiring process and people are considered on a case by case basis."

Moore says she believes the conversation needs to be continued by the Kalamazoo City Commission to do everything possible to protect consumers.

Prescott faces 15 felony charges, and is next due in court on February 18.
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Business News

Last Update on January 30, 2015 18:13 GMT

ECONOMY-GDP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. economy slowed in the final three months of 2014 as a big burst in consumer spending was offset by weakness in other areas.

The Commerce Department says the overall economy grew at a 2.6 percent rate in the October-December period, down from sizzling gains of 4.6 percent in the second quarter and 5 percent in the third quarter.

Consumers did their part in the fourth quarter, pushing up spending by fastest rate in nearly nine years. But businesses investment, trade and government spending weakened.

For the year, the economy grew at a moderate rate of 2.4 percent. But economists believe 2015 could be a breakout year for growth, with consumer spending boosted by strong employment gains and falling gas prices. Many expect growth above 3 percent this year.

EMPLOYMENT COST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace in six years last year, a sign strong job gains could be forcing companies to pay a bit more for workers.

The Labor Department says the employment cost index, which measures pay and benefits, rose 2.2 percent in 2014, up from 2 percent the previous year. That's the biggest gain since 2008. It's also ahead of inflation, which rose 1.3 percent.

Yet the increase is still sluggish by historical standards. In a healthy economy, the index usually rises at about a 3.5 percent pace.

The Federal Reserve is closing watching wages as it considers when to raise the short-term interest rate it controls. Fed Chair Janet Yellen considers rising wages a key sign that the job market is nearing full health.

US-CONSUMER-SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers are more confident than they've been since January 2004.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 98.1 in January from 93.6 last month.

Consumers say the prospects for the U.S. economy are the strongest in a decade, and half of consumers expect the expansion to keep going another five years.

The Michigan survey was the latest evidence that strong job growth and tumbling oil prices have lifted consumers' spirits. The Conference Board on Tuesday reported that its consumer confidence index climbed to the highest level since August 2007. And the Commerce Department reported Friday that consumer spending rose from October through December at the fastest pace in nearly nine years.

AMERICAN AIRLINES-PILOTS

DALLAS (AP) -- Pilots at American Airlines and US Airways have approved a single labor contract. That's a step toward combining workforces at the two carriers, which merged in December 2013.

The multiyear deal gives pilots a 23 percent pay raise retroactive to Dec. 2.

The pilots' union said Friday that the contract was approved 66 percent to 34 percent, with 95 percent of eligible pilots casting a vote.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A jury of six men and six women is continuing deliberations in a case alleging a 1996 Toyota Camry had a design defect that caused a fatal crash.

Jurors received the case late Wednesday afternoon and deliberated all day Thursday without reaching a verdict. They returned to a federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Friday to keep working.

The jurors must decide whether Toyota's design of the 1996 Camry had a defect that was unreasonably dangerous. If they find there was a defect, they must decide if it directly caused injuries to those hurt or killed when Koua Fong Lee crashed into another car in 2006.

Lee spent 2 1/2 years in prison before being released after reports suggested some Toyota cars had sudden acceleration problems.

GERMANY-BMW-SECURITY FLAW

BERLIN (AP) -- German automaker BMW says it has fixed a security flaw that made 2.2 million of its vehicles vulnerable to break-ins.

The company says the problem affected BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce models equipped with its ConnectedDrive technology, which allows drivers to access certain car functions with a smartphone.

German automobile club ADAC, which discovered the flaw last summer, says hackers could have used a fake cellphone base station to intercept network traffic from the car and lower the windows or open the doors. There are no reports such a break-in ever took place.

BMW spokeswoman Silke Brigl said Friday that hackers wouldn't have been able to start or stop the engine.

Brigl said the problem has been fixed with an automatic update and customers don't need to take any action.

POM JUICE-RULING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A federal appeals court says many advertising claims for POM Wonderful juice were deceptive in asserting that it curbs the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction and is clinically proven to work.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds the conclusion that many of POM's ads made misleading or false claims. The conclusion was reached by the Federal Trade Commission.

The ads appeared in national publications, on Internet sites, bus stops, billboards, newsletters and on tags attached to the products.

POM Wonderful LLC produces a number of pomegranate-based products.

RUSSIA-FINANCES

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia deputy sports minister Yuri Nagornykh says his country's economic crisis is forcing athletes to scale back their training plans for next year's Olympics in Brazil.

Training camps abroad can be crucial in acclimatizing athletes for Rio de Janeiro's tropical conditions, but they are rapidly becoming unaffordable after the ruble lost almost half of its value against the U.S. dollar in the last 12 months.

Nagornykh tells Russian agency R-Sport that, with the ruble's value low and the Sports Ministry's budget facing cuts, athletes should stay in Russia rather than train abroad "in order to spend less of the currency reserves."

Officials will select priority sports and athletes for scarce funding, Nagornykh said.

The measures affect athletes for the Rio Olympics, and the 2018 Winter Olympics, he added.

OHIO STATE-ROYALTIES

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio State University is cashing in after the Buckeyes' national championship victory.

The Columbus Dispatch reports the university expects a $3 million increase this year in royalties from licensed merchandise sales as fans continue to buy national championship gear and keepsakes.

Retailers say the team's special story has helped boost sales. The Buckeyes, who defied naysayers in their 42-20 victory over the University of Oregon, earned the final playoff spot after losing two starting quarterbacks to injuries.

Licensing officials also attribute increased sales to the fact Ohio State hadn't won a championship since 2002.

More than half of each dollar that comes into the school's licensing office goes to academic affairs. The athletics department, alumni association and student life program also receive portions of the revenue.

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