HIGH WIND WARNING; WIND ADVISORY

WARNING Until 11 PM; ADVISORY Until 2 AM

The National Weather Service in northern Indiana issues a HIGH WIND WARNING in Berrien county until 11 PM for 60 mph, or higher, wind gusts.  65 mph gusts have already been confirmed in Michigan City.  

A WIND ADVISORY remains for nearly all of West Michigan until 2 AM.  45 mph to 55 mph gusts are likely and have already verified.  Downed tree branches and some power outages are possible.  The wind direction is from the north, and winds will easily be sustained in the 25 to 35 mph range.  

Stay with wwmt.com for your weather on this Halloween and always!

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I-Team Special Report: Bridge Card Abuse

Updated: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Bridge Card Abuse story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The I-Team is uncovering examples of new  Bridge Card abuse in West Michigan.

We uncovered dozens of examples of people buying booze and cigarettes with their cards right at the store register.

Bridge Card food and cash assistance is supposed to be used for the essentials, food, clothes, and what a family needs to get by. But receipts show what's actually being purchased.

All of the junk food purchases are bad enough, we found a well-balanced shopping spree of Windmill Cookies, soda, Oreos and bags of candy. A $50 bill paid by food assistance on a Bridge Card.

But what really stands out,  all of the alcohol and cigarettes people are buying with a Bridge Card.

The same shopper with the junk food also bought Irish Rose Wine and a box of Newport 100's. Those two items weren't paid for with food assistance but we can see, the cash register just switches to cash benefits and accepts the Bridge Card.

Receipts were sent to us by sources over the last three months, and we see this happening over and over again.

Like when someone bought Pall Mall light menthols and Pall Mall 100's. That $15 dollars was covered by cash benefits right at the register.

We went to DHS in Lansing to find out how this is possible.

"They're clearly told it is a violation of the program to use those benefits for cigarettes or alcohol or anything like that. They're not allowed to do that," says DHS Spokesman Bob Wheaton.

DHS says Bridge Card clients know they can't buy alcohol and tobacco, but representative Peter MacGregor says it's too easy.

"We're trying to make it more difficult, we've changed some laws we've worked with the banks that provide ATM’s...you can't buy liquor, you can't buy lottery tickets with your bridge cards but we know it's happening, how do we prevent that," says MacGregor.

MacGregor is the chairman of the committee that oversees DHS’ budget. He's says he's already given them more money to investigate fraud cases like this.

"There's a lot of people who have a huge need, but we have to also make sure those tax dollars are spent wisely and accountability is a huge issue."

But DHS says the technology doesn't exist that could screen for banned items at the register and stop the process that makes it so easy.

And allows people to buy a cart of groceries and then Hot Rod cigarette tubes and Rio pipe tobacco.

Or to just buy a Natural Ice 12 pack, and Marlboro Special Blends, all paid for by taxpayers through the Bridge Card.

"DHS does take abuse of assistance very seriously we have people that investigate these types of cases and get to the bottom of them…for other people who receive and need assistance it should be available to them and not for people who are abusing the system," says Wheaton.

DHS says someone caught doing what we found happening could lose their cash assistance for a year, but for now Bridge Card holders are mostly on the honor system, and we can see how that's going.

DHS tells us the stores themselves are under no legal obligation to restrict Bridge Card purchases.
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Business News

Last Update on October 31, 2014 17:47 GMT

CONSUMER SENTIMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumers expect better economic growth and rising incomes in the coming months, pushing a measure of confidence to a seven-year high in October.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose to 86.9 from 84.6 in September. That's the highest since July 2007, five months before the Great Recession began. Still, the index regularly topped 90 before the downturn.

Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, says that almost six in ten of the respondents said the economy has improved recently, the highest proportion in more than 10 years.

The measure is the second this week to show consumer confidence has reached the highest level since the recession. Greater confidence and more hiring could lead to faster spending and healthier economic growth.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in September, the first decline since January, as shoppers took a breather after a big spending spree in August. Income growth posted the slowest gain this year.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in September. Income edged up 0.2 percent in September, the smallest monthly gain since a flat reading last December.

The spending decline followed a big 0.5 percent increase in August. In September demand fell for durable goods such as autos and for nondurable goods, a drop that partially reflected falling prices for gasoline.

Spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists believe September will be a temporary pause as continued hiring gains pushing up spending and the overall economy in coming months.

GASOLINE PRICES

NEW YORK (AP) -- The average price of gasoline in the U.S. hit $3 a gallon Friday, and should soon drop below the benchmark for the first time since December 2010.

The price at the pump fell 33 cents in October, thanks mainly to plunging oil prices, according to AAA.

Many exuberant drivers have taken to social media to post pictures of gas station signs with prices of $2.99 or lower. Drivers in South Carolina and Tennessee are paying the lowest prices, with an average of $2.75 a gallon.

Drivers in New York are paying the most in the continental U.S., at an average of $3.37. That's still 22 cents cheaper than a year ago.

Gasoline is cheaper than milk again. In September the national average price of milk was $3.73 per gallon.

EARNS-BIG OIL

NEW YORK (AP) -- Falling oil prices hardly seem to be bothering the two biggest U.S. oil companies, but things could get tougher in the coming months.

Exxon and Chevron leaned on strong performances from their refining operations to increase profits in the third quarter despite plummeting global oil prices.

The global price of oil fell 18 percent from the beginning of the quarter to the end, and it cost both companies. Revenue slipped at Exxon by 4 percent and at Chevron by 8 percent.

But low oil and natural gas prices make for low raw material costs -- and higher profit -- for refining and chemical operations, which turn oil and gas into fuels and chemicals. Profit at Exxon's refining and chemicals operations rose 38 percent compared with a year earlier, and Chevron's profit from its so-called downstream operations more than tripled.

Those results helped Exxon's overall earning rise 3 percent in the quarter to $8.07 billion. Chevron's earnings rose 13 percent to $5.59 billion.

NISSAN-AIR BAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan says it's recalling more than 1,800 Infiniti SUVs in the U.S. for an air bag problem that could send shrapnel into the passenger compartment.

The recall covers the QX56 SUVs from 2013 and the QX80s from 2014. The company says inflators made by Takata Corp. were built with an incorrect outer baffle part. That can cause pressure to build up, and the inflators can rupture if driver's side air bags are deployed.

Nissan has no reports of injuries from the problem. It was discovered after General Motors recalled 33,000 Cruze compact cars for the same problem in June. The Infiniti recall is part of a larger global recall of 260,000 Nissans announced last week.

Takata says the recall is separate from another one affecting 8 million vehicles in the U.S.

EUROPE-ECONOMY

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Inflation has crept higher in the 18 countries that use the euro but the rise to 0.4 percent in the year to October is unlikely to offer much relief to the European Central Bank as it tries to boost a weak economy.

The official figure released Friday was up from 0.3 percent the month before.

The European Central Bank is under pressure to give the eurozone another dose of stimulus measures in coming months because inflation is so low and growth so weak. There are fears the eurozone could even fall into outright deflation, a crippling downward price spiral.

Core inflation, a key measure because it excludes volatile food and energy prices, fell to 0.7 percent from 0.8 percent.

The bank's goal is to keep inflation just below 2 percent.

BRITAIN-RBS

LONDON (AP) -- Royal Bank of Scotland, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, has set aside 400 million pounds ($639 million) to cover potential fines arising from international investigations into alleged manipulation of foreign currency trading.

The total represents over half the 780 million pounds the bank earmarked for "conduct and litigation costs" in third-quarter earnings released Friday.

The results show the bank, which was bailed out by the government during the 2008 financial crisis, swung back to profit during the July-September period. Its net income of 896 million pounds follows an 828 million-pound loss last year.

CEO Ross McEwan says the bank knows it has "a long list of conduct and litigation issues to deal with and much, much more to do to restore our customers' trust in us."

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