WINTER STORM WATCH

7 PM SATURDAY UNTIL 10 PM SUNDAY

The National Weather Service in northern Indiana issues WINTER STORM WATCHES for Berrien, Cass, St. Joe, and Branch counties from 7 PM Saturday night until 10 PM Sunday.  Light snow develops near midnight Saturday night and becomes steadier and heavier toward daybreak Sunday.  Snow, heavy at times, may accumulate on order of 6" to 12" by Sunday evening.  Traveling will be difficult and further compromised by blowing and drifting snow.  The exact track is still being fine tuned, so please stay with wwmt.com throughout your weekend!

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I-Team Special Report: Fare Warning

Updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014 |
I-Team Special Report: Fare Warning story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - When you get into a taxi cab, do you know who is behind the wheel and if that person could be a criminal.

After a Newschannel 3 exclusive story where we showed you a Kalamazoo taxi cab driver arrested for raping a woman in his taxi, the I-Team went to work, investigating who these drivers are that we trust to take us around town.

What we found is a shockingly unregulated industry with no accountability or oversight.

The investigation into Kalamazoo taxi cabs turned up issues with safety and oversight, along with questions about the cost for a ride, which seems to change based on which taxi or driver picks you up.

They cruise around Kalamazoo day and night: zebra stripped pink limousines, minivans, and a few of the traditional variety.

And the colorful and assorted looks on the outside give some clue into what's going on inside the taxi business in Kalamazoo.

"The city of Kalamazoo has no regulations," said Scott Smith, of Elite Transportation.

Smith started Elite Transportation two years ago in Kalmazoo, and says he couldn't believe what taxi companies get away with.

He runs background checks on all his drivers, although no one requires he do it.

That became clear last month, when Godspeed Transportation driver Robert Prescott was arrested for raping a woman in his taxi.

He has a long criminal past, including a felony assault of a police officer. The alleged victim in the case told us she blamed the taxi company.

"If they would have done their due diligence on checking into him, this would have never happened to me," she told Newschannel 3. "I haven't slept a full night since it happened. This is something that I have to deal with everyday."

The owner of Godspeed told us he didn't think a background check was important.

Now, the I-Team found one Timothy Scott Merill on the Michigan sex offender registry for criminal sexual conduct with someone under 13. And he's a taxi driver for Bigg Baby taxi service.

The owner of Bigg Baby admitted to us he knows all about Merill's past, but says "it was a mistake 20 years ago. There's no reason not to give him a chance."

The I-Team wanted to check drivers to see if there are other sex offenders, but we found there is no state or local agency that keeps a list of drivers. So, we went to several taxi companies to ask for driver names; but no one would give us those.

We found Kalamazoo does have regulations on the books for taxi drivers which include background checks, but a company can avoid those regulations by simply claiming they are a limousine service.

Then they fall under the less stringent state guidelines for limos.

"I've taken cabs to the airport, sometimes it cost me ten dollars, sometimes it cost me 25 dollars," said Kalamazoo City Commissioner Don Cooney. "I go the same distance, I say to the guy, he's says this is a limousine; I said I just called a cab."

Along with the safety issues, Cooney says he questions the lack of any fixed prices and wants to see changes in the taxi rules.

But city leaders tell us right now the state law is keeping them from getting involved to change a system that even some of the taxi companies say is all over the road.

"It would benefit everybody, we would get rid of the fly by night taxis that i think has to be done in this town," Smith said.

Even though there are more strict taxi regulations in Grand Rapids and Battle Creek, the problem of companies skirting regulation as limos is happening statewide.

The I-Team took the issue to state leaders and is already getting action.
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Business News

Last Update on January 30, 2015 08:34 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Investors will have their eye on the government's latest estimate of U.S. economic growth when the Commerce Department releases its report on fourth quarter gross domestic product today.

Also, the University of Michigan will issue its monthly index of consumer sentiment for January and the Labor Department will release the employment cost index for the fourth quarter, a measure of wage and benefit growth..

It's also the busiest week of the current corporate earnings season.

The global biopharmaceutical company AbbVie will report quarterly financial results before the market opens, along with Altria Group and MasterCard.

SHAKE SHACK-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Investors apparently have a craving for a better burger.

Hamburger chain Shake Shack Inc. has priced its initial public stock offering at $21 per share, above its proposed range of $17 to $19 per share.

It sold 5 million shares, raising $105 million. The banks managing the deal may buy 750,000 more shares.

Shake Shack cooks burgers to order and promotes its use of natural ingredients, emblematic of what's known as the "better burger" trend.

Its origins date to 2001, when Union Square Hospitality Group, a company owned by restaurateur Danny Meyer, opened a hot dog cart in Manhattan's Madison Square Park. Shake Shack now has 63 locations in nine countries.

The stock is expected to begin trading Friday on the New York Stock Exchange under the "SHAK" ticker symbol.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's industrial output edged higher in December, suggesting the world's third-largest economy may be turning the corner on a recession brought on by a hefty sales tax hike.

Data released Friday showed manufacturing output increased 0.3 percent in December from the same month a year earlier. However, inflation moderated to 2.5 percent from a year earlier, compared with 2.7 percent in November.

The core consumer price index, excluding food, fell 0.2 percent from the month before.

Falling energy costs thanks to the plunge in oil prices had a limited effect, since the CPI excluding both food and energy was unchanged from the previous month.

Japan's jobless rate dipped to 3.4 percent from 3.5 percent the month before. But stagnant wages meant household spending dropped 3.4 percent from a year earlier.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Jury deliberations will resume Friday in a case alleging a 1996 Toyota Camry had a design defect that caused a fatal crash.

Jurors left the federal court in Minneapolis without a verdict Thursday and will return Friday to keep deliberating. At one point in their discussions, jurors asked for a video player so they could view some evidence in the case.

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.

PIPELINE SPILLS-KEYSTONE

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- As Congress presses the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, government records show oil pipeline accidents have become increasingly frequent in the U.S.

An Associated Press review shows accident numbers growing steadily since 2009, reversing a decade-long decline.

Keystone would go from Canada to the Gulf, passing near where 30,000 gallons of crude spilled into Montana's Yellowstone River earlier this month.

The recent breach became the latest in a string of spills to highlight ongoing problems with maintenance of the nation's crude pipeline network.

After the U.S. Senate voted Thursday in favor of Keystone, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state cited the increase in spills in calling for Obama to veto the measure.

Keystone supporter North Dakota Democrat Sen. Heidi Heitkamp said building it was preferable to using older pipelines.

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