19yr old killed in shooting in Kalamazoo  KDPS now reporting more than one person was shooting in the homicide investigation on Mt. Olivet. A 19-year old was shot and died at Borgess Hospital.

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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 July 24, 2014 07:36 GMT

WORLD MARKETS

UNDATED (AP) -- Asian shares were subdued today despite an improvement in China's manufacturing as a wait-and-see mood prevailed ahead of earnings reports from some of the region's top companies.

The Nikkei 225, the benchmark for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, erased early gains to slip 0.4 percent to 15,268 in afternoon trading.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.5 percent at 24,099.99 while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.1 percent to 2,027.40. Shares were mostly higher in Southeast Asia.

OIL PRICES

UNDATED (AP) -- The price of oil fell today, giving back part of its sizeable jump the day before, despite improvement in Chinese manufacturing.

Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was down 16 cents at $102.96 a barrel at 0650 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract gained delivery gained 73 cents to $103.12 on Wednesday after data released by the Energy Department Wednesday showed a drop in U.S. crude inventories that was more than double what analysts had expected.

CHINA MANUFACTURING

HONG KONG (AP) -- A survey shows China's factory activity rose in July to its highest level in 18 months, a sign that mini-stimulus measures to shore up the world's No. 2 economy have taken hold.

The preliminary HSBC purchasing managers' index rose to 52.0 in July from 50.7 in June.

The index uses a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate contraction.

The report said overall new orders and new export orders in China's giant manufacturing industry rose faster in July than the month before. China's economic growth edged up to 7.5 percent in the April-June quarter after slowing in the previous period.

HSBC said the impact of finely tuned stimulus measures rolled out by policymakers in recent months is "still filtering through."

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It's a busy day economic data and corporate earnings reports.

The Labor Department leads the data this morning with its weekly jobless claims. A little later, Commerce Department releases its report on new home sales for June, while Freddie Mac provides the latest survey of mortgage rates.

As for corporate earnings, Ford, General Motors, Caterpillar, 3M, American and Southwest Airlines and Union Pacific all report their quarterly financial results before the market opens.

After the market closes, Amazon.com, Visa and Starbucks issue their results.

EARNS-AT&T

Cheaper wireless plans cut into AT&T 2Q profit

NEW YORK (AP) -- AT&T has posted lower net income for the latest quarter due to cheaper cellphone plans it introduced as a response to aggressive pricing from smaller competitor T-Mobile US.

AT&T says it earned $3.55 billion, or 68 cents per share. Excluding some one-time items, AT&T's earnings were 62 cents per share, a penny shy of expectations. Revenue, however, was $32.58 billion, slightly above expectations.

AT&T says half of its wireless subscribers have already moved to "Mobile Share Value" plans, introduced in February. It's also adding subscribers to its Next plans, which carry lower monthly fees because customers pay full price for their phones.

Executives are defending the new Next and Mobile Share Value plans, saying they boosted the number of new customers to the highest level in five years.

AT&T, the second-largest cellphone company, is dueling with No. 4 T-Mobile US, which has shaken up the industry with innovative pricing plans.

EARNS-FACEBOOK

MENLO PARK, Calif. (AP) -- Facebook is on a roll. The world's largest online social network posted sharply higher earnings on Wednesday as revenue from mobile advertising continued to grow, and more people used it, more often.

The company's shares climbed nearly 4 percent in extended trading after the results came out, signaling that they could hit a record high when the stock market opens on Thursday. Investors who bought -- and held on to -- Facebook stock during the company's initial public offering two years ago are now close to doubling their money.

Facebook Inc. (FB) said Wednesday that it earned $788 million, or 30 cents per share, in the April-June period. That's up from $331 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago.

Adjusted earnings were 42 cents per share, handily beating Wall Street's expectations of 33 cents, according to a poll by Zacks Investment Research.

Facebook's revenue jumped 61 percent to $2.91 billion, also beating expectations.

ARGENTINA-DEBT

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Argentina's president says her country will not default because it has paid its debts to bondholders.

The government is in negotiations to resolve a dispute with some creditors over $1.5 billion in unpaid debts that could lead to the country's second default in 13 years.

But President Cristina Fernandez said Wednesday that a new term for default will have to be created to refer to "a debtor that paid and someone who blocked it."

She was referring to a U.S. judge's order that Argentina can't pay investors who accepted lower-valued bonds after a 2001 default unless it also pays off bondholders who didn't participate in the bond swap.

Many of the latter are hedge funds that bought Argentine bonds on the cheap following Argentina's record $100 billion default in 2001.

S&P-MORTGAGE RATINGS

SEC considering action against S&P over ratings

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Standard & Poor's says regulators have told the rating agency they are considering taking civil enforcement action against it over ratings it gave to six deals in 2011 involving securities tied to commercial mortgages.

S&P's parent McGraw Hill Financial Inc. disclosed Wednesday in a regulatory filing that it has received a so-called "Wells Notice" from staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The notice indicates the staff will recommend to the five-member commission that it pursue action against S&P for alleged violations of securities laws.

Under SEC procedure, S&P will be able to make its case to the agency on the issues raised by the notice.

New York-based McGraw Hill says S&P has been cooperating with the SEC in the matter and will continue to do so.

NASA ROCKET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal auditors say NASA doesn't have enough money to start launching its new, $12 billion rocket program by the end of 2017 as planned.

The congressional Government Accountability Office on Wednesday issued a report saying NASA's new Space Launch System is at high risk of missing its planned December 2017 initial test flight. The post-space shuttle program would build the biggest rockets ever to send astronauts to asteroids and Mars.

The report said NASA's own officials told the GAO that there is a 90 percent chance they can't meet the launch date with current funding.

Report author Cristina Chaplain said it's not that NASA has busted its budget for the program because of technical problems. It's just that NASA didn't get enough money to carry out the massive undertaking.

SOCIAL SECURITY-COMPUTER WOES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Six years ago the Social Security Administration embarked on an aggressive plan to replace outdated computer systems overwhelmed by a growing flood of disability claims.

Nearly $300 million later, an internal report says the new system is nowhere near ready and agency officials are struggling to salvage a project racked by delays and mismanagement.

The project is still in the testing phase, and the agency can't say when it will be completed or how much it will cost.

In the meantime, people filing for disability claims face long delays at nearly every step of the process -- delays that were supposed to be reduced by the new processing system.

The report was commissioned by Social Security to save the project. It was done by consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

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