AP Source: Hagel resigning as Defense secretary  WASHINGTON (AP) - A senior administration official says Secretary of State Chuck Hagel is resigning from President Barack Obama's Cabinet.

BREAKING NEWS

WIND & WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES

UNTIL 10 PM & 4 PM TUESDAY

The National Weather Service in Grand Rapids maintians WIND ADVISORIES for Ionia, Allegan, Barry, Van Buren, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Berrien, Cass, St. Joe, and Branch counties until 10 PM.  45-50 mph gusts are verifying and may create some power outages, downed trees, or branches.  

WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES start at 4 PM and last until 4 PM Tuesday in Ottawa, Kent, Muskegon, Oceana, Newaygo, Mecosta, and Montcalm counties.  Snowfall may exceed 6" through late Tuesday.  Blowing and drifting snow is likely.  

Stay with wwmt.com for your weather today and always!

 

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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 November 24, 2014 08:29 GMT

GAS PRICES

CAMARILLO, Calif. (AP) -- A national survey reveals the average price of regular gasoline has plunged another 10 cents a gallon over the past two weeks, to $2.84.

Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says the decline continues a trend that has seen prices in the U.S. fall by 88 cents since May.

Lundberg says lower crude oil prices are continuing to drive prices down, along with an abundant oil supply and the rising value of the U.S. dollar.

The highest priced gas in the Lower 48 states was found in San Francisco at $3.14 a gallon. The lowest was in Albuquerque at $2.47 a gallon.

The average price for midgrade gas in the U.S. is $3.08. For premium it's $3.24.

REGULATING CAR SERVICES

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- North Carolina has become a prime market for the smartphone-based car services Uber and Lyft -- and is likely to join a push around the country to regulate the fast-growing businesses.

A big draw for the companies is the state's mix of mid-sized cities, which are full of college students but lack extensive mass transit networks to serve their spread-out geography.

The companies' expansion has legislators in North Carolina and elsewhere scrambling to study their business models ahead of sessions in 2015 when they could address insurance, car inspections or criminal background checks.

Transportation analyst Douglas Shinkle of the National Conference of State Legislatures thinks at least 20 legislatures are likely to take up legislation on Uber, Lyft and similar services in 2015 after several passed laws this year.

MERGER SURGE-HEALTH INDUSTRY

Health care M&A leads global deal surge

UNDATED (AP) -- It's been a big year for deal making and the health care industry is especially visible in that arena.

Large drugmakers are buying and selling businesses to control costs and deploy surplus cash. A rising stock market, tax strategies and low interest rates are also fueling the mergers and acquisitions.

It's all combining to make 2014 the most active year for health care deals in at least two decades. Data provider Dealogic says the industry has announced about $438 billion worth of mergers and acquisitions worldwide so far, about 14 percent of the $3.2 trillion total for all industries. Overall, M&A is on track for its best year since 2007, the year before the financial crisis intensified.

One analyst says deals are being driven by "cost pressure on the entire health care system," as insurers and government health plans increasingly hold down or even reduce reimbursements to drug, device and service providers.

Companies also are looking to expand market share, and boost their portfolios in hot areas such as drugs for cancer and hepatitis C.

JACOBS ENGINEERING-CEO RETIREMENT

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The construction services firm Jacobs Engineering says CEO Craig Martin will retire in late December because of health reasons.

The company announced Sunday that former CEO and current board chairman Noel Watson will serve as executive chairman until a replacement for Martin is found.

The 65-year-old Martin joined Jacobs in 1994 and became CEO in 2006.

The Pasadena, California-based company helps design and build large, complex facilities for oil and gas companies, chemicals companies, governments and a variety of industrial customers.

Martin will step down Dec. 26, the last day of the company's first fiscal quarter.

SHIPPING SEASON

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Icy conditions have forced an early end to shipping on the Upper Mississippi River.

The season officially closed Thursday with the towboat Mary K. Cavarra and its load of four barges heading south through Lock & Dam No. 2 at Hastings, Minnesota.

The Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1yIQ8un ) reports it's the earliest closing in 45 years. The season began last spring with the second-latest opening and came to a 26-day halt in midsummer so crews could clear flood-borne silt from the navigation channel.

Executive director Bob Zelenka of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association says it's been a challenging year. Zelenka says the river is the cheapest way of moving crops. But the river's early closure means finding alternative ways to get those crops to New Orleans and foreign export markets.

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