WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY, FREEZING RAIN ADVISORY

TODAY

The National Weather Service has issued a WINTER WEATHER ADVISORYfor most of West Michigan today through 4 pm. A mix of freezing drizzle and sleet this morning will lay a thin layer of ice on many roads across the area. Light snow and rain this afternoon will contribute to potentially hazardous driving conditions.

The National Weather Service has also issued a FREEZING RAIN ADVISORYfor the following counties, effective this morning from 5 to 9 o'clock: Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Branch, and Hillsdale. Conditions are favorable in the Advisory area for the formation of freezing drizzle/rain, which has the potential of creating slippery/hzardous driving conditions. Temperatures are expected to warm above freezing by late this morning, taking the threat of freezing rain away.

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

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Student loan interest rates

Updated: Saturday, August 3, 2013
Student loan interest rates story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The numbers are staggering--of the 7 million or so students going to college in this country, 66 percent of them are on campus thanks to borrowed money.

With the failure of Congress on Wednesday to face down a problem that it knew was coming for a long time, the interest on new student loans has doubled.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says our government not only doesn't see the little picture, it can't even imagine the bigger one.

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I understand that the men and women who make the decisions in our congress have a lot of work to do. I get it.

But it's gotten to a point where if something is truly important—it just doesn't get done.

It's embarrassing that the Senate knew for a year—a full year—that if it didn't do something, the cost of student loans would, on July 1st, go up.

So what did it do? It went home on vacation.

And guess what; interest rates went up from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

Hello?!

Then yesterday, the votes weren't there to come up with a temporary fix. No surprise. There were Senators looking for a permanent fix. They knew that going in.

Nonetheless, there was a lot of breathless posturing; a charade, if you will, to convey just how hard they were all working.

I don't think the rate will stay that high for very long. For one thing, it's bad politics. It could mean votes!

But what's missing is real conversation about the bigger picture.

I think we can all agree that the need for higher education has never been greater than now. The high-school-to-factory  syndrome is long gone.

Even those jobs now require more than high school can provide.

Continuing education is crucial to the future of our country. Its no longer a matter of "it would be nice," it's a matter of "we have to."

Trouble is, the cost of college and specialized training schools is cold-bloodedly expensive—up about 500 percent over the past 25 years. The cost of text books has tripled over the past ten years.

More and more moms and dads find it impossible to pay as they go, so two-thirds of all students now borrow to attend class.

Students can no longer pay their way with a part time job.

And the average student graduates with a debt of $28,000. But there are tens of thousands of students who graduate with  debt of up to $200,000 dollars.

Right now, Americans owe more than a trillion dollars on student loans. The second highest kind of consumer debt out there behind the mortgages.

And now for the hammer.

Lest you think students loans cost us money—last year, according to the government accounting office, the U.S. government collected $51 billion in interest payments. Fifty-one billion dollars!

Why in the world is the U.S. government making that kind of money off students who have yet to land a job?

A few months ago, freshman Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, suggested it might be wise to lower student loan interest rates to below one percent—the same rate that banks pay the federal reserve for short-term loans.

So simple, so reasonable, so doable.

But then—we're talking about Congress.

Making college degrees and technical certificates more affordable should be a national priority.

We need young graduates to be strong, competitive, and dynamic, just as the United States needs to be strong, competitive and dynamic.

The accumulating student debt is a drag on our economy—just think about how far those billions in interest payments could go in a world of starter houses, cars, and small business loans.

We've got lots of problems with higher education in this country. But setting a truly low, fixed interest rate, to encourage ambitious young people, instead of adding to their burdens, is a part of the answer.

Think about it.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on January 28, 2015 18:32 GMT

FTC-TRACFONE SETTLEMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The nation's largest prepaid mobile provider, TracFone, will pay $40 million to settle government claims that it misled smartphone customers with promises of unlimited data service.

The Federal Trade Commission says TracFone promised unlimited data in its advertising, but then drastically slowed or even cut off consumers' mobile data after they hit a certain limit.

TracFone's prepaid wireless service is sold under various brands, including Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile and Telcel America.

Consumers with phones operated by TracFone who had their service slowed or cut will be able to request a refund.

The commission sued AT&T late last year over the same issue -- promising unlimited data but then allegedly slowing or throttling a consumer's Web browsing after a certain amount of data was used.

CONGRESS-HEALTH

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Senate committee has voted unanimously to exclude veterans from the 50-worker threshold that triggers required coverage for employees under President Barack Obama's health care law.

Before the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure by 26-0, Chairman Orrin Hatch -- a Utah Republican -- said the measure would encourage companies to hire veterans.

Democrats said they shared that goal, but said they believed the bill would have little if any impact on veterans.

Obama's law is gradually phasing in a requirement that companies with at least 50 workers offer health coverage to their workers.

The Senate bill would let employers exclude from that count veterans who receive health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the military.

The House approved the legislation earlier this month 412-0.

CONGRESS-NATURAL GAS EXPORTS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Republican-controlled House has passed a bill aimed at expediting approvals of natural gas exports.

In a 277-133 vote on Wednesday, the House approved a bill giving the Energy Department a 30-day deadline to authorize natural gas exports from facilities after they are reviewed and approved.

It's the third energy-related bill passed by the House this Congress. They've also approved bills authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and fast-tracking new natural gas pipelines.

The natural gas boom has revived a push for liquefied natural gas exports from coastal terminals. Nearly all U.S. natural gas exports today are by pipeline.

More than three dozen applications to build export terminals are pending and have yet to reach the Energy Department. DOE has authorized natural gas exports from four projects.

GAS-LIQUID PLANT DELAY

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Amid falling oil prices, a South Africa-based energy company is delaying final plans for a $14 billion gas-to-liquid plant in Louisiana.

Sasol made the announcement Wednesday in a news release about its plans to conserve cash in response to lower world oil prices.

The statement says construction on an ethane cracker at its complex near Lake Charles, in southwestern Louisiana, will continue. And the company made clear that plans for the gas-to-liquid plant are not being abandoned. Sasol said the company would evaluate the possibility of phasing in the project. The plant would convert natural gas into diesel and other liquid fuels.

Lake Charles is home to numerous petro-chemical plants and is about 30 minutes from the Texas state line.

CHEVRON-BP-GULF OF MEXICO

NEW YORK (AP) -- BP is selling part of its stake in an emerging oil-producing region in the Gulf of Mexico to Chevron, and the two companies, along with Conoco Phillips, will work to develop the fields together.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The joint-development agreement is a way for the companies to try to reduce the cost and risk of exploring and developing large, complex fields in the Gulf's deep waters at a time of low oil prices.

For BP, it allows the company to move some of its recent discoveries closer to production as it continues to work to settle claims resulting from its 2010 oil spill in the Gulf.

Under the deal, which spans 24 jointly-held offshore leases, Chevron will replace BP as project operator.

FORD-RECALLS

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford is recalling more than 221,000 cars and vans to fix problems with door latches and seat belts.

The biggest recall covers nearly 205,000 Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS and Police Interceptor models in North America from the 2010 to 2013 model years. Ford says a door latch spring can become unseated, allowing the door to unlatch in a side-impact crash. The company says it knows of no injuries from the problem. Dealers will inspect the latches and replace door handles if needed.

The second recall covers just over 16,000 Transit Connect small vans in the U.S. from the 2014 model year. Seat belt fasteners can loosen, causing the belts to malfunction. Ford says the problem hasn't caused any crashes or injuries.

Dealers will replace and tighten the seat belt fasteners.

NISSAN RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan is recalling nearly 768,000 SUVs worldwide to fix faulty hood latches and electrical shorts that could cause fires.

The largest recall covers more than 552,000 Rogue small SUVs worldwide from 2008 to 2014. Snow and salty water can seep through the driver's side carpet to a wiring harness, causing electrical shorts. Nissan says there were reports of shorts but no fires or injuries.

Dealers will inspect the wiring and replace or seal it.

The second recall covers nearly 216,000 Nissan Pathfinders from 2013 and 2014, and Infiniti JX35s from 2013 and QX60s from 2014. The secondary hood latch could stay open when the hood is closed. Nissan says some hoods have been damaged but no crashes or injuries were reported. Dealers will fix the latches for free.

TOYOTA-FATAL CRASH

EARNS-FIAT CHRYSLER

MILAN (AP) -- Carmaker Fiat Chrysler reported a two-thirds drop in 2014 earnings due mainly to costs of acquiring the final stake of U.S. carmaker Chrysler.

Fiat on Wednesday reported full-year net profit of 632 million euros ($718 million), compared with a restated 1.9 billion euros in 2013. Fiat attributed the decline to a 495 million euro payment to the Chrysler union's retiree healthcare trust to complete the purchase of Chrysler. Earnings also took a hit from the devaluation of the Venezuelan currency.

Chrysler drove the group's revenue growth of 11 percent, with a 15 percent boost in North American revenue to 52 billion euros. Europe saw a small increase while Latin America suffered.

Net profit for the fourth quarter was 420 million euro, down from 1.2 billion from a year earlier.

GERMANY-US-FREE TRADE

BERLIN (AP) -- German automakers are throwing their support behind a new trade deal being negotiated between the European Union and the United States.

Representatives from major car manufacturers like Daimler, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen lobbied Wednesday for the deal at an event in Berlin.

Organizer Matthias Wissmann, of the German Association of the Automobile Industry, says Germany, as one of the world's biggest exporters, "benefits from and lives, like virtually no other country, on globalization."

Negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, started in 2013 but many Europeans remain skeptical over concerns about environmental protections, labor security and other issues.

Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn called TTIP a "historic opportunity" that would allow Europe and the US to set joint standards, "which will shape our world in the coming decades."

EARNS-BOEING

CHICAGO (AP) -- Boeing Co. says fourth-quarter profit is up 20 percent as it delivered more commercial planes, offsetting weakness in the defense business.

The results topped Wall Street expectations, but the company is giving a cautious outlook for 2015.

Boeing said Wednesday that it earned $1.47 billion, or $2.02 per share, compared with $1.23 billion, or $1.61 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items, Boeing says so-called core earnings were $2.31 per share. Analysts expected $2.11 per share, according to FactSet.

The company says adjusted earnings this year will be between $8.20 and $8.40 per share -- below analysts' forecast of $8.66 per share, the FactSet survey showed.

The airplane builder posted revenue of $24.47 billion in the period, also beating Street forecasts. Analysts expected $23.73 billion, according to Zacks.

Boeing shares have climbed almost 2 percent since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has dropped slightly more than 1 percent. The stock has declined roughly 4 percent in the last 12 months.

SWEDEN-EARNS-ELECTROLUX

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- Home appliance maker Electrolux swung to a profit in the fourth quarter, citing cost cuts and rising sales.

The Swedish company on Wednesday posted a net profit of 969 million kronor ($117 million), compared with a loss of 987 million kronor in the same period last year.

Revenue rose 9 percent to 31.4 billion kronor, from 28.9 billion kronor in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Electrolux said cost cuts boosted income in Europe and Asia while U.S. operations were hurt by new energy standards for fridges and freezers.

CAESARS BANKRUPTCY

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) -- A Delaware judge says the Chapter 11 case of casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. will proceed in Illinois, not Delaware.

The judge on Wednesday denied a motion by several creditor groups who wanted the case to be heard in Delaware, where they filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition just days before Caesars' operating unit made its own filing in Chicago.

Creditor attorneys argued that Caesars filed in Illinois partly because it will be easier there to shield company officials from lawsuits over what creditors allege were improper transfers to shield the operating unit's assets from creditors.

Caesars contended that the judge should defer to its choice of Illinois as the best place to try to fashion a consensual plan maximizing value for all stakeholders.

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