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Violent week throws gun laws into focus

Updated: Thursday, July 10, 2014
Violent week throws gun laws into focus story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The tragic shooting death of a young Muskegon mom a few days ago puts a somber exclamation point on an especially violent week in the U.S.

Rebekah Bletsch was shot in the head while jogging near her home--no one knows why.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the shooting is a reminder that gun accessibility remains a serious problem in this country.

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Rebekah was a mom, a daughter, a friend to many. And in the circle of her family and friends, as police begin a difficult search for her killer, she will be mourned and remembered.

But in the larger sense, she's a number. And there are so many numbers it's hard to keep track.

On one hand,  its easy to understand how we become desensitized to the horrors of violence.

In the Middle East people are being murdered every day in the name of righteousness. It's numbing.

We're sending in advisors. And we know where that led us 50 years ago in Vietnam.

In Israel, the citizenry seems to be gearing up for an all-out confrontation with Hamas after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered.

In Texas, more than 50-thousand Central American children are being cared for in refugee camps. Their parents sent them up hoping they'll get citizenship. Nobody knows what to do about it.

Our increasingly unpopular president is trading barbs with an even more unpopular intransigent Congress. Nothing gets done.

On the other hand, we have increasingly liberalized gun laws which don't seem to be stopping those intent on murdering people.

Over the past weekend, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, two men began trying to shoot each other.

They were unsuccessful. But they managed to shoot  11 innocent by-standers. One of them was killed and another is still in critical condition.

In New York City, 23 people were shot. Among them a 10-year-old,  a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old.

In Chicago, 35 people were shot. One person is dead. Many of the others are hurting.

In Newark, New Jersey, a 17-year-old girl--a cheerleader--was forced to get on her knees before being shot in the head. Her boyfriend was shot, too. He has survived.

And in Cumberland County, Kentucky, a five-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his two-year-old sister with his new .22 caliber rifle. The boy's grandmother, who points out it was a child-sized weapon, says the tragedy was God's will. "It was her time to go," she said. "she's in good hands with the Lord."

The carnage is so overwhelming we have lost our ability to process it in any meaningful, thoughtful way. We deal with it by shrugging our shoulders, shaking our heads, and looking for someone to have lunch with.

Where do bad guys get their guns to commit these atrocities? Some are stolen. Some are from the gun case at home. But most are purchased illegally  at gun shows and from shady gun dealers.

A teenaged shooter in a Chicago gang told a reporter there that he can get his hands on a weapon any time--as quickly as you can get a burger at a fast food restaurant.

A phone call and a pickup, he said. As simple as that.

And what are we doing about it? Virtually nothing. We can't even get a decent background check law in place for those who buy weapons. The NRA holds that automatic weapons are just fine.

I don't think most people believe that. But most people don't have the money to lobby Congress on their behalf.

My deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Muskegon's Rebekah Bletsch. I just wish i had more than condolences to offer.

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

Business News

Last Update on December 19, 2014 08:36 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report on November's state unemployment rates this morning.

In October, unemployment rates fell in 34 U.S. states, a sign that steady hiring this year has been broadly dispersed throughout most of the country.

FINANCIAL RISK-METLIFE

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Major insurer MetLife Inc. says U.S. regulators have labeled it as a potential threat to the financial system, a designation that brings stricter government oversight.

MetLife said Thursday that the Financial Stability Oversight Council has designated the company as "systemically important." As a result, MetLife must increase its cushion of capital against losses, limit its use of borrowed money and submit to inspections by examiners. MetLife will come under the supervision of the Federal Reserve. Its primary regulator now is New York state.

In a statement, New York-based MetLife said it is "disappointed" in the decision and has given the regulators evidence showing it is not systemically important.

MetLife was the third nonbank financial firm to be given the label by the council, a group of top regulators.

ALLY FINANCIAL-GOVERNMENT EXIT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government is selling the last of its shares in Ally Financial Inc., the former financing arm of General Motors that was bailed out during the financial crisis.

Detroit-based Ally says the Treasury Department is selling its remaining 54.9 million shares. That amounts to about an 11 percent stake in the company. At the close of trading Thursday, that would be worth about $1.25 billion.

Ally, formerly called GMAC Inc., received a $17.2 billion bailout that began in 2008. It's now a standalone auto financing company and bank.

Ally says that the government has received $18.3 billion from its investment in the company. Ally went public in April and Treasury sold a chunk of its stake then.

UBER-PORTLAND

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Uber says it's suspending operations in Portland, Oregon, for three months to work out its differences with city officials, less than two weeks after the ride-hailing app's launch was greeted with a lawsuit.

Uber general manager Brooke Steger wrote in a blog post Thursday that Portland is working to update its regulations for private for-hire transportation that would allow Uber to operate.

Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement that a task force will make recommendations by mid-April on permits, pricing systems, insurance, and safety inspections, among other issues.

The city sued Uber three days after its Dec. 5 launch, asking a judge to order the San Francisco-based company to cease operations. The city said Thursday that it's no longer seeking a restraining order.

Uber will continue operating in the Portland suburbs.

PORT LABOR

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- West Coast dockworkers and their employers don't appear to be close to agreeing on a new contract, nearly six months after their old deal expired.

Longshoremen at 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle that handle billions of dollars of trade with Asia have continued to work without a contract.

The two sides are meeting in San Francisco.

The Pacific Maritime Association represents oceangoing shipping lines and the operators of cargo terminals at the ports that employ longshoremen. A spokesman for the association says the two sides "remain far apart on several issues."

A spokesman for the dockworkers' union says its negotiators are eagerly awaiting a reply from the association on the union's latest proposal.

UNILEVER-MAYO

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. (AP) -- Hellman's mayonnaise maker Unilever says that it has withdrawn its lawsuit against the maker of "Just Mayo."

Unilever had filed suit against Hampton Creek earlier this year claiming false advertising for Just Mayo, an eggless product.

Unilever argued that "Just Mayo" has no eggs and therefore doesn't meet the definition of mayonnaise. Unilever had said that the word mayo implies that the product is mayonnaise, and that Just Mayo was stealing market share from Hellman's.

Unilever said Thursday that it decided to withdraw the lawsuit so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and regulatory authorities.

Hampton Creek says it marketed its product as "mayo" to meet labeling regulations.

FENWAY FALL

BOSTON (AP) -- A 22-year-old woman who fell two stories down an elevator shaft at Fenway Park and was seriously injured is suing the owner of the Boston Red Sox and an elevator company.

Elisabeth Scotland of Brigantine, New Jersey, sued Wednesday in Superior Court in Boston against Fenway Sports Group and Otis Elevator Co. of Farmington, Connecticut. The suit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

The suit says Scotland fell when a closed elevator door opened when she brushed up against it, and she suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal injuries, facial fractures and dental damage.

A Red Sox spokesperson declined to comment on the accident, but said all Fenway Park elevators are safe and the team wishes Scotland well.

Messages were left Thursday for an Otis Elevator spokeswoman.

US-CHINA-TRADE

CHICAGO (AP) -- China is promising to streamline a regulatory process that has held up imports of pharmaceuticals and medical devices from the United States. The country also pledges to enforce its anti-monopoly laws equally among Chinese and foreign companies.

The agreements were announced Thursday at an annual trade meeting in Chicago.

Assistant Minister of Commerce Zhang Xiangchen told reporters that China would work to speed up the review and approval of U.S. products in the pharmaceutical and medical industries and address the current backlog within two to three years.

Zhang said China would also reduce what he called "needless clinical trials."

The U.S. delegation was led by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Pritzker said China's promises on anti-trust laws were especially "significant."

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