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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

By Valley News Dispatch
Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010

Do your jobs: Westmoreland County Commissioners Tom Balya and Ted Kopas are childishly threatening to shut down county government on Jan. 1 unless fellow commissioner Charles Anderson votes to pass the county's 2011 budget. They accuse Republican Anderson of "grandstanding" because he wants to see more spending cuts and refuses to vote for the budget. You have the votes to pass the budget, yet you would actually shut down vital public services just because you're mad at one guy• Here's a thought: Have the county solicitor brief you on the definition of "mandamus."

Another shadow employee: New Kensington-Arnold's school board settled a labor dispute with the district's athletic director by giving him back his job -- on paper. Frank Campbell gets his full salary but may not have to actually do anything to get that taxpayer money. The board threw Superintendent George Batterson under the bus by leaving it up to him whether Campbell gets any day-to-day duties -- all while keeping the interim athletic director on the payroll. Here's to hoping the county DA's investigation into the matter wraps up quickly so taxpayers can know what the board is trying to cover up.

A good example: Amber Reigard, an eighth-grader at Highlands Middle School, single-handedly orchestrated a Christmas toy drive for Children's Hospital patients, collecting 250 toys in all. She came up with the idea on her own, stayed determined and saw it through until the end. She has plans to host the toy drive again next year. It goes to show how the kindness of one person can make a big difference.

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