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Letters home ...

Traveling abroad for personal, educational or professional reasons?

Why not share your impressions — and those of residents of foreign countries about the United States — with Trib readers in 150 words?

The world's a big place. Bring it home with Letters Home.

Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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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.

Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

What President Obama couldn't get Congress to do, and with good reason, he'll employ the Internal Revenue Service to do.

The IRS, under the auspices of the Department of Treasury, has promulgated new rules to crack down on the political activities of 501(c)(4) “social welfare” groups, now allowed to engage in political free speech as long as it's not their “primary purpose.”

Critics say it's been a nod-nod, wink-wink deal that has harmfully flooded the arena of political discourse with anonymous big money. Conservatives typically receive the brunt of the criticism but liberals enjoy the same rules.

All that would change, however, if the administration has its way. Broadcast ads that mention a specific candidate's name would be barred within 30 days of a primary and within 60 days of a general election. And while it's the same standard used by the Federal Election Commission, The Wall Street Journal points out that the expanded, stricter IRS/nonprofit measure could have the perverse effect of (when sent to more than 500 people):

• barring the mention of any candidate in a nonprofit's newsletter

• barring a candidate appearance at a nonprofit group's function

• effectively barring voter registration guides

• barring articles and blog posts on a nonprofit group's website (even those posted before a candidate was a candidate).

That scream you're about to hear will be coming from the League of Women Voters.

But given that it will be the IRS enforcing the new rules if adopted, expect only those who disagree with the Obama administration to be targeted. ...

Another black eye for LEED. David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, says LEED (which stands for the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program) yet again is being exposed as fraudulent.

Writing in The Washington Times, Mr. Williams cites an analysis that concluded how expensive LEED-certified buildings in New York consume more energy per square foot than conventional buildings. He also cites a study of 11 Navy-owned buildings:

“(F)our certified green structures were outperformed by noncertified structures, three more were at parity and four others” only narrowly outperformed conventional buildings.

Given the cost of LEED certification, and given that taxpayers either pay for it directly or through tax credits for compliance, it sounds like the definition of a “racket.” ...

The Obama administration has a predictable habit of releasing news of its failures just before holidays. The idea is to minimize the public fallout among a public otherwise occupied.

On Thanksgiving Eve, it announced a one-year delay for ObamaCare's small-business health insurance exchange, a major part of the law. Just before Independence Day, it announced a delay in requiring large companies to provide health insurance for their employees.

Perhaps Mr. Obama will announce a one-year delay of ObamaCare, in toto, at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

And if the nation really is lucky, perhaps as the strains of “Auld Lang Syne” fade early on New Year's Day, he'll cite a rapidly increasing lack of support nationwide — even among his base (liberals, “progressives” and socialists) — and call it quits.

Oh. Forgot. That would make Vice President Joe Malaprop the boss.

Colin McNickle is Trib Total Media's director of editorial pages (412-320-7836 or

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