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... & craps on the tracks

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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.

Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Among federally subsidized high-speed train projects that railroad taxpayers — including California's $68 billion boondoggle — none is more outlandish than a proposed $5.5 billion gamble on a quick train to Las Vegas.

Yet the federal Department of Transportation is considering rolling the dice on this loan for Xpress West, which would originate in Victorville, Calif. As pie-in-the-sky rail plans go, this one's a true novelty.

It's based on the premise that passengers will drive 75 miles from Los Angeles (or more than 100 miles from south Orange County) and board a train that will speed them the remaining 175 miles to Vegas.

“Nowhere in the world do people drive so far to board a train for such a short trip,” writes Wendell Cox, head of a public policy consulting firm.

Promoters say the train would be a boon for traffic-weary drivers. Except drivers would face more traffic en route to Victorville than they would from there to Vegas, Mr. Cox says.

Then there's Xpress West's problematic passenger projections, which typically dog these projects. Proponents project four times the ridership of Amtrak's Acela high-speed train in the Washington/New York corridor. Research by Oxford University calls this a “strategic misrepresentation.” That's being kind.

Whether it's an overly ambitious 520-mile high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco or a shortie to Sin City, taxpayers shouldn't be taken for these outrageous rides.

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