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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.

Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Ah, the new year has arrived. Out with the old and in with new and all that — save the usual pickthanks and pickpockets. Here's just a small sampling:

• Gasoline and diesel fuel taxes begin a five-year climb up the ladder today in Pennsylvania. Come 2018, you'll be paying more than 26 cents per gallon more for gasoline and nearly 36 cents more per gallon for diesel fuel.

Proponents of feeding the commonwealth's out-of-control government-transportation complex insist that the filching will be virtually painless. After all, they say, producers won't pass on much of the increase, choosing instead to reduce their profits. And we have a waterfall to sell you in the Sahara Desert.

• And fuel taxes could be even higher if a pair of federal bills proposed by Rep. Earl Blumenauer have any legs.

As a reward for driving more fuel-efficient vehicles and driving fewer miles — which has reduced what Uncle Sam collects from the 18.4 cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline — the Oregon Democrat wants to nearly double the tax to 33.4 cents a gallon over the next three years. But considering it would be indexed for inflation, the federal gasoline tax would rise in perpetuity. A second bill would tax motorists per mile driven.

Of course, no one talks about the profound effect such a hike would have on commerce — less of it at a higher price.

• Oh, and let's not forget the latest round of fare hikes on the Pennsylvania Turnpike (to end all fare hikes, until next year).

So, welcome to 2014. If you can afford it, that is.

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