Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Mexico City earthquake that killed nearly 10,000 persons in 1985, the colony of Jamestown was burnt to the ground during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 and the “Iceman” mummy was discovered in the Austrian-Italian Alps in 1991 (a 5,300 year old frozen mummy-he was found with his clothes, shoes and weapons still intact).

I survived my third round of jury duty this year today.  #1  I forgot about the Friday jury selection until Saturday.  #2 I showed up in shorts, they don’t like shorts.  #3 today I went in and wasn’t called. 🙂

OK, I’m going outside my normal here.  But Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu got my goat.  A lot of the middle east animosity towards us is because of the Israeli unfair treatment of the Palestinians and the BILLIONS in aid we give the Israeli nation.  Don’t get me wrong. both sides are wrong in their treatment of each other.  But Israel is still allowing settlers to build housing on internationally accepted Palestinian land.  The far right in Israel will not give up until all of the land within the boundaries of Israel are Israeli controlled and inhabited.  Leaving the Palestinians homeless.  I took offense at Mr. Netanyahu’s insistence that our President agree to a specific “red line” that if Iran crossed would mean we would commit to going to war with Iran (I may not have an issue with going to war with Iran, but I have an issue with a foreign politician demanding that commitment).  He then snubbed Mr. Obama and is now going to the American general public talking about the upcoming elections on multiple talk shows.  Who is he and where does he get the audacity to try and sway a sovereign election!  I guess giving them BILLIONS in aid allows their prime minister to take liberties with our elected officials.

OK, I’m done here.  🙂

After thirty years in moth balls, the Carrie blast furnace fired up again for a special tour last weekend.  Well, actually that’s not true.  The real blast furnace that used to crank out 1,250 tons of iron a day wasn’t fired up.  Local artist Ed Parrish of Hot Metal Happenings fired up his smaller personal blast furnace that he uses to melt recycled bathtubs and radiators that are then funneled into his molds making plaques and artwork.  This was for a tour and celebration of the importance the Carrie furnace playing in our steel making heritage by Rivers of Steel.  The Carrie furnace, first fired up in 1884 made iron, most of it was shipped across the river to the Monongahela to the Homestead plant of the Carnegie Steel Works that eventually became US Steel (currently the Waterfront shopping center sits on the site, that’s why those four huge smoke stacks are down toward Sandcastle.)  The Carrie site is part of the 38 acres Rivers of Steel is spearheading to create a national park in remembrance of the significance of this area in the Industrial Age.

Chicago transplant Randall Sulkin settled in Lawrenceville about a year and a half ago.  He and some other locals are spark interest in the Allegheny Arsenal.  The Arsenal was the largest manufacturer of munitions during the Civil War.  The day before the Battle of Antietam (September 18, 1862) a series of fires and explosions broke out at the Arsenal that killed 78 people, 70 of them were girls, some as young as 12.  The Arsenal liked young girls because their small fingers made packing munitions easier and generally speaking they didn’t smoke.  The Arsenal, founded in 1814 was owned by the Army that sold the last piece in 1926.  Visitors to the Arsenal included John Quincy Adams, Charles Dickens and Marquis de Lafayette.  The property currently stretches from Penn Avenue down to Butler Street (it used to go all the way down to the Allegheny River).  The Arsenal tragedy was so over shadowed by the Battle of Antietam (23,000 Union and Confederate troops were slain), it has always been a step-child in history.

Good news for the city of Monessen.  The coke plant there, shutter in 2009 may be reopening in about a year.  The small crew maintaining the plant will be joined by about 500 new employees once renovations are completed.  ArcelorMittal, the the largest steel producer in the world from Luxemburg is filing for federal and state permit to commence a $50 investment in equipment, water and pollution controls.  Related, US Steel’s Clairton’s coke plant should be fully operational within the next several months after a $500M investment in efficiency improvements and pollution controls.  The Clairton plant is the largest coke producer in the United States churning out 960,000 tons annually.

Did you know much of the Empire State Building is owned by 3,000 investors that plunked out about $10,000 each decades ago.  The building was appraised at $2.5B last year.  The Malkin and Helmsley families that run the Empire State Building are trying to get these people to surrender their ownership for stocks in a REIT. The securities and exchange commission has to approve this change in ownership status and could come out with a ruling.  If the SEC approves, then it’s up to the current owners to vote on the change.  If 20% don’t want to sell, the deal can’t go through.  Some of the small owners are trying to band together to organize a defeat of the proposal.  The mortgage is only $209M which would give them plenty of leverage to purchase a larger stake in the building and build their equity.

A REIT is a tax shelter which generally do not look for a profit, they are looking to see growth year over year.  More money passing through their hands gives them more money to work with.  One of the reasons I left the corporate world in 1999, was the owners of the Palm Beach Hilton, where I worked, were negotiating with Starwood Properties, a REIT.  I could do a whole blog on this, suffice it to say, REITs are controlled by big money people that just want to make more big money.

Frank Lloyd Wright has much more of a connection to Pittsburgh than just Fallingwater.  He designed a number of significant buildings that were never built for one reason or another.  One was for a very futuristic parking lot next to the Kaufmann department store across Forbes where Macy’s parking garage is now.  One was for an apartment building up on Mt Washington that later Trimont admittedly took liberties with his design.  But the main reason for this post, you should see what he had planned for Downtown and the Golden Triangle.  Back in the late 1940’s he designed this gargantuan structure that would have encompass all of The P0int, Gateway Center and beyond.  Point Park Civic Center was designed to hold theaters, arenas, shops and more.  Check out the link.

Have a great rest of the week,



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