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Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances

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Thursday, July 4, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Laurel: To David McCullough. Pittsburgh's favorite historian returns to his native city on Sunday, his 80th birthday, for a very special honor. The 16th Street Bridge will be renamed for him. It begins a daylong celebration of the legendary scribe who brought the building of the Brooklyn Bridge alive — and who brought so many historical figures alive for generations of Americans. Welcome back, Mr. McCullough. Enjoy your day.

On the “Watch List”:

• Shell. The petro giant has received a second six-month extension on the option it holds on 300 acres along the Ohio River in Beaver County. And that presents a wonderful opportunity for state and local leaders to reconsider the billion-dollar-plus in tax incentives they've thrown at Shell to locate the “cracker” plant there. As we've asked before, if this thing is the supposed be-all and end-all, why are taxpayers being turned into venture capitalists?

• The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Its finances once again are a mess. Its deficit tripled in the last fiscal year, to nearly $3 million. And that's threatening $17 million in grants, money that can be accessed only by the PSO proving its financial health. A fluctuating investments portfolio and pension obligations are said to have strapped the orchestra. Perhaps soliciting pennies for the pipers from schoolchildren, as we did several years ago, wasn't such a dumb idea.

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