Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Monday, 23 September 2013

$3.39T Explosion: Fed Owns More Treasuries and MBSs Than Publicly Held Debt Amassed From Washington Through Clinton - 

The same day that the Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee announced last week that the Fed would continue to buy $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs) and $45 billion in U.S. Treasury securities per month, the Fed also released its latest weekly accounting sheet indicating that it had already accumulated more Treasuries and MBSs than the total value of the publicly held U.S. government debt amassed by all U.S. presidents from George Washington though Bill Clinton.

Since the beginning of September 2008, in fact, the Fed's ownership of Treasury securities and MBSs has increased seven fold.

As of the close of business Thursday, the Fed said, it owned approximately $2,052,055,000,000 in U.S. Treasury securities and approximately $1,339,771,000,000 in mortgage-backed securities—for a combined total of about $3,391,826,000,000 in Treasury securities and MBSs.

The U.S. Treasury divides the U.S. government debt into two parts: debt held by the public, which includes publicly traded Treasury securities such as Treasury bills, notes and bonds, and intra-governmental debt, which is money the Treasury has borrowed out of the Social Security trust fund and other government trust funds and then used to pay current expenses.

As of the opening of business back on Nov. 23, 2001, according to the Daily Treasury Statement, the federal government’s total debt held by the public was $3,383,605,000,000. (By the close of business that day, the total debt held by the public would increase to 3,406,661,000,000.) The $3,383,605,000,000 in U.S. Treasury debt held by the public as the morning of Nov. 23, 2001, represented the total publicly held debt the federal government had accumulated until that date from the moment the Treasury first opened during the presidency of George Washington.

The $3,383,605,000,000 the Treasury owed to the public as of the morning of Nov. 23, 2001 was less than the $3,391,826,000,000 in Treasury and mortgage-backed securities owned by the Federal Reserve as of the close of business last Thursday.

Thus the Federal Reserve now owns more debt in the form of U.S. Treasury securities and MBSs than the sum total of the publicly held debt that the U.S. government accumulated from George Washington’s administration into November 2001, during President George W. Bush’s first term.

The mortgage-backed securities owned by the Fed are those that have been issued and guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae. Ginnie Mae is government-owned corporation operated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are congressionally chartered, government-sponsored enterprises, that are now held in conservatorships by the federal government.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are chartered by Congress as government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) to provide liquidity in the mortgage market and to promote homeownership for underserved groups and locations,” the Congressional Research Service explained in a report published this August. “They purchase mortgages, guarantee them, and package them in mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), which they either keep as investments or sell to institutional investors. In addition to the GSEs’ guarantees, investors widely believe that MBSs are implicitly guaranteed by the federal government. In 2008, the GSEs’ financial condition had weakened and there were concerns over their ability to meet their obligations on $1.2 trillion in bonds and $3.7 trillion in MBSs that they had guaranteed. In response to the financial risks, the federal government took control of these GSEs in a process known as conservatorship as a means to stabilize the mortgage credit market.”

The federal government first took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008. In its last weekly accounting sheet released before that, on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2008, the Fed said that it owned $479.726 billion in U.S. Treasury securities. That sheet did not even include a line item for mortgage-backed securities.

The Fed’s combined ownership of  $3,391,826,000,000 in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities is now more than 7 times as great as the $479.726 billion in Treasury securities it owned five years ago before the takeover of Fannie and Freddie.

Of the ten members of the Federal Open Market Committee who voted on whether the Fed should continue purchasing $40 billion in MBS each month and $45 billion in Treasury securities, only one voted no. That was Esther George, who is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

The Fed’s  press release announcing the vote said George voted against the continued buying of Treasury securities and MBS because she was “concerned that the continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.”


Popular Bathroom Wipes Blamed for Sewer Clogs -

Popular Bathroom Wipes Blamed for Sewer Clogs - 

Increasingly popular bathroom wipes — pre-moistened towelettes that are often advertised as flushable — are being blamed for creating clogs and backups in sewer systems around the nation.

Wastewater authorities say wipes may go down the toilet, but even many labeled flushable aren’t breaking down as they course through the sewer system. That’s costing some municipalities millions of dollars to dispatch crews to unclog pipes and pumps and to replace and upgrade machinery.

The problem got so bad in this western New York community this summer that sewer officials set up traps — basket strainers in sections of pipe leading to an oft-clogged pump — to figure out which households the wipes were coming from. They mailed letters and then pleaded in person for residents to stop flushing them.

“We could walk right up, knock on the door and say, ‘Listen, this problem is coming right from your house,’” said Tom Walsh, senior project coordinator at South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer Districts, which was dispatching crews at least once a week to clear a grinder pump that would seize up trying to shred the fibrous wipes.

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which represents 300 wastewater agencies, says it has been hearing complaints about wipes from sewer systems big and small for about the past four years.

That roughly coincides with the ramped-up marketing of the “flushable cleansing cloths” as a cleaner, fresher option than dry toilet paper alone. A trade group says wipes are a $6 billion-a-year industry, with sales of consumer wipes increasing nearly 5 percent a year since 2007 and expected to grow at a rate of 6 percent annually for the next five years.

One popular brand, Cottonelle, has a campaign called “Let’s talk about your bum” and ads showing people trying to wash their hair with no water. It ends with the tagline: “You can’t clean your hair without water, so why clean your bum that way?”

Manufacturers insist wipes labeled flushable aren’t the problem, pointing instead to baby and other cleaning wipes marked as nonflushable that are often being used by adults.

“My team regularly goes sewer diving” to analyze what’s causing problems, said Trina McCormick, a senior manager at Kimberly-Clark Corp., maker of Cottonelle. “We’ve seen the majority, 90 percent in fact, are items that are not supposed to be flushed, like paper towels, feminine products or baby wipes.”

Wastewater officials agree that wipes, many of which are made from plastic, aren’t the only culprits but say their problems have escalated with the wipes market.

Vancouver, Wash., sewer officials say wipes labeled as flushable are a big part of a problem that has caused that city to spend more than $1 million in the past five years replacing three large sewage pumps and eight smaller ones that were routinely clogging.

To prove their point, they dyed several kinds of wipes and sent them through the sewer for a mile to see how they would break up. They didn’t.

Those labeled flushable, engineer Frank Dick said, had “a little rips and tears but still they were intact.”

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which serves Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland, has also spent more than $1 million over five years installing heavy-duty grinders, while the Orange County, Calif., Sanitation District, in a single year recorded 971 “de-ragging” maintenance calls on 10 pump stations at a cost of $320,000.

Clogging problems in Waukesha, Wis., prompted the sewer authority there to create a “Keep Wipes out of Pipes” flier. And Ocean City, Md., and Sitka, Alaska, are among cities that have also publicly asked residents not to flush wipes, regardless of whether they are labeled flushable.

The problem got worldwide attention in July when London sewer officials reported removing a 15-ton “bus-sized lump” of wrongly flushed grease and wet wipes, dubbed the “fatberg.”

The complaints have prompted a renewed look at solving the problem.

The Association of the Nonwoven Fabrics Industry, the trade group known as INDA, recently revised voluntary guidelines and specified seven tests for manufacturers to use to determine which wipes to call flushable. It also recommends a universal do-not-flush logo — a crossed-out stick figure and toilet — be prominently displayed on non-dispersible products.

The wastewater industry would prefer mandatory guidelines and a say in what’s included but supports the INDA initiatives as a start. Three major wastewater associations issued a joint statement with INDA last week to signal a desire to reach a consensus on flushability standards.

“If I’m doing the test, I’m going to throw a wipe in a bucket of water and say it has to disintegrate,” said Rob Villee, executive director of the Plainfield Area Regional Sewage Authority in New Jersey.

Nicholas Arhontes, director of facilities support services in Orange County, Calif., has an even simpler rule for what should go down the toilet.

“Only flush pee, poop and toilet paper,” he said, “because those are the only things that sanitary sewers were really designed for in the old days.”

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Viagra Inventor Develops Spray to Curb Premature Ejaculation -

 Viagra Inventor Develops Spray to Curb Premature Ejaculation - 

The Daily Mail is reporting that one of the scientists on the team that developed Viagra in the Nineties, has turned his sights to another sexual problem plaguing the unfortunate: premature ejaculation.  Mike Wyllie's new product is called Tempe, a spray on medication that has been deemed safe and effective by the European Medicines Agency and is expected to hit the market place early next year. 

Premature ejaculation is a problem that apparently affects at least one in four men. That means when your watching the game with your buddies, take a look around. Somebody's leaving town early. That being said, in clinical trials, men who used the spray lasted about five times longer. 
Dr Wyllie, formerly of Pfizer and now Plethora Solutions, said: "Premature ejaculation doesn't just make the patient feel bad. It does affect the partner and can completely destroy relationships. I feel this could save relationships." 
As of now there is just one pill designed to take on this problem but it is costly and not widely available in the UK. 
Tempe's ingredients include low doses of two anesthetics designed to give a man more control.  It takes about five minutes to kick in and can be sprayed on up to two hours before sex.  One pocket-sized can has the potential to last an entire year if the man is having sex five or six times a month (in which case that man is my hero) 
Too good to be true?  Some who tested Tempe did experience side effects including burning sensations and headaches. Not to mention that some believe the spray is a quick fix which may prevent couples from examining relationship issues that might be contributing to the problem. 
Strangely enough, the article did not mention where to apply the spray. 

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