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In the Shoe comic recently, it said that "Chris" had passed away. Is this the Chris Cassatt at the top of the strip? I know Jeff MacNelly died a few years ago. If so, how old was he/she and who else is involved in the strip?

It is Chris Cassatt. He died Jan. 16, 2013, at age 66 after a two-month bout with lymphoma, according to an obituary in the Aspen Times.

Cassatt was a photographer and designer who veered into cartooning and even politics. He created a character he named Sal A. Mander, and entered it in the race for mayor of Aspen. It was thrown off the ballot, so Cassatt temporarily changed his name to Sal A. Mander and ran for governor of Colorado in 1978. He finished fifth in a six-candidate race, with 0.3 percent of the vote.

In the early 1990s Cassatt met and began working with Jeff MacNelly, the creator of the comic strip Shoe, using his computer skills to help produce the strip about an offbeat crew of newspaper workers.

When MacNelly died in 2000, also of lymphoma, Cassatt teamed with MacNelly's widow, Susie, and illustrator Gary Brookins to keep the strip going. The strip's working cast now consists of Susie MacNelly, Brookins and writers Bill Linden and Doug Gamble.

The Aspen Times obituary is at www.aspentimes.com/article/20130117/NEWS/130119881. A fuller, tongue-in-cheek bio of Cassatt can be found here: www.shoecomics.com/article.php?id=293.

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Just how did the Chinese acquire our IOUs? Simply by buying T-bills? Is the interest fixed rate or adjustable rate? What are the terms of the loans? How do they actually hold the debts? How did they get enough dollars to buy the securities?

Lots of questions in there. For help, we turned to the St. Petersburg-based investment company Raymond James & Associates. Scott Brown, chief economist within the equity research department at the company, wrote:

"U.S. importers buy Chinese goods with U.S. dollars. The Chinese central bank exchanges the local currency (from Chinese exporters) for dollars. The central bank holds those dollars as exchange reserves, using them to buy U.S. fixed income assets, mostly Treasury bills (but also Treasury notes and bonds). The Chinese were major buyers of mortgage-backed securities during the housing bubble.

"This is oversimplified. Capital and trade flows go both ways. If we run a net deficit in goods and services with China, then we have to run a net capital surplus," he added.

Interest rates and the terms of the loans vary based on when they are purchased.

For more information, Brown suggested checking out the U.S. Department of Treasury resource center at www.treasury.gov/resource-center/ data-chart-center/tic/Pages/index.aspx.

Q&A: 02/17/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 5:51pm]

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