Judith's Java
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Nov 19, 2014 -- 8:28pm

‘Tis the holiday season, and the scammers are revving up to fleece us one and all. Senior citizens beware. Many scams are personalized, appealing for funds for a friend or requesting information that can be used to steal your identity and ruin your credit score. Here’s a few scams that I’ve encountered recently.

Upon opening my email, I found a message that appeared to come from our family’s lawyer. Its subject was “sad news.” Was I being sued? No. The message asserted that while vacationing in Sevastopol my lawyer was robbed, and desperately needs 2700 pounds. Could I send all or some of it immediately? I forwarded said mail to my friend with a “is this you?” and deleted the email.

The sender didn’t know that I had received the same email from a scammer purporting to be my friend from a consulate. I checked and found my real friend was at work in Chicago. Besides, why would anybody vacation in eastern Ukraine now?

Another attempt concerned a dear friend. He called me one morning to tell me he received an email which stated that he had a long lost brother and nephew who had died without will or direct heirs, so my friend was on the verge of inheriting $16 million. Of course, there would be fees, but millions could be wired to his bank account in days. The bank and all other details seemed legit, so my friend was very happy.

But when he replied and didn’t get an answer, my friend became suspicious. He Googled “scams” on the net and found the exact letter with a warning. My friend sent back a scathing email. Warning: if you reply—even scathingly—you’re confirming to the scammer that you and your email account are alive.

Life's tough enough without losing your savings or having your credit score ruined. Delete email when you don’t know the sender, or it’s a plea for funds. Keep your cool and keep your holidays happy.

from the desk of judithrae ross november View Comments (0)


Nov 12, 2014 -- 11:51pm

Now that Election 2014 is history and Election 2016 is still in “yellow pad” phase my Java and I looking for bright spots. For a while, there will be relief from negative campaign ads; no ads showing opponents as unfit to sleep with the pigs; and no more ads painting opponents as toadies for the Tea Party--or Devils.

Republicans and Democrats alike agreed that negative ads soured Election-2014. Let’s hope the ads that bordered on libel or used fear as a political weapon will go the way of the dinosaur.

But the results of Election 2014 also raised questions. Nationally, will the new Congress legislate or postulate? Locally, how will Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner “shake up” Springfield…and how will said “shake-up” affect Cook County?

I’ve been watching Governor-Elect Rauner’s moves since he won the Governorship in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. Many winners greet commuters on Wednesday and Thursday before going to a villa somewhere warm or taking the family to Disneyland for fun and photo-ops. The Rauner’s spent much of last week meeting and greeting people from all over Illinois. On Veteran’s Day both went to Chicago’s commemoration ceremonies, although Governor-Elect Rauner didn’t speak.

The Governor-Elect is building bi-partisan fences. Bill Daley, President Obama’s former Chief-of-Staff is on the transition team. Mayor Emanuel and Governor-Elect Rauner have good relations, and the Governor-Elect spent time in Pilsen and Maywood among Hispanic and African-American voters. If Rauner can build bridges by supporting programs that benefit the economy while easing the lives of the working poor, he’ll succeed in uniting business interests with minority voters’ issues.

Education and state pension remain question marks. How he’ll foster higher educational standards and remediate deficits in pension funding while cutting back on taxation are very interesting questions. These are the only most obvious questions—the tip of the iceberg.

Okay. Governor-Elect Rauner has made a good start. My take is “so far-so good“…And my Java and I heartily wish the Governor-Elect good luck.

from the desk of judithrae ross november View Comments (0)


Nov 06, 2014 -- 9:54pm

Election 2014 has been so over-analyzed that it seems a waste of blog-space to add my 2 cents. So…Congratulations to the winners, Republican and Democrat. Remember that you owe your election to the voters--not the Party, nor the lobbyists. Forget that and you’ll be doing the conceding in 2016, 2018 or 2020.

Fortunately for me, there’s an aspect of Election 2014 that has been overlooked: Polling place bloopers. Granted, there were some ‘local-color’ stories interspersed between election returns. But after the winners declared victory and the ‘also-rans’ conceded, the subject was dropped.

Not so fast! Precinct bloopers can alter election results. There is a little-known set of polling place laws that might have increased the vote, possibly altering the results in the Land of Lincoln.

I know. For 23 years, I was a Precinct Ward Committeeman—Precinct Captain for short. I learned election law and rarely lost a candidate.

My husband and I went to our polling place midmorning. After 10:00 A.M. the early morning crush turns to a trickle. We figured we could get into the polls, vote and leave.

We figured wrong. Both voting computers were in use. One woman voted at a snails’ pace. She was having trouble reading the ballot. That caused a large voter back-up, and the judges—desperate to keep things moving--suggested paper ballots to voters who checked in after us.

The judges didn’t know that voters are allotted only five minutes in the voting booth. After that, election judges can either assist the voter, or appoint a volunteer to do so.

Example two: Electioneering. Two voters complained loudly about Congress’ “do nothing” legislative style. They’re right. But that’s electioneering. Complaining loudly about Congress might have influenced other voters. The judges should have asked those voters to change the subject, and lower their voices.

Our precinct didn’t change Illinois Election 2014’s results. But multiply that by all the precincts in Cook County…and who knows?

In any case, winners take note: I’m watching you.

from the desk of judithrae ross november View Comments (0)


Oct 30, 2014 -- 10:45pm

By now, most Javalanders know that Tuesday November 4th is Election Day. Since most of you have already decided for whom you’re going to vote, endorsements would only waste space. But two propositions on the ballot truly deserve your vote. They strengthen victim’s rights, and increase protection for the right to vote—especially among minorities and the poor. These propositions as well as the state and national races will define the shape of state and national government for the next six years.

So why are so many voters planning to sit this election out?

You’ve heard the reasons: “I’m angry at President Obama”; “The candidates are all alike”; “How do I know whom to pick for judge”; and “the campaigns are dirtier than my muddy shoes.”

Agreed, voting for judges is bewildering. And though many are disappointed the President, Mr. Obama isn’t running. Alas, also true: The more contested the race, the dirtier, more negative the campaign.

Negative, dirty ads have an unintended side effect: They dampen election enthusiasm to the point that staying home appears to be a reasonable form of protest. But most of the negative ads are outlandish junk. C’mon. How could Senator Durbin singlehandedly “break” Washington? Did none of the candidates in 2014 pay taxes? Are at least ½ the candidates in the Tea Party’s pocket? Don’t let this propaganda junk rob you of your vote. Every vote counts. Some races, such as the Governor’s race, are too close to call. The next Governor of Illinois will be the candidate who gets the most of his supporters to the polls.

Another unintended side effect: Low turn outs ensure future lackluster candidates. Political parties reward loyalty, often with political office. Talent is a secondary consideration. How many judges got the party nod because they walked a precinct well or wrote a check with many zeroes? Large voter turnouts ensure quality candidates.

I’ll see you at the polls.

from the desk of judithrae ross october View Comments (0)


Oct 23, 2014 -- 7:51pm

Rebbitzen Erica Brief died suddenly while on a cruise in the southwest Pacific. She was married 57 years to Rabbi Neil Brief, Rabbi Emeritus of Ezra Habonim/Niles Township Jewish Congregation, Skokie. Since retiring from the pulpit, the Briefs often took cruises during which they acted as Rabbi and Rebbitzen to their seafaring congregants. Being Rabbi and Rebbitzen was especially important this time because they were at sea during the Jewish high holidays.

Erica Brief was a lady, mother, grandmother, teacher and leader. A rabbi’s wife always takes a large role in congregational matters; Erica expanded her role far beyond blessing the challah at Ezra Habonim/Niles Township’s Sisterhood meetings. Here’s her story.

Erica Brief was born in Mannheim, Germany in 1934, a year after Hitler had been appointed Chancellor, and after the Reichstag fire, Fuerher. Already Jews had been stripped of all professional titles and banned from attending state schools. Her family left Germany four years later and settled in Memphis, Tennessee. She even spoke with a slight drawl. But Erica doesn’t remember her German childhood. The Nazis, she said, ”stole” those memories.

She married Rabbi Brief, and they came to Skokie shortly before the abortive Neo-Nazi march. That thrust both of them into the limelight…and they stayed there. In 1976, candidate Jimmy Carter spoke at the congregation to record-breaking crowds. After that most candidates for local and national elections, all parties, made time to speak or worship at Ezra Habonim/Niles Township. Erica was an educator and taught for over 35 years. She was honored for her work.

Personal story: My brother had cancer and I found out that it had spread just before class. I called; Erica answered. She gave me the advice that kept me teaching and later helped me deal with my brother’s disease, and death.

Erica was ill, but after a successful operation had recovered. Death at sea came quickly; no way to save her. Farewell and thank you, Erica for your life well lived. You’ll be missed.

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Oct 15, 2014 -- 10:00pm

An interview I did over 15 years ago has come back to haunt. The interviewee noted that many infectious disease specialists dread the day when someone gets off the plane “from the old country” carrying a contagious, deadly disease. Let’s face it: It’s a matter of time before someone with Ebola gets off at O’Hare, claims baggage and heads for our neighborhoods.

The Ebola virus originated in Africa, but cases have been found in Spain--now here. Temperatures will be taken at O’Hare upon arrival of all passengers who boarded flights in West Africa. But Ebola has an incubation period as long as 21 days, meaning not all carriers will be caught.

There are parallels between Ebola and the medieval Bubonic Plague. Like the Plague, Ebola can be confused with a sinus infection or flu. Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who died of Ebola in Dallas, went for treatment at the Texas Health Presbyterian E.R. but was sent home with flu and sinus medication. By the time he was admitted to that hospital it was too late to save him.

Like the Plague, Ebola will travel, and thanks to air travel it will spread faster than its medieval cousin. Banning travel from West Africa won’t stop it. No one knew Duncan was sick until after he arrived in Dallas. The Plague started out in Genoa, Italy and three years later sickened Sweden.

Don’t blame people of African or Spanish descent. They’re not responsible. That type of fear led to mass killings of Jews in the German states during the plague years. Massacres didn’t stop Bubonic Plague…and blaming innocents won’t stop Ebola.

Preparedness is the best weapon in our anti-Ebola arsenal. Let’s demand hospitals have decent isolation facilities and know how to protect their personnel from infection. Let’s demand medical personnel take every onset of “a bug” seriously. Practice good person hygiene; get a Flu shot. Don’t panic. Fear also kills. Good health to us all.

from the desk of judithrae ross october View Comments (0)
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