Be careful when you answer the phone! If you are told that a relative is injured or in some kind of other desperate situation, beware.

It’s commonly known as “The Grandparent Scam”, because elderly people are often the victims, but it could happen to anyone who isn’t sufficiently skeptical and gets caught off guard. Someone tried a variation of this scam on me a few months ago, but I am always suspicious of calls from unknown numbers so it didn’t work, but some rotten crooks almost got my favorite Auntie and my mom just the other day. If you’re not familiar with this particular con, here is how it works:

The target gets a phone call from someone either pretending to be their grandchild (or other relative) or a cop, or a lawyer, or a kidnapper, and says that the intended victim’s loved one has been hurt in an accident (or is in legal trouble, has been kidnapped, or is in some other kind of peril) and the only way to help them is to immediately wire a large sum of money somewhere – and don’t tell anyone or the person you love’s situation will greatly worsen!

If the victim complies, that money is gone forever, and their information may be sold to other scammers as an easy mark to get set up for more schemes. It’s a cruel crime, targeting vulnerable people and using their love for family as a weapon against them. Fraud.org provides some helpful information about this:

Stay safe. Be Informed.

The victim is urged not to tell anyone, such as the parent of the “grandchild” because they do not want them to find out about the trouble they’ve gotten themselves into. The grandparent never hears from their fake grandchild again and is tricked out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

To detect and avoid the Grandparent Scam, NCL’s Fraud Center recommends the following tips:

  • Beware of any urgent solicitation of funds, especially if it is needed to pay for unexpected bills, such as bail money, lawyer’s fees, or doctor bills
  • Before sending funds, independently contact the relative (or parent of the relative) the scam artist is claiming to be (or represent) at a known phone number to verify the details of the story.
  • Scam artist’s payment method of choice is the wire transfer. Any urgent request to wire money should be treated suspiciously.
  • Be aware that fraudsters attempting the Grandparent Scam may call late at night to confuse potential victims.
  • Consumers who have been victims of this scam should immediately report it to local law enforcement, their state attorney general and NCL’s Fraud Center at Fraud.org.

The FTC has additional advice:

Verify an Emergency

If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a family member or a friend desperate for money:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the person’s identity by asking questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer.
  • Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine.
  • Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t wire money — or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
  • Report possible fraud at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.      MORE

The con artists will even make an effort  to “help” the victim. Via WBNS-10TV – Columbus, OH:

“Often times they’ll hand the phone off to a second party on the phone, alleging that’s the attorney and that serves the purpose of getting a different voice on there so they don’t continue to question whether this is my grandchild’s voice,” explains Sgt. Kline.

He goes on to say that sometimes, the scammers will even go as far as arranging taxi transportation for grandparents to get to the location where they can get the money orders.   Full Story HERE

The call that I received, from a strange cell phone number, said that my “husband, son, or brother” was in a horrible accident in a nearby town and had been taken away by ambulance, and the caller was someone who had been on the scene before emergency services arrived and that my male relative had given them my number to call as his own phone had been damaged in the accident. The guy who called me could not tell me the name of my injured loved one, saying that he was hurt so badly that he could barely talk and that he didn’t have any ID on him, they could not tell me what hospital my “husband, son, or brother” had been taken to, and they could not tell me my own name or how the injured male was connected to me, because my loved one was too messed up to say it before he was carted off  to an undisclosed location. I think the caller was expecting me to go to the location he had given me (the alleged scene of the accident) or meet him elsewhere and I do not know what would have happened then, but it didn’t get to that as I cut the guy off and insisted that he must have gotten the wrong number because I knew full well where all of my people were and I hung up.

The scam that targeted my aunt and almost robbed my mom was more like the ones described when you look up “injured relative phone scam” in a search engine, my mom got dragged into it because her sister is currently housebound recovering from a serious medical issue. Both women are in their eighties and love their families dearly. Here is how I found out about it:

My cousin called me two days ago looking for my mom. My mom lives 100 miles away so I figured she must have assumed she was up visiting or just called my number by mistake. My cousin was very upset. I told her that she’d reached my house, not my mom’s and that my mom was not here. My cousin told me that my aunt had gotten a call saying that another cousin, my aunt’s grandson, was hurt in an accident but that, “It was a trick” and that we needed to get hold of my mom, who was on her way to Western Union on behalf of my aunt. I guess my aunt had gotten the call and was so distressed that she called my mom for help, and my mom was going to withdraw almost two thousand dollars from her own bank account and wire the money on my aunt’s behalf.

Unfortunately, my mom had already left her house, she doesn’t answer her cell phone, and I did not know the location of the Western Union nearest to my mom, so I spent a good chunk of time fretting about it before my mom finally got back home and I could speak to her. Luckily, my mom started to get suspicious as to why she couldn’t just write a normal check and why there was no name for who to make the money order or transfer or whatever out to, so instead of completing the task, she went back home and called my aunt, who had by then been advised by my cousins of the con so nobody was hurt this time. Thank God.

Some versions of this nasty trickery also target people through email, text messages, and social media.

Please be careful if someone contacts you with an “emergency”, and tell the people that you care about who may be vulnerable to such tactics as the one described above to be cautious as well.

*******

MJ Stevenson, AKA Zilla, is best known on the web as Zilla at MareZilla.com. She lives in a woodland shack near a creek, in one of those rural parts of New York State that nobody knows or cares about, with her family and a large pack of guardian companion animals. 

Over the last two years my wife has really fallen in love with the Patriots, she has consumed the game with a passion that only matches her love of quilting.

Today despite my own misgivings I turned on the game for her (I’m pretty indifferent except for Brady) and while Tom Brady, Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick all stood there were a bunch of Patriots taking a knee.

When she saw this something happened that I didn’t expect.

She told me to shut it off.

As she said: “they’re paid to throw and catch pigskin, protest on your own dime, your own dime and your own time…this girl is not going to fall all over anybody because they are babies, spoiled overpaid babies. Put on your big boy pants and grow up.” ”

She didn’t stop there “the Patriots are supposed to be a class act and that shows no class at all.”

she had plenty more to say but I can’t type that fast.

She also apologizes to Tom, Grok and everyone who stood and while she will always root for her boys but as of today as long as there is a Patriot kneeling for the anthem, the TV gets shut off or changed.

The people at work will be shocked when she doesn’t ask for the score of the game, but if they want to make a statement fine, this is hers.

I really didn’t think this would happen and I suspect neither did the NFL.

May they be happy with the path they have chosen.

Update: Apparently they lost a large chunk of the crowd at the game too:

During the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Gillette Stadium, 17 Patriots players decided to take a knee, including defensive starters Devin McCourty, Malcolm Butler, Duron Harmon and Stephon Gilmore.

The fans didn’t like that

Fortunately for the NFL as MSNBC show you can still make a good living with a niche market.


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I spent most of Sunday night in my closet.

Not in the coming-out-of-the-closet figurative way: I actually was lying on a down comforter on top of a foam pad with two pillows while hurricane Irma pounded away outdoors. I’m fortunate to have a closet large enough to sleep in, and it was the quietest place to be. I played my old Gregorian Chant by the monks of Santo Domingo de Silos CD that I had uploaded into the iPod years ago, and dozed on and off.

By 5:00am or so the wind had died down enough that I went back to my bed. Power was cut off at 5:45am with a “pop!”

Living through Irma in Central Florida was as frightening as when I spent hurricane Sandy in the family room of my Princeton house in 2012. I would have much preferred to have been dining with Pete and Stacy instead.

However, the amount of damage where I live was minimal. No flooding, a few tree limbs down, no electricity, but the house was completely intact, and we had natural gas and running water. We were under tropical storm warning until 4pm on Monday and it remained cloudy, but the strong breeze helped to dissipate the humidity and cool the house.

This is the view from the back porch at 10am Monday,

My sister in Miami, who had fifteen (!) people staying at her house, also had no damage to her property – and neither did any of her guests.

We are grateful beyond measure.

The local FM radio station has been covering live on talk radio since before the storm, and they have done a great service to the entire area with very informative updates and a great amount of emotional support to all the callers. Local officials, utility company spokespersons, rescue personnel, owners of private businesses, all regularly call in with updates.

Electricity was restored yesterday, much to our delight. The food in the freezer didn’t thaw.

Parts of Florida are greatly affected, but every person and organization (private and public) in the state is working towards restoring normality. The coordination between public and private is extraordinary. I have never experienced anything like it.

If you are traveling to Florida, make sure to check your route/airport in advance. For instance, Miami International airport is still under limited schedule.

On the bright side, the Gainesville Police Department promises a calendar, and perhaps the officers from Sarasota may, too.

In thankful praise to Our Lord,

UPDATE:
For the win,
Nun With A Chainsaw Becomes Symbol Of Post-Irma Cleanup: ‘She Rocks

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

by baldilocks

A little secret: I had to do community service for a misdemeanor. My crime: carrying a loaded weapon in public. (Hey, it’s California.) I plead guilty and, because it was a first offense, I received community service. Some might remember that I fractured my left wrist from a fall back in 2012. I had been doing community service when it happened.

During my community service – CALTRANs — most of the other offenders were black and Latino. They were there for things like major traffic violations which did not result in injury or accident – mostly first-time DUIs. Most were much younger than I was and I had little in common with most of them as far as our personal interests went.

However, one politically astute guy was there for fixing cars without a business license; his “crime” had caused him to awaken, he freely admitted. Still another guy – whose offense I don’t recall — and I discussed current events and religion a few times. Both men were very intelligent.

One day, as we performed our usually task, cleaning up the freeways, three groups formed: a black one, a Latino one, and a very small group who refused to go there. Of course, I was a part of that last group.

I walked up to the last guy I mentioned — part of the black group – and said, “What are we doing? Forming up according to race now? This isn’t prison.”

“It’s natural to do this.”

“It’s also natural to urinate and defecate where you stand, but our parents train us not to do that.”

He had nothing to say to that, but I noticed that he separated from the group and started working by himself.

I tell this story to point to the implications behind “natural behavior”: that it’s perceived as good and right. The Bible, of course, tells us otherwise for the most part. The natural man has no knowledge of God and feels more kinship with other human beings who look like him – starting with his immediate family and branching out to his ethnic tribe.

It’s natural. It’s also deadly to truth.  We’ve never completely gotten rid of ethnic tribalism and we watch as it crests once again in our “modern” era. However, those of us who think we are more enlightened and don’t see race should not think of ourselves as better than our carcass-worshiping acquaintances. Often, we create our own tribalism. It behooves us all to be wary of it.

Because when we lie to ourselves for too long, those lies begin to look just like the truth. Naturally.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

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We live lives of privilege.

We can spend hours debating politics, deciding what to wear to work, which running shoes to buy, which cut of beef to grill with shrimp and veggies for dinner, and where to spend our vacations.

We also spend substantial amounts of money, time and effort on our homes. In addition to my blog and reading addictions, my greatest and probably most expensive addiction is my house, HGTV included. I have purchased, improved, lived in, and sold three houses.

I bought my fourth house, moved in last month, and have spent a great deal of time unpacking and deciding what to keep and what to toss. Yes, I should have done that when I first left NJ for FL, but was renting an old townhouse with a popcorn ceilings and knew I was going to buy a different house later on, so here I am, sorting and unpacking. I’ve even been trying to decide whether or not to add curtains (I’m not a curtains person).

These past days my obsession has been Hurricane Irma, as you already know. From the looks of the latest forecast models, my area of central Florida will get hit with 100 mph winds (category 2) at 2am Monday, which I’m dreading. My rational brain knows I live in a well-constructed concrete house with underground utilities away from the waters in an area where people from Miami have come for shelter. My irrational brain worries.

I spent a scary Hurricane Sandy in my house in NJ reading the Psalms out loud so I wouldn’t have to listen to the wind. My house was untouched by the storm. All I needed to do was to schedule having a few tree limbs removed from the yard and stay in a hotel until the electricity was back. Sandy’s eye was almost eighty miles away; Irma apparently will be ripping right through Florida.

I am, of course, worried about possible damage to my new house, but I’m also worried about relatives who decided to stay in Miami. They are hardy folk who have lived in Miami for decades and are definitely less worried than I, a newcomer. In contrast, a friend who also has lived in Miami for decades is not taking any chances, shuttering down her house and sheltering at the hospital where her husband works.

Having Jim Cantore in Miami does not ease my worries at all.

I’ve been reading hundreds of Facebook posts on Irma. The more annoying are those urging all people in Florida (population 20 million) to “get the [insert expletive] out.” The more encouraging are photo journals of friends living in Puerto Rico who now have no electricity and water but whose homes and cars are intact and were not flooded.

Yes, life is tough. Yes, there are bigger things and existential questions we should be concerned about. Yes, we are blessed every day, for which I am abundantly grateful.

But yes, I’m superficial enough I’d rather be thinking about curtains instead.

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

This morning, Dr Starnes at Childrens’ Hospital of Los Angeles walked into the waiting room and told me that the repair done to my 2-month-old son’s heart was a success. He said he should be in great shape for years to come. I’ve documented my feelings about the medical system that has helped my son multiple times in his short life. They deserve blessings and have my complete gratitude.

The events that led to the operation this morning were a bit less mundane than a successful operation. You see, Jacob was lifeless on Sunday.

I was downstairs working in my office when my youngest daughter ran in and said that my wife needed me. I rushed upstairs to find her frantically trying to get Jacob to breath. He had just had a bath and was just getting dressed when she noticed he not only stopped crying but also stopped breathing. By the time I got upstairs, he was starting to turn purple.

We rushed downstairs. My oldest daughter called for an ambulance. It wasn’t going to be fast enough. I ran for the car followed by my wife. She drove as if she’d had EMT driver training, honking her way through intersections while being careful enough to keep us from getting into a collision. Meanwhile, I was with Jacob in the back seat. I checked his breath – nothing. I checked for a pulse – nothing. I reached into his throat and felt no obstructions. His body just stopped.

When I was 16-years-old, my nurse practitioner mother made me take a summer job working at a nursing home. She wanted me to appreciate life and see what it was like at twilight. I learned many valuable lessons as a CNA at two nursing homes in Oklahoma City. One lesson I had never had to apply was CPR. I remember vividly doing chest compressions on plastic figures, including several hours learning how to do it differently on infants. 27-years later, that training came into play.

For four minutes in the back of the vehicle, little Jacob was lifeless. His body was limp. His eyes showed no recognition, no movement. No life. Blow, count, blow, count, chest compression, count, chest compression, count. After the third round of CPR, the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard come painfully through his lips. It was subtle, so quiet I wasn’t sure at first if it was just a result of me pressing on his stomach. He let out a slight whimper. Then another. Then another.

We got to the emergency room. They were waiting for us. My daughter had canceled the ambulance and told them to expect a man with no pants, shoes, or socks running in with her baby brother. They acted quickly and admirably. Within ten minutes the whimpers were replaced by full-throated cries. We answered several questions, got his old doctors connected with his ER doctors, and after about half-an-hour they got me to put on some hospital socks and thin hospital cloth pants.

We’re now at our third hospital in five days. Along the way, the CPR story has made its rounds. That really isn’t the story, though. I know. I was there.

Nothing in my hands or breath brought my son back to from the brink. In God’s plan, Jacob had more to do. How he reached down and made Jacob breath and made his heart beat again is beyond me. It could have been the jolt of a memory to cover his nose and mouth with mine rather than just the mouth as is done with adult CPR. It could have been a driver in a hurry who had a feeling he needed to slow down before entering an intersection that my wife was crossing. It could have been God protecting Jacob’s body from harm I could have brought to him by pushing too hard during compressions.

I don’t know what brought my son back to life. All I know is that it was the will of God. I am humbled and grateful for this blessing that I do not deserve.

by baldilocks

Around the time of 9/11, during one of my many sojourns into higher education, I was in a CAD program–which I regret not finishing. One of the required courses was Algebra and I did well, out of 100 achieving a 96 average — math being one of my favorite subjects.  And, most heartening, in an admittedly chauvinistic way, the only other person who did better than I did in the subject was also a black woman. (We were the only women there of any coating.)

By no means were the men in that class either stupid or ungifted. However, they were uniformly very young—at least they seemed so to my then forty-year-old self.  One of the things that they marveled at about me was that I could do simple arithmetic in my head.  When one of them asked me how this came to be, I explained that I was born well before the advent of the calculator and was taught at home to memorize multiplication tables.  Another of the young men made some joke about my age and a slide rule and, though I laughed, I realized how archaic that device had become. Following on the realization that I hadn’t seen one since the early 1980s, I was impressed that the guy even knew of the tool.

Being around so many innately very intelligent young people who had been—as far as I could see then—short-changed by the very same type of technology that they were learning to manipulate to make a living, made me a little sad. However, now I know that those men—and that young lady who kicked my behind in Algebra–are the blessed ones. They had the desire to know — something that is all too rare.

I still plan to return for my B.S. in mathematics.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

This video turned up on my Facebook feed, where a beautiful young girl makes the point, “Black people have scarier things on the horizon than the almost endangered species of white supremacy.”

So do people of every color.

As she points out, the media are still carrying on about what Pres. Trump said/didn’t say at a press conference three days ago.

Harry Stein states What Trump got right in the press conference:

Objecting to the tearing down of these monuments does not make one a Nazi, or a racist, or even passingly unreasonable, much as Trump’s adversaries wish it were so.

I was a student at the University of Georgia in the early 1970s. Jimmy Carter was governor and segregationist Lester Maddox his lieutenant governor.

I had transferred from the University of Puerto Rico with sketchy knowledge of the history of the South, but even then I realized that the Civil War, which caused 620,000 deaths on both sides, was America’s defining moment. The Civil War is worthy of study and reflection, and trying to wipe out unpleasantness by destroying any amount of public monuments will not erase that: “Our history doesn’t change when a monument is removed.”

The young girl in the video posits that the media is creating a narrative. I’m not sure who originated the narrative at this point, but I agree with her that the media is simulating a reality of sorts. Hours, days, of sundry talking heads opining about a press conference have priority over news such as

  1. Mike Pence’s official visits to Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama, the latter being cut short over the North Korea situation
  2. Colombia’s FARC official disarmament day while dissenting FARC factions fight government forces
  3. Russia arming Venezuela’s government in exchange for oil
  4. al-Qaeda taking territorial control in Syria
  5. and of course, yesterday’s terrorist attack in Spain.

The Guardian has the latest on item #4:

Hours after van killed 13 people and injured 100 in Las Ramblas, seaside town of Cambrils hit by second vehicle attack, leaving one dead and six wounded

Predictably, there’s a Trump-associated headline on this.

Journalism used to go by “if it bleeds, it leads.” Now so-called journalists are the ones deciding what bleeds where, and they’re bleeding Trump from every one of their pores.

Attention: See Da Tech Guy’s pinned post!

Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog

by baldilocks

It’s strange how mundane things can trigger memories. That happens to me here in my native Los Angeles whenever I drive on one of the connections between Interstate 5 and Interstate 110. The southbound 5 to southbound 110 transition is a little stretch of two lane highway which looks like it was carved into the hill next to it. Though it’s in the process of an upgrade, for decades it looked rickety enough to crumble with a good, trademark Southern California shaker.

But there it hangs, for at least as far back as I can recall. Trucks, buses, etc. have sat on it in traffic jams headed toward downtown LA – or to Dodger Stadium — for decades and probably are doing so as I type these words.

Many years ago, another vehicle had occasion to take this tiny stretch of highway: my great-uncle (1920-2000), great-aunt (1921-2012) and I would be on our way home from Lake Isabella and, when we hit that part, I knew we were close to home.

Among my mementos is an identical postcard.

My uncle had one of those pick-up trucks with a camper on the back; a nice one, big enough for three. (Do they still make those things?) We’d go over that road and, I, with a six-year-old’s a vivid imagination, would get the feeling that our truck was too big for the road and that we were going to fall off into some unknown abyss that waited for us. Fortunately, it takes about fifteen seconds–traffic willing—to run over this part of the freeway, so my morbid imaginings never had time to bloom into full-blown panic.

I used to get an inkling of that panic as I drove over the stretch, but now, the panic is gone and the sweet memories of a happy childhood remain. I’m very grateful for them.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel tentatively titled Arlen’s Harem, will be done one day soon! Follow her on Twitter and on Gab.ai.

Please contribute to Juliette’s JOB:  Her new novel, her blog, her Internet to keep the latter going and COFFEE to keep her going!

Or hit Da Tech Guy’s Tip Jar in the name of Independent Journalism!

I spent the last two weeks in the process of moving, and, while that was stressful and tiring, I was blissfully away from the news cycle.

Nothing like spending the entire day chipping away at the myriad tasks that come from A Big Move to bring you down to earth – along with a lot of boxes containing every thing you own.

By evening, you are so exhausted the last thing you want to do is listen to the news, IF you have cable. The only cable I watched was at the motel (since the furniture was coming the next day) on Sunday, when I was flipping channels and came across a segment of Game of Thrones were the blonde had the dragon incinerate a bunch of guys while the big guy from Black Sails watched on.

Which brings me to the subject of North Korea.

Since I’m now at home but the cable has not been connected, I read on my Facebook feed that North Korea is threatening attack. Facebook has, of course, sprouted ersatz expertise on Korea (North and South) overnight.

Certainly whatever the North Korean dictator wants to unchain will make the fictional dragon look like a Game, but there was another item in the news that I find more alarming: the Google censorship story.

Google fired James Damore, an engineer who wrote a memo dissenting on the company’s affirmative action policy, all in the name of diversity and inclusion.

The memo used to be online. Not anymore.

Considering the large reach Google has on how and what news is conveyed, the company’s actions may, in the long term, have as deleterious effect as North Korean dragons because we may never know whether Google’s newsfeed is conveying facts or PC pabulum.

The information age may be no more.

Attention: See Da Tech Guy’s pinned post!


Fausta Rodríguez Wertz writes on U. S. and Latin America at Fausta’s blog