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Probe: October 17, 2001

October 17, 2001

QUESTION: I was in Yuma this week and everybody was talking about a 12-year-old boy with anthrax. Check this out. — Concerned, El Centro

What we found out is folks are jittery about bioterrorism in Yuma — and some sickos may be taking advantage of the anxiety.

We called the Yuma Daily Sun to see if it knew anything about a boy infected with anthrax. It didn't. The Sun's big anthrax story concerned "suspicious" letters.

Last week the Yuma County Sheriff's Office got one such letter. That was disposed of quickly. On Monday the KYMA-TV station opened a letter with white powder and "got excited."

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The authorities came by, looked at the envelope and quarantined the KYMA office with the staff in it. That was of some interest to the Sun because a Sun reporter and photographer covering the story were locked up with the KYMA staffers.

After a couple hours, according to Joyce Lobeck, the Sun's features editor, "they washed them up and sent them home."

Lobeck didn't know if the powder contained anthrax spores or was just a benign powder. If we find out, we'll let you know.

QUESTION: Why do you keep "blowing off" the person informing the authorities about somebody buying liquid oxygen or nitrogen?

Every day we are told to report suspicious activity to the authorities and be aware of what's going on around us. We've been trusting too long and now we're forced to be suspicious.

A report to any law enforcement should suffice any day in the week. Do you have a crystal ball as to when something is going to happen? Just because a weekend passes does not mean it's too late to check. — Concerned Reader, E-mail

Our point was the reader e-mailed PROBE but never called the cops. If you see something suspicious, call the cops first and then e-mail us. We called the Sheriff's Office, the agency in charge of Niland and the surrounding area. Sheriff Harold Carter had not heard of any suspicious character pricing liquid oxygen or nitrogen.

By the time the we got around to calling Carter, the suspicious character probably was long gone. We haven't heard anything since.

QUESTION: I am a widow, 75, and my house is falling down. My electric bill is extremely high. The house needs repair but I don't have the money. Friends tell me I can get help from the government to repair it. I live outside the city limits of Holtville. How do I apply? — Need Help, Holtville

Call the Imperial County Community and Economic Development office (337-7814), or better yet, stop by at 836 Main St. in El Centro.

There is a waiting list and not much money available, but sign up now so you'll be close to the head of the list when more money comes in next year.

If you qualify, and if there is money available, you could borrow up to $45,000 to rehabilitate your house. The interest rate will be 3 to 4 percent.

At your age, you may qualify for a deferred payment plan, meaning your payment will be lower than the amount needed to pay off your loan.

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