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News briefs

Scientists Find Huge Bacterium In Tropical Fish Belly

Newsday

Now topping the list of odd characters found in strange places is a bacterium -- the biggest ever -- that hides deep in the intestines of a tropical fish, scientists said Wednesday.

In the world of microbes, Epulopiscium fishelsoni is a whopper, about a million times bigger than the average-sized bacterium E. coli found in human intestines. The fish bacterium lives exclusively in the innards of surgeonfish in tropical regions such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

The bacterium is about 600 micrometers long, 80 micrometers wide, and is visible to the naked eye, said the team of Australian and American scientists. The next closest bacterium in size is about one-third as long, and skinnier yet. An inch equals 30,000 micrometers.

The creature is extraordinarily interesting, the scientists said, because no one guessed bacteria could be that big.

The find was reported in the journal Nature Wednesday by biologists Esther Angert and Norman Pace at Indiana University, and marine biologist Kendall Clements at the James Cook University in Australia.

The discovery of the huge microbe means that "bacterial cells are more complicated than we thought they were," Angert said in a telephone interview. "There is a general belief that bacterial cells are very simple -- just a sack of enzymes -- with no subcellular organization."

Marine biologist Mitchell Sogin, at the Woods Hole Marine Biology Laboratory in Massachusetts, said the find "underscores the point that micro-organisms that can't be cultured in the laboratory are probably stranger and more diverse than we think -- or maybe stranger even than we can think."

FBI Castigates Koresh as Sole Cause of Continuing Siege

Los Angeles Times

WACO, Texas

Federal agents castigated cult leader David Koresh Thursday as the sole cause of the continuing siege of his fortified compound, describing him as irrational and incapable of intelligent conversation.

Koresh has caused every opportunity of ending the standoff to "vaporize in front of us," said FBI agent Bob Ricks.

The federal authorities said three buses had been driven to the Branch Davidian compound Wednesday, when they believed that as many as 30 people were about to come out. But the buses returned empty after another futile phone conversation with Koresh.

"As we pressed for a firm commitment, he gave a thinly veiled excuse and said he had to go to the restroom," said Ricks. "He never came back to the phone."

During a raid Feb. 28, four Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents were killed and 16 others were injured trying to execute a search warrant for possible illegal weapons in the compound. Ricks said he had come to believe that Koresh not only wants to die, but also take a number of his followers with him.

"We believe Koresh would like to see a lot of people die, which would be justification of his (scriptural) pronouncements," Ricks said. Koresh has in the past preached that he and a number of his followers would be killed in a major conflagration.

Ricks also said neither Koresh nor any of his followers expressed any fear about another major gunbattle. Rather, Koresh's followers had fallen so much under his spell that religion was the only thing that mattered.

"Those inside do not express fear of being in a firefight," said Ricks. "Any fear they express is about losing their eternal souls."

Ricks said the negotiations were like a "dueling contest between various Bible scholars. The challenge is to prove that David is wrong, which of course is an impossible task."

Weather

Signs of Spring?

By Marek Zebrowski
staff meteorologist

Although a quick look out the window into the frozen landscape may indicate a typical January morning, astronomically speaking at least, Spring will arrive on Saturday at 9:41 a.m. An arctic high, responsible for abnormally frigid weather will slowly move northeastward and, with strong solar heating will allow the air mass to warm up to more seasonable temperatures during the day on Saturday. Is warm weather on the way then? Alas, not quite -- as a disturbance from the Great Lakes will approach late on Saturday spreading some high clouds before the sunset and then bringing light (and possibly mixed) precipitation for Sunday. The early part of next week looks tranquil and perhaps even more temperate, yet the warm weather gear can still be safely stowed away, as no unusual warm-up is in sight.

Friday: Clear and very cold early, temperatures in mid-teens (-10C) at sunrise will steadily climb, reaching a high of 36F (2C) under brilliantly blue and sunny skies. Light northerly winds will begin drifting to the northeast.

Friday night: clear and still very cold with temperatures bottoming out in low 20s (-5C) in Boston and teens in the suburbs to the north and west. Winds will remain light.

Saturday: Clear early, then increasing high clouds late in the day. Highs in mid 40s (7C). Winds light and variable, gradually turning through southeast to southwest.

Sunday outlook: Cloudy with some light sprinkles or flurries with highs around 40F (4C).