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Microsoft Joins Forces With AT&T LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SEATTLE

By agreeing to invest $5 billion in AT&T Corp., Microsoft Corp. has bought itself the rights not only to put its Windows CE software in digital set-top boxes but also to play a central role in building the infrastructure required to offer e-mail, Internet access and other services through television sets, according to details of the agreement announced Thursday.

Under the deal, Microsoft will buy 100 million AT&T preferred shares at $50 each and get three-year warrants to buy 40 million common shares at $75 each. If Microsoft exercises the options, it will have a 3 percent stake in AT&T.

In exchange, AT&T will install Microsoft’s Windows CE in 2.5 million to 5 million cable TV boxes. The agreement comes on top of a previous agreement between Microsoft and TCI (now owned by AT&T) to put Windows CE on 5 million set-top boxes.

AT&T has also agreed to use Microsoft’s Windows NT server software to handle such critical “back end” functions as billing and e-mail in major deployments of digital cable television in three cities by next summer. Microsoft will work exclusively with AT&T to develop the systems in a large and small city while the two companies will also work with alternative providers in a third city.

Researchers Discovery of Gene May Build Better Anti-Bacteria Arsenal LOS ANGELES TIMES -- Researchers say they have identified a gene that could make possible inexpensive, powerful vaccines or new antibiotics against the bacteria that cause food poisoning, plague, cholera, dysentery and syphilis.

The discovery comes at a time when a growing number of infectious agents are becoming resistant to humankind’s arsenal of anitbiotics.

Geneticist Michael J. Mahan and his colleagues at the University of California, Santa Barbara, report in Friday’s edition of Science that Salmonella bacteria carry a gene called “Dam” that serves as an on/off switch for a variety of weapons used by the bacterium to produce disease when it infects humans.

Bacteria lacking the gene do not cause disease, they found, but stimulate a strong immune response, making them ideal ingredients for a vaccine.

Mice immunized with the Salmonella mutant were, without exception, able to withstand massive injections of disease-producing bacteria.

An estimated 2 million to 4 million cases of food poisoning are produced each year in the United States by such bacteria and a safe, effective vaccine could reduce that number virtually to zero.

Worldwide, these and other bacteria cause 17 million deaths annually, more than three times the number caused by cancer.