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News Briefs

Iran’s Reform Party To Boycott Elections Next Month


Iran’s leading reform party announced on Monday that it would boycott the parliamentary elections this month. The boycott was announced one day after more than a third of the Parliament’s members resigned to protest a ban on hundreds of reformist candidates.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, the party leader and younger brother of President Mohammad Khatami, said that his Islamic Iran Participation Front had decided by a large majority not to take part in the poll.

“We have no hope that free and legal elections will be held on Feb. 20,” he said at a news conference. “Therefore, it is impossible for the Participation Front to take part in the elections under current circumstances.”

The tension between reformist supporters of Khatami, who control Parliament, and their hard-line opponents has been building since early January, when nearly half of the 8,200 people who had filed as candidates were rejected by the conservative 12-member Guardian Council.

FCC Investigates Halftime Show


The exposure of Janet Jackson’s right breast by Justin Timberlake during a risque halftime concert at the Super Bowl in Houston led to apologies by CBS and MTV executives on Monday, and a call by the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to investigate.

Michael Powell, the FCC chairman, called Jackson’s display a “classless, crass and deplorable stunt.” The commission could impose fines of $27,500 for each CBS-owned station and affiliate. Both CBS and MTV are divisions of Viacom.

Judy McGrath, the group president of MTV Networks, said, “We have deeply apologized to CBS, to the viewers, and to the NFL” She called what happened “a renegade mistake by a performer” and said that MTV, the producer of the halftime show, was not taking the FCC investigation cavalierly. She added, “We absolutely, unequivocally, did not know this thing was going to happen.”

At a White House press briefing on Monday, a reporter asked if President Bush had any criticism or comments. Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said: “Well, one, I think the FCC has already said that they’re looking into the matter. I think our view is that it’s important for families to be able to expect a high standard when it comes to programming.”

Prosecutors Set Stage for Key Witness Against Stewart


Prosecutors in the trial of Martha Stewart sought to prepare the stage on Monday for the testimony of a key witness, while her lawyers tried to undermine the anticipated testimony through their questioning of other government witnesses.

The testimony of Douglas Faneuil, an assistant to Stewart’s stock broker and co-defendant, Peter Bacanovic, is expected to be pivotal in the government’s case. Faneuil is expected to tell the jury about what Stewart learned from whom before she sold shares she held in ImClone Systems in late December 2001, soon before the company announced that a much-anticipated drug had run into serious regulatory obstacles. Stewart does not face a charge of criminal insider trading, but she is charged with lying to investigators about her decision to sell her stock.

The presiding judge, Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, announced Monday morning that Faneuil would most likely testify on Tuesday afternoon.