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Ahmadinejad shifts spotlight to nuclear progress

CAIRO —Iran’s president boasted Thursday that his nation had the capacity to make weapons grade nuclear fuel if it chose to, in a speech designed to rally the nation as it marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

The president’s remarks, combined with the government’s apparently successful effort to prevent the opposition from once again hijacking a national holiday, seemed designed to send a message to the regime’s domestic and international critics that it remained in control, and defiantly so.

There were demonstrations and clashes between security forces and protesters across Iran, and state broadcasters seemingly cut away from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech early, apparently as chants of “death to the dictator” arose in the crowd. But the opposition failed to reach a critical mass on the street, and the sentiment among the protesters was that the government had won the battle this day.

E-book prices will rise, but some readers beg to differ

In the battle over the pricing of electronic books, publishers appear to have won the first round. The price of many new releases and best sellers is about to go up, to as much as $14.99 from $9.99.

But there may be an insurgency waiting to pounce: e-book buyers.

Over the last year, the most voracious readers of e-books have shown a reflexive hostility to prices higher than the $9.99 set by Amazon.com and other online retailers for popular titles.

When digital editions have cost more, or have been delayed until after the release of hardcover versions, these raucous readers have organized impromptu boycotts and gone to the Web sites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble to leave one-star ratings and negative comments for those books and their authors.

The angry commenters on Amazon and online message boards could just be a vocal minority. But now, with e-books scheduled to cost $12.99 to $14.99 under new deals that publishers negotiated with Apple and Amazon, a broader swath of customers may resist the new pricing. The higher prices will go into effect within the next few months.

Climate fight is heating up in deep freeze

WASHINGTON­ —As millions of people along the East Coast hole up in their snowbound homes, the two sides in the climate-change debate are seizing on the mounting drifts to bolster their arguments.

Skeptics of global warming are using the record-setting snows to mock those who warn of dangerous human-driven climate change — this looks more like global cooling, they taunt.

Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.

But some independent climate experts say the blizzards in the Northeast no more prove that the planet is cooling than the lack of snow in Vancouver or the downpours in Southern California prove that it is warming.

It is perhaps not coincidental that the snowstorm scuffle is playing out against a background of recent climate controversies: In recent months, global-warming critics have assailed a 2007 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and have claimed that e-mail messages and documents plucked from a server at a climate research center in Britain raise doubts about the integrity of some climate scientists. This week, Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators made light of the fact that the announcement of the creation of a new federal climate service on Monday had to be conducted by conference call, rather than news conference, because the federal government was shuttered by the snowstorm.

But climate scientists say that no single episode of severe weather can be blamed for global climate trends while noting evidence that such events will probably become more frequent as global temperatures rise.

Georgia schools inquiry finds signs of cheating

ATLANTA —Georgia education officials ordered investigations Thursday at 191 schools across the state where they found evidence of tampering on answer sheets for the state’s standardized achievement test.

The order came after an inquiry on cheating by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement raised red flags regarding one in five of Georgia’s 1,857 public elementary and middle schools. A large proportion of the schools were in Atlanta.

The inquiry flagged any school that had an abnormal number of erasures on answer sheets where the answers were changed from wrong to right, suggesting deliberate interference by teachers, principals or other administrators.

Experts said it could become one of the largest cheating scandals in the era of widespread standardized testing.

“This is the biggest erasure problem I’ve ever seen,” said Gregory J. Cizek, a testing expert at the University of North Carolina who has studied cheating. “This doesn’t suggest that it was just kids randomly changing their answers, it suggests a pattern of unethical behavior on the part of either kids or educators.”

Cizek praised Georgia for conducting the analysis.