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Iran praises nuclear talks with team from UN

Iran said Tuesday that a team of United Nations nuclear inspectors visiting since the weekend had concluded “constructive and positive” talks with Iranian officials, with further discussions planned at an unspecified date.

The Iranian appraisal of the talks, reported by the semiofficial Fars News Agency, said nothing about what was discussed or seen by the inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency in their three-day visit. Part of their aim was to discuss the agency’s concerns, as stated in its November report about Iran, that some Iranian nuclear work seemed military in nature.

The tone of the Iranian description of the visit suggested that Iran, which has previously called the agency a stooge of U.S. bullying, was seeking to portray itself as flexible and accommodating to the inspectors in the face of the tightening vise of Western sanctions over the country’s nuclear program.

On Monday, Iran’s foreign minister even invited the team members to stay longer, and it was unclear why they did not.

“The atmosphere of the talks was constructive and positive,” Fars said, quoting an unidentified person. It said both sides had “reached agreement on the continuation of these talks.”

—Rick Gladstone, The New York Times

Bill to prohibit congressional insider trading advances

WASHINGTON — In an effort to regain public trust, the Senate voted Monday to take up a bill that would prohibit members of Congress from trading stocks and other securities on the basis of confidential information they receive as lawmakers.

The vote was 93-2.

Senators of both parties said the bill was desperately needed at a time when the public approval rating of Congress had sunk below 15 percent.

“The American public has no confidence in Congress,” said Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who introduced an earlier version of the legislation.

At the same time, Democratic senators moved to tap into concerns about comparatively low tax rates paid by some of the nation’s top earners, introducing a bill that would require households with more than $1 million of adjusted gross income to pay at least 30 percent of it in taxes.

—Robert Pear and Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times

As tornado season begins, Alabama focuses on warnings

CENTER POINT, Ala. — The sound of a tornado ripping off Sheila Wright’s roof shook her out of a deep sleep early on Jan. 23. She and her three children had gone to bed without knowing that a storm was about to bear down on their neighborhood near Birmingham.

Last April, 248 people died in Alabama in a single day when more than 60 tornadoes hit. Meteorologists blamed the weather pattern known as La Nina. Now, with a similar but less intense chapter of the La Nina cycle bringing early storms, residents are looking to the skies with more wariness.

And like Wright, they realize that they have to make use of whatever warning systems they can.

“You just don’t think these things are going to come down anytime,” she said. “I’m going to have to watch the news all the time now.”

Officials are urging residents to do more than watch television. Residents of storm-prone states should rely on weather radios specifically designed to monitor government alerts, as well as on smartphones and other technology, to keep on top of potentially deadly storms.

—Kim Severson, The New York Times