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Skepticism surrounds resumption of nuclear talks with Iran

ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Talks between Iran and six world powers over its nuclear program resume here on Tuesday after a break of eight months, but there is a general atmosphere of gloom about their prospects for success, even if narrowly defined.

Since talks in Moscow last June, Iran has continued to increase its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity, has begun to install a new generation of centrifuges and has not yet completed an agreement on inspection of suspect military sites with the International Atomic Energy Agency, a deal originally advertised as all but done last May.

With presidential elections in Iran scheduled for June, senior Western diplomats involved with these talks expressed skepticism that Tehran’s chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, would be willing to make compromises that could be portrayed as weakness at home. Jalili is the personal representative of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, considered the dominant voice on the nuclear issue. Khamenei has recently expressed continued mistrust of the United States and its intentions, saying that he would not allow the kind of bilateral talks between Washington and Tehran that most analysts think would be crucial to any resolution.

At the same time, Iran has taken some of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium and converted it into reactor fuel, which cannot easily be turned back. The conversion means that Iran now has less of the uranium needed to make a bomb, reducing the sense of urgency among the six powers, and Israel, that its nuclear program needs to be slowed.

—Steven Erlanger, The New York Times

Academy Award show raises ratings and hackles

LOS ANGELES — Jewish, women’s and family organizations on Monday publicly flung knives at Seth MacFarlane’s off-color Oscar show. Hollywood for the most part stayed true to form and aimed its cutlery at his back.

Post-Oscar Monday found the movie capital coming to grips with a 3-hour, 35-minute ceremony that climbed in the ratings but at its best seemed to hide a great year for film behind a flurry of musical numbers, TV memories and Michelle Obama. At its worst, members of the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said, the ceremony trafficked in offensive humor.

“I think I’m a very liberal guy, but I actually winced,” said Lawrence Turman, an Academy member who is chairman of the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

He echoed criticism that a number of people in Hollywood voiced privately, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid complicating relations with the Academy and the show’s producers.

Turman, who described the producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, as longtime friends, referred specifically to a joke by MacFarlane about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Cathy Schulman, a producer who won a best picture Oscar in the past for “Crash” and is the president of the industry group Women in Film, took aim at a song-and-dance routine about female nudity in film. “Among the women I’ve talked to today I would say I haven’t heard from any who thought it was in good taste,” Schulman said. She expressed particular chagrin that the dance number poked fun at nudity, which is generally a difficult issue for actresses, in connection with performances that were often “wrenching and moving in many ways.”

But the ratings were good, and almost nothing counts for more where the Oscar enterprise is concerned. The show drew an average audience of 40.3 million viewers, up about 3 percent from last year, according to the Nielsen ratings service.

—Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes, The New York Times