President Puts Words (And Cupcakes) in Helen Thomas’s Mouth

President Obama dropped by the White House briefing room this afternoon to present a plate of cupcakes to Helen Thomas, the Hearst News Service columnist who turns 89 today and has covered the White House since 1961. (More of that "pattern of controlling the press"?) If you thought the White House press corps would go easy on Obama...

FT Bosses Launch PR Offensive For Paid-Content Model

Not content with its position as the only UK newspaper to successfully monetise its online content to at least some of its audience, executives from Financial Times have been busy telling the world that charging for news does work and that it’s a big mistake for other newspapers to think otherwise. Editor Lionel Barber (pictured) tells Channel 4 in an interview (embedded after the jump) that there is now “an inexorable momentum behind charging for content” and he urges other national papers only considering introducing paywalls—essentially all of them—to act now: “What I would say to the competition and to the rest of the world is that it’s getting late. If we move now we can assure ourselves of a prosperous future.”

He continues: “The biggest mistake the news industry made came around ten years ago when we were seduced into believing that information was free… We should have said ‘no: information has a price, it’s valuable and therefore it should be charged for.” Unlike his fellow editors and news execs, Barber doesn’t blame Google (NSDQ: GOOG) or the BBC for newspapers’ woes—he’s more regretful that newspapers, including the FT, haven’t figured out how to charge earlier on.

Ridding talks: Meanwhile Barber’s boss, FT CEO John Ridding, was busy telling Guardian.co.uk’s resident press blogger Roy Greenslade that the FT now makes one fifth of its profits from its website, compared to 17 percent in 2007. Greenslade reports, citing sources, that the FT itself made a profit. Ridding doesn’t confirm that but he joined with Barber in going easy on the Big G: “I don’t think all the media industry’s woes should be laid at Google’s door… (That) concern does show media’s over-reliance on advertising.”

FT bookmarks: Ramping up its incentives for paying subscribers, the FT today announces its own online bookmarking system, clippings.ft.com. All registered users can keep an online library of stories and share them—but only paying subscribers can add non-FT content.

Related

Art Brodsky: Internet Protection Fight Starts in Washington — Don’t Just Sit There

The Huffington Post exists because the Internet exists as a way for you, yes you, to read what you want without interference from the Internet Service Provider you're using to get you here. The Internet exists today so that the video on the HuffPo site runs the same as the video on, say, the Talking Points Memo site, or Bill O'Reilly's site.

This all works at the moment out of the goodness of the hearts of those ISPs - the telephone, cable and wireless companies. There is no legal requirement that they do so over high-speed, broadband networks. Now there is the glimmer that situation might change for the better.

The Obama Administration has been talking about an open Internet for months. Before that, the Obama campaign made it a centerpiece of a technology platform. Now, finally, the idea is getting some traction, and it's about time.

Julius Genachowski, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has only been in office since June 29, and in that time he's mostly been busy choosing heads for the Commission bureaus and finding senior staff while sorting through the responsibilities Congress gave the Commission to come up with a broadband plan.

So it's a great sign of things to come that one of the first actions of the Genachowski era that the Commission took of its own accord was to call some official attention to the fact that Apple was keeping Google's new Google Voice application off the shelves of the iPhone App Store. A New York Times story on July 28 reported that Apple had rejected two Google apps, including Google Voice. Letters from the FCC to Apple, to Google, and, interestingly, to AT&T, were sent out late July 31. That's warp speed for a government action.

The FCC wanted to know why Apple rejected the Voice application, and whether AT&T, the exclusive purveyor of the iPhone in the U.S., had anything to do with it, and what other applications have been rejected. The answers are due back to the Commission on Aug. 21.

Nothing like this could have conceivably taken place in the past eight years. The hands-off, consumer-be-damned policies of the past were firmly embedded in the psyches of the FCC appointees. Now, the concept of an open network has established at least a small foothold. Granted, there are lots of openness issues still floating around at the Commission. Skype has complained that AT&T will allow use of the Skype service on a wi-fi connection with the iPhone, but not over AT&T's own 3G service. Similarly, EchoStar has had its video-streaming Slingbox application blocked by AT&T. EchoStar said it was encouraged by the Commission action.

The fact that the Commission is making inquiries about the Apple exclusion should send the proper signal through the industry that a new day is starting to dawn, albeit slowly, at the FCC. Just as the fact that the complaint against Comcast for blocking BitTorrent was a signal to the cable industry about what is acceptable behavior, the right response from the Commission on the Apple action will transmit a much wider message than one simple app rejection on one phone over one service.

AT&T might view Google Voice as part of its mandate that its vendors not "facilitate the business of our competitors." The issue is much larger and it goes to what had been the fundamental principle of open networks.

The Commission hasn't yet become involved, but it appears that Apple is trying to keep Palm's new Pre phone from accessing the Apple store. This, too, might cause some heartburn with regulators and antitrust enforcers.

Meanwhile, the silence on open networks was equally deafening on Capitol Hill. The new chairman of the House Communications Committee, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), hasn't listed it high on his agenda. So two of the Internet's true champions, Reps. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), introduced their own bill, HR 3458, the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009.

It was introduced late on July 31 in the hours just before the House went out for its summer break/district work period. The bill embodies the principles of non-discrimination and openness that would bring the Internet out from under the threatened and actual control of the telephone and cable companies and back to the principles on which the Internet was founded. It recognizes the limited competition in the broadband market, and would forbid carriers from blocking or degrading service, or prioritizing traffic for a competitive advantage.

Together, the actions of the FCC and the introduction of the bill in Congress signal that the future of the Internet is now in play in the Washington policy arena. It's game on. With members of Congress in their home districts for the "district work period" that this is a good time to let them know that Net Neutrality and the future of the Internet is something about which you care, and as a result, it is something about which your members of Congress should care as well.

Just remember - the other side never gives up. They will fight this bill. They will fight any rule the FCC comes up with. They are already fighting to keep confidential the information on broadband deployment the government is trying to collect through the stimulus law. That's right - after the law is passed, they still keep fighting and protesting. That's the way of Washington. Nothing ever ends, and it's usually the industry with the time, money and lobbyists to carry the fight on for as long as they can.

Take advantage of the summer and spread the message. This is not simply about the Internet-activist Netroots. This is about students and businessmen and musicians and artists and writers and mechanics in small towns and urban centers, and everyone else who wants and need a free and open Internet. Now is the time to start speaking up. We'll let you know when it's time to stop.



Iraqi Confesses To Rape, Murder Of Journalist Atwar Bahjat

The man accused of murdering an Iraqi journalist has confessed to raping her before killing her, Al Arabiya reports.

TV presenter Atwar Bahjat was kidnapped in 2006 along with her cameraman Adnan Abdallah and sound engineer Khaled Mohsen while working for Al Arabiya in Iraq.

Yasser al-Takhi and his two brothers Mahmoud and Ghazwan confessed in a televised Iraqi army press conference after their arrest in southern Iraq, according to Al Arabiya.

Yasser al-Takhi said that he, his brothers and a driver, kidnapped the news team and drove them down a side street where Abdallah and Mohsen were shot and he raped and killed Bahjat.

AFP reports that Takhi was a member of the Iraqi group responsible for the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq.

Al Arabiya's head of media, Nasser al-Sirami, thanked the Iraqi security forces for investigating the rape and murders.

247 media workers, many of whom were Iraqi, have been killed since the US invasion, AFP reports.



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Christiane Amanpour Schools Kyra Phillips Over Helen Thomas Comment (VIDEO)

Christiane Amanpour offered Kyra Phillips a history lesson when she questioned whether Helen Thomas could remain objective about President Obama after he surprised her with birthday cupcakes, a song, and a kiss Tuesday afternoon.

"How is she gonna cover the President objectively here, when he came out, sat next to her, gave her a smooch, cupcakes?" Phillips said.

"I'm gonna make a comment on what you said," Amanpour told Phillips. "I'm going to refer you all the way back to the Nixon administration when he came out in the press room and congratulated her on being named the first female dean of the White House press corps. And she had no problem continuing to be highly objective, and responded respectfully by asking him a very tough question on the ongoing Watergate affair. So I think Helen Thomas has definitely earned her stripes in the credibility department."

Watch:


North Korea Pardons Current TV Journalists

Great news! Former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il today has resulted in Kim pardoning the two Current TV journalist who have been detained there since they were arrested in March for trespassing, according to reports. Laura Ling and Euna Lee had been convicted and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in June, though they reportedly did not actually serve in labor camps.

Kim gave the journalists a “special pardon” after Clinton apologized for Ling and Lee’s “hostile acts.”

Clinton, though his wife Hillary is currently U.S. secretary of state, was not on an official government mission, and brought no one from the U.S. government along. However the U.S. was fully aware of his visit, and Clinton and Kim apparently had a “wide-ranging exchange of views on the matters of common concern,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. It’s not clear if the two made any progress on denuclearization issues, but apparently Clinton, as the most senior American official to visit North Korea since Madeleine Albright in 2000, was enough to sway Kim on the issue of the two journalists.

Ling and Lee may leave North Korea within the next day, according to reports.


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