Monday, February 7, 2011

Late afternoon news briefs: Guardian reporter kicked out of Russia; Google Middle East executive finally freed

The Guardian's Moscow correspondent has been kicked out of Russia. Luke Harding has been expelled for what looks like retaliation for The Guardian's printing of WikiLeaks cables that said that Vladimir Putin's state has become a "virtual mafia state", according to a post on the the British daily's website.

The paper reported that Harding was refused entry into the country after having flown to Moscow this weekend. After having his passport checked he was informed that "For you Russia is closed" -- sounds like a scene from a movie.

"This is clearly a very troubling development with serious implications for press freedom, and it is worrying that the Russian government should now kick out reporters of whom they disapprove," Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is quoted as saying. "Russia's treatment of journalists – both domestic and foreign – is a cause of great concern. We are attempting to establish further details, and are in contact with the Foreign Office."

I hope everyone saw the headline in the Short Takes area today: Google Middle East marketing executive Wael Ghonim was released by the Egyptian authorities earlier today after begin missing for the past ten days.

Ghonim tweeted his recent: "Freedom is a bless that deserves fighting for it."

The WSJ reported that efforts had been made this weekend to lobby newly named vice president Omar Suleiman for his release.

Ghonim is reported to be unharmed from his ordeal.

An Amazon Kindle blog post previews some of the changes we can expect in the next software update for the popular e-reader. They include public notes, real page numbers, ratings and new newspaper and magazine layouts.

Current Kindle owners can manually download the software update (here), but all users will get notified once it becomes generally available (what the difference?).

If you own a Kindle it would be really nice, I mean really very nice, if you would subscribe to Talking New Media. The Talking New Media Kindle Edition will set you back $1.99 per month, but you get 14 days for free. But hey, it's a better way to support TNM than opening up a PayPal account, right?

The stock market is up today, but AOL is down a little over three percent following its announcement that it had gobbled up The Huffington Post. I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise, the buying company usually sees its stock fall following a purchase announcement.

Verizon customers are apparently already starting to receive their new iPhones. New customers will be able to order their phones starting on Thursday. Spreading out all those iPhone customers, notoriously data hungry, is probably a good idea.

But all those Verizon iPhone owners will also be iTunes App Store customers. That means even more customers for those iOS media apps. It will be interesting to see what the impact will be, if any.

There is nothing like a Super Bowl game to drive web traffic and commenting by readers. Ask the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: their live blog had over 900 comments on it through today -- not too many compared to a site like The Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington's own post about the sale to AOL currently has over 4,100 comments on it. But still, not bad for the Journal-Sentinel.