Borrowing a page from Apple's strategy, Verizon Communications has begun to open Verizon Experience stores at malls in areas where it is introducing its FiOS fiber-optic systems to compete with cable and satellite providers. Like the Apple stores, which now number 147, the Verizon Experience stores are designed to allow potential customers to operate products that are enhanced by the high-speed capability of fiber-optic cable. "This is a place where you can touch and feel and see it all, and it's all under one roof," Verizon Wireless spokesman John Johnson told the Associated Press Tuesday. Only two stores have opened thus far, one in Fairfax, VA and the other in Southlake,TX, a suburb of Dallas. (A.P. observed that during a recent afternoon, the Fairfax, VA store had more staff than customers.)


With Western newsmen rarely able to venture outside the protected Green Zone in Baghdad, the U.S. TV networks are increasingly relying on freelance Iraqi cameramen to bring them pictures of what is happening in the continuing conflict in that country. On the NBC News blog, correspondent Richard Engel wrote Tuesday about receiving footage from Baqouba, where large parts of the city have fallen to "al-Qaida-inspired Sunni militants." Engel reported that the cameraman who took the footage had surreptitiously attempted to film a parade of gunmen marching in the city to show their power but was spotted by one of them who ordered him to pull over, demanded that he turn over his camera, then blindfolded him and stuffed him into the trunk of a car. When the cameraman's blindfold was removed, he told Engel, he found himself "sitting in front of leaders, all of them wearing masks. One leader asked me, 'Who are you and where do you work?' I told him I am a freelance journalist and that I film and then try to sell the tapes in Baghdad. If I had said I worked with NBC News or any American network I would have been killed on the spot. ... Eventually, they agreed to let me go, and told me I should come with them and film the rest of their parade. ... There were no police on the streets. They had just killed a policeman. His body was still in the car where they shot him. There are no more journalists working in Baqouba."