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    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    CNN - Health care reform anger takes a nasty, violent turn

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    Health care reform anger takes a nasty, violent turn

    Shots fired at a congressman's campaign headquarters. Windows smashed at Democratic offices across the country. A coffin placed on a lawmaker's lawn. Hate-filled voice mail messages left on members of Congress' phone lines.

    Those are just some of the incidents reported since the House passed historic health care reform legislation Sunday -- a bill that became the law of the land.

    The issue has unleashed a deep-seated anger from those worried about a government takeover of health care, and what they deem as the process being "rammed through" Congress.

    James Leach, with the National Endowment for the Humanities, said that while many of the acts may be protected under First Amendment rights, "that doesn't mean that they're morally justified."

    "And we have to think of ourselves as, 'what kind of people are we?' " Leach said. "Are we one people working together with rival thoughts, or are we enemies within? And I think there's something that's been let loose in American politics that has to be thought about."

    That anger was visible in unruly protests by health care activists at the Capitol over the weekend.

    Republican House members encouraged protesters outside and inside the House gallery, some of whom carried messages like "Vote no or else" or "If Brown won't stop it, a Browning will" -- a reference to newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown accompanied by a silhouette of a pistol.

    But the anger has boiled over into physical and verbal threats. Windows have been smashed at Democratic offices in at least three states, and federal agents are investigating whether a cut gas line at the home of a Virginia congressman's brother was related to the lawmaker's yes vote.

    Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, confirmed Thursday that his district office in Queens received an envelope containing white powder and a threatening letter.

    Later Thursday, Weiner told CNN that initial tests indicated the powder was not a biological agent, but that he still was awaiting final word from the New York Police Department. Workers at the office turned over their clothes for testing and were given protective suits before being allowed to go home a few hours later, Weiner said.

    The FBI and other law enforcement agencies are now looking into the threats, and at least 10 House Democrats have been given extra security.

    The voice mail has been vicious toward Michigan's Bart Stupak, who switched his vote to seal the deal for the bill. He has released one of the voice mails.

    "Stupak, you are a lowlife, baby-murdering scumbag, pile of steaming crap. You're a cowardly punk, Stupak, that's what you are. You and your family are scum," an unidentified caller said. "That's what you are, Stupak. You are a piece of crap."

    "Go to hell, you piece of [expletive deleted]" another caller said.

    On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan of Missouri had a coffin placed on his lawn, said his spokeswoman, Sarah Howard. She said Tea Party protesters at his office in St. Louis had a coffin with them and later brought it to his house. The coffin was later removed, she said.

    Democratic congressional leaders have demanded Republicans join them in condemning a spate of threats and vandalism that has followed Sunday's vote on the health care system overhaul.

    The top Republican in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, condemned the threats and vandalism, telling reporters Thursday that it "should not be part of a political debate."

    "There are ways for people to channel their anger, and they should do it in a constructive way," he said.

    Liz Mair, a Republican consultant, said protesters "are unfortunately crossing a line."

    "When we're talking about violence, vandalism, threats, that crosses a legal line, in addition to being in plain old bad taste," Mair said. "And I think that there's a lot that is in plain old bad taste that is going on."

    Democrats aren't the only ones being targeted.

    Rep. Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, said Thursday that a bullet had been fired through a window at his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia.

    A Richmond police spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that a bullet was fired at the congressman's office. "We are investigating the circumstance surrounding it," spokeswoman Karla Peters said.

    Cantor also said that he had received threatening messages but that he would not publicly release the messages out of concern that doing so would only incite further violence.

    He also accused Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland -- a member of the Democratic House leadership -- of "fanning the flames" of violence by using threats that have been made against Democratic members "as political weapons."

    "Enough is enough," Cantor said. "It has to stop."

    Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse hit back against Cantor's claims.

    "We disagree with the charge made by Rep. Cantor today that Democrats are using acts of violence for political gain," he said. "Let's be clear: Calling on Republican leaders who have contributed in part to this anger by wildly mischaracterizing the substance and motives of health reform to condemn these acts is entirely appropriate."

    Another Republican -- Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida -- said in a news release Thursday that she received what appeared to be a death threat on her district office's voice mail.

    "Just wanna let you know I have 27 people that are going to make sure that this b**** does not live to see her next term. Goodbye," the voice mail said, according to the release.

    Brown-Waite said she contacted both the Capitol Police and the Hernando County sheriff, and they are "looking into the matter and subpoenaing telephone records."

    At least one of the threats aimed at lawmakers appears to be racially based.

    House Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn, who is African-American, said he has received a fax in his office with a picture of a noose drawn on it and had threatening telephone calls at his home.

    "We're giving aid and comfort to these people, and this stuff gets ratcheted up," Clyburn told CNN. "We in this Congress have got to come together in a bipartisan way and tamp this foolishness down. It doesn't make sense. That's not what a democracy is all about."

    Democratic officials and liberal Web sites are also upset that Sarah Palin used an image of crosshairs in a Facebook post this week listing 20 vulnerable Democrats who voted for the legislation. She plans to target them this election year with money from her political action committee.

    Palin's team is fighting claims that she is encouraging threats of violence. One House member mentioned her Facebook posting during a Wednesday meeting on safety concerns, a Democratic source told CNN's Dana Bash. Mention of the map brought audible groans to the room, the source said.

    An adviser to Palin responded by pointing to several instances in which the former Alaska governor has urged supporters to focus their energies on civil debate and action at the ballot box, not extremist activities.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Reuters - Nintendo to launch 3D-capable DS in 2010/11

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    Nintendo to launch 3D-capable DS in 2010/11

    Tuesday, Mar 23, 2010 12:43PM UTC

    TOKYO (Reuters) - Nintendo Co plans to launch a new model of its DS handheld game console that allows users to play three-dimensional (3D) games without using special glasses, aiming to reinvigorate demand for the five year old machine.

    The Japanese company said the new portable player, tentatively named "Nintendo 3DS," will be able to play titles created for previous DS models and will be launched in the financial year starting in April.

    Nintendo, which competes with Sony Corp and Microsoft Corp

    in video games, declined to give details such as price and launch dates, but said more information will be announced at the E3 video game trade show in Los Angeles in June.

    "This will certainly stimulate demand for the DS," Rakuten Securities analyst Yasuo Imanaka said.

    "But, we need to keep in mind that this is a portable machine. If you expect the kind of full-blown 3D visuals shown on TVs or in movie theatres, you could be disappointed."

    Sony plans to release 3D titles for its PlayStation 3 game console in time for the planned release of its 3D TVs in June. That game console can be upgraded to become 3D-capable using a software update.

    Electronics makers and software creators have high hopes that growing interest in 3D movies, sparked by the sci-fi blockbuster "Avatar" and other recent titles, will drive sales of their 3D-capable hardware and software contents.

    Nintendo has sold more than 125 million units of the DS worldwide, but the company expects unit sales of the dual-screen machine to fall 4 percent in the year ending March 31, its first ever decline in annual sales.

    Ahead of the announcement, shares in Nintendo closed up 0.3 percent at 27,970 yen on Tuesday, outperforming the Nikkei average, which slid 0.5 percent.

    (Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Rupert Winchester)

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Reuters - AT&T to sell Palm, Dell smartphones

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    AT&T to sell Palm, Dell smartphones

    Monday, Mar 22, 2010 3:21PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc will start selling Palm Inc's mobile phones in a few months, Palm said on Monday, as it looks to expand distribution and raise consumer awareness of its phones.

    Palm's stock has suffered amid questions over its ability to survive in a tough market dominated by bigger rivals [ID:n19165207], but its shares rose 5 percent to $4.21 in morning Nasdaq trading.

    Palm said its Palm Pre Plus and Palm Pixi Plus will be available in AT&T stores "in the coming months," for $149.99 and $49.99, respectively, with a two-year service contract, and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

    Separately, AT&T said it also will soon unveil Dell Inc's first smartphone available in the United States, the Aero. The Aero is based on Google's Android mobile operating system.

    Dell's smartphone was formally announced late last year and is currently available only in China and Brazil. Dell is making a big push into communication devices as its core personal computer business struggles.

    AT&T is the No. 2 U.S. mobile service.

    (Reporting by Franklin Paul, additional reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek)

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Reuters - New York food trucks turn to Twitter

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    New York food trucks turn to Twitter

    Friday, Mar 19, 2010 11:45PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Whether it's fomenting revolution or telling people what you had for breakfast microblogging service Twitter seems to have it all.

    Now, New York City's enterprising mobile food vendors are using the instant messaging website to help their hoards of hungry followers stay tuned to their favorite delicacies.

    Kim Ima, owner of the Treats Truck, which serves up caramel creme sandwiches, sugar cookies with icing, and other diet busting delights, uses Twitter to stay in touch with her 3,000 fans.

    "For someone like Kim with St. Patrick's Day Parade on Wednesday, she wasn't sure if she was going to park here. So with Twitter she was able to provide location updates and we knew where to find her," said customer EJ Cory.

    Twitter allows users to enter messages from a computer or mobile phone, which are instantly transmitted to other users who choose to read their "tweets."

    The service riles some, who say it encourages people to post irrelevant details about their daily lives, such as what they had for breakfast.

    There are about 3,000 licensed food vending trucks in New York City, according The Street Vendor Project, representing a sizable niche for Twitter.

    Kenny Lao parks his Rickshaw Dumpling truck next to the Treats Truck most Fridays. He has been tweeting since his truck first hit the streets for business and says Twitter is an ideal tool to keep in touch with his 5,000 followers.

    "People really depend on us to be at certain locations on every day of the week and they get super-duper excited for dumpling day and this is the best way for us to tell them," he said.

    Twitter, founded in 2006, is free for its millions of users and its founders are still trying to turn the loss-making enterprise into a cash cow.

    Last year Twitter hit the headlines for the role it played in helping demonstrators in Iran organize anti-government protests. The White House famously asked Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance during the protests so demonstrators could stay connected.

    (Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Eric Beech)

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Reuters - Drive a Porsche? Up your status with a phone

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    Drive a Porsche? Up your status with a phone

    Wednesday, Mar 17, 2010 11:50AM UTC

    SINGAPORE (Reuters) - As if a Porsche isn't enough of a status symbol, the German luxury sports car company's subsidiary, Porsche Design, is marketing a mobile phone that's exclusive to Porsche owners.

    The Porsche Design P'9522 BLACK, the latest in the company's series of mobile phones, held its global launch in Singapore, where, for now, only the 1,600 or so drivers of Porsche cars in the affluent city state can buy it from the car dealership, Stuttgart Auto.

    The phone is made by Sagem Wireless and combines matt black anodized aluminum and black mineral glass. Features include a fingerprint sensor to authenticate users.

    Retailing for 2,280 Singapore dollars ($1,636), the phone is about three times the price of a Blackberry or an iPhone in Singapore.

    But its agent expects demand to be strong in the country and from the Asia Pacific, a region that Forbes magazine recently said witnessed an 80 percent increase in the number of billionaires in 2009.

    "The Porsche Design brand is doing very well in Asia, Russia and the Middle East, and the usage of our products, especially mobiles, is high in Asia," said Samy Redjeb, business director for Brand Lab, the sole distributor of Porsche Design mobiles in several Asian countries, including China and Singapore.

    "In Europe, people are used to buying phones that are subsidized by phone operators, but in Asia, people like to have something unique -- they like to show their status by putting the phone on the table, which says 'look, I'm rich'."

    Porsche Design is a global luxury brand targeting men, founded in 1972 by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the designer of the iconic Porsche 911 car.

    Redjeb said the brand was doing very well in China, where Porsche has around a dozen car showrooms.

    He forecast demand in Singapore would be boosted by its two casinos -- one of which is already open -- which he said would attract more rich tourists from Southeast Asia.

    And for those craving even more distinction -- and with the pockets deep enough to pay for it -- Redjeb said Porsche Design was working on a luxury yacht that will also be launched in Asia.

    (Reporting by Miral Fahmy, editing by Ron Popeski)

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Reuters - U.S. broadband plan would boost speed, wireless

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    U.S. broadband plan would boost speed, wireless

    Monday, Mar 15, 2010 8:56PM UTC

    By John Poirier

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. regulators released a blueprint for upgrading Internet access for all Americans, with an emphasis on speed, expanding coverage and freeing up more airwaves for mobile services.

    The U.S. Federal Communications Commission plan, unveiled in full on Monday, comes as the Internet increasingly delivers everything from telephone service to movies, music and banking services.

    Moves to shift airwaves from broadcasters like CBS Corp and Sinclair Broadcast Group could benefit wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc and Britain's Vodafone Group Plc.

    While upgrading the nation's wireless and wireline networks would be a boost for companies like equipment maker Alcatel Lucent SA, wireless chip maker Qualcomm and fiber optic providers like Corning Inc.

    Some elements of the plan had already emerged in the past few weeks and the FCC released its "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan" ahead of a Tuesday meeting by its five commissioners where they will vote on a summary.

    Congress, which asked the FCC to make recommendations on the status of broadband in the United States, will be formally presented with the plan on Tuesday.

    The plan aims to have 100 million American households get Internet speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) by 2020 -- a speed that would allow a consumer to download a two-hour, high-definition movie in less than 10 minutes.

    As an interim goal, the plan of over 350-pages calls for 100 million U.S. homes have 50 Mbps Internet speeds by 2015.

    The current household average speed is about 4 Mbps. Even homes with cable or fiber Internet access only achieve speeds averaging 5 Mbps to 6 Mbps.

    The plan stresses the need to devote more airwaves to the anticipated explosion of handheld devices capable of playing movies and music in addition to handling emails and voice calls.

    The agency says it is seeking expanded authority from Congress to hold auctions that would provide incentives for broadcasters to give up some of their airwaves for purchase by wireless companies.

    The FCC said it would leave open the possibility of taking action if broadcasters do not voluntarily give up spectrum.

    A panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a March 25 hearing on the FCC's plan.

    "Broadband is the great infrastructure challenge of the early 21st century," Henry Waxman, chairman of the full committee, said in a statement.

    Analysts said meeting even the FCC's 50 Mbps interim goal would likely take a lot more investment by companies like AT&T and Qwest Communications International Inc.

    "Five years from now it would be tough for them to get anything of any size done," said Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King, "they would really need to start today."

    Some analysts have also been skeptical about whether the airwaves reallocation would appeal to broadcasters unless the FCC offers them a big percentage of the auction proceeds.

    FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told Reuters on Friday that "a number of broadcasters" were open to his "win-win" plan, which would have them give up airwave licenses for auction in exchange for receiving a share of the proceeds.

    (Reporting by John Poirier; Additional reporting by Sinead Carew; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    CNN - 'Mission: Impossible' actor Peter Graves found dead

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    'Mission: Impossible' actor Peter Graves found dead

    Actor Peter Graves, best known for his starring role on TV's "Mission: Impossible," was found dead Sunday at his home, according to a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department. He was 83.

    There was no sign of foul play in the actor's death, officer Karen Rayner said.

    Graves portrayed the character Jim Phelps for all but one of the seven years "Mission: Impossible" ran on CBS, from 1967-1973. He won a Golden Globe in 1971 for his work on the show, and he was also nominated for an Emmy.

    He reprised the role from 1988 to 1990 when the show resurfaced on ABC.

    In an interview with CNN in 1996, Graves expressed disappointment with Hollywood's movie version of "Mission: Impossible" -- starring Tom Cruise -- which included none of the stars from the original TV series. Actor Jon Voigt played the Phelps character.

    "I am sorry that they chose to call him Phelps," he said at the time. "They could have solved that very easily by either having me in a scene in the very beginning, or reading a telegram from me saying, 'Hey boys, I'm retired, gone to Hawaii. Thank you, good-bye, you take over now.'"

    Graves also appeared as Capt. Clarence Oveur in the 1980 movie spoof "Airplane!" -- a role he originally turned down, according to the Web's Internet Movie Database. He changed his mind after meeting with the film's writers, according to IMDb.

    In recent years, Graves was part of a larger group that won an Outstanding Informational Series Emmy for the 1997 TV documentary "Judy Garland: Beyond the Rainbow." Graves hosted the documentary.

    He is survived by his wife, Joan Endress, and three daughters, Kelly, Claudia and Amanda Graves, according to IMDb.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010 Facebook Helps Social Start-Ups Gain Users

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    TECHNOLOGY   | March 13, 2010
    Facebook Helps Social Start-Ups Gain Users
    Facebook Connect can help nascent Web services recruit a healthy crowd of users in a hurry, and help the users find their friends on those sites.

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    Friday, March 12, 2010 Instant Ads Set the Pace on the Web

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    BUSINESS   | March 12, 2010
    Advertising:  Instant Ads Set the Pace on the Web
    Companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft let advertisers buy ads in the milliseconds between the time someone enters a site's Web address and the moment the page appears.

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    Thursday, March 4, 2010

    CNN - Sniper's apology brings closure, no justice

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    Sniper's apology brings closure, no justice

    John Gaeta received a letter of apology this week from the man who shot him point-blank in the neck at a Louisiana mall in 2002.

    The shooter was Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger half of the so-called D.C. sniper team that terrorized the Southeast and the nation's capital that year. Malvo is serving a life sentence. His mentor in crime, John Allen Muhammad, was executed in November.

    Though Gaeta, 58, has heard since 2006 that Malvo admitted shooting a man in Hammond, Louisiana, it wasn't until last month that he received confirmation from a pair of Hammond police officers.

    Then came Malvo's succinct letter, dated February 21, which arrived on Monday.

    "Mr. Gaeta," it read. "I am truly sorry for the pain I caused you and your loved ones. I was relieved to hear that you suffered no paralyzing injuries and that you are alive. Sincerely, Lee Boyd Malvo."

    Gaeta, who read the letter to CNN over the phone Wednesday, said Malvo printed and signed his name.

    Malvo was 17 when he shot Gaeta, just three months before he and Muhammad were arrested in Maryland and charged with multiple counts of murder.

    Hammond Police Sgt. Brian McCormick said Malvo told him and another interrogating officer that he thought Gaeta had also been killed.

    Malvo and Muhammad arrived in Hammond, about 40 miles east of Baton Rouge, on a Greyhound bus in August 2002, McCormick said.

    "Muhammad told him he wanted him to shoot someone while they were in Hammond -- as a sort of loyalty test, we're assuming," the sergeant said.

    Gaeta became the snipers' mark when he arrived at the mall about 8:20 p.m. August 1, McCormick said.

    "The mission was to kill him," he said.

    It was almost closing time, so Gaeta parked quickly and rushed into Sears to find a new pair of shoes, he said. Malvo or Muhammad slashed one of Gaeta's tires while he was inside, according to police.

    Shortly after 9 p.m., Gaeta returned to his truck and started it up. He realized he had a flat and pulled under a streetlight in the mall parking lot to change it.

    Two men in dark clothing soon approached him and asked whether the mall was still open. Gaeta responded that some stores were still open. The men walked off but returned about five minutes later, Gaeta said.

    "Do you need any help?" one of them asked.

    "No, I'm OK," Gaeta replied.

    "Looks like you have a flat tire," the other man replied, chuckling under his breath.

    The men walked off again, and Gaeta didn't see them for several minutes until he went to the bed of his Chevy Silverado to retrieve the spare tire.

    From there, he saw a shadow slinking alongside his truck. Gaeta looked closer, he said, and saw a figure dart to the front of his vehicle.

    Thinking teenagers were playing a prank, he met the figure on the other side of the truck and asked flatly, "What are you doing?"

    Malvo came around the door, made eye contact with Gaeta, produced a .22-caliber revolver and shot him from a distance of about five feet.

    "He kind of had a smirk on his face like, 'I'm gonna kill you,' " Gaeta said. "I remember thinking, 'This is the end of my life tonight.' "

    The bullet pierced Gaeta's neck and exited his back, just below the shoulder. He first thought of his wife, his family and his friends, but it was his second thought that saved his life.

    "I knew that unless I fell to the ground, he would be shooting me again," Gaeta said, explaining how he played possum while Malvo snatched the wallet from his pants pocket.

    After Malvo and Muhammad fled, Gaeta ran to a service station. He wasn't in much pain and thought, again, it could have been a prank. He told witnesses at the service station he might have been shot with a paintball gun.

    "But sir, you're bleeding," they said.

    Gaeta went to the hospital, where doctors told him he had dodged damage to his spine and arteries. He was released in about an hour, making him one of the more fortunate of the D.C. snipers' 13 confirmed victims, at least 10 of whom died.

    Sgt. McCormick, who interviewed Malvo last month at the Virginia Supermax prison the 25-year-old now calls home, said Malvo seemed relieved to hear Gaeta was alive.

    He began to open up upon learning the news and told the Hammond police, according to McCormick: "Back then, I was brainwashed by Muhammad and he made me do everything that I did."

    Gaeta said he intends to forgive Malvo and plans to send him a letter, though he bristled at the thought of becoming pen pals.

    He said he would like to know what Malvo would do differently if he could relive the past decade. He also wants to press him on how he'd feel if someone shot one of his loved ones, Gaeta said.

    He'd like to see Malvo prosecuted for shooting him, but police say it's unlikely. Malvo already has no chance of parole, and McCormick said Malvo also faces a murder indictment in Baton Rouge for the September 2002 slaying of Hong Im Ballenger.

    "I doubt we'll ever get him to Louisiana to prosecute him," McCormick said. "If we do, Baton Rouge will get him first."

    It may seem odd that two Hammond police officers would travel more than 600 miles to Pound, Virginia, for a confession that might never see a courtroom, but McCormick says it's worth it because their victim gets closure.

    And though Gaeta said he has long suspected Malvo was the shooter, Malvo's confession erased any "shadow of a doubt" that his attacker is locked away, never to walk free again.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010

    Reuters - Google acquires photo-editing site

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    Google acquires photo-editing site

    Tuesday, Mar 02, 2010 7:48AM UTC

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc acquired online photo-editing site Picnik, as the Web search leader continues with a deal binge includes three acquisitions in about three weeks.

    Google did not disclose the financial terms of the deal for Picnik, a 5-year-old Seattle-based start-up which said on its website that it has 20 employees.

    Google spokesman Andrew Pederson said in an email message that the Picnik team has joined Google's Seattle office and will work with Google's Picasa group. Picasa is Google's Web photo sharing service.

    The deal is the latest example of Google's increasing appetite for acquisitions, as the company's core Internet search business has benefited from a recovery in the advertising sector.

    In October, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said the company would resume its historic pace of acquiring one small company per month on average, with larger deals happening every year or two.

    Last month Google acquired Aardvark, a social search engine and mobile Web email service reMail. Since September, Google has acquired 8 companies, said Pederson.

    Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette, speaking at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference on Monday, said that Google was beefing up its ranks as business conditions improve.

    "The bottleneck for us right now is engineering. How many engineers can we find given that we have all these great opportunities?" Pichette said.

    Picnik allows users to edit online photos from directly within a Web browser, eliminating the need for special, stand-alone editing software.

    (Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Richard Chang)

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