Jan 4, 2013

S Korea increases budget to fund N Korea

South Korea has increased its budget to fund North Korea-related projects this year, government data showed on Thursday, with a new president seeking closer relations due to take office in Seoul and signs of an opening from Pyongyang.

South Korea's Ministry of Unification said parliament had approved a 9.1 percent rise in the inter-Korean cooperation fund this year to 1.1 trillion won ($1.03 billion). "The last offer for talks we made to North Korea was last summer, when the North was suffering from flood damage," said Park Soo-jin, a spokeswoman for the ministry.

The two Koreas remain technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce, not a treaty, and relations plunged under South Korean President Lee Myung-bak who cut aid dramatically after the shooting of a South Korean tourist in the North in 2008. 

Lee's single term ends in February when he will be replaced by Park Geun-hye, who has pledged engagement with the isolated and impoverished North, whose new leader Kim Jong-un signalled a desire for better ties in a speech on New Year's Day. 

"We have made the request countless times, and we can say that the offer (to talk) is still open." The budget was higher across the board than in 2012, with more money to support exchanges between families that were divided during the Korean War as well as humanitarian aid. 

However, it was still well short of the levels seen during the presidency of late former President Roh Moo-hyun, who maintained his predecessor's "sunshine-policy" engagement stance. Both Roh and his predecessor, Kim Dae-jung, were left-of-centre presidents who sought engagement, pouring hundreds of billions of dollars of state and private aid into the North in a bid to prevent Pyongyang developing nuclear weapons.

The North pushed ahead with its nuclear programme and has conducted two tests, in 2006 and 2009, and is believed to be readying a third. Last month it successfully launched a long-range rocket that critics say is aimed at developing missile technology. Just two weeks after the launch, Kim Jong-un, who took over after his father died in December 2011, called in his New Year's address for "an end to the division of the country" and to "remove confrontation". 

Political analysts said that while welcome, the statement would not result in better ties unless North Korea abandoned its nuclear ambitions. North Korea has offered olive branches many times before, only to withdraw the offer later and resume shrill threats of all-out war. Park, the daughter of South Korea's former ruler, Park Chung-hee, has said she will engage the North, but that it needs to drop its nuclear ambitions.

Jan 3, 2013

Zynga to shutdown all its social games

Social games publisher Zynga Inc confirmed on Monday that it has carried out 11 of the planned shutdowns of 13 game titles, with "Petville" being the latest game on which it pulled the plug. 

Zynga in October said it would shut down 13 under-performing titles after warning that its revenues were slowing as gamers fled from its once-popular titles published on the Facebook platform in large numbers and sharply revised its full-year outlook. 

The San Francisco-based company announced the "Petville" shutdown two weeks ago on its Facebook page. All the 11 shutdowns occurred in December. The 11 titles shut down or closed to new players include role-playing game "Mafia Wars 2," "Vampire Wars," "ForestVille" and "FishVille." 

"In place of 'PetVille,' we encourage you to play other Zynga games like 'Castleville,' 'Chefville,' 'Farmville 2,' 'Mafia Wars' and 'Yoville,'" the company told players on its 'PetVille' Facebook page. 

"PetVille" players were offered a one-time, complimentary bonus package for virtual goods in those games. "Petville," which lets users adopt virtual pets, has 7.5 million likes on Facebook but only 60,000 daily active users, according to AppData. About 1,260 users commented on the game's Facebook page, some lamenting the game's shutdown. 

Zynga has said it is shifting focus to capture growth in mobile games. It also applied this month for a preliminary application to run real-money gambling games in Nevada. Zynga is hoping that a lucrative real-money market could make up for declining revenue from games like "FarmVille" and other fading titles that still generate the bulk of its sales.

Apple to launch new iPhone in mid 2013

Apple Inc has started testing a new iPhone and the next version of its iOS software, news website The Next Web reported.

The company's shares rose as much as 4.3 percent but eased a little to trade up 3 percent at $546.11 by mid-day on the Nasdaq.

Application developers have found in their app usage logs references to a new iPhone identifier, iPhone 6.1, running iOS 7 operating system, the website reported.

Apple's iPhone 5 bears the identifiers "iPhone 5.1" and "iPhone 5.2" and is powered by the iOS 6 operating system.

Developer logs show that the app requests originate from an internet address on Apple's Cupertino campus, suggesting that Apple engineers are testing compatibility for some of the popular apps, the website said. "Although OS and device data can be faked, the unique IP footprint leading back to Apple's Cupertino campus leads us to believe this is not one of those attempts," the website said.

Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt, however, expects the next version of the iconic smartphone to be called iPhone 5S and not iPhone 6. Apple typically tags the interim version of its phones with an "S" before moving on to a new version.

iPhone 3GS followed iPhone 3G and the iPhone 4S followed iPhone 4. McCourt also said he wouldn't be surprised if Apple looked at an earlier launch because of the stress on its supply chain caused by late-year launches.
Apple launched iPhone 5 in September and it has been reported that the new iPhone will be released in the middle of 2013. Techradar.com reported last month that Apple could unveil the next version of its iPhone as early as the spring of 2013.

BD govt. hikes 11.47 percent fuel price

The government of Bangladesh has hiked the fuel prices of the country on the 3rd day of new year. Petrol and octane prices by Tk 5 per litre setting new prices at  Tk 96 and Tk 99. Besides, diesel and kerosene prices were up for Tk 7 setting new prices at Tk 68 for the both items. 

The prices would be effective from Thursday midnight, it said in a media statement at night. 

The opposition BNP on Dec 26 threatened country wide general strike a day after the fuel prices were further increased. 

But the opposition's reaction could not be known immediately after the fresh increase in the fuel oil costs.