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New Ukraine President Zelenskiy says dissolving parliament

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, May 20th, 2019

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Parliament after his inauguration on May 20. | Photo grabbed from Reuters footage

Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office on Monday (May 20) and immediately announced he was dissolving parliament and calling a snap election, aiming to win seats in a legislature still dominated by loyalists of his predecessor.

Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won the presidency by a landslide last month but his new party has no representation in parliament, making it expedient for him to call a snap poll while his popularity remains high.

He said his first task was to achieve a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where a five-year-old conflict with Russian-backed separatists has killed 13,000 people. He added that dialogue with Russia could only happen after the return of Ukrainian territory and prisoners of war.

“I am certain that the first step in order to start this dialogue will be the return of all Ukrainian prisoners. Our next challenge is returning of lost territories. Frankly speaking, it seems to me that this expression is not appropriate because it is impossible to lose what belongs to us by law. Both Crimea and Donbass are the Ukrainian land where we lost not only territories, but we also lost the most important which is people,” he said.

“And today, we simply must – I am sure they can hear us – return their consciousness. We lost this consciousness. During these years, authorities did not do anything for them to feel that they are Ukrainians. They are not strangers, they are our (people). They are Ukrainians,” he added.

Working with parliament will be crucial to his ability to meet the expectations of his voters and also pass reforms needed to keep foreign aid flowing.

“In order to prevent more deaths of our heroes, I am ready to do everything. I am definitely not afraid of taking difficult decisions. I am ready to lose my popularity, my rating. And if needed, I am ready, without hesitations, to lose my position so that peace will finally come,” he said.

Zelenskiy called on lawmakers to use the two months until the snap election to pass a law that would strip them of immunity from prosecution and another law that bans officials from illegally enriching themselves. (REUTERS)

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PBA and PBA Legends Foundation sign MOA to support former PBA players

by Aileen Cerrudo   |   Posted on Sunday, June 23rd, 2019

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and the PBA Legends Foundation officially signed a contact on Thursday (June 20) that seeks to aid former PBA players in need of assistance.

The PBA Legends Foundation will provide financial assistance including medical help to former PBA players. The foundation can also grant assistance for the education of their children.

PBA Board Vice Chairman Dickie Bachman has vowed to support former players. The PBA has also authorized the foundation to use the PBA name and logo.

“We are basically glad that finally now we get organized with the PBA Legend Foundation Inc., and moving forward will support the past PBA players,” he said.

Meanwhile, UNTV Cup Commissioner and PBA Legends Foundation Chairman Fortunato Atoy Co is excited about upcoming projects to raise funds for the foundation.

Ako po ay malugod na nagpapasalamat sa PBA, kay Commissioner Willie Marcial, kay Dicky Bachman. Pinayagan na rin kami ng PBA na gamitin iyong lumang logo noong panahong naglalaro pa kami, (I am humbly thankful to PBA, to Commissioner Willie Marcial, Dicky Bachman. They also allowed us to use the old PBA logo that was used during our time),” Co said.

Former PBA legends are elated with the news. Ronnie Magsanoc hopes that this will be the beginning of new projects between PBA and the PBA Legend Foundation.

“Ito iyong hudyat ng belief ng tamang pagkakaisa between the league and the players. Sana mabuksan pa ng maraming proyekto, (This marks the belief of proper unity between the league and the players. I hope this opens more projects),” Magsanoc said.

One of the board of directors, Allan ‘The Triggerman’ Caidic hopes that this will also encourage active players to participate in the foundation’s upcoming projects.

“I hope someday we can link the present PBA players, iyong mga active players to join and help this cause. Kasi in the future magbe-benefit rin sila dito. So thank you again sa support ng lahat para mabuo ito, UNTV Group, Kuya Daniel Razon and siyempre mga PBA team, salamat po (Because they will also benefit from this cause in the future. So again, thank you for the support of everyone who made this happen: the UNTV group, Kuya Daniel Razon and of course the PBA team. Thank you),” he said.—AAC (with reports from Bernard Dadis)

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NZ launches ‘buy-back’ scheme for weapons banned after Christchurch mosque attacks

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2019

A screenshot of the footage from the Christchurch attack | Courtesy : Reuters

New Zealand’s government on Thursday (June 20) launched a multi-million-dollar, six-month “buy-back” scheme to compensate owners of powerful but newly banned semi-automatic weapons prohibited in the wake of deadly attacks on two mosques in the Southern city of Christchurch.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Minister of Police Stuart Nash said in a joint statement that NZ$208 million ($135.97 million) had been set aside to compensate owners of the banned semi-automatic firearms up to 95% of the original cost, adding in a news conference that they had no idea how many of the firearms were in the community.

“Compensation is necessary because of a new law agreed to by almost the entire parliament in response to the events of the 15th of March. The buy-back and amnesty has one objective – to remove the most dangerous weapons from circulation,” Nash said.

“This compensation scheme recognises licensed firearm owners are now in the possession of prohibited items through no fault of their own, but because of a law change. The approach to prices balances fair compensation for people’s firearms and a fair cost for the taxpayer,” he added.

“We have made a commitment that we want these weapons out of circulation and we believe that this buy-back process is a very important part of that. The costs are uncertain and, you can imagine, for a Minister of Finance that’s not a position I ever want to be in but it is just the reality of the situation we have,” Robertson said.

“We will keep monitoring it, as I say, we’ve put a new piece into the puzzle today but there are further pieces to be put in,” he added.

Owners would have until Dec. 20 to hand in their weapons.

Parliament passed the gun reform law – the first substantial changes to the country’s gun laws in decades – by a vote of 119 to 1 in April. (REUTERS)

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Netherlands set to prosecute suspects in MH17 airliner downing

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019

Courtesy : Reuters

REUTERS – International investigators are set on Wednesday (June 19) to launch criminal proceedings against suspects in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine nearly five years ago.

The Dutch-led international team tasked with assigning criminal responsibility for the plane’s destruction is to inform victims’ families of progress in their case on Wednesday morning, followed by a presentation to the media.

Dutch broadcasters RTL and NOS reported late last week that investigators would reveal the names of individual suspects. An Interfax Ukraine report on Tuesday quoted Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Olena Zerkal in an interview as saying prosecutors would name four “top” suspects.

MH17 was shot out of the sky on July 17, 2014 over territory held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine as it was flying from Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people on board were killed.

Most victims were Dutch. A joint investigation team formed in 2014 by Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine found that the plane was shot down by a Russian missile.

The Russian government denies having lent any support to pro-Russia rebels fighting Ukrainian government troops and also denies any involvement in shooting down MH17.

Last year Russian President Vladimir Putin called MH17’s downing a “terrible tragedy” but said that Moscow was not to blame and that there are other explanations for what happened.

The governments of the Netherlands and Australia have said they hold Russia legally responsible.

Prosecutors have previously said the missile system that brought down the plane came from the Russian 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk.

They said their next step would be to identify individual culprits and to attempt to put them on trial.

The Netherlands has said Russia has not cooperated with the investigation and Moscow is not expected to surrender suspects.

Dutch authorities have said suspects may be tried in absentia.

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