Ukraine Crisis
September 3, 2014
Carsten Koall/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office announced that Poroshenko and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, had spoken by phone, and "the result of the conversation was agreement on a permanent cease-fire in the Donbass," the term used for Ukraine's eastern regions. "An agreement was reached about mutual vision of steps that will promote peace." Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in the conversation, Poroshenko and Putin had discovered that their views on how to stop the bloodshed in the region "coincide to a considerable degree."

Poroshenko's office didn't disclose any details of the peace plan, or explain how Putin could agree to end a battle he insists he isn't fighting. There was also no immediate reaction from the pro-Russia separatists fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. The separatists didn't abide by Poroshenko's last cease-fire.

The agreement was announced as President Obama landed in Estonia to demonstrate NATO's commitment to keep Moscow from attacking member states near Russia (Ukraine isn't a member of NATO), and a day before NATO meets to discuss how to handle Russia's aggression. Timothy Ash, an analysts at Standard Bank in London, is skeptical about the timing:

I guess for the Ukrainian military this gives them a chance to regroup after recent military setbacks, and bide time to see what NATO and the EU delivers over the next few days in terms of deterrents to Russia for further intervention. In the past we have seen Moscow looking to talk/sending peace signals just before important EU/G7/NATO meetings, and presumably to weaken momentum toward sanctions/countermeasures. Subsequently we then saw further intervention and escalation. [Ash, via the Kyiv Post]

Obama and other NATO nation leaders meet Thursday and Friday in Wales.

UPDATE: Poroshenko's office has retracted the statement about a "permanent cease-fire," saying the original language oversold the agreement between Putin and Poroshenko. Poroshenko's spokesman promised a revised statement later Wednesday. The updated stance from Kiev jibes better with Russia's version, delivered via RIA Novosti by Putin spokesman Peskov. "Putin and Poroshenko did indeed discuss steps which could facilitate a cease-fire between the militias and the Ukrainian military," he said. "Russia cannot physically agree on a cease-fire, as it is not a side in the conflict." Peter Weber

all apologies
12:30 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

One of the two gay hoteliers who hosted an event for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last week in New York City said it was a "terrible mistake," and he has since educated himself on Cruz's stance against gay marriage.

On his Facebook page Sunday, Ian Reisner, who owns the OUT NYC hotel, said he was "ignorant, naive, and much too quick in accepting a request to co-host a dinner with Cruz at my home without taking the time to completely understand all of his positions on gay rights." He apologized to "the gay community and so many of our friends, family, allies, customers and employees," and pledged to "try my best to make up for my poor judgement." He made the apology one day before a planned march outside of OUT NYC, and after the Broadway Cares charity canceled its annual event at a nightclub Reisner co-owns.

Along with his business partner Mati Weiderpass, Reisner held the dinner reception for Cruz on Monday at the duplex they own on Manhattan's Central Park South. It was billed as a "fireside chat" for about 12 people, and was not a fundraiser, The New York Times reports. Reisner, Weiderpass, and Cruz are all staunch supporters of Israel, and after the event, Reisner told the Times, "Ted Cruz was on point on every issue that has to do with national security." Catherine Garcia

survival story
April 26, 2015

Girl Scout cookies save lives.

On Friday, a police helicopter spotted the reflection of a white Ford Explorer near the Crisp Point Lighthouse along Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Sisters Leslie Roy, 52, of Nebraska and Lee Marie Wright, 56, of Oklahoma, were trapped inside, two weeks after the SUV became stuck in the snow. The two were on their way to visit family, but were unable to call for help because they did not have cellphone reception. The car eventually lost power, and the sisters ended up surviving by wearing layers of clothes, eating the little bit of food they had in the car — Girl Scout cookies and a bag of cheese puffs — and drinking melted snow.

Roy and Wright said that while it was difficult, they never stopped believing they'd finally be rescued. "Through the days and nights while in the woods, we survived using love and hope in our families," they said in a statement to The Associated Press. "Our faith in God held our confidence that we would eventually be found. We took note of circling aircraft, available water resources, the supplies we had. These factors eased our mind and allowed us to stay alive for 13 long days." Catherine Garcia

ch-ch-ch-changes
April 26, 2015
Facebook.com/Pepsi

With sales slipping, PepsiCo announced that it will no longer sweeten Diet Pepsi with aspartame.

Starting in August, Diet Pepsi's new formula will use sucralose and ace-K instead of aspartame, which some people believe is linked to cancer. Seth Kaufman, senior vice president of Pepsi and flavors, told USA Today that the change wasn't due to questions about the safety of aspartame — he said it is perfectly safe for consumption — but what customers said they wanted. "To Diet Pepsi consumers, removing aspartame is their No. 1 concern," he said. "We're listening to consumers. It's what they want."

The new formula tastes exactly the same as the old one, PepsiCo said, and will be used to make all Diet Pepsi flavors, like Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi and Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi. When Diet Pepsi was introduced in 1964, saccharin was used as its sweetener, and in 1983 it was reformulated with aspartame. In 2013, the company began to use aspartame and ace-K. Don't get too excited about ace-K, though, Michael Jacobson, director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, warns. "Consumers should avoid [ace-K] as well," he said. "It is poorly tested, but the tests done by the manufacturer in the 1970s suggest that ace-K, too, might pose a cancer risk." Catherine Garcia

nepal earthquake
April 26, 2015

Helicopters rescuing severely injured climbers and sherpas at Mount Everest's base camp Sunday had to stop after a 6.7 aftershock triggered additional avalanches.

Dozens of climbers and their Nepali guides are still trapped on the side of the mountain at two camps above where the avalanche fell, The Washington Post reports. The ropes and equipment they left up to help them make their descent were swept away in Saturday's avalanche, caused by the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal.

The Indian army estimates that 19 people died at the Mount Everest base camp on Saturday, and 61 people were rescued, primarily foreign tourists. In a Facebook message to the Post, Danish climber Carsten Lillelund Pedersen said that climbers and sherpas stuck higher up on the mountain "are getting desperate," and American climber Jon Kedrowski wrote on his blog that there were "head injuries, broken legs, internal injuries, and impalements" as well as "contusions and lacerations from flying debris." No one has a solid number on how many people are trapped and how many died, but Eric Johnson, a physician on the board of Everest ER, said that during peak climbing season, more than 1,500 people, including climbers, sherpas, and porters, are at base camp. Catherine Garcia

Foreign affairs
April 26, 2015

On Sunday, an Israeli airstrike reportedly killed four suspected militants who approached the Israel-Syria border with an explosive device.

In a statement, the army said that as the group began to come closer to Israeli forces, an Israeli aircraft was launched and fired, killing all four. The incident took place east of Majdal Shams, a Druze village on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, and the army has raised its alert level along the northern border of Israel, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Reports emerged on Saturday that airstrikes attributed to Israel hit army and Hezbollah targets in Syria earlier in the week, but Israel's army did not comment. On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said, without directly mentioning the strikes, that the country "will not allow the transfer of advanced weapons to terror organizations, first and foremost Hezbollah." He said Iran was arming Hezbollah, and Israel would "not allow Iran and Hezbollah to build terror infrastructure on our border with Syria. ... We can put our hands on anyone threatening Israel's citizens." Catherine Garcia

This just in
April 26, 2015
Handout / Getty Images

In what would be a sharp reversal of policy, the U.S may no longer threaten to prosecute families who seek to pay ransoms to foreign hostage-takers, according to ABC News. "There will be absolutely zero chance of any family member of an American held hostage overseas ever facing jail themselves, or even the threat of prosecution, for trying to free their loved ones," one senior official familiar with the internal policy review told ABC. The administration faced criticism last year after the family of James Foley — an American journalist held hostage and executed by ISIS — claimed the administration repeatedly threatened them over their attempts to negotiate directly for Foley's release. Jon Terbush

2016 Watch
April 26, 2015
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

Former President George W. Bush on Saturday said his brother, Jeb, faces a unique hurdle in the presidential horse race: his own name.

While fielding questions at a closed-door meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Bush "acknowledged being a liability to his brother's candidacy," according to The New York Times, which spoke to attendees as they left the event.

"He basically said being a Bush is a challenge," Norm Coleman, a former senator and current RJC board member, told the Times.

"That's why you won't see me," Bush reportedly said, according to the paper. Jon Terbush

See More Speed Reads