KIEV, Ukraine

President orders cease-fire against pro-Russian groups

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered his forces to cease fire Friday and halt military operations for a week against pro-Russia separatists in the country’s east – the first step in a peace plan he hopes will end the conflict that has cost hundreds of lives.

The Kremlin dismissed the plan, saying it sounded like an ultimatum and lacked any firm offer to open talks with insurgents.

Poroshenko, speaking during his first trip as president to the troubled east, said troops still would fire back if separatists attacked them or civilians. He stressed the cease-fire was temporary and would end at 10 a.m. June 27.

Separtist leaders have already dismissed Poroshenko’s plan and it remains to be seen to what extent they would comply.


Obama grants gay couples an array of new benefits

A year after the Supreme Court struck down a law barring federal recognition of gay marriages, the Obama administration granted an array of new benefits Friday to same-sex couples, including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law.

The new measures range from Social Security and veterans benefits to work leave for caring for sick spouses. They are part of President Obama’s efforts to expand whatever protections he can offer to gays and lesbians even though more than half of the states don’t recognize gay marriage.

National Park Service moves to ban drones

The National Park Service on Friday announced it was moving to ban drones on all its lands. The move comes amid growing concern about hobbyists using drones to create dramatic videos.

The ban would cover more than 84 million acres of public land. The director of the parks service cited safety concerns as well as potential harm to wildlife.

“Imagine you’re a big wall climber in Yosemite working on a four-day climb up El Capitan, and you’re hanging off a bulb, ready to make a (difficult) move, and an unmanned aircraft flies up beside you and is hovering a few feet from your head with its GoPro camera running,” Jonathan Jarvis told The Associated Press.

The move comes several months after Yosemite National Park banned unmanned aircraft in that park. Officials are now drawing up the ban for the entire system.


Man with low IQ gets 35 years for arson deaths

A man twice convicted of killing a woman and eight children at a birthday sleepover in the city’s deadliest house fire was sentenced Friday to 35 years in federal prison.

Antun Lewis, 30, had asked the judge in U.S. District Court in Cleveland for mercy and expressed condolences to the families of the victims, some of whom he knew. He said someone committed the crime “but it’s a lie that person was me.”

Lewis, a convicted drug dealer, was deemed ineligible for the death penalty because of a mental disability. His attorneys presented evidence he has an IQ of 70 or less. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he could have been sentenced to life for his arson conviction.

The fire killed 33-year-old Medeia Carter, four of her children and four other youngsters attending a birthday sleepover on May 21, 2005.

Authorities said Lewis, upset over a drug debt, doused the three-story building’s first floor with gasoline.

– From news service reports