Option #1: Troops—New York Times: "Ukraine descended into a deeper spiral of violence on Thursday as both protesters and riot police officers used firearms in the deadliest day so far, and fear intensified that President Viktor F. Yanukovych would declare a state of emergency, a move that could herald the deployment of the military. The former Soviet republic of 46 million hurtled toward a dangerous new phase in a three-month political crisis after a truce announced overnight by Mr. Yanukovych and opposition leaders collapsed amid accusations of treachery on both sides. The Kiev municipal health authorities reported that 39 people had been killed on Thursday, bringing the total number of dead in three days of mayhem to at least 67. There were unconfirmed accounts that 70 protesters in Kiev had been killed and hundreds wounded on Thursday by gunfire in a confrontation with the police. Either figure made Thursday the deadliest day in the conflict to date. .... Short of calling in troops it looked unlikely that Mr. Yanukovych could restore his battered authority and regain control of the capital, Kiev, as a growing number of once-loyal members of his ruling Party of Regions, including the mayor of Kiev, announced they were quitting the party to protest the bloodshed."
Option #2: Early Vote—Washington Post: "Yanukovych has told European foreign ministers that he is open to early presidential and parliamentary elections as a way of resolving Ukraine’s deepening and increasingly violent crisis, the Polish prime minister said Thursday evening in Warsaw, according to news services. Yanukovych met with the top diplomats of Poland, France and Germany for four hours in the afternoon, after which his visitors left to confer with opposition leaders. Radislaw Sikorski, of Poland, tweeted that they went to 'test a proposed agreement' with the heads of the three main political parties opposing Yanukovych. Afterward, as it grew late, the three returned to the presidential offices and met with Yanukovych again."
The Images: Associated Press: "Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or planks of wood. ... Protesters were also seen leading policemen with their hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. Ukraine's Interior ministry says 67 police were captured in all. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev's occupied city hall."
Refresher: The protests began about 12 weeks ago when the government announced that it was abandoning an agreement that would have strengthen the country's ties with the European Union, and instead decided to seek a closer relationship with Moscow—a rather unpopular idea in the eyes of many Ukrainians, particularly those in the western part of the eastern European nation. The demonstrations since have been marked by repeated clashes between pro-government police and the growing number of protesters calling for Yanukovych to step down. But while the protests were never pretty, they didn't turn deadly for the first time until late last month.
Don't Forget About Venezuela: Reuters: "Venezuelan security forces and demonstrators faced off in streets blocked by burning barricades in several provincial cities on Thursday as protests escalated against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government. At least five people have died since the unrest turned violent last week, with scores of injuries and arrests. The demonstrators, mostly students, blame the government for violent crime, high inflation, product shortages and alleged repression of opponents. They want Maduro to resign. In middle-class areas of Caracas overnight, security forces fired teargas and bullets, chasing youths who threw Molotov cocktails and blocked streets with burning trash. It was one of the worst bouts of violence the capital has seen in nearly three weeks of unrest across Venezuela, and trouble also flared in other urban centers."
CPI is MIA: USA Today: "The White House said Thursday that President Obama's soon-to-be-unveiled budget will not include his past offer to accept lowered cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefits. The cost-cutting method had been a critical component of his long-term debt-reduction strategy but faced fierce opposition from liberal Democrats. In return for changing how the cost-of-living adjustment is calculated, Obama had expected Republicans to agree to some increases in tax revenue, which Republicans balked at. Though Obama will drop what is known as 'chained-CPI,' what amounts to a reduced calculation of inflation to benefits, in his 2015 budget, it remains on the table if grand bargain talks with Congress ever continue, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday."
Heat Check: CBS/AP: "It certainly didn't feel this way in much of the eastern U.S., but across the globe, January 2014 was the 4th warmest January on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported Thursday that Earth was 1.17 degrees warmer in January than the 20th century average. Since records began in 1880, only 2002, 2003 and 2007 started off warmer than this year. Almost all of Africa, South America and Australia, along with most of Asia and Europe, were considerably warmer than normal. China and France had their second warmest Januaries. Nations of the Southern Hemisphere had their hottest January on record. California had its third-warmest January on record. Anchorage, Alaska actually had a warmer month than Baltimore, Maryland, by 2 degrees. While the polar vortex left more than half of America shivering last month, it was one of the few populated spots on Earth cooler than normal, and no state had its coldest January on record."
Iowa Town Evacuated: NBC News: "A fire containing sulfuric acid burning at an airport facility in northern Iowa has injured at least four people and forced the evacuation of a small town. Residents of Northwood, Iowa, were asked to evacuate by Worth County Emergency Management, who called the fire at Northwood Municipal Airport a 'dangerous situation.' The fire was burning at a fertilizer plant on the airport grounds ....Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, about 20 miles from the fire, received four patients Thursday morning, a hospital spokesperson said. The patients all walked in seeking treatment on their own; the extent of their injuries was not made public. Those who live in Northwood — a city of just under 2,000 people — were told to evacuate to the Kensett Community Center, about seven miles from Northwood."
That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.