10 Things to Know: This Week's Takeaways
1. UKRAINE PROTESTERS, PRESIDENT MAKE DEAL: Opposition leaders signed a deal Friday with Ukraine's beleaguered president that calls for early elections, a new constitution and a new unity government. Russian officials criticized the agreement, and protesters showed no sign of abandoning their camp in central Kiev. But if it holds, the pact could be a major breakthrough in the months-long standoff, which worsened sharply this week when scores were killed and hundreds wounded in the country's worst violence since achieving independence in 1991.
2. FINAL WEEK OF THE WINTER OLYMPICS: Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won gold in figure skating's ice dance. It was the first Olympic title in the event for the United states. American David Wise ended up with gold in the men's ski halfpipe. A Russian hockey team with immense expectations lost its shot at an Olympic title. And in women's hockey, Canada beat the United States 3-2 in overtime for its fourth consecutive title.
3. FACEBOOK PURCHASES MESSAGING APP: Facebook announced that it would buy mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock, by far the company's largest acquisition and bigger than any that Google, Microsoft or Apple have ever done. The deal translates to roughly 11 percent of Facebook's market value. WhatsApp is attractive for its audience of teenagers and young adults who increasingly use the service to engage in conversations outside of Facebook, which has evolved into a more mainstream hangout inhabited by their parents, grandparents and even their bosses at work.
4. PREVIEW OF OBAMA'S BUDGET: White House officials said President Barack Obama will propose an election-year budget that drops reductions in federal benefits he had previously embraced. The president also will ask Congress to approve about $56 billion in new or expanded programs, stepping back from aggressive efforts to tackle long-term government deficits and debt. Obama is scrapping his previous offer to trim cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other benefit programs.
5. CO-PILOT DIVERTS ETHIOPIAN JET: An Ethiopian Airlines pilot hijacked a flight to Rome and diverted it to Geneva in an apparent bid for political asylum. Hailemedhin Abera locked other crew members out of the cockpit before taking control of the plane carrying 200 people. No one was hurt. If convicted, he could get up to 20 years in prison.
6. PUSSY RIOT ATTACKED - Cossack militia attacked Russia's Pussy Riot punk group with horsewhips as the artists tried to perform in Sochi under a sign advertising the Olympics. The group, which has feuded with Vladimir Putin's government, resurfaced this week for the first time in nearly two years, just as Putin was using the Winter Games to burnish his image at home and charm critics abroad.
7. EXECUTION DRUGS BECOME SCARCE - The nation's shortage of execution drugs is becoming increasingly acute as more pharmacies conclude that supplying the chemicals is not worth the bad publicity and the legal and ethical risks. The scarcity of drugs for lethal injections forces states to scramble for substitutes. And experts say that any alternatives will be the focus of costly court challenges made more complicated by laws that cloak the process in secrecy.
8. UNITED NATIONS ISSUES WARNING TO NORTH KOREAN LEADER: A U.N. panel warned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he may be held accountable for orchestrating widespread crimes against civilians ranging from systematic executions to torture, rape and mass starvation. It is unusual for a U.N. report to directly implicate a nation's leader. But in a letter accompanying a yearlong investigative report, the chairman of a three-member U.N. commission warned Kim that international prosecution is needed "to render accountable all those, including possibly yourself, who may be responsible for crimes against humanity."
9. DETROIT FILES PLAN TO EMERGE FROM BANKRUPTCY: Detroit presented its first full road map for climbing out of bankruptcy by restructuring $18 billion in debt, demolishing thousands of blighted homes and investing in the city's broken-down infrastructure. If approved, the proposal would mean sharply reduced payments to some retirees and creditors. Pension holders could expect to get 70 percent to 90 percent of what they are owned, while many banks would receive as little as 20 percent. The plan is sure to be challenged in court.
10. WINTER WEATHER EASES, THEN RETURNS: Much of the nation got a brief but welcome break from one of the worst winters in memory. Daytime highs climbed into the 40s and 50s for two days in parts of the Midwest and Northeast, accelerating long-awaited melting and raising concerns about flooding. But cold conditions quickly came back, along with snow and sleet.
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