Each week, NBN Politics recaps the top five news stories from the past week and brings you a look at the week ahead. Welcome to the Fast Five.
Shooting on a North Carolina base and stabbings at a Pennsylvania high school
Following on the heels of last week's shooting on a military base in Fort Hood, Texas (now believed to have been caused by an argument over paperwork), a Marine guard was shot to death by a colleague at a North Carolina base. The name of the shooter at the North Carolina base is being withheld until his relatives are notified and is currently in custody awaiting questioning. In addition, a stabbing spree at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Pennsylvania left 20 students and one adult with stab wounds on Wednesday, but did not result in any deaths. The motives of the stabber, 16-year-old Alex Hibral, are still unclear.
Possible Ukraine civil war and tougher sanctions for Russia
Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday threatened Russia with tougher economic sanctions if it doesn’t de-escalate its involvement in Ukraine. On the same day, Russia warned that any force used in Ukraine’s eastern region could result in a civil war. Rebels have occupied the Ukraine city of Donetsk’s regional government building and called for a referendum on secession to be held by May 11. Kerry as well as NATO warned against further Russian escalation in what Kerry views as “an illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilize a sovereign state.”
Maryland to decriminalize marijuana
Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said he will sign a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill, which has already been approved by Maryland’s Senate, would impose only civil fines on those caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana. Two senior House Democrats from Maryland are backing the decision, arguing that too many people go to jail for small possession charges. The law would make Maryland the eighteenth state to loosen laws on recreational marijuana use.
U.S. uninsured rate lowest since 2008
The percentage of adults without health insurance dropped from 17.1 percent at the end of last year to 15.6 percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to Gallup. The drop translates to over 3.5 million people gaining coverage. The uninsured rate fell most among blacks and lower-income Americans. The report supports the Obama administration’s claims that the Affordable Care Act is expanding access to healthcare, especially for working people with no coverage from their employers.
Afghanistan has relatively clean elections
The Afghanistan presidential election on Saturday was clean and peaceful with none of the candidates saying they would dispute the outcome. Even though the Taliban issued a series of attacks with the intent of intimidating people from voting, 7 million people, or nearly 60 percent of the population, turned out to vote. Afghan officials deployed 350,000 security forces to protect voters. Early counts of the votes point to a runoff between former World Bank executive Ashraf Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abhdullah.
The week ahead: Ukraine crisis, search for MH370 continues
Malaysian Flight 370 continues to attract the spotlight as more underwater signals are detected that may be emanating from the airplane’s black boxes. The Australian official in charge of the search has expressed optimism that the plane’s wreckage will soon be found. Ukraine faces the possible movement of Russian troops into its eastern territories, while the international community continues to pressure Russia not to escalate the conflict. The coming days and weeks will be vital in determining the future of the Ukrainian people.