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News In Focus: A Look At Last Week’s Most Interesting Stories

Malaysia: After 15 months of inquiry, investigators confirmed a theory that a missile struck Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, causing it to crash.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 airplane was downed in Donetsk about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Ukraine border on 17 July 2014 while heading to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.

A five-nation team led by the Dutch Safety Board, and comprising members from Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine, investigated the incident, and issued their report on Tuesday.

“Flight MH17 crashed as a result of the detonation of a warhead outside the airplane above the left-hand side of the cockpit,” according to Tjibbe Joustra, chairman of the Dutch Safety Board.

The explosion tore off the forward part of the plane, according to the New York Times.  The aircraft then disintegrated and crashed, killing all 298 passengers on board.

Experts identified the warhead as a Russian-made BUK missile, but the investigation team did not assign blame to any specific party.

Here’s a part of the reconstruction, courtesy of PBS NewsHour:

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South China Sea: U.S. naval vessels plan to patrol disputed waters in South China Sea where artificial islands have been built by China in spite of some great displeasure from its neighbors.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the plan on Tuesday and declared that the country’s military would sail and fly wherever international law allowed.

That means U.S. warships may enter the waters within 12 nautical miles from an artificial island built by China in South China Sea, and ignore the country’s claims of sovereignty over the area.

America’s intended move (already drawing concern from the Chinese foreign ministry) is seen to be a test of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent White House pledge. Xi, during a news conference with President Obama, said that Beijing authorities do not intend to “militarize” the islands.

But according to the New York Times, China has recently built five artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, and has completed a 10,000-foot runway in Fiery Cross Reef that is capable of accommodating fighter jets.

For a look at China’s island building, we go to this CBS report produced earlier this year:

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U.S. Presidential Race: Hillary Clinton seems to have dominated the first Democratic presidential TV debate on Wednesday.

Media and pundits lauded the former New York senator and first lady for having out-performed four other contenders in articulating her ideas on trade issues, gun control, climate change, racial problems, and the civil war in Syria.

To re-watch the CNN-hosted TV debate, click here:

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Astronomy: Is a star surrounded by “a swarm of” alien-built mega-structures? Well, that’s at least one theory.

The star, named KIC 8462852, which is 1,480 light-years away from Earth and lies just above the Milky Way between Cygnus and Lyra, has puzzled stargazers by its periodic drastic drop in brightness.

Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, offers a bold explanation: the star is surrounded by a swarm of mega-structures built by aliens to harness energy from it.

“Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build,” Jason Wright told The Atlantic.

KIC 8462852 has been monitored by astronomers since 2009, and joined later on by citizen scientists from Yale University’s Planet Hunters crowdsourcing program, using the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Kepler Space Telescope.

According to the Discovery News, the next step would be to point a radio antenna at the bizarre object to see whether the system is generating any artificial radio signals that could indicate the presence of something “intelligent.”

For more, we go to IGN News:

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Lead-In Image Courtesy of Edo Tams/BLNDR