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

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Egypt: A Russian airliner crashed in the Sinai Peninsula while en route from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to St. Petersburg, Russia.

The flight — Metrojet 9268 — was reported to have broken apart in midair, killing all 224 people on board.

The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for bringing down the Russian aircraft, but both the Russian and Egyptian authorities could not find evidence to substantiate the claim.

Latest US intelligence suggests that the crash might have been caused by a bomb planted on the plane by ISIS or an affiliate, according to CNN.

Meanwhile, Britain, Ireland and the Netherlands have banned flights to and from Sharm el-Sheikh; and Germany urged travelers to stay away from the Sinai Peninsula.

CNN takes a look at the history of violence in the Sinai:

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China: Ma Ying-jeou, leader of Taiwan’s ruling party, Kuomintang, will meet with Chinese Communist Party Secretary General Xi Jinping in Singapore.

The occasion is the first direct person-to-person contact meeting between leaders of the two sides since the end of a civil war in 1949, and is heralded as the beginning of a tension-easing relationship across the straits.

As a Ma spokesman emphasized, no agreement would be signed and no joint statement would be made.

For more, we go to Reuters:

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Science: The National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) announced on Thursday that solar wind is to blame for stripping Mars of its atmosphere.

Scientists believe that Mars once had as thick an atmosphere as Earth’s.  But unlike Earth where it is protected by a global magnetic field, Mars lies bare due to the bombardment of solar storms, and each time a part of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is lost.

The conclusion is drawn from data gathered by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (Maven) mission.  Maven probes entered orbit around Mars in September last year, and analyzed the effects of solar wind on Mars’ atmosphere.

Mars is still leaking away about half a pound of its air each second, NASA’s scientists said.

The findings from the Maven mission help explain the long-time mystery of why Mars has become cold and dry.

For more, we go to this NASA video:

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US: President Barack Obama rejected TransCanada’s application to proceed with the Keystone XL pipeline project.

Obama decided that the project was not in the national interest and would undermine U.S. global leadership in fighting climate change, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The 1,179-mile pipeline, which was first proposed in 2008, is to run from Canada to the U.S., carrying crude from oil sands projects in Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Green groups said it would exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging more oil sands production, which is more energy-intensive than conventional oil and gas, according to the Financial Times.

But advocates claim that the project would create jobs, boost U.S. energy security, and promote economic growth.

The President’s decision puts an end to a seven-year debate on one of the most contentious environmental issue during his tenure.

Here’s Obama explaining his decision:

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Lead-In Image (Antique Map Of Taiwan) Courtesy of yoshi0511 / Shutterstock.com