27th September 2020

In_pictures FinCEN Files: Tory donor Lubov Chernukhin linked to $8m Putin ally funding

In_pictures FinCEN Files: Tory donor Lubov Chernukhin linked to $8m Putin ally funding


in_pictures Lubov ChernukhinImage copyright

Image caption

Lubov Chernukhin started donating to the Conservative Party in 2012

The husband of one of the Conservative Party’s biggest donors was secretly funded by a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Putin.

Lubov Chernukhin has given £1.7m to the Tories, including paying to spend time with the last three prime ministers.

Leaked files show her husband received $8m (£6.1m). The money initially came from a politician facing US sanctions due to his closeness to the Kremlin.

Her lawyers say the donations are not tainted by Kremlin influence.

A leak of banks’ “suspicious activity reports” – called the FinCEN Files and seen by BBC Panorama – shows Vladimir Chernukhin was sent the money in 2016 from a British Virgin Islands company linked to Suleyman Kerimov.

Officials at Deutsche Bank in New York reported it as being among $278.5m of transactions involving the offshore company.

There has been an increasing focus on donations to political parties from wealthy UK-based Russians in recent years, with July’s parliamentary report by the Intelligence and Security Committee referring to the possibility they could allow people to “assist Russian influence operations”.

In_pictures ‘Not fit and proper donors’

Billionaire Mr Kerimov is a member of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. He has been under investigation in France over allegations of tax fraud since 2016.

In 2018 he was sanctioned by the US authorities, who were targeting those they said “play a key role in advancing Russia’s malign activities”.

Mr Chernukhin, 52, is a former deputy minister of finance under Vladimir Putin, who left Russia for London in 2004 after being sacked by the president.

The Chernukhins – one of the UK’s most prominent Russian-born couples – are now both British citizens and live in London.

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PA Media

Image caption

Vladimir Chernukhin with Vladimir Putin – he was sacked as deputy finance minister in 2004

Mrs Chernukhin’s donations to the Conservative Party began in 2012.

The majority – more than £1.5m – came after the $8m payment linked to Mr Kerimov was made to her husband on 29 April 2016, although it is not clear if any of that cash went to the Tories.

Journalist and Russia expert Edward Lucas, who gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry into Russian influence, told Panorama: “The Chernukhins, pleasant people that they might be… are not fit and proper people to make donations to a British political party.”

Mr Lucas said he was “profoundly concerned by the access that, not only Lubov Chernukhin but also other rich Russians have to the heights of the Conservative Party, and to the government”.

In_pictures Winning bids

Mrs Chernukhin’s donations to the Tories have given her access to figures at the top of UK government.

In return for £135,000 she was invited to a ladies’ night dinner at a luxury hotel with Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet in April 2019. She is pictured above, fourth from the right.

And the 47-year-old has twice made winning bids at auction for tennis matches with Boris Johnson. The last, in February this year, cost her £45,000.

In 2014 she paid £160,000 to play tennis with Prime Minister David Cameron and then London Mayor Mr Johnson.

Image copyright
Getty Images, PA Media

Image caption

In 2014 Mrs Chernukhin paid to play tennis with Prime Minister David Cameron and Boris Johnson (Pictures from 2013 and 2008)

As of this year she is the biggest female donor in British history to the Tories. According to Electoral Commission records, she has given about £1.7m in total over the past eight years, including £335,000 between last January and July.

When in 2018, Boris Johnson – then foreign secretary – was asked about the Chernukhins and the £160,000 tennis match donation, he told the BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “If there is evidence of gross corruption in the way that gentleman… obtained his wealth… then it’s possible for our law enforcement agencies to deprive him of his wealth.”

But he added “all possible checks have been made and… will continue to be made” on donations.

In_pictures ‘Property projects loan’

The $8m payment to Mr Chernukhin was made by an offshore company called Definition Services, which was controlled by Mr Kerimov’s children. The documents show their funding came from their father and it was Mr Kerimov who had the personal relationship with Mr Chernukhin.

As Deutsche Bank was processing the money, it sent questions to officials at another bank involved in the transaction.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The $8m payment came from an offshore company linked to Suleyman Kerimov

They said it was a “loan between the two parties aiming to support further immovable property projects of the borrower” and that Definition was involved in real estate investments.

Despite the response, Deutsche Bank filed a suspicious activity report (SAR), noting the link to Mr Kerimov and the payment to Mr Chernukhin.

Deutsche said Definition was “registered and banking out of high risk jurisdictions and the commercial purpose of the transactions and the relationship between the parties could not be determined”.

In_pictures What do we know about the Chernukhin’s finances?

Some of Mr Chernukhin’s financial affairs have been made public as part of a long running legal battle with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska over the ownership of a former industrial site in Moscow.

Proceedings at the High Court in London revealed he set up a trust for his wife, and another trust for the benefit of the couple together.

Image copyright
Central News

Image caption

Vladimir Chernukhin has been involved in a long-running legal battle in London

Mrs Chernukhin has been described as a former banker.

She is listed as a director of four UK companies. One of them shares the same London correspondence address detailed in a bank document concerning the $8m payment to her husband from Definition Services.

Lawyers for the Chernukhins declined to say whether Mr Chernukhin had received the $8m.

But they said “Mrs Chernukhin has never received money deriving from Mr Kerimov or any company related to him” and her “donations to the Conservative Party have never been tainted by Kremlin or any other influence”.

They added all her donations have been declared in accordance with Electoral Commission rules.

Lawyers for Suleyman Kerimov said he denies all the allegations made by Panorama, and had “no dealings with Ms Chernukhin whatsoever”.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “There are people in this country of Russian origin who are British citizens and have the democratic right to donate to a political party. Many have been vocal critics of Putin and it is completely wrong and discriminatory to smear them all with the same brush.”

The FinCEN Files is a leak of secret documents which reveal how major banks have allowed “dirty money” to be moved around the world. They also expose how US intelligence sees the UK as a “higher risk jurisdiction” and show it is awash with Russian cash from unexplained sources.

The files were obtained by BuzzFeed News which shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 400 journalists around the world. Panorama has led research for the BBC.

FinCEN Files: full coverage; follow reaction on Twitter using #FinCENFiles; in the BBC News app, follow the tag “FinCEN Files; Watch Panorama on the BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only).

27th September 2020

In_pictures Manchester Arena attack: The families searching for answers

In_pictures Manchester Arena attack: The families searching for answers


Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionLisa Roussos: ”It should be about transparency”

Lisa and Andrew Roussos say they feel as though they are stuck in May 2017.

That’s when their eight-year-old daughter Saffie was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing.

Saffie was the youngest victim of the attack.

A little girl with striking big eyes and a mane of dark hair, who loved dancing and making people laugh. Lisa and Andrew say she was a real live-wire who “never sat still”.

The pain of her loss is as great as ever.

Image copyright
Roussos family

“It’s not something you get over, ever,” Lisa says.

“Every morning you wake up. It happens again. She died that day, every day.

“That’s just how it is. And we have to live with that.”

Now the Roussos family and the other families bereaved that night are steeling themselves for a difficult few months.

The public inquiry into the bombing, which starts hearing evidence on Monday, will examine every aspect of the attack, including whether it could have been prevented, the emergency response and the experiences of each of the 22 people who died.

In_pictures ‘Complete chaos’

Saffie’s parents say they still feel too raw to hear information about her last moments.

“I don’t want to know about her injuries and what she went through,” Lisa says.

“It’s painful enough without knowing the details.”

But the couple do have a lot of other questions which they want answers to.

Andrew says the attack “could have been prevented, it could have been stopped and Saffie and the others could have been here with us”.

“And that’s what we want out of it,” he says. “To find out why there were so many wrongs.”

Referring to the way the emergency services responded to the attack, Lisa adds: “It was just complete chaos, nobody had a clue what to do, how to react.

“It was just a complete shambles. For those people that did make mistakes, the police, fire service, MI5, for them to admit their mistakes I think would be a good thing for them, as well as us.”

Saffie’s Ariana Grande ticket was a treasured Christmas present.

She went to the concert with her big sister Ashlee and their mum Lisa.

In_pictures ‘Like a horror movie’

Andrew came to collect them, with Saffie’s 11-year-old brother Xander and the family’s pet chihuahua Binky in tow.

By chance, a press photographer took some pictures of Andrew and Xander outside the arena, in the aftermath of the bomb.

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Joel Goodman/LNP

You can see the shock and bewilderment on their faces, Xander clutching the dog as his father searched for his wife and children.

They came across Ashlee, sitting on the pavement outside the arena.

She was bleeding but conscious, and being looked after by members of the public.

Reassured by this, Andrew carried on looking for Lisa and Saffie.

He says: “It was just like a horror movie, there were kids screaming there were kids injured on the floor.

“There were people around and they were all crying, it was just… I have no words.”

Andrew feels that the police were not in command.

“I asked every police officer that I went past,” he says.

“They just said just keep looking.

“Nobody had control of it, because nobody gave me any indication of what to do, where the injured were.

“Nobody said to me, ‘right stay here, let me make some phone calls let me get in touch with some people and see’. They just left you to just wander round.”

Andrew and Xander spent all night searching.

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Roussos family

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Eight-year-old Saffie Roussos was the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena attack

They thought all of the injured had been brought out of the arena and had no idea that Lisa and Saffie were on the floor of the foyer just yards away from them.

Andrew says: “My daughter and my wife were lying on this floor. Do you know how that feels?

“I could have been with them, particularly Saffie. I could have been holding her hand, instead of a stranger. Imagine how she was feeling lying there?”

Father and son went to three hospitals before they found Lisa the next morning.

Andrew says: “They told me to prepare for the worst. If she was going to make it there was an 80-90% chance of her being paralysed from the neck down.”

Andrew was exhausted and already at rock bottom. But he still had hopes of finding Saffie alive.

He’d heard that children who were displaced at the arena were sheltering in nearby hotels. He grabbed a police officer at the hospital and pleaded again for information.

Eventually it came.

Fourteen hours after the explosion Andrew learned that Saffie was dead.

Image copyright

After multiple operations, Lisa Roussos has defied the doctors’ prediction of paralysis.

She is a gentle person with calm determination – and she rarely talks publicly about the horrors of the attack.

She tells me: “The worst thing for me was – is – if Saffie could have been saved.”

I ask her if it’s something that she plays over in her head?

“I have done, yeah,” she says. “To think that, not just Saffie, the other people. How could they leave injured people in the arena for hours? It’s just madness.

“I remember lying there thinking help will be here soon, and in the end it felt like I was lying there for hours. [I thought] ‘why is nobody coming?'”

The Roussos family also have many questions for the security service MI5.

They want to hear the detail of what was known about the bomber Salman Abedi and his brother Hashem who helped to build the bomb.

But some of the hearings involving MI5 will be held behind closed doors, without the families or their lawyers expected to be present. They’re being restricted on grounds of national security.

Lisa says: “Obviously you’re having to put your full trust in the (inquiry) chairman. But this inquiry is not about trust, it should be about transparency, and I feel that we won’t get that without having a representative in the room.”

Andrew adds: “We’ve got five or six law firms representing all the families, so let’s have one barrister from each firm in that room.

“All I hear is lessons learned, but lessons haven’t been learned, and lessons will never be learned, unless we get that transparency and honesty from the people involved to get the answers that we need.”

27th September 2020

In_pictures Tour de France: Did Ineos get the Tour so badly wrong?

In_pictures Tour de France: Did Ineos get the Tour so badly wrong?


in_pictures Rimoz Roglic
Roglic cut a desperate, panicked figure as the race win disappeared

As the world waited for Primoz Roglic to appear over the summit approaching La Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday, resplendent in yellow, they expected something special.

This was a man who had spent three weeks demonstrating he was at the peak of his physical power, complete with mirrored sunglasses and a chiselled jaw, stylishly negotiating 3,000km of French countryside behind his all-powerful Jumbo-Visma team.

They got the opposite. A shell of a man, garish in yellow, sunglasses gone, panicked eyes visible instead, helmet lop-sided – a vision, almost, of a distressed child riding a bike too small for him.

It had to be one of the saddest sights in modern sport. Almost Samson-like, shorn of his powers. The colour drained from his face.

The beneficiary was 21-year-old fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who had been the only man to hang on to Roglic and his team’s coat-tails for the previous 19 stages, making him the second youngest, and most unexpected, Tour de France winner since World War One.

It was an outcome that turned a highly entertaining race into a stone-cold classic.

The overarching reason may well be that a young lad started a minute behind in a time trial he was expected to be beaten in, and finished it a minute ahead after riding with a team – UAE-Emirates – who had lost two of their members earlier in the race, and who run on a far more modest budget those they beat.

A finish like that brought comparisons to the Tour of 1989, won by Greg LeMond in Paris on the final day by eight seconds after he beat Laurent Fignon in a time trial – Fignon and Roglic adopting very similar sitting positions on the tarmac, pictures of disbelief 31 years apart.

in_pictures Primoz Roglic
Primoz Roglic was disconsolate after losing the yellow jersey on the penultimate stage
in_pictures Laurent Fignon
Similar scenes: Fignon, like Roglic, is inconsolable on the line after losing the Tour in Paris in 1989

But what was more startling was the dramatic downturn in form of the two pre-race favourites, Roglic and Ineos Grenadiers’ Egan Bernal.

When was the last time a defending Tour champion just stopped halfway up a mountain halfway through a race? Or someone of Roglic’s form suddenly fell apart metres from the end?

It never happened to Chris Froome…

How badly did Ineos get it wrong?

So, what of Bernal? The defending champion who shocked the sport a week earlier by inexplicably capitulating on the Grand Colombier during stage 15 for a team who have won the Tour in the seven of the past 11 years.

“I have taken my body to the limit – there’s comes a point where it has told me: ‘enough,'” he tweeted.

Bernal is a charming and honest character, who even cut his own hair during this Tour because he was bored sitting around in his ‘bubble’. Much to the bemused delight of his team-mates.

But if the rider is at a loss as to why his form deserted him – and he genuinely is – then is it the fault of his team?

Ineos Grenadiers boss Sir Dave Brailsford has been in the spotlight after what was, for some, a controversial decision not to take four-time winner Froome and 2018 victor Geraint Thomas to the Tour this year.

Plenty have criticised his decision to take such an inexperienced pair in Bernal, 23, and second protected rider Richard Carapaz, 27.

But, by their own admission, the rejected riders did not have the form to take into the Tour, especially not in comparison to Bernal – who was in blistering form during the first two of three warm-up races which directly informed the team’s decision on who to take.

It’s all in the mystical numbers that each rider is ‘putting out’. If Bernal was posting the performance metrics, such as watts per kilo, the team needed him to (which he was) and his form was better than all the other leaders during the warm-up races (which it was), then how can someone in Brailsford’s position at any team possibly know their top athlete would lose his form so quickly?

It just doesn’t generally happen in top-level road cycling.

But if nothing else this can serve as a wake-up call, and as one team member put it: “I think there’s been real pride at the way we fought in the final week. Obviously overarching disappointment, but there’s lots of Grand Tour racing to come this year and excitement about rebuilding and improving for next year.”

A year that will include Britain’s star turn at this year’s Tour Adam Yates appearing as an Ineos rider – he spent four days in the yellow jersey for Mitchelton-Scott, despite a pre-race illness.

Add to that the possibility of young British hope Tom Pidcock bringing more homegrown talent to a British team, whose owner – industrialist Sir Jim Ratcliffe – is very keen to promote that as part of its identity.

Thomas, of course, will have a chance to show what he can do for Ineos at the Giro d’Italia in October. The team are yet to decide who will support ‘G’ in Italy in what could be a treacherous race in the Italian Alps as winter approaches, but Tour failures put more focus on that race.

Froome, still thought to be much further from top form than Thomas, heads for team leader status at the Vuelta a Espana towards the end of October with a chance to show his mettle.

Froome, for all the injury, contract and form drama, could still be Brailsford’s darling in 2020.

Oh, the irony.

in_pictures The changing face of Team Sky/Ineos over the years. They have won seven Tours de France, two Vuelta a Espana, 1 Tour of Britain, 1 Giro d'Italia, 6 Paris-Nice, 6 Criterium de Dauphine, 2 Tour de Yorkshires and 3 one-day races

So many casualties

If Bernal’s demise cannot be explained, what on earth happened to Roglic?

“I just didn’t push enough,” he said. “It was like that. I was more and more without the power I needed but I gave it all until the end.”

So another inconclusive assessment…

Since bursting on to the scene in a 2016 time trial, he has been a very solid performer, gradually building up to team leader status, always with Jumbo-Visma, who seemed to grow in stature and budget alongside him. Roglic came into this race after winning the last Grand Tour – 2019’s Vuelta a Espana.

So he was strong coming in, and despite a crash during the Criterium du Dauphine showed no signs of the loss of performance that befell him on Saturday.

Other team leaders also suffered – and some far earlier than they had previously. France’s big hope Thibaut Pinot fell away painfully early during stage eight. No fireworks, no injuries, no adversity – he just started to go slowly and had no answer.

The one thing all riders have had to contend with this year is the season’s delay because of the coronavirus.

By spring warm-up race Paris-Nice the whole sporting calendar was closing down, as did most riders’ ability to train outside during lockdown – especially in Monaco and Andorra, the tax-haven heartlands of the European World Tour cyclist.

Bernal, it should be noted, was stuck in Colombia during this time – and some suggested was benefiting from an ability to get on his bike more frequently than his home-bound rivals.

If this most brutal of sports carves the body in unnatural ways, maybe it even dictates the time of year riders can be expected to achieve optimal performance – meaning Bernal, Pinot, Froome, Thomas, Roglic, et al could be far more consistent in the middle of July than as autumn approaches.

in_pictures Ineos Grenadiers
Ineos Grenadiers embark on what would be a disappointing Tour

Coping with Covid

Organiser ASO will look upon this Tour as a successful pilot for bringing fans back to major sporting events – thousands lined the roads in cities and on mountain summits, even though many believed they would be stopped.

It is hard to see how anyone can prevent people from climbing through alpine trees if they are that determined. And determined they were – so much so that the fancy dress hordes seemed closer than ever to the riders’ faces on the tops of the climbs, leading some to plead with them to stay away.

ASO’s approach has been a success, but it wasn’t without risk: two pre-race tests were followed by just two more for all riders and staff during the three-week race, taking place on each rest day. Apart from that a daily questionnaire and temperature check was all that was applied.

But what if someone was asymptomatic? And so it proved with at least six team members sent home across the course of the race. Surely all it took was one asymtomatic person to transmit the virus through one team ‘bubble’ and the whole peloton was at risk?

No riders were infected, at least since last Monday when they were last tested.

But if the coronavirus didn’t prevent the race reaching Paris, then another danger did for one rider at least – and it is one the UCI might do well to look into.

Plenty of riders abandoned during the event – usually as a result of broken bones and complications following a crash out on the road. In Lukas Postlberger of Bora-Hansgrohe’s case, it was a wasp sting inside the mouth.

France’s other big hope, AG2R La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet, was having a great Tour, just 30 seconds down in the general classification when he crashed on stage 13, striking his helmet harrowingly hard on the tarmac.

After an assessment lasting a few seconds that included a moment when his legs buckled underneath him, it was decided he was fit to continue to climb up to Puy Mary Cantal and finish the stage. Where he was promptly diagnosed with concussion and given a scan that revealed a “small brain haemorrhage”.

Given the seriousness of the injury, it is shocking there are not more strict protocols in place to prevent riders from putting themselves under physical duress while in a dangerous medical state.

As the UCI states itself in its ‘concussion and return to competition’ medical rules: “Any rider with a suspected concussion should be immediately removed from the competition or training and urgently assessed medically.”

As promising young Ineos domestique Pavel Sivakov put it just before embarking on this Tour – and suffering at least three crashes himself during proceedings – “cycling is not an easy life”.

And Roglic, who showed grace in defeat by embracing Pogacar immediately after picking himself up off the tarmac, would echo that sentiment.

Sunglasses back in place, the swagger on the bike even returned on the Champs Elysees on Sunday – 24 hours after one of cycling’s biggest chokes, he is ready to go again.

in_pictures Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar
Roglic, left, congratulates Pogacar

27th September 2020

Technology Singapore distributes Covid contact-tracing tokens

Technology Singapore distributes Covid contact-tracing tokens


Technology The TraceTogether tokens are an alternative to the government's contact tracing smartphone app.Image copyright
Silver Generation Office (SGO)

Singapore has started distributing Bluetooth contact-tracing tokens to its five million residents to help contain the spread of Covid-19.

The tokens, which can be worn on a lanyard or carried, are a hardware version of its existing contact-tracing app which was rolled out in March.

Like the app, they use Bluetooth to look for other users’ devices and then log any contact with those devices.

They could be popular with older people who do not use smart phones.

The government also hopes the tokens will help to further reopen the economy, by enabling conferences to restart and providing better tracing in higher risk settings, such as busy hotels, cinemas and gyms.

The initial rollout is happening in areas with a greater concentration of elderly people, who are both at a greater health risk from Covid-19 and less likely to own a smart phone.

But the token will be available to all citizens, including foreign residents.

Singapore residents currently check-in to shops and office buildings using a separate SafeEntry system, that makes use of QR codes to log users’ presence.

For some higher-risk activities, SafeEntry will now also require the app or token to check in.

Technology Better for privacy?

A consultant tapped by the government’s technology agency to provide feedback on the token said it’s a better option for anyone concerned about privacy.

“I would prefer to use the token over the app,” said Bunnie Huang, who lined up for a token on the first day it was available.

Like app, information is stored on the token, purged regularly and is only uploaded – or in the case of the token physically handed over – to the Ministry of Health if the user tests positive.

The tokens can be carried on a lanyard or in a bag, and don’t require a smart phone to run.

The advantage to a hardware-only version, said Mr Huang, is that it makes it impossible for a software update to surreptitiously turn on location data or other sensors without the user noticing.

“With the token, if I want it off, I know how to destroy it,” he said.

The token will also help to cover people without a smart phone, and those who have encountered functionality problems with the app, he said.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Technology Apps around the world

Singapore was the first government to introduce a contact tracing app nationally in March.

Since then, about 2.4 million people have downloaded the app, with about 1.4 million using it in August.

Singapore government figures have long acknowledged that those numbers need to increase to make the app and the token effective.

But the Ministry of Health said the program has helped to reduce the time it takes to identify and quarantine close contacts of Covid-19 cases from four days to two.

The city-state has been more enthusiastic about contact tracing apps than many other countries, which have been slower to introduce apps or have struggled to make good use of them.

England and Wales, for example, won’t introduce their app until later this month, while Australia has struggled to get any information from the app that it didn’t get by regular contact tracing.

27th September 2020

Science ‘Together we will make a change’ – Hamilton Commission members named

Science ‘Together we will make a change’ – Hamilton Commission members named


science Lewis Hamilton after winning the Tuscan Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton remains on course for a seventh world title after winning the Tuscan Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has vowed to increase the number of black people in motor racing, naming a group to analyse the causes of a lack of diversity.

The British Formula 1 world champion said members of his Hamilton Commission “together will make a change”.

Hamilton will lead the group alongside Dr Hayaatun Sillem, the chief executive of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The 14 members include former sports minister Tracey Crouch and ex-McLaren Formula 1 boss Martin Whitmarsh.

Mercedes driver Hamilton, 35, has set the commission the target of identifying the “key barriers to the recruitment and progression of black people in UK motorsport” and providing “actionable recommendations to overcome them”.

A statement said the composition of the commission had been chosen to “represent a wide range of expertise spanning critical areas of influence, including motorsport, engineering, schools, colleges and universities, community/youth groups, as well as major UK political parties”.

Other members include Professor Alice Gast, the president of Imperial College London and Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne and shadow minister for digital, science and technology.

Hamilton is F1’s first and so far only black driver. The sport’s only other non-white competitor is Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, a Britain-born Thai.

Six-time world champion Hamilton said: “What is more concerning is that there are still very few people of colour across the sport as a whole.

“In F1, our teams are much bigger than the athletes that front them, but representation is insufficient across every skill set – from the garage to the engineers in the factories and design departments.

“Change isn’t coming quickly enough and we need to know why.

“This is why I wanted to set up the commission and I’m proud to be working with the Royal Academy of Engineering and our incredible board of commissioners to identify the barriers facing young black people to take up STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers in motorsport.

“We are dedicated to this cause and, together, we will make a change.”

Sillem said: “This is a truly unique opportunity to drive transformational change on this crucial issue and, in the process, to learn more about how we can enrich diversity in other parts of engineering and society.”

Gast said the commission would “not only strengthen Formula 1 and motorsport, but will help bring needed talent into engineering”.

“Inclusion and excellence go hand in hand. Lewis is a role model for future stars of engineering and innovation as much as he is a sporting icon and I’m very pleased to be working with him,” she added.

Hamilton has been at the forefront of F1’s attempts this year to promote an anti-racist and pro-diversity agenda, which includes demonstrations before every grand prix.

His Mercedes team have painted their cars black for this season, instead of their trademark silver, as a signal of their commitment to greater diversity and inclusion.

Hamilton called the move “an important statement we are willing to change and improve as a business”.

The team admitted that “just 3% of our workforce identify as belonging to minority ethnic groups and only 12% of our employees are women”.

Mercedes have pledged to increase those numbers and Hamilton has called on all other teams to match that commitment.

F1 as a sport has launched an equality and diversity taskforce to increase opportunity for minority groups and has pledged to work with the Hamilton Commission.

Hamilton will publish the findings and recommendations of his commission and take it “directly to key stakeholders who can help implement change”.

A statement added: “Commissioners will also support this effort by applying their personal influence to champion the insights and recommendations from the project.”

27th September 2020

Science Two asteroids fly by Earth in two days – CBBC Newsround

Science Two asteroids fly by Earth in two days – CBBC Newsround


science Asteroid.Getty Images

In the space of two days, two large asteroids will have passed by Earth.

On Sunday a piece of space rock the size of Blackpool Tower shot past our planet, moving at a speed of eight miles per second.

At that speed the asteroid could’ve travelled from London to New York in just over seven minutes!

Although the asteroid known as 2010 FR was at a distance of 4.6 million miles away – that is still close(ish) in space terms.

Nasa has classified the rock as a Near-Earth Object (NEO) and says the asteroid is “potentially hazardous”, meaning one day in the future its orbit could see it move closer to a collision course with the Earth.

That might sound scary, but there are lots of asteroids that Nasa constantly monitors which are classed as hazardous. However, the chances of them hitting Earth are still very small.

And Nasa also has a plan to knock any pieces of space rock that could hit the planet, off course.

To enjoy the CBBC Newsround website at its best you will need to have JavaScript turned on.

WATCH: How Nasa plans to stop asteroids hitting Earth in the future (2017)

Asteroid 2010 FR isn’t Earth’s only close encounter with a chunk of space rock this month.

On 8 September, an asteroid known as 2020 PT4 will move past the Earth and the Moon, in what Nasa is also describing as a “near-Earth” approach.

This asteroid is much smaller than 2010 FR but is travelling even faster, at a speed of seven miles per second.

This space rock will also pass much closer to the planet, about 4.9 times the distance between the Earth and the Moon, which is just over one million miles away.

The asteroid is about the length of two lorries, and although that seems big, if it collided with Earth at any point in the future, it would probably explode in the atmosphere causing minimal damage.

Meanwhile just last month, Nasa missed a car-sized asteroid that flew past the planet – it was the closest near miss with a space rock ever recorded.

Although some asteroids get a little too close for comfort, Nasa says it’s a perfect time to study parts of the solar system that have remained relatively unchanged for billions of years.

“NEOs (Near-Earth Objects) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of nearby planets into orbits that allow them to enter the Earth’s neighbourhood,” Nasa says.

“The scientific interest in comets and asteroids is due largely to their status as the relatively unchanged remnant debris from the solar system formation process some 4.6 billion years ago.”

Explaining the formation of planets such as Earth and Mars, Nasa says “today’s asteroids are the bits and pieces left over”.

27th September 2020

Science Coronavirus: US health chiefs reverse advice on Covid-19 testing

Science Coronavirus: US health chiefs reverse advice on Covid-19 testing


science A sign directs people to a Covid-19 testing site on 14 September 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York CityImage copyright
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The US has had nearly seven million confirmed Covid-19 cases

US health officials have rowed back on controversial advice issued last month that said people without Covid-19 symptoms should not get tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says anyone in close contact with a known infected person should take a test.

Friday’s “clarification” returns the CDC’s stance on testing to its previous guidance, before the August alteration.

Reports said the controversial advice had not been given by scientists.

Sources quoted by the New York Times said it had been posted on the CDC website despite experts’ objections.

Most US states had then rejected the guidance, Reuters reported, in a stinging rebuke to the nation’s top disease prevention agency.

Some observers suggested the controversial move could have reflected a desire by President Donald Trump to reduce the growing tally of Covid-19 cases.

At a rally in June, Mr Trump told supporters he had urged officials to “slow the testing down, please”. A White House official dismissed the remark as a joke.

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Media captionCDC director vs President Trump on face masks and vaccines

However, administration officials denied any political motive, telling Reuters that the change reflected “current evidence and best public health practices”.

Experts welcomed the change of tack on Friday.

“The return to a science-based approach to testing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is good news for public health and for our united fight against this pandemic,” said Thomas File, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

In its “overview of testing” for healthcare workers the CDC now says: “Due to the significance of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, this guidance further reinforces the need to test asymptomatic persons, including close contacts of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

It advises people to take a test “if you have been in close contact, such as within 6ft of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms”.

The US has recorded nearly seven million cases of coronavirus, more than a fifth of the world’s total. It has the world’s highest death toll, with nearly 200,000 fatalities.

27th September 2020

Science Japan’s governing party chooses Shinzo Abe’s successor

Science Japan’s governing party chooses Shinzo Abe’s successor


science Yoshihide SugaImage copyright

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Yoshihide Suga was born the son of strawberry farmers

Japan’s governing party has elected Yoshihide Suga as its new leader to succeed Shinzo Abe, meaning he is almost certain to become the country’s next prime minister.

Last month Mr Abe announced his resignation for reasons of ill health.

Mr Suga, 71, serves as chief cabinet secretary in the current administration and was widely expected to win.

He is considered a close ally of Mr Abe and likely to continue his predecessor’s policies.

Mr Suga won the vote for the presidency of the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) by a large margin, taking 377 of a total of 534 votes from lawmakers and regional representatives.

He saw off two other contenders – Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister, and Shigeru Ishiba, a former LDP secretary-general and one time defence minister.

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Shigeru Ishiba (left), Yoshihide Suga and Fumio Kishida

Now that the party has chosen its new leader, there will be another vote on Wednesday in parliament, where Mr Suga is almost certain to be made prime minister because of the LDP’s majority.

Taking over mid-term, Mr Suga is expected to stay in post until elections due in September 2021.

Science Who is Yoshihide Suga?

Born the son of strawberry farmers, Mr Suga is a veteran politician.

Given his central role of chief cabinet secretary in the administration, he is expected to provide continuity heading an interim government until the 2021 election.

“Shinzo Abe and the other party bosses picked and joined the bandwagon for Mr Suga precisely because he was the best ‘continuity’ candidate, someone who they think could continue Abe government without Abe,” Koichi Nakano, dean and political science professor at Tokyo’s Sophia University, told the BBC.

While not considered the most energetic or passionate politician, Mr Suga has a reputation of being very efficient and practical.

One of his most prominent appearances recently was during the transition from Emperor Akihito, who abdicated, to his son Naruhito in 2019. It fell to Mr Suga to unveil the name of the new Reiwa era to the Japanese and global public.

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He was nicknamed “Uncle Reiwa” after unveiling Japan’s new era name

Yet, while he was the favourite to clinch the LDP leadership after Mr Abe’s resignation, it is much less clear whether he will lead the party in next year’s general election.

Observers suggest that by then, the party dynamic could shift to put a more vibrant man at the helm who can reach a wider general electorate.

Science What can we expect?

Mr Suga has promised to continue with “Abenomics”, Mr Abe’s signature economic policy that was designed to stimulate the world’s third biggest economy through monetary easing, fiscal spending and structural reforms.

But like his predecessor he will first need to tackle the pressing demands of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ahead of his election Mr Suga had pledged to expand Covid-19 testing and source vaccines for Japan by the first half of 2021.

He also said he would raise the minimum wage, promote agricultural reforms and boost tourism.

On foreign policy, too, he is expected to follow in Mr Abe’s footsteps, prioritising Japan’s long-running alliance with the US while also maintaining stable relations with China.

Science What is Japan’s political outlook?

The leadership transition comes at a difficult time for the country. Japan is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic which has caused its biggest economic slump on record.

Mr Abe’s long-standing project of kickstarting the economy, dubbed Abenomics was, even before the pandemic hit, still a work in progress and the country has seen several years of stagnation, recession or only very slow growth.

There’s also unfinished business in the government’s plans to reform the post-war pacifist constitution. Mr Abe wanted to change a section in the constitution to formally recognise Japan’s military, which is currently called the Self Defence Force and is essentially barred from participating in any international military mandates.

For all those projects, a new administration under Mr Suga could provide stability.

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Japan has been hit by the pandemic and an economic slump

But during his time as chief cabinet secretary, he was “remarkably lacking in vision”, Prof Nakano cautions.

“The only slogan he came up with is “Self help, mutual help, and public help” – emphasising neoliberal self-help and self-responsibility at the time of [a] pandemic that is exposing a whole lot of people to economic vulnerability.”

New general elections for the Diet, the lower house, are scheduled for September 2021 and by then, there will likely be another leadership contest within the LDP.

That contest will be more about who can win over the general electorate – rather than merely promise continuity, observers say.

Science Why did Shinzo Abe resign?

Mr Abe said he did not want his illness to get in the way of decision making, and apologised to the Japanese people for failing to complete his term in office.

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The 65-year-old has suffered for many years from ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, but he said his condition had worsened recently.

Last year, he became Japan’s longest serving prime minister. His current period in office began in 2012.

He abruptly resigned from a previous term as prime minister in 2007 also because of his chronic condition.

26th September 2020

In_pictures David Cameron: How is his autobiography selling?

In_pictures David Cameron: How is his autobiography selling?


in_pictures David Cameron autobiography

David Cameron’s critics have had a field day on social media sharing pictures of his autobiography, For The Record, in a bookshop reduced from £25 to £3.

The former primer minister’s book was released last year and has recently come out in paperback.

Broadcaster Iain Dale, who has published more political memoirs than most, when he ran the Biteback imprint, and who once unsuccessfully stood as a Tory election candidate, says such price reductions are “absolutely standard” and not an indication of poor sales.

So how does Mr Cameron’s book sales really compare to other prime ministers’ memoirs?

Nielsen Book Research has been gathering the data since 1998 – since when four prime ministers have published accounts of their time in office.

Way out in the lead is Tony Blair, Labour prime minister from 1997 – 2007, who sold 349,901 copies of A Journey.

In a distant second is Conservative Sir John Major – whose book came out in 1999 – with 91,513 sales, followed by Mr Cameron on 63,513.

In last place we have Gordon Brown. His My Life, Our Times sold 28,298.

They were all outstripped however by ex-US President Barack Obama, whose early memoir Dreams From My Father has sold 755,000.

In terms of first week sales, Tony Blair clocked up 92,060; David Cameron, 20,792; John Major, 5,415 and Gordon Brown 3,309.

Mr Dale – whose own book, Why Can’t We All Just Get Along: Shout Less. Listen More, has recently been published – says it is very difficult for a politician to write a bestselling memoir.

In_pictures ‘A work of fiction about one side’

“You have to be a prime minister or someone of real notoriety,” he says “and even then the sales aren’t as big as football players or major league celebrities”.

“I think prime ministers’ books are quite difficult ones to get right.

“Political autobiographies are described as works of fiction about one side – that is a trite comment but anybody who writes an autobiography is inevitably going to present their side of their story.”

However, he argues the better books usually include acknowledgements of where the politicians went wrong. David Cameron and Gordon Brown’s books did this well, he says, Margaret Thatcher’s less so.

Sometimes the more interesting books can come, not from the most powerful people in the room, but those in shadows.

Mr Dale points to Power Trip by Damien McBride, a former spin doctor of Mr Brown’s, whose book sold 40,000 copies.

“That is the best book I have ever published,” he says adding: “He is completely honest about what he did.”

He also predicts that an upcoming book The Secret Life of Spads about ministers’ special advisers has the potential to do well.

James Stephens, from Biteback publishing, also points out that power is not a perquisite for writing a good memoir.

“Alan Clark [Conservative MP] and Sasha Swire [wife of a Conservative minister] are both outsiders in a way, but with surprising angles on events of the day,” he says.

“I think everyone is fascinated by what goes on behind-the-scenes in Westminster,” he adds.

“At its most basic level it’s soap opera and people want to know what’s happening off screen.

“We want to know what was happening when key decisions were made, who were the personalities involved, what were they thinking (maybe even what they were wearing!).”

In_pictures ‘Very clean novel’

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Ann Widdecombe has written several books since leaving government

One hot spot for flogging former leader’s tomes used to be the annual political party conferences.

But this year coronavirus has restricted the gatherings to virtual-only affairs meaning no physical book stalls and no passing trade.

But even if conferences were going ahead this year it is unlikely any politician would match the salesmanship of one-time Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe.

Her book was being sold at the same time as the diaries of another former Conservative minister – Edwina Currie who had revealed her affair with John Major.

Mr Dale recalls her at a party conference shouting at passers-by in the style of a market stall trader: “Very clean novel” pointing to her own book and then, gesturing to Ms Currie’s, “very dirty diary”.

Perhaps not the sales tactic Mr Cameron is likely to pick if he wants to boost his own sales.

26th September 2020

In_pictures Coronavirus: What lessons can rest of UK learn from Scotland’s school return?

In_pictures Coronavirus: What lessons can rest of UK learn from Scotland’s school return?


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Pupils at this Glasgow secondary school have been back at school for more than three weeks

The return of schools in England and Wales this week, after lockdown and the summer holidays, has been called a pivotal moment. As children start to mix, there is concern coronavirus transmission rates will begin to surge.

In Scotland, pupils have been back since the middle of August. So what can the rest of the UK learn from its example?

In_pictures 1. Infections rise, but not surge

Fears that the return to class would trigger a sharp increase in transmission have not materialised – at least not yet.

Within days of returning to their desks, some pupils tested positive for the virus. But Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon then pointed out they had contracted it outside of school itself. A large house party in North Lanarkshire was suspected of triggering a cluster of cases involving pupils from four different high schools.

In Dundee, an additional support needs school had to close after a cluster of cases. But the majority of these were among adult teaching and support staff.

While some primary schools had to ask a whole class to self-isolate, only a handful of schools have required a temporary closure for deep cleaning.

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These pupils in the Scottish Borders were the first in the UK to return on 11 August

A few days ago the first cases of transmission within school premises were identified at two schools in Glasgow. It wasn’t an unexpected development, says Scotland’s national clinical director, Prof Jason Leitch. Such clusters would be treated the same as any other.

University of Edinburgh public health expert Prof Devi Sridhar, who advises the Scottish government, says the key is keeping the numbers low in the general population.

“Schools are not super-spreader events but they’re not bubbles either,” she said. “They are a mirror of what’s happening in society.”

In_pictures 2. Cautious parents put a strain on testing

Almost a fortnight after most schools returned, Scotland was hit by a spike in demand for Covid testing. The reasons aren’t fully understood, but it’s suspected that other viruses, like the common cold, are on the rise. It could be parents are cautious and booking a test at the first sign of a “sniffle”.

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PA Media

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The return to school coincided with an upsurge in demand for Covid testing

The latest advice for parents points out a “runny nose”does not in itself require a test or self-isolation. Only the main Covid symptoms – continuous cough, fever, or change in the sense of taste or smell – require action.

Demand for testing has increased “significantly” since pupils returned, says Ms Sturgeon. But few come back positive. In the week to 30 August, only 37 individuals under the age of 18 tested positive, out of nearly 30,000 who were tested.

In_pictures 3. Pupil absences will rise

By the second half of August all schools in Scotland were back. Then absences started to rise, with attendance dropping to 85% at one point. But Covid wasn’t to blame.

In_pictures Attendance in Scottish schools

It could be coronavirus has led parents to keep their children off school more, even if they don’t tell the school that. Covid-related absences – such as a positive test, showing symptoms or self-isolation – were running at only about 3% with about four times as many students off school for other reasons.

Absenteeism is an “emerging issue”, says Jim Thewliss, from School Leaders Scotland, which represents senior school staff.

“Parents are taking a fail-safe approach,” he says. “They’re thinking my child is not well, we’re going to get a test and keep them off in the meantime.”

He believes schools will have to find better ways of supporting learning for children who are being kept home.

In_pictures 4. Guidance may need to evolve

There has already been one big change in the rules – on the use of face coverings. Only after going back, were pupils told to wear masks in corridors, communal areas and on school transport. The official reason was new World Health Organization advice based on evidence that teenagers transmit the virus in a similar way to adults.

But in the previous week pictures had also emerged on social media of pupils packed like sardines in school corridors as they moved between classes.

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PA Media

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The requirement to wear masks in corridors was introduced a fortnight after pupils returned

Similar advice was soon issued in Northern Ireland and, to a lesser extent, in England.

In Scotland the Education Recovery Group, bringing together government, the teaching profession, councils and parents, has been meeting regularly since April, providing a forum where issues can be raised.

“It would be disingenuous to say everybody has been happy but we’ve at least been party to the decisions that have been taken,” says Mr Thewliss.

Ahead of recent meetings, stakeholders have listed what’s gone well, what’s not going well – and identified emerging problems. Mr Thewliss says practical subjects like drama, music or PE have encountered some difficulties which he expects to be addressed shortly in updated guidance. Schools are also set to be issued with new flow charts to help them address issues quickly.

In_pictures 5. Hand sanitiser can strain tight budgets

With so much emphasis being placed on hand hygiene, it’s not surprising schools are using a lot of hand sanitiser. The bill for protective equipment is for the most part being picked up by councils, which have been given extra funding from the Scottish government.

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Classroom cleaning stations are a key element of the infection control plan

But there has been some confusion, with one head teacher in the west of Scotland complaining their school was facing additional costs of about £20,000.

Another teacher said they knew of cases where schools had been urged to be more sparing in the use of hand sanitiser.

School Leaders Scotland says while there has been some variation across the country, schools have been given supplies of PPE and it’s an improving picture.

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