MH370’s enduring mystery ‘almost inconceivable’, report says

Australian investigators have delivered their final report into missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370, saying it is “almost inconceivable” the aircraft has not been found.

MH370 disappeared in 2014 while flying to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur with 239 people on board.

The search for the jet, also involving Malaysia and China, was called off in January after 1,046 days.

Australian searchers said they “deeply regretted” it had not been found.

“It is almost inconceivable and certainly societally unacceptable in the modern aviation era with 10 million passengers boarding commercial aircraft every day, for a large commercial aircraft to be missing and for the world not to know with certainty what became of the aircraft and those on board,” the Australian Transport Safety Bureau said on Tuesday.

“Despite the extraordinary efforts of hundreds of people involved in the search from around the world, the aircraft has not been located.”

Their final report reiterated estimates from December and April that the Boeing 777 was most likely located 25,000 sq km (9,700 sq miles) to the north of the earlier search zone in the southern Indian Ocean.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Relatives of those missing have called for the search to be resumed

The hunt formed one of the largest surface and underwater searches in aviation history.

After the initial 52-day surface search failed, investigators trawled the sea floor and ultimately ruled out an area of more than 120,000 sq km.

In 2015 and 2016, suspected debris from MH370 washed up on islands in the Indian Ocean and the east coast of Africa.

Investigators came up with its current likely location after analysing drift modelling of debris and satellite data.

In the report, investigators said their understanding of MH370’s location was “better now than it has ever been”.

The Australian government has said only “credible” new evidence will prompt it to resume the search.

The Malaysian government is continuing to investigate the circumstances surrounding the disappearance.

Posted in BBC

Einstein’s waves win Nobel Prize

The 2017 Nobel prize in physics has been awarded to three US scientists for the detection of gravitational waves.

Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish will share the nine million kronor (£831,000) prize.

The ripples were predicted by Albert Einstein and are a fundamental consequence of his General Theory of Relativity.

The winners are members of the Ligo-Virgo observatories, which were responsible for the breakthrough.

The winners join a prestigious list of 204 other Physics laureates recognised since 1901.

Prof Weiss gets half of the prize money, while Barish and Thorne will share the other half.

Gravitational waves describe the stretching and squeezing of space-time that occurs when massive objects accelerate.

The warping of space resulting from the merger of two black holes was initially picked up by the US Ligo laboratory in 2015 – the culmination of a decades-long quest.

Three more examples have been detected since then.

  • Gravitational waves quest to go into space
  • Scottish gravitational waves pioneer dies
  • Getting your head around Einstein’s waves
  • Gravitational waves: A triumph for big science
    • Gravitational waves are a prediction of the Theory of General Relativity
    • It took decades to develop the technology to directly detect them
    • They are ripples in the fabric of space-time generated by violent events
    • Accelerating masses will produce waves that propagate at the speed of light
    • Detectable sources ought to include merging black holes and neutron stars
    • Ligo/Virgo fire lasers into long, L-shaped tunnels; the waves disturb the light
    • Detecting the waves opens up the Universe to completely new investigations

    Speaking at a press conference, Olga Botner, from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, said: “The first ever observation of a gravitational wave was a milestone – a window on the Universe.”

    The US Ligo and European Virgo laboratories were built to detect the very subtle signal produced by these waves.

    Even though they are produced by colossal phenomena, such as black holes merging, Einstein himself thought the effect might simply be too small to register by technology.

    But the three new laureates led the development of a laser-based system that could reach the sensitivity required to bag a detection.

    The result was Ligo, a pair of widely separated facilities in North America: one observatory is based in Washington State, while the other is in Livingston, Louisiana.

    The European side of the gravitational wave collaboration is based in Pisa, Italy.

    Speaking over the phone at the Nobel announcement in Stockholm, Rainer Weiss said the discovery was the work of about 1,000 people.

    But the Nobel trio’s contribution is also regarded as fundamental.

    Weiss set out the strategy that would be needed to make a detection.

    Thorne did much of the theoretical work that underpinned the quest.

    And Barish, who took over as the second director of Ligo in 1994, is credited with driving through organisational reforms and technology choices that would ultimately prove pivotal in the mission’s success.

    Catherine O’Riordan, interim co-chief executive of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), said: “Weiss, Barish and Thorne led us to the first detection of gravitational waves and laid the foundation for the new and exciting era we officially entered on September 14, 2015 – the era of gravity wave astronomy.”

    Image copyright S.Ossokine/A.Buonanno (MPI Gravitational Physics)
    Image caption A computer simulation of gravitational waves radiating from two merging black holes

    Many commentators had gravitational waves down as a dead cert to win last year, but the Nobel committee has always been fiercely independent in its choices and has made everyone wait 12 months.

    Had the prize been awarded last year, it is very likely that the Scottish physicist Ron Drever would have shared it with Weiss and Thorne.

    The trio won all the big science prizes – apart from the Nobel – in the immediate aftermath of the first detection in 2015.

    But Drever died in March this year and Nobels are generally not awarded posthumously.

    The Scotsman developed some of the early laser systems at Glasgow University before taking this knowledge to Caltech in California.

    Glasgow remains the UK hub for the big British contribution to Ligo. Its Institute for Gravitational Research designed and built the suspension system that holds the ultra-still mirrors used in the US and Italian labs.

Posted in BBC

Monarch chief Andrew Swaffield ‘devastated’ at closure

Monarch chief executive Andrew Swaffield has said he is “absolutely devastated” at the airline’s collapse.

Mr Swaffield said the decision not to continue trading was made on Saturday night after estimating that losses for 2018 would be “well over £100m”.

He told the BBC’s Today programme that Monday was a “heartbreaking day”.

Meanwhile, the first stage of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rescue scheme led to nearly 12,000 people being brought back to the UK on Monday.

A similar number of people are due to return to the UK on Tuesday.

Monarch Airlines ceased trading early on Monday, leading to nearly 1,900 job losses and the cancellation of all its flights and holidays.

The collapse of the 50-year old company is the largest ever for a UK airline.

‘Great family’

Mr Swaffield blamed the company’s demise on “terrorism and the closure of some markets like Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt,” which led to more competition on routes to Spain and Portugal.

“Flights were being squeezed into a smaller number of destinations and a 25% reduction in ticket prices on our routes created a massive economic challenge for our short-haul network,” he told the BBC.

  • What are your rights?
  • The rise and fall of Monarch
  • ‘Shock and anger’ among passengers
  • Four reasons why Monarch failed

He explained that it was impossible for the airline to keep on flying beyond the weekend once the decision to close had been taken.

“The UK insolvency framework doesn’t allow airlines to continue flying unlike in Germany and Italy, where we see that Air Berlin and Alitalia continued when they were in administration.

“We tried to operate a normal schedule all day Sunday so we could be ready for the CAA rescue flights on Monday morning without causing a massive backlog.”

Mr Swaffield said the staff at Monarch had been a “great family” and said every effort was being made to find new employment for the 2,000 people who had lost their jobs.

“We are doing all we can,” he said. “We are talking to our competitor airlines, trying to organise job fairs and trying to connect staff with our competitors.

“We also have hundreds of head office staff in Luton and are trying to organise the same kind of conversations with employers in Luton and Bromley.”


CAA chair Dame Deirdre Hutton told the BBC that their programme to return holidaymakers to the UK had got off to a good start.

“Day one went really well and day two is going well so far but it is a huge undertaking and I’m sure there will be some glitches on the way,” she said.

She added that the programme would run until Sunday 15 October and that if people were not flown into their departure airport, they would be taken there by bus.

Dame Deirdre denied that the collapse of Monarch and cancellation of some winter flights by Ryanair meant that the airline industry was in trouble.

“The industry is very buoyant and during this year passenger numbers have been up, airlines have been doing very well and airports have been reporting record numbers of passengers,” she said.

The government is set to pick up the tab for flying Monarch passengers home, but is talking to credit card companies about sharing some of the cost.


Posted in BBC

Catalan referendum: Anti-police strike hits public services

Protesters are blocking major roads in Catalonia and there is little public transport because of a general strike.

Catalan trade unions called the strike to show public anger at Spanish police violence that marred the region’s independence referendum on Sunday.

At least 24 protesters’ roadblocks were reported across Catalonia, causing big traffic jams. Barcelona port was at a standstill, union sources said.

However, the city’s El Prat airport and its taxis are operating normally.

Many small businesses across Catalonia have shut for the day. Schools, universities and medical services are also closed or operating at a minimum level.

Mercabarna – Barcelona’s massive wholesale market – was left deserted as some 770 food businesses closed for the day.

The strike was called in protest at “the grave violation of rights and freedoms” seen during Sunday’s ballot. Almost 900 people were hurt as Spanish police tried to prevent voting, in a referendum declared illegal by the Madrid government.

Media captionMany Catalans have expressed shock at the use of violent tactics by Spanish police

Some police officers were seen firing rubber bullets, storming into polling stations and pulling women by their hair.

Thirty-three police officers were also injured in Sunday’s clashes, Catalan medical officials said.

However, more than 2.2m people reportedly voted in spite of this. The Catalan government says the vote in support of independence was nearly 90%, but official results have not yet been released.

Turnout was relatively low at a reported 42%, potentially weakening the position of Catalan President Carles Puigdemont.

  • Spain’s biggest crisis for a generation
  • The reasons for the referendum
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Protesters blocked a street outside a police station in Barcelona
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Barcelona metro: A sign warns commuters that there will be minimum services
Image copyright EPA
Image caption A huge Barcelona wholesale market – Mercabarna – is paralysed by the strike

On Monday evening the Spain national football team abandoned a training session after fans booed and whistled at defender Gerard Pique, who has strongly backed the Catalan referendum.

Guardia Civil police mingled among the crowd, as some fans waved Spanish flags and anti-Pique placards.

He plays for FC Barcelona, which announced that it had joined the strike. None of the professional teams or the youth teams at FC Barcelona will train tomorrow,” the club said on Monday evening.

Catalan rage: Separatism or populism?

By Europe Editor Katya Adler

It would be wrong to interpret the anger and anguish so palpable in Catalonia right now as an expression of political unity. Catalans are as divided as ever on the question of independence.

Media captionCatalans sing their anthem ‘Els Segadors’, or ‘The Reapers’

What unites them today is a seething fury and resentment at the heavy-handedness of the Spanish government, represented by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, with what Catalans perceive as his Madrid-centric arrogance, brutishness and disregard for the rights of individuals.

This is far less about separatism than populism. Anti-establishment, nationalist sentiment a la Catalana.

Read more from Katya: Why Catalan emotions are running high

Meanwhile, political leaders are trying to find a way forward.

President Puigdemont has said he wants a new understanding with the central government in Madrid, but the Spanish government has warned it could suspend autonomy of the wealthy north-eastern region.

  • How Barcelona and Madrid viewed the vote
  • The most powerful images of Catalan clashes

Given the chaotic nature of the vote, the turnout and voting figures should be taken with a pinch of salt, says the BBC’s Tom Burridge in Barcelona.

Media captionRiot police were seen using batons and kicking people to block voting

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the vote made a “mockery” of democracy.

He held talks with Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the main opposition Socialist party, as well as Albert Rivera, the head of the centrist Ciudadanos party, late on Monday.

While the socialist leader urged Mr Rajoy to hold talks with the Catalan president immediately, Mr Rivera said Spain should invoke article 155 of the constitution, in effect suspending Catalonia’s autonomous powers.

Mr Puigdemont has called on the international community to help mediate between the two sides.

However, the European Commission described the crisis as “an internal matter” for Spain, that has to be dealt with in line with the constitutional order.

Posted in BBC

Botanic gardens ‘best hope’ for saving endangered plants

The world’s botanic gardens contain about a third of all known plants and help protect 40% of endangered species, a study has found.

Scientists say that with one in five of the world’s plants on the brink of extinction, botanic collections hold the key to saving rare plant life.

In the first detailed study of plants grown in botanical gardens, they recorded more than 100,000 species.

Efforts are needed to target some of our rarest plants, they say.

“This is the first time that we have carried out a global assessment to look at the wide range of plants grown, managed and conserved in botanic gardens,” said Dr Paul Smith, Secretary General of the charity Botanic Gardens Conservation International.

“So, for the first time we know what we have and, perhaps more importantly, what is missing from botanic gardens.”

Tropical plants were under-represented in the inventory of species. Meanwhile, primitive plants such as mosses were fewer in number compared with exotic specimens such as orchids and lilies.

“Botanic gardens maintain in their living collections and seed banks an astonishing array of plant diversity, ” Dr Smith explained.

“We think gardens should be making much more of what they can uniquely grow that no other garden or experts have ever grown before.”

Image copyright Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Image caption Peridiniya Botanic Garden in Sri Lanka: Tropical plants are under-represented worldwide

About 500 million people visit botanic gardens each year. As well as being popular visitor attractions, they are a centre of learning and education, and conduct valuable research and conservation work.

The study, published in the journal Nature Plants, identified gaps in the botanic collections of more than 1,000 institutions.

Many botanic gardens are in the Northern Hemisphere, where tropical species are harder to maintain as they need to be grown in heated glasshouses.

Tropical plants are best grown in their country of origin, but there are far fewer facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.

Furthermore, only 10% of global collections are dedicated to threatened species, suggesting botanic gardens could do more to preserve some of the world’s most vulnerable plants.

Image copyright Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Image caption Gardens By The Bay in Singapore

Dr Samuel Brockington of the University of Cambridge is a curator at the university’s own botanic garden and co-researcher of the study.

He said the global network of botanic gardens was our best hope for saving some of the world’s most endangered plants.

“Currently, an estimated one-fifth of plant diversity is under threat, yet there is no technical reason why any plant species should become extinct,” he said.

“If we do not conserve our plant diversity, humanity will struggle to solve the global challenges of food and fuel security, environmental degradation, and climate change.”

Posted in BBC

Australia joins UK space radar mission

Australia is to be a launch partner on the UK’s innovative new small radar satellite, NovaSAR.

The spacecraft, which will track shipping and forestry change from orbit, is due to launch on an Indian rocket early next year.

Australia’s main research organisation, CSIRO, has signed a 10% share in NovaSAR’s data.

The deal comes on the heels of an announcement that the country will soon get a national space agency.

This future body will no doubt look to secure many more such collaborations, to enable Australian scientists and entrepreneurs to exploit the latest Earth observation information.

NovaSAR (PDF) has been built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guildford, in southern England, with the aid of a £21m UK government grant.

Image copyright SSTL
Image caption The S-band radar instrument itself has been developed by SSTL’s parent, Airbus

The 3m-long platform, which looks like a cheese-grater, is regarded as an “operational demonstrator” – that is to say, it will showcase a capability but with the intention that its data is put to good use to develop services.

Radar works at wavelengths that allow it to pierce cloud to see the surface of the Earth in all weathers, and in darkness.

NovaSAR will use this vision to make forestry assessments in the tropics (frequent cloud) and at high latitude (poor light conditions); to support disaster relief (radar is very good at sensing flood water); and to monitor shipping routes.

This third application is enhanced by the addition of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) sensor onboard the satellite.

All ships over 300 gross tonnes are required to fit AIS transponders that broadcast details about their voyage.

Spotting from orbit those vessels that have their AIS disabled is often a sign of illegal actors, such as smugglers or trawlers attempting to net fish in no-take zones.

Radar plus AIS is seen as something of a killer application in maritime policing.

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will get a 10% share of the tasking and data-acquisition capabilities of NovaSAR.

Dr Dave Williams from CSIRO said the deal represented a significant investment in Australia’s space capability.

“The aim is to manage the NovaSAR satellite as a natural extension of the significant role CSIRO already plays in managing a range of national facilities, on behalf of the Australian community of scientists and for the benefit of the nation.

“Because we’ll be able to direct the satellite’s activity, it provides significant opportunities to support a wide range of existing research, further develop Australia’s earth observation data analytics expertise, and create new opportunities in the field of remote sensing.”

Dr Williams was the chief executive of the UK Space Agency before taking up his role at CSIRO.

Media captionAnimation: NovaSAR has the look of a cheese-grater

NovaSAR is trying to address the interest in smaller, lower cost solutions to satellite radar.

Traditionally, these spacecraft have been large, power-hungry beasts that gather imagery which, by its very nature, leads to very big data volumes.

Managing all this in a compact package is challenging.

SSTL, working with its parent company Airbus, has produced what it thinks is one answer: something that is very capable but still compact enough (430kg) to fit on a cheaper rocket.

“We’ve gone for some specific radar applications, some specific modes,” explained Luis Gomes, SSTL’s commercial director. “But we’ll aim to investigate other possibilities once we’re in orbit.

“We’d like to have a go at radar interferometry, to sense landslides for example. It wasn’t designed for that purpose but we want to see if it’s possible,” he told BBC News.

A number of companies are building spacecraft that are much smaller even than NovaSAR.

Capella Space (US) and ICEYE (Finland) have plans for radar constellations based on cubesats – satellites with bodies that are built from 10cm blocks.

The SSTL/CSIRO deal was signed in Adelaide on Tuesday at the International Astronautical Congress.

Posted in BBC

Brazil revokes decree opening Amazon reserve to mining

The Brazilian government has revoked a controversial decree that would have opened up a vast reserve in the Amazon to commercial mining.

The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para.

It is thought to be rich in gold, iron, manganese and other minerals.

From the moment President Michel Temer signed the decree in August opening the reserve to commercial mining, it was widely condemned.

Activists and celebrities voiced concern that the area could be badly compromised.

One opposition senator, Randolfe Rodrigues of the Sustainability Network party, said at the time that it was the “biggest attack on the Amazon in the last 50 years”.

  • Amazon culture clash over Brazil’s dams
  • Brazil’s indigenous leaders fight for survival

Following the criticism, the government revised the decree, prohibiting mining in conservation or indigenous areas.

But a court later suspended the measure altogether, saying any change to the reserve’s status had to be considered by the Brazilian congress.

On Monday, the government decided to scrap the decree.

It said it would reconsider the issue in the future, in a wider debate.

“Brazil needs to grow and create jobs, attract mining investment, and even tap the economic potential of the region,” said the Mines and Energy Ministry in a statement.

The BBC’s South America correspondent Katy Watson says this is a victory for environmentalists and a climb-down for the government.

Posted in BBC

Iraqi Kurdistan referendum: High turnout in independence vote

Large numbers of people have taken part in a landmark vote on independence for Iraq’s Kurdistan region, amid growing opposition both at home and abroad.

Votes are still being counted, with a big victory for “yes” expected.

Kurds say it will give them a mandate to negotiate secession, but Iraq’s PM denounced it as “unconstitutional”.

Neighbours Turkey and Iran, fearing separatist unrest in their own Kurdish minorities, threatened to close borders and impose sanctions on oil exports.

The US state department said it was “deeply disappointed” that the vote went ahead.

“We believe this step will increase instability and hardships for the Kurdistan region and its people,” spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The referendum passed off peacefully across the three provinces that make up the region, and in areas controlled by Kurdish forces but claimed by Baghdad.

Turnout was estimated at about 72%, according to the electoral commission.

Partial unofficial results published by the Kurdish Rudaw website show that more than 90% have voted for independence.

There were scenes of celebration as the polls closed in the regional capital, Irbil, and in the disputed city of Kirkuk, where a curfew was imposed on Monday night amid fears of unrest.

Image copyright Getty Images

“It’s a day of celebration today. That’s why I’ve put on our traditional outfit, which I bought for the occasion,” 33-year-old Diyar Abubakr told the AFP news agency.

  • Who are the Kurds?

There was some opposition to the vote among non-Kurdish populations in disputed areas between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments. In Kirkuk, the local ethnic Arab and Turkmen communities had called for a boycott

The vote is being closely watched not only in Iraq but elsewhere in the region because its implications could reshape the Middle East, the BBC’s Orla Guerin in Irbil reports.

Turkey and Iran fear the impact this could have on their own Kurdish communities, our correspondent adds.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the vote as “unacceptable” and threatened to close the Iraqi Kurds’ vital oil export pipeline.

“We have the tap. The moment we close the tap, then it’s done,” he was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

He also said his country could close completely the sole border crossing with the region. Traffic there, he said, was currently only being allowed to cross from the Turkish side.

Late on Monday, Iraqi and Turkish officials announced they would hold joint military drills in Turkey in an area bordering the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Iran called the vote “illegal”, having banned all flights to and from the Kurdish region a day earlier.

UN Secretary General António Guterres expressed concern about the “potentially destabilising effects” of the vote.

The referendum

  • Kurds are the fourth-largest ethnic group in the Middle East but they have never obtained a permanent nation state
  • In Iraq, where they make up an estimated 15% to 20% of the population of 37 million, Kurds faced decades of repression before acquiring autonomy in 1991
  • Polling took place in the three provinces that make up the region, as well as disputed areas claimed by the Kurds and the government in Baghdad
  • Voting was open to some 5.2 million Kurds and non-Kurds aged 18 registered as resident in Kurdish-controlled areas

What is at stake?

Iraqi Kurdistan profile

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi warned on Sunday that the referendum “threatens Iraq, peaceful co-existence among Iraqis, and is a danger to the region”, and vowed to “take measures to safeguard the nation’s unity and protect all Iraqis”.

Media captionMassoud Barzani told the BBC he wants an agreement with the central government if Kurds opt to secede

But Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani has accused the international community of having double standards.

“Asking our people to vote in a peaceful way is not a crime,” he said on Sunday. “If democracy is bad for us, why isn’t it bad for everyone else?”

Mr Barzani said the referendum would not draw borders, and that afterwards there could be talks with Baghdad for a year or two. But he stressed that the “failed partnership” with the “theocratic, sectarian state” of Iraq was over.

Posted in BBC

BBC launches Korean news service

The BBC has launched a Korean service as part of an expansion of its foreign language outlets.

The service, which began broadcasts on Tuesday, will provide news, sport, business and culture through a website and radio transmissions.

A primary focus of the service is North Korea, where government censorship restricts access to independent news.

Korean is one of 12 new BBC language services funded by a £291m ($400m) grant from the British government.

The director of the BBC World Service, Francesca Unsworth, said: “BBC News Korean will build on the long-standing reputation for fairness and impartiality the BBC World Service has earned all over the world.”

The service’s journalists will be based in Seoul, London and Washington and will draw on the full extent of the BBC’s global network of correspondents.

The BBC World Service is currently launching in 12 new languages – Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Serbian, Telugu, Tigrinya and Yoruba.

Posted in BBC

Private emails: House committee ups pressure on White House

A committee of Congress has called on the White House to provide details of any aides who have used private emails for official business.

The investigation comes after Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner admitted doing so, and the New York Times reported that five other aides also used private email accounts.

Mr Kushner, a senior adviser, has been asked to preserve all his emails.

His wife, Mr Trump’s daughter Ivanka, is also said to have a private account.

The demand for more information came in a letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, signed by Republican Trey Gowdy and Democrat Elija Cummings.

Addressed to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, it says: “Have you or any non-career official at the White House ever used a personal email account to conduct official business?

“If so, please identify the individual and the account used, and provide evidence of measures to ensure compliance with federal law,” it reads.

The letter sets a deadline of 9 October for the disclosure of more information.

Mr Kushner’s lawyer says that “fewer than 100 emails” were sent through a private account.

The New York Times has named the four other staffers implicated as Steve Bannon, the former chief White House strategist; Reince Priebus, the former chief of staff; and advisers Gary D Cohn and Stephen Miller.

Newsweek magazine says it has details of an email Ivanka sent about collaboration with a business organisation, copying in two federal officials.

  • What was Clinton FBI probe about?
  • The long list of who Hillary Clinton blames
  • Trump son-in-law denies Russia collusion

Was it illegal?

There is no suggestion that Mr Kushner or any of the others named shared classified or privileged information via private email accounts.

It is not illegal for White House officials to use private email, as long as they forward professional messages to their work accounts for preservation.

Federal regulations specify how records related to the president and other government activities should be maintained.

If this is not done reliably, the use of private accounts can put official records beyond the reach of journalists, lawmakers and others who seek publicly available information.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Newsweek claims Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, used a private account in the first months of her father’s administration when she was an unpaid adviser

The situation also leaves the Trump family open to claims of hypocrisy, as President Trump has repeatedly criticised Hillary Clinton for using a personal email account while she was secretary of state.

On the campaign trail, he vowed to imprison his Democrat rival over her handling of classified information.

‘The public has a right to certainty’

Mr Cummings, the ranking member of the House committee, sent a letter to Mr Kushner on Monday, quoting from the Republican investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server to justify asking him to keep his emails.

“The public has a right to access public records,” he wrote, quoting Trey Gowdy’s letter to Mrs Clinton’s legal team on 19 March 2015.

“The public has a right to certainty that no classified or sensitive information was placed at risk of compromise.

“Your actions in response to the preservation request and the information you provide in response to this letter will help determine the next steps in this investigation,” the Maryland congressman wrote to Mr Kushner, a former real estate investor.

In a statement Mr Kushner’s lawyer said: “Fewer than 100 emails from January through August were either sent to or returned by Mr Kushner to colleagues in the White House from his personal email account.”

He said most were news articles or political commentary and “all have been preserved in any event”.

  • What was Clinton FBI probe about?
  • The long list of who Hillary Clinton blames
  • Trump son-in-law denies Russia collusion

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders would not commit to releasing the emails at Monday’s press briefing, saying: “I’m not going to get ahead of a conversation that hasn’t taken place.”

She added that the use of private emails to conduct government business is “to my knowledge, very limited”.

Posted in BBC