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Best podcast of the week: One woman’s quest to save our sex lives – with science | Podcasts




Picks of the week

The Evaporated
Widely available, episodes weekly from Monday

Jake Adelstein is one hell of a storyteller: TV drama Tokyo Vice (starting on BBC One this week) is based on the memoir about his time working as an American journalist reporting on Japan’s criminal underworld in the 90s. He continues to compel in this new series, which investigates the mysteries surrounding the 80,000 people reported missing in Japan every year, staring with the disappearance of his own accountant. Hollie Richardson

Come As You Are
Widely available, episodes weekly

Emily Nagoski knows a lot about the science of sex and she’s not afraid to share it. But it’s not all about the data; she’s keen to spread confidence, joy and pleasure, which is where this podcast begins. Why should you separate pleasure from sex? How can it make you feel alive? And what’s a “choregasm”? Hannah Verdier

Singer and artist Santigold hosts Noble Champions, a freeflowing interview show.
Singer and artist Santigold hosts Noble Champions, a freeflowing interview show. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Noble Champions
Spotify, episodes weekly
Santigold’s “modern day salon” welcomes guests including Questlove, Mos Def and Idris Elba. Much is covered in the free-flowing chats, from the commodification of art, spirituality and the definition of Black music to forgetting to pick the kids up from school. Santigold (above) is a warm and smart interviewer and is always happy to let her guests spill. HV

Gloriously Unready
Widely available, all episodes out now
Counsellor Josephine Hughes found herself “gloriously unready” when both her daughters came out as transgender, unbeknown to each other. Hughes is brutally honest and endlessly wise as she tells their story, outlining the moments that many parents face with so much love and support that she can’t fail to help others in the same situation. HV

The Emerald Triangle
Widely available, episodes weekly
Crooked City’s new podcast drops listeners right in the middle of the action with a man who finds his friend’s body in the Emerald Triangle, northern California’s marijuana-rich, hippy oasis. Journalist Sam Anderson hits the trail in true-crime podcast style to find that one of his schoolmates is accused of the murder. HV

There’s a podcast for that

Cameron Diaz, who gave up Hollywood, is one guest on Second Life, about the women who made drastic career changes for the better.
Cameron Diaz, who gave up Hollywood, is one guest on Second Life, about the women who made drastic career changes for the better. Photograph: Photo Credit: Gemma LaMana/Columbia Pictures/Allstar

This week, Charlie Lindlar chooses five of the best podcasts to help you make a positive life change, from a guide to living well alone to an interview show with women who nailed drastic career changes.

Journalist Francesca Specter’s podcast is all about understanding the “positive side of spending time alone”. The introverts among us may not need convincing of the importance of solitude, but reformed “extreme extrovert” Specter’s mission to help us make the most of it – she has a book by the same title – is a fascinating guide to an underexplored part of life. From the sterling debut episode with Alain de Botton to Felicity Cloake on the joy of solo dining, each week Specter simply interviews a guest on how they spend their alone time, and the revelations flow from there.

Second Life
A side project from Who What Wear’s Hillary Kerr, Second Life profiles prominent women who have made significant career changes, asking how they did it. Sure, we may not know much about pivoting from tech worker to media star like Aminatou Sow or giving up Hollywood for wellness like Cameron Diaz (or have much to say about life after fame as a teen reality star like The Hills’s Lauren Conrad), but there’s plenty to be inspired by in these women’s stories – and put into action to help write our own.

A Slight Change of Plans
How do you cope when massive change has instead been forced upon you? Flipping the script here is a show from prominent podcasting house Pushkin that teaches us how to respond to unexpected circumstances from divorce to bereavement to spending 140 days in captivity in North Korea. This show’s signature trait is combining personal stories with analysis from host Dr Maya Shankar, a behaviour expert by trade, on how and why humans react to change. Don’t just take our word for it: Slight Change was named Apple’s 2021’s best show of the year.

Help Me Be Me
“I think of it as self-help for people who hate self-help,” says creator Sarah May of Help Me Be Me, something of a practical toolkit for creating positive change. Refreshingly clear from the jump that she isn’t an expert, May carves out a niche in the crowded self-improvement space by delving into specific but concrete constructs that hold us back – our need for control, trouble setting boundaries with family – and reverse engineering practical solutions to overcome them. Not every episode will be relevant to you, but those that are will hit the spot.

Ways to Change the World
Keen to make a positive change not just to your own life, but those of others? Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s long-running podcast, centred on “big ideas” and solutions to global problems big and small, should offer all the inspiration you need to fight for a better world. Big names such as Ai Weiwei, Angela Davis and the Dalai Lama feature in the show’s varied archives. Guru-Murthy’s limitless range and earnest curiosity guarantee every episode is interrogating and usable, no matter the subject.

Why not try …

  • The second season of Cate Blanchett’s show profiling the groundbreaking solutions to the environmental crisis, Climate of Change.

  • Advice on how to navigate “the wild world of work” from author and journalist Anne Helen Petersen, in Work Appropriate.

  • Sci-fi thriller The Nox, starring Lashana Lynch as a scientist who finds more than they bargained for exploring the Arctic Circle.

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Singapore pulls plug on COVID tracking program • The Register




Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Thursday that it was finally pulling the plug on its COVID tracking program.

On February 13, the city-state’s TraceTogether (TT) program, which uses the Bluetooth radios in mobile phones to track movements, and its business check-in system SafeEntry (SE) will come to a halt.

According to the ministry’s announcement, the government had already begun stepping down TT and SE, and would no longer require infected persons to submit TraceTogether data.

“SE data is no longer being collected, and MOH has deleted all identifiable TT and SE data from its servers and databases,” said the department.

The exception is data that was controversially used off-label in a murder investigation.

The systems will remain intact – as well as registration details including name, business registration, and mobile phone number – in case there is a need for reactivation. One example given is if a more dangerous COVID-19 variant were to spread. Apps will also remain available.

The ministry told members of the public, who haven’t been required to have them since last year, that they may “uninstall their TT App, and enterprises may do the same for the SE (Business) App.”

Furthermore, those with a physical TT token, which came in handy for the non-tech savvy as a device that exchanges anonymized identifiers, were asked to return the dongle for recycling.

Singapore began developing the open source TraceTogether at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The app constantly sought out other Bluetooth-enabled devices that ran the app and logged when they were in close proximity. The country required users to register and inform authorities if they contracted COVID-19 and used the app to draw up lists of contacts who were then isolated.

Other countries, including Australia, based their apps on the technology. While many nations seemed to flop at COVID tracking, Singapore fared somewhat better, even with similar technology. That success has been attributed to a culture willing to comply, combined with a government that modified behavior through other strict rules to keep the virus from spreading.

One example of the additional measures was tracking devices issued to travelers during a required one-week isolation after arriving.

In April, TT and SE became largely superfluous as their use was no longer mandatory except for select events. The efficacy of such systems relied on mass compliance so if some people weren’t using them, they were less effective anyway.

However, job postings for positions related to the program near that time sparked speculation that the system would remain in some form in the island nation, unlike in most other countries. Singapore’s Government Technology Agency (GovTech) told The Register in late March 2022 the job listings were merely for replacing existing employees.

Australia quit its app in August after it was deemed a massive failure. Japan followed in September, and China discontinued use of its tracking app in December. ®

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Irish biotech Ovagen raises €1.1m for germ-free egg production




Based in Co Mayo, Ovagen now plans to add 65 jobs over the next five years and hopes to see its revenue reach €42m by the end of 2027.

Irish biotech start-up Ovagen has raised €1.1m in an oversubscribed funding round led by the Halo Business Angel Network (HBAN) for its germ-free egg production business.

Ovagen, based in Ballina, Co Mayo, is a biotech company that has developed a process of producing germ-free chicken eggs intended for use in the pharmaceutical industry for products such as vaccines.

According to Ovagen, up to 20pc – or one in five – egg-based vaccine batches are destroyed because of contamination.

Overall, more than 1bn eggs are used every year as ‘bio reactors’ to develop vaccines. Viruses are injected into the eggs to propagate the virus, which vaccine manufacturers can then use to develop vaccines for diseases including the flu, yellow fever, mumps and measles.

Dr Catherine Caulfield, CEO and co-founder of Ovagen, said that current vaccines are developed using specific pathogen free eggs, which are free of many bacteria and viruses, but they are not germ-free and a significant portion become contaminated.

“Our funders have been instrumental in supporting us on our long journey to make a concept a reality,” she said.

“At critical stages in our development, our angel investors have not only provided us with their financial backing, but they have also introduced us to other potential investors, as well as their highly influential industry contacts.”

Ovagen now aims to go to market with the “world’s first germ-free egg” in what is potentially a multimillion euro industry.

“The global potential of the company’s technology is vast and that is why this is the second time HBAN syndicates have backed Ovagen,” said Declan MacFadden, an HBAN spokesperson.

“Ovagen is now in prime position to launch its product and we are excited to see the impact that this ground-breaking development has in a highly lucrative global market.”

Following the latest investment, in which the Western Development Commission and an existing shareholder also participated, the company expects to add 65 jobs (it currently has 12 staff) over the next five years, with revenues reaching €42m by the end of 2027.

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Republicans grill ex-Twitter executives over handling of Hunter Biden story | House of Representatives




US lawmakers held a combative hearing on Wednesday with former senior staffers at Twitter over the social media platform’s handling of reporting on Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

The proceedings set the stage for the agenda of a newly Republican-controlled House, underscoring its intention to hone in on longstanding and unsubstantiated allegations that big tech platforms have an anti-conservative bias.

The House oversight committee called for questioning recently departed Twitter employees including Vijaya Gadde, the social network’s former chief legal officer, former deputy general counsel James Baker, former head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth and former safety leader Anika Collier Navaroli.

The hearing centered on a question that has long dogged Republicans – why Twitter decided to temporarily restrict the sharing of a story about Hunter Biden in the New York Post, released in October 2020, the month before the US presidential election. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle used the opportunity to interrogate moderation practices at Twitter and other tech firms.

“The government doesn’t have any role in suppressing speech,” said Republican committee chairman James Comer, hammering the former employees for censoring the Post story.

people sit at table in congressional chamber
James Baker, former deputy general counsel at Twitter; Vijaya Gadde; former chief legal officer at Twitter; Yoel Roth, former global head of trust and safety; and the former employee Anika Collier Navaroli attend the hearing. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

In that report, the Post said it received a copy of a laptop hard drive from Donald Trump’s then-personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that Hunter Biden had dropped off 18 months earlier at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved. Twitter initially blocked people from sharing links to the article for several days, citing concerns over misinformation and spreading a report containing potentially hacked materials.

In opening statements on Wednesday, the former Twitter staffers described the process by which the story was blocked. While the company explicitly allowed “reporting on a hack, or sharing press coverage of hacking”, it blocked stories that shared “personal and private information – like email addresses and phone numbers” – which the Post story appeared to include. The platform amended these rules following the Biden controversy, and the then CEO, Jack Dorsey, later called the company’s communications about the Post article “not great”.

Roth, the former head of safety and integrity, said on Wednesday that Twitter acknowledged that censoring the story was a mistake.

“Defending free expression and maintaining the health of the platform required difficult judgment calls,” he said. “There is no easy way to run a global communications platform that satisfies business and revenue goals, individual customer expectations, local laws and cultural norms and get it right every time.”

men in congressional chamber
Yoel Roth prepares to testify. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Elon Musk, who purchased the company last year, has since shared a series of internal records, known as the Twitter Files, showing how the company initially stopped the story being shared, citing concerns from the Biden campaign, among other factors.

Republican theories that Democrats are colluding with big tech to suppress conservative speech have become a hot button issue in Washington, with congress members using various tech hearings to grill executives. But experts say claims of anti-conservative bias have been disproven by independent researchers.

“What we’ve seen time and again is that companies are de-platforming people who are spreading racism and conspiracy theories in violation of the company’s rule,” said Jessica J González, co-chief executive officer of the civil rights group Free Press.

“The fact that those people are disproportionately Republicans has nothing to do with it,” she added. “This is about right or wrong, not left or right.”

Musk’s decision to release information about the laptop story comes after he allowed the return of high-profile figures banned for spreading misinformation and engaging in hate speech, including the former president. The executive has shared and engaged with conspiracy theories on his personal account.

Republican lawmakers seem to have found an ally in Musk, and repeatedly praised him during Wednesday’s proceedings. The rightwing congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene used her time on the floor to personally attack the former Twitter employees and complain about her own account, which was suspended for violating the platform’s policies on coronavirus misinformation.

“I’m so glad you’ve lost your jobs,” she said. “I am so glad Elon Musk bought Twitter.”

man in front of image of new york post with headline 'biden secret emails'
The oversight committee chairman, James Comer, a Republican, makes opening remarks. Photograph: Jemal Countess/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

But Democrats on Wednesday used their time in the House to explore how the Trump administration engaged with Twitter, revealing that the former president himself tried to interfere with content decisions.

In response to questioning from the new representative Maxwell Frost of Florida, the former Twitter content moderation executive Navaroli confirmed that in 2019 Trump tried to have an insulting tweet from internet personality Chrissy Teigen removed from the platform. In the tweet, which was read for the record, Teigen referred to Trump as a “pussy ass bitch”. Twitter denied the White House’s request, and it remains online today.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez further sought to disprove bias against conservative speech on Twitter when she asked about an instance in 2019, when a tweet from Trump including hate speech was kept online despite violating platform policies.

The former president told Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their countries, a clear violation of Twitter’s policies regarding abuse against immigrants, but was not penalized, Navaroli confirmed, and the rules were changed.

“So Twitter changed their own policy after Trump violated it to accommodate his tweets?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So much for bias against the rightwing on Twitter.”

The White House has sought to discredit the Republican investigation into Hunter Biden, calling them “divorced-from-reality political stunts”. Nonetheless, Republicans now hold subpoena power in the House, giving them the authority to compel testimony and conduct an aggressive investigation.

In opening statements at Wednesday’s hearing, Democratic representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland expressed frustration that the first tech-focused panel of the session is focused on the Hunter Biden story, which he called a “faux scandal”. He said private companies under the first amendment are free to decide what is allowed on their platforms.

“Silly does not even begin to capture this obsession,” he said of the laptop story. “What’s more, Twitter’s editorial decision has been analyzed and debated ad nauseam. Some people think it was the right decision. Some people think it was the wrong decision. But the key point here is that it was Twitter’s decision.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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