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Best podcasts of the week: Can Jon Hamm keep his cool under pressure? | Podcasts

Picks of the week

American Hostage
Widely available, episodes weekly
Jon Hamm is a soundbite-spouting radio host with silky tones in this scripted podcast based on a true story. It’s 1977 and Fred Heckman (Hamm) is feeling disillusioned (“I don’t know if the news lost me, or I lost the news”) when a huge story breaks. He dives in and gets on the phone with a man holding a hostage at gunpoint. As the pressure and adrenaline build, can Fred keep his cool for a live interview to end the 63-hour standoff? Hannah Verdier

Ki & Dee: The Podcast
Widely available, episodes weekly

For the singletons and sex-deprived of lockdown, Chiara Hunter and Diana Vickers recorded Instagram songs that were all too relatable: “Those were the worst days of my life, back in the summer of no 69s.” Topics have since included Jack Grealish’s thighs and “live love laugh” signs. They continue to share these ditties for this podcast, alongside the sort of fun chats you’d have with pals. Hollie Richardson

Ki & Dee: The Podcast hosts Chiara Hunter and Diana Vickers.
Ki & Dee: The Podcast hosts Chiara Hunter and Diana Vickers. Photograph: PR IMAGE

Stories of the Stalked
Audible, all episodes out now

Film-maker Lily Baldwin was touring the world as one of David Byrne’s backing dancers when she started being stalked. In this often-chilling podcast, she relates the 13-year battle, including the time police warned her she should fear for her life. It’s candid, thoughtful and deeply troubling. Alexi Duggins

Call Me Curious
Widely available, episodes weekly

Do aphrodisiacs work? What’s the deal with intermittent fasting? Should you buy crypto? Bubbly host Nikki Boyer and sidekick Mr Malone unravel life’s little mysteries and drop the word “lust-sack”, with plenty of giggles. But it’s not all fluff: Boyer also brings in academic experts who provide some very well-informed answers. HV

28ish Days Later
BBC Sounds, all episodes out now

“A day of hot reds” is how journalist India Rakusen describes the first day of her period in this podcast about menstruation. Each 15-minute episode deals with topics including the way hormones “play and dance through the cycle” and “all the ishy, squishiness” that’s been misrepresented throughout history. AD

There’s a podcast for that

Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu is one of the subjects of science-based podcast Short Wave.
Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu is one of the subjects of science-based podcast Short Wave. Photograph: Science History Images/Alamy

This week, Rachel Aroesti chooses five of the best bite-sized podcasts, from a tense drama to bring thrills to your commute to an intriguing daily dose of science

Short Wave
Released daily, these 10- to 15-minute scientific explorations are nothing if not diverse. In March alone the show looked at the science behind sourness; climate change; the failings of the US mental health system; recovering from bad pandemic habits; and the work of groundbreaking female physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. Each episode of the podcast – made by NPR and hosted by Emily Kwong, who recently spoke about her marathon-training experiences for the show – manages to find an intriguing, accessible and, frequently, rather amusing hook for its highly intellectual subject matter: brain food that’s both enticing and satisfying.

Motherhacker
Podcast drama tends to work best in small, easily digestible chunks – especially when the plot is this nail-bitingly tense. With the kind of cast you might expect from a glossy HBO drama – Carrie Coon, Lucas Hedges, Alan Cumming, Pedro Pascal and Tavi Gevinson – the show’s compulsively thrilling and impressively atmospheric 10-minute episodes tell the story of Bridget, a mother who is already struggling financially when she is conned into giving away her kids’ college fund. Desperate to claw back the money, she tracks down the hacker, who duly forces her to join the identity theft business – and quickly discovers Bridget’s innate talent for scamming.

One To One
These sub-15–minute tête-à-têtes from Radio 4 are as concise as they are insightful: with no time for small talk, the continually rotating roster of presenters and interviewees get into the nitty-gritty of their chosen subject immediately. Episodes revolve around the host’s personal interest: recently the actor Tuppence Middleton spoke to clinical psychologist Dr Gazal Jones and Pure author Rose Cartwright about OCD. You can delve into the considerable archive for Clive Myrie on immigration and Guardian journalist Tim Dowling on the nature of ambition.

The Rob Auton Daily Podcast
Stand-up comedian and one-time Glastonbury poet-in-residence Rob Auton combines surreal, lyrical monologues with dry, down-to-earth humour and incredible dedication: at the beginning of 2020, he committed to putting out an episode of this podcast every single day. Unbeknownst to the Yorkshire comic, it would turn out to be the perfect year to embark on such an endeavour. But the project was also made manageable by the extreme brevity of the episodes. Many last for just one or two minutes – plenty of time for listeners to soak up their evocative, imaginative strangeness.

Modern Love
Since its 2004 debut, the New York Times column – a series of short essays on love’s less explored avenues – has spawned three books, a two-season Amazon Prime anthology drama (featuring Anne Hathaway, Dev Patel and Kit Harington) and a long-running podcast. The audio show relaunched this year with a new presenter, Anna Martin, but continues its original MO: broadcasting essays on everything from “solo polyamory” to relationship deal-breakers and sibling bonding in the midst of a divorce. At the end of every 20-minute episode, Martin chats with the writer, and often supplements the story with related tales from her own love life.

Why not try…

  • Immigrantly, a smart, stereotype-busting podcast about the experiences of migrants and their children in the US. This season focuses on love

  • Explosive donor-baby investigation BioHacked: Family Secrets

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.


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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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