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Best podcasts of the week: the writers of HBO’s Insecure add some joy to the ‘dumpster fire’ that is modern life | Podcasts

Picks of the week

The Antidote
Widely available, episodes weekly
Two of the writers of HBO’s Insecure, Amy Aniobi and Grace Edwards – who are also best friends in real life – attempt to inject joy into the “dumpster fire” that is modern life. It’s an enjoyably chatty peek at life’s pleasures, from musing on the meditative joys of flower arranging or hikes in nature to pleasingly sweary moments of excitement (notably, exclaiming “You are objectively fine as fuck” in an interview with Black-ish actor Tracee Ellis Ross). Alexi Duggins

Untold Killing
Widely available, episodes weekly

Continuing its detailed investigation of the Bosnian war, the second season of this incisive podcast tells the story of the discovery of concentration camps in the town of Prijedor. With testimony from reporter Ed Vulliamy, it is a harrowing and cautionary account of human cruelty. Ammar Kalia

Eureka!
Widely available, episodes weekly
Rick Edwards and Dr Michael Brooks promise a raft of pub facts in their science podcast – and they certainly deliver. In turbulent times, it’s reassuring to ponder questions such as: “Will we ever talk to animals?” The episode where Edwards takes down people who brag about being bad at maths is a winner. Hannah Verdier

Rick Edwards co-hosts the ponderous Eureka! podcast
Rick Edwards co-hosts the ponderous Eureka! podcast Photograph: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Scamfluencers
Wondery, episodes weekly

Healers, pyramid scheme merchants, fitness experts: if they’re scamming, writers and hosts Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi are here to uncover their ways. They start off with a “mini Fyre Fest of the ballet world”, where instead of Ja Rule and bad cheese sandwiches, the bait was a seemingly inclusive opportunity to join a dance company. HV

HeidiWorld: The Heidi Fleiss Story (and the Secret History of LA)
Widely available, episodes weekly from Monday

This 10-part series takes a deep dive into the life story of the notorious Hollywood madam. It’s incredibly detailed – potentially too detailed at first, with the opening episode full of information on her childhood. But future instalments are packed with multimillion-dollar tales of hanging out with huge numbers of big Hollywood names. AD

Reader’s choice

Last week, we highlighted five of the best podcasts about women, and asked for your suggestions. Here is one from reader Bella Black:

The Receipts podcast makes me howl with laughter. I love that its hosted by these three agony aunts/friends [Tolani Shoneye AKA Tolly T, Milena Sanchez and Audrey Indome] who have such a close bond. The titles are almost as good as the episodes, too – who wouldn’t be intrigued by “my dad is being catfished”?!

There’s a podcast for that

Rosamund Pike stars as Edith Wilson in QCode’s scripted series.
Rosamund Pike stars as Edith Wilson in QCode’s scripted series. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

This week, Ammar Kalia chooses the best audio dramas for scripted podcast fans, from spooky small-town goings-on to a historical blockbuster starring Rosamund Pike

Edith
Scripted dramas can often seem like an excuse for audio production companies to stuff their new releases with celebrity names, rather than strong ideas and robust scriptwriting. Podcast network QCode has become something of a specialist in this celeb audio drama industry – with mixed results – but Edith, released last year, is one of their finest offerings, its high-profile casting matching the grandiosity of the script. Starring Rosamund Pike as Edith Wilson, the series recounts how she secretly took over from her incapacitated husband, US President Woodrow Wilson, in 1919 after he suffered a stroke. Mixing high stakes with farce – and a delightful American accent from Pike – the result is a wry take on the historical machinations of power.

Welcome to Night Vale
Arguably the first massively popular scripted drama podcast to kick the entire craze off, this fictional radio show reporting on the eerie goings-on in a small US town kicked off in 2012 and has since run to over 200 episodes. Following in the footsteps of other early scripted podcast hits like Limetown, a TV adaptation is also currently in the works, while new episodes of the podcast are available twice a month. Start with episode 13 – a meta-narrative which takes you, the listener, as its mysterious subject.

36 Questions
This three-part 2017 creation from Chris Littler and Ellen Winter is a delightfully experimental journey into an estranged couple’s faltering relationship, told through song. Spring Awakening’s Jonathan Groff and Jessie Shelton star as the pair, trying to reconnect through 36 Questions That Lead to Love: a psychological survey designed to encourage intimacy. The couple record themselves in the form of a confessional, creating a tightly structured narrative that is delivered with gusto by Groff and Shelton. The 13 songs in 36 Questions prove that podcasting has ample scrope to explore and play with musical conventions.

Here Lies Me
For fans of coming-of-age teenage tales like Pen15 and Big Mouth, writer Hillary Frank’s 2021 podcast Here Lies Me is essential listening. Tackling the particularly thorny age of eighth grade (13 to 14 years old), Frank’s YA narrative follows 13-year-old Noa as she navigates crushes, rivalries and changing friendships. Here Lies Me’s strengths lie in the casting of actual teenagers in its various roles – particularly Ollie Grishaber as Noa – as well as Frank’s willingness not to shy away from difficult topics such as sexual consent and racism.

Moonface
With shades of writer Ocean Vuong’s poetic realism, James Kim’s emotively nuanced 2019 series tells the story of Korean American Paul (Joel Kim Booster) and his attempts to come out to his mother, despite the fact that her English is shaky and his Korean is minimal. Concerned with the frictions of misunderstanding as much as it is with meaning, Kim’s script harnesses the silences between words throughout its brisk six episodes. Rather than relying on polished scripts, Moonface gives us a taste of authentically strained communication between a mother and son, and a listening experience that is quietly thought-provoking.

Did we miss your favourite audio drama off our list? Let us know your pick in 50 words for your chance to be featured next week – just email newsletters@theguardian.com

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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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