Strike three. A car bomb exploded near a transportation hub in Turkey’s capital yesterday, killing at least 36 and injuring dozens in the third explosion to rock Ankara since October. No one has claimed responsibility, but authorities suspect the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party — both the Kurdish rebels and ISIS have waged violence in Turkey in recent months. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised that “terrorism will be brought to its knees,” and 11 Turkish warplanes launched airstrikes this morning against PKK targets.
The Presidential Daily Brief
They’ve done what they came to do. The Russian president told a Kremlin meeting today that he’s coordinated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to withdraw most of his armed forces from the country’s civil war, hoping it’ll help jumpstart peace negotiations. Russia’s bombing of cities like Aleppo had been a controversial point in negotiating the current ceasefire, but now Russia’s troops — except those at one airbase and one port — will start withdrawing tomorrow, which could signal hope for the country’s rebel forces.
Nobody’s taking responsibility. Donald Trump’s rallies got ugly this weekend, as fights erupted in Chicago and police used pepper spray against protesters in Kansas City — violence that overshadowed primary wins by Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The GOP front-runner accused Bernie Sanders’ supporters of fueling the fire, while the Vermont senator blamed the billionaire’s incendiary language. President Obama also lamented the GOP’s divisive rhetoric, but OZY’s Nick Fouriezos doesn’t expect calm to prevail, especially if Trump solidifies his hold on the nomination with wins in Florida and Ohio on Tuesday.
Germany just took a right turn. The chancellor’s CDU lost in two out of three states yesterday, giving way to the anti-migrant AfD party in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. The CDU clung to power in Saxony-Anhalt, but only by 5 percent. While the chancellor is unlikely to be unseated, the outcome is a clear sign of growing anger at Merkel’s welcome mat for refugees, and comes just as she’s trying to seal an EU deal with Turkey to reduce the number of migrants entering western Europe.
Go big or go home. That seems to have been the thinking behind the ECB pushing rates further into negative territory last week in the pursuit of 2 percent inflation. At first, investors responded coolly and the euro proved volatile. But European markets rallied late Friday, and today Asian markets rose, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up 1.7 percent in late trading. Attention now shifts to pending decisions by the Bank of Japan, which is expected to sit tight, and the Federal Reserve, which may signal openness to rate hikes later this year.
UAE warplane goes missing in mission against Houthi rebels in Yemen. (BBC)
Al-Qaida gunmen kill 16 at Ivory Coast resort. (Al Jazeera)
Syria refuses to discuss future role of Bashar Assad at talks. (The Guardian)
Gunman opens fire outside Maryland police station, killing officer. (NYT)
U.S. serviceman arrested for suspected rape in Japan. (CNN)
Chicago-bound train derails, injuring at least 30. (Reuters)
Sarah Palin cancels campaign events after husband reportedly in serious snowmobile crash. (NBC)
Aliens or bust. The latest mission to the Red Planet sends two robots via a Russian rocket on a seven-month trip to look for life forms, mostly hunting for methane gas, which is often a sign of microbes. The project was originally a European and American collaboration, but the U.S. dropped out of the project four years ago due to a lack of funding and the European Space Agency partnered up with Russia, which is hoping to recapture its Soviet glory days of space exploration. The lander is expected to reach Mars in October.
They’re crying freedom … again. Scotland voted against secession in September 2014 — but the country’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she’ll launch a new campaign this summer to support the “beautiful dream” of independence. Speculation’s been rife over such a move, given the pending June 23 Brexit vote. Scotland’s a hotbed of European Union support, and many suspect that if Britain leaves the bloc, Scotland will strike out on its own. But first Sturgeon and her SNP need to retain power in regional parliamentary elections this May.
Who says viruses can’t be sexy? While a backlash against vaccines has put an industry-wide damper on developing new ones, this widespread sexually transmitted infection — half a billion people under 50 suffer from it worldwide — is currently a hot ticket at U.S. biotech firms and medical schools. A herpes vaccine remains what an expert calls “one of the biggest unsolved problems of infectious disease.” But with various approaches being pursued, and so many companies and scientists invested, many believe we’ll see a breakthrough within 10 years.
It’s up 3-1. Playing the ancient strategy game, Google’s artificial intelligence program triumphed over South Korea’s Lee Sedol in the first three of five matches, until the 33-year-old registered his first win yesterday. AlphaGo, now 9-1 against humans after defeating European champion Fan Hui last year, wowed spectators by employing sometimes baffling techniques that ended up being part of brilliant strategies. But DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis said Sunday’s loss is also valuable as it will help his team test the limits of AI.
He’d approve of us working up a sweat. The New York Daily News investigated claims that the 67-year-old fitness guru was being held captive in his Hollywood Hills home and controlled by his housekeeper. A spokesman for the Sweatin’ to the Oldies mogul says the claims are “untrue and preposterous,” and that his client is simply “taking a break” before launching new projects. Simmons himself responded yesterday, telling fans not to worry and that those working for him “are wonderful people who take great care of me.”
It’s bracket time! College basketball just announced the participants in this year’s NCAA tournament, with Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and Oregon emerging as regional No.1 seeds. Sunday saw additional drama when the brackets were leaked early, which meant some teams found out they’d been eliminated through unverified channels. Several mid-majors got snubbed, Seton Hall’s Derrick Gordon becomes the first openly gay player in the tourney, and Vegas is betting on the Jayhawks to win — adding intrigue ahead of Tuesday’s official tipoff in Dayton, Ohio.