Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Viacom faces shareholders, Merkel’s debacle, Japan is hiring ninjas

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What to watch for today

Fresh Syrian peace talks get going. Western leaders are vexed at Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem’s refusal to allow a discussion on the future of Bashar al-Assad’s presidency as talks, led by UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, get down to business in Geneva.

A methane mission launches for Mars. The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a joint project by Russia and the European Space Agency, will investigate whether the methane in the planet’s atmosphere could be coming from microbes. If it works out, they will eventually follow up with a land rover.

Viacom faces its shareholders. The media company’s annual meeting could get interesting, with chairman emeritus Sumner Redstone ailing and two shareholder-advisory services recommending that votes be withheld from directors on the compensation committee.

Math lovers celebrate Pi Day. It’s mainly Americans who notate March 14 as 3/14, but all are welcome to take part in Pi Day, which pays homage to the ratio that begins 3.14 and has been calculated more than 1 trillion digits past its decimal point.

Over the weekend

Gunmen targeted an Ivory Coast tourist resort… Attackers from al-Qaida’s north African branch killed 16 people, including four Europeans, at the seaside town of Grand-Bassam, about 25 miles from the capital Abidjan.

…and a car bomb killed 37 people in the Turkish capital. The Turkish military launched air strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, whom the government said were behind the suicide bomb in Ankara on Sunday.

Angela Merkel’s party had some disastrous regional elections. Merkel’s Christian Democrats failed to retake two states and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party came in second to the Christian Democrats in Saxony-Anhalt, which they held on to. The results suggest the German public is turning against her refugee policy.

Anbang bet big on luxury US hotels. The Chinese insurance group will pay Blackstone Group $6.5 billion for a property portfolio that includes a Four Seasons in Arizona, a Ritz-Carlton in California, and the JW Marriott Essex House in Manhattan. Anbang bought New York’s Waldorf-Astoria from Hilton in 2014.

Brazil protested against Dilma Rousseff. On Sunday, more than a million Brazilians took to the streets across the country to protest against a president struggling with a corruption scandal, a weak economy, and impeachment proceedings.

Humans pushed back against AI supremacy. Go grandmaster Lee Sedol won a consolation match against Google’s artificial intelligence, AlphaGo, after the machine dominated the best-of-five-games tournament.

Quartz obsession interlude

Olivia Goldhill on science’s “reproducibility crisis.” The idea that papers are publishing false results might sound alarming but the recent crisis doesn’t mean that the entire scientific method is totally wrong. In fact, science’s focus on its own errors is a sign that researchers are on exactly the right path. Read more here.

Matters of debate

Our emoji options are a sign of gender disparity. We need some strong female figures in tiny cartoon form, for when the flamenco figure doesn’t cut it.

J.K. Rowling needs to let Harry Potter go. The author should open up the story world and allow others to write Potterverse sequels.

Middle-aged employees stuck in a rut should just quit. It will be difficult, but it wouldn’t be boring.

Surprising discoveries

STDs might hurt your brain. Some researchers see a link between diseases including herpes and chlamydia and Alzheimer’s.

Israeli Jews see a friend in Donald Trump. His rivals say Trump isn’t staunch enough in his support for Israel, but a majority of Israelis say otherwise.

Japan is hiring ninjas. The Aichi prefecture is looking for six to boost tourism.

Cheap wine can easily taste fancy. You can fool your friends by making a few changes in how you present it.

Daylight savings is a joke—literally. Turning back the clocks can be traced back to a tongue-in-cheek observation once made by Benjamin Franklin.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, trophy hotels, and cheap-but-tasty wines to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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