Welcome to Tuesday, where global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 3 million, the Iran nuclear deal is back on the table, and a Soviet-produced Lord of the Rings is unearthed. Thanks to Die Welt, we also look at how the German auto industry is trying to keep up with Elon Musk.

• Iran nuclear talks back on: Iran and the United States are to start indirect talks in Vienna to try and restore the 2015 nuclear accord that Washington abandoned three years ago under the Trump administration.

• COVID global death toll hits 3 million: The pandemic continues to weigh on world events, as Reuters reports global death toll has reached 3 million. Meanwhile, amid national efforts to accelerate vaccination campaigns, Australian and New-Zealand residents will be able to travel without having to quarantine between the two countries starting April 19.

• Southeast Asian flood death toll tops 100: Rescuers are searching for dozens still missing after floods and landslides on Sunday killed more than 100 people in Indonesia and East Timor.

• Tokyo Olympics' no-show neighbor: North Korea has announced it would skip the Tokyo Olympic Games this year due to COVID-19 concerns. This decision is likely to undermine South Korean's strategy to use the Games to revive suspended peace talks.

• Putin could stay in power until 2036: Russian President Vladimir Putin signs law allowing him to run for two more terms as president.

• Kosovo's new female president: Kosovo's parliament votes as president Vjosa Osmani, the former speaker of parliament and ally of a leftist-nationalist movement.

• The Weeknd donates $1 million to Ethiopians: Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd has promised to give $1 million to Ethiopians ensnared in the Tigray crisis. The star's parents are Ethiopian immigrants.

Malaysian daily The Star reports on the government's proposal that would make it compulsory for employers to grant their workers a day off to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Achtung Tesla! German automakers try to compete with Elon Musk

Volkswagen and other German car companies want to develop their own software systems and thus close the e-car technology gap with Tesla. But success will depend on a cultural change in the established auto sector, writes Daniel Zwick in German daily Die Welt.

It's all systems go in Ingolstadt, where Volkswagen has invested billions of dollars in setting up a new subsidiary. The plan is for the organization Car.Software to soon employ 10,000 people and become the "second largest software company in Europe, after SAP," according to CEO Herbert Diess. The subsidiary's main aim is for in-house programmers to develop a single operating system for all VW cars, the automotive equivalent of Apple's iOS, used across all its smartphones.

It's a nice idea, but it's still unclear whether traditional manufacturers such as Volkswagen, BMW or Daimler are capable of developing the best operating systems for modern cars. And it's make or break: After battery technology, this software is the next most important criterion for future success. But so far their efforts in this area have been far from impressive. There are already competitors who are years ahead when it comes to building computers on four wheels. And not only Tesla, the favorite of so many electric car enthusiasts. There are new suppliers springing up in its shadow, which have the potential to shake up the industry.

In the future, the programmers will take on a larger role in product development. The main advantage of Tesla's cars is that they are built with the driver's experience in mind, going from the starting point of the software — how the product is used — to the hardware, the physical components. In German cars, it's the other way round. To change this, the companies will have to change themselves. Car manufacturers are at a crossroads, says Frank Ferchau, managing partner at ABLE Group. "The culture of the car manufacturing industry is bumping up against the software development culture, and the two don't go together," he says.

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Хранители

Russian TV channel 5TV recently uploaded onto YouTube a 1991 budget adaptation of JRR Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. Entitled Хранители ("The Keepers"). The 50-minute flashy production — a far cry from Peter Jackson's trilogy — has already attracted more than 727,000 views.


Skiing across Sweden-Norway border to slide past COVID lockdown

How does a Scandinavian get around COVID restrictions? On skis.

It sounds like a bad joke, but on Saturday, a 50-year-old Norwegian man had to be rescued after attempting to circumvent quarantine requirements by skiing across the border from Sweden, reports Norwegian broadcaster NRK.

The man planned to cross the mountain range of Sylan and reach the Norwegian city of Stugudalen, some 20 kilometers from the border, where his son was supposed to pick him up. However, after skiing into bad weather, the man had to be rescued by two fishermen, who found him cold, wet and exhausted near a lake by the border.

A rescue team was called in and escorted the man to a quarantine hotel from where he is expected to be questioned by police on Tuesday. The Norwegian police say the man will be reported for breach of quarantine regulations and possibly forced to compensate authorities for the cost of the rescue operation.

For Officer Wenche Johnsen, of the Trondelag police department in central Norway, the man gets a "10 for effort, but zero for judgment."

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We are not optimistic nor pessimistic.


Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters that he thought the resumption of nuclear talks with Washington showed that things were "on the right track," provided that "America's will, seriousness and honesty is proven."


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