Trump to Skip Debate over Feud with FOX; More Countries Report Cases of Zika Virus; Italy Covered Nude Statues for Rouhani's Trip; Iran Develops

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of Zika Virus; Italy Covered Nude Statues for Rouhani's Trip; Iran Develops

Giant Natural Gas Complex; Apple Sees Weakening iPhone Sales; Controversial

Scholarship; E.U. Slams Greece over Border Controls; Donald Trump's

Supporters. Aired 10-11a ET - Part 1>

Barbie Nadeau; Fred Pleitgen; Maggie Lake; David McKenzie; Nic Robertson;

MJ Lee; Jeanne Moos>

before caucuses; Denmark, Switzerland and U.S. are reporting cases of the

Zika virus; Rome authorities had to cover up some very famous statues from

the 2nd century B.C. ahead of Hassan Rouhani's visit; Fluctuating crude oil

prices are a turbulent backdrop to Iran's return to international markets;

Apple may be ending a very long and very profitable run with a bang; South

Africa has started a scholarship program for young women but critics are

calling this particular program invasive and sexist; E.U. authorities say

Athens has neglected its obligations to Europe's external borders; Donald

Trump has defied critics and startled political pundits as he built his

base but people are devoted to the billionaire businessman>

Trump>

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LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST (voice-over): Why wearing a plastic football jersey is finally solved.

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KINKADE: Hello and welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade.

We start with Donald Trump's unprecedented move to skip Thursday's presidential debate in Iowa. He will miss the final face-off with Republican hopefuls before Monday's caucuses. Sunlen Serfaty tells us why Trump is opting out and what he's got planned instead and how Ted Cruz could take advantage.

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SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With five days left to drum up support ahead of the Iowa caucuses and just a day shy of the next GOP FOX debate --

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I said bye-bye.

SERFATY (voice-over): Donald Trump going rogue, dumping FOX News.

TRUMP: Probably I won't be doing the debate. I'm going to have something else in Iowa. We'll do something where we raise money for the veterans and the wounded warriors.

SERFATY (voice-over): Trump claiming unfair treatment from FOX News moderator Megyn Kelly.

TRUMP: Megyn Kelly's really biased against me. She knows that. I know that. Everybody knows that.

Do you really think she can be fair at a debate?

SERFATY (voice-over): FOX News standing by Kelly while Trump walks.

MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Trump is not used to not controlling things. But the truth is he doesn't get to control the media.

SERFATY (voice-over): So how will his power play fare with Iowans just before the first votes are cast?

The RNC responding to Trump's move, telling CNN, quote, "Obviously we would love all of the candidates to participate. But each campaign ultimately makes their own decision what's in their best interest."

But Ted Cruz, Trump's main opposition in the GOP race, says, not so fast.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Apparently Megyn Kelly is really, really scary.

Donald is a fragile soul.

SERFATY (voice-over): The Texas senator issuing this challenge to the front-runner.

CRUZ: If he's unwilling to stand on the debate stage with the other candidates, then I would like to invite Donald right now to engage in a one-on-one debate with me anytime between now and the Iowa caucuses.

SERFATY (voice-over): Trump putting the final nail in the coffin Tuesday night after FOX News released a tongue-in-cheek statement, poking fun at Trump's threats to back out, saying in part, quote, "We learned from a secret back channel that the ayatollah and Putin both intend to treat Donald Trump unfairly when they meet with him if he becomes president."

TRUMP: They can't toy with me like they toy with everybody else. So let them have their debate. And let's see how they do with the ratings.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KINKADE: Well, that was Sunlen Serfaty reporting there.

Now Trump seems unconcerned about missing the debate but is it a good move?

John Avlon joins me now from New York, he's a CNN political analyst and editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast."

Great to see you again.

Firstly, is this an unprecedented --

JOHN AVLON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good to see you.

KINKADE: -- is this an unprecedented move?

The front-runner of the Republican Party, skipping a debate because he doesn't like a moderator?

AVLON: It is unprecedented in any recent political history. I mean, look, this is all Donald Trump's game. It's bullying tactics and -- if you can't have your bluff called. He's been successful in other debates in having co-sponsors of debates removed. Now this has never been officially confirmed.

But a newspaper in New Hampshire that had come against Donald Trump very intensely disappeared from being the co-sponsor of one debate. "National Review" put out a whole issue dedicated to opposing Donald Trump. They disappeared.

But in the case of FOX News, it's this fascinating fight between two folks on the Right and, as that fight escalated yesterday, with FOX News putting out a very sarcastic attack on Donald Trump, in effect, he wasn't going to have his bluff called and he backed out. And we'll see the impact.

It could have impact on Iowa. Remember, this is just days before the crucial caucus. But it is a strange, gutsy move that really symbolizes the surreality of the political season.

KINKADE: Very strange move.

So John, is Trump backing away from something that could potentially hurt him like this debate?

Or is he simply creating a new fight?

Is he creating another way to stay front and center in the limelight?

AVLON: Well -- or the question is both.

Earlier this week Donald Trump, with typical lack of caution, said he could go in the middle of 5th Avenue in Manhattan and shoot someone and he wouldn't lose any votes.

Well, this is sort of a test of that theory. He's going to be absent from the main stage.

Will it have an impact on ratings?

Quite possibly.

Does it elevate him if, for example, other networks cover his rally in Iowa rather than the debate because they are not able to?

Maybe.

But also, to the Iowa voters, the remaining undecided in those caucus -- and many of them do decide and, strange as it may seem, in the last days, will they see this as petulant?

Will they therefore decide to punish Donald Trump because they decide he's more about being all about himself than running for president?

There are so many X factors that are unusual in this race, all of those need to be considered. This is a risky bet.

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AVLON: I think it could backfire on Donald Trump. But so far he says insane things and it hasn't hurt him one bit.

KINKADE: That is true.

Do you think this is all causing a headache for the GOP?

And should the GOP back one person to counter Trump?

AVLON: No, that's not how it works in the United States. In contrast to many other countries, parties don't endorse one candidate in the context -- or leadership doesn't endorse one candidate in the context of a crowded primary. They put this to the voters in the states.

The problem is, of course, that you get very low turnouts in many of these states so a relatively small number of folks can have massive disproportionate impact on who the parties put forward.

The problem is that Donald Trump has really sucked up the oxygen in this race because of his celebrity, because of his demagoguery and the guy number 2, Ted Cruz, is the most widely despised person among his colleagues in the U.S. Senate. These are not good choices for Republicans who are looking to win a general election.

And yet that is the situation they are facing.

Now if the question is should the Center Right coalesce around one candidate, that would probably be strategically the right thing to do but right now they are in a circular firing squad, trying to kill each other with negative ads.

We'll have to see who emerges in the number three spot in Iowa, in top tier in New Hampshire, to figure out what candidate is going to be that center right representative and whether folks with a lot of money like Jeb Bush are willing to bow out for the sake of electability.

KINKADE: John Avlon, as always, great to have your perspective. Thank you very much.

AVLON: Thank you. Cheers.

KINKADE: More countries are reporting cases of the Zika virus. A man in Denmark was diagnosed after traveling to Brazil and Mexico. And two people in Switzerland came down with the virus when they returned from Haiti and Colombia.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has added the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to the list of nations where transmission is present. And there's a case in the U.S. state of Arkansas.

Brazil is viewed as ground zero for the virus, which has been linked to a severe birth defect. Shasta Darlington is covering the developments from the city of Recife (ph) in Brazil and joins us now.

Shasta, just describe what the symptoms are of the Zika virus. I understand that 80 percent of people with the virus don't even show symptoms.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Lynda. This has been one of the big issues here; when the virus first cropped up in Brazil in the first half of last year, doctors shrugged it off and that's exactly because these symptoms are so mild.

You get maybe a rash, maybe a headache, maybe a little bit of achy joints, a very slight fever. So a lot of people were calling it the poor cousin of dengue fever, for example. And it wasn't until a few months later that there was this -- they noticed a huge spike in birth defects. And of course we're talking about microcephaly, babies born with small heads and brain damage.

They did lots of tests on amniotic fluid on some of the babies that passed away when they were born and they discovered the presence of the Zika virus. And so it's when they made that link that all of a sudden they got really worried about it. And now what we have seen is just this explosion.

It's hard to really determine how many cases of Zika there have been in Brazil because those cases are so mild but the health ministry said it could be anywhere between half a million and a million and a half since it was first detected last year.

And when we talk about microcephaly, more than 4,000 cases of microcephaly have been reported in newborns since October of last year. So this is scary for the moms we're talking to here. Right here in this state, for Pernambuco, this is really ground zero. It's where everything was first detected. It's where the most cases have been found.

And what we have seen -- this is a poor state. A lot of the mothers we're talking to are teenagers. They may already have other children. And they simply don't have the emotional and the financial means to care for a baby with these special needs.

So this is something that, while it's starting here, it's quickly spreading. And this is going to be a pandemic health crisis that people simply aren't prepared for -- Lynda.

So Shasta, is it possible that there are even more countries, especially around the equator, with the Zika virus that we just don't know about yet, that are yet to record a case?

DARLINGTON: Absolutely, for the very reasons that we just mentioned, because the symptoms are so mild. What we have heard from the World Health Organization, for example, is they expect it to spread to every single country in this hemisphere except for Canada and Chile.

Why?

Because it's spread by the mosquito, Aedes aegypti, that also transmits dengue fever, that also transmits yellow fever, chikungunya. And it really thrives in relatively tropical climates. So the same places where you have seen those diseases, where you have seen those viruses and where you find the mosquito, that's where we're going to find the Zika virus.

It's already cropping up in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico and of course across South America. So, yes, doctors expect it to spread quickly. There is no vaccine. There is no cure for the virus.

[10:10:00]

DARLINGTON: So the only way to tackle it is by combating the mosquito. And that's a pretty long-term process. That means what they are doing in Brazil, for example, is sending 200,000 troops, door to door, to try and eradicate the standing pools of water where the mosquito breeds, to try and educate families, throw out the water, don't let it stand.

They are fumigating. But this isn't something that's going to happen overnight. And again, you look at Brazil's experience, it hasn't been all that positive. Despite all of their efforts, they had more cases of dengue fever last year than they have ever had. So this is a long-term process -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Yes, a huge process.

Just talk to us about the concern that this virus could be sexually transmitted.

DARLINGTON: You know, there is some talk of that. But what we actually find frustration from doctors and health officials when we even mention that here. They say, look, there's one sort of circumstantial case. It has not been proven. They say the only proven vector, the only proven way of transmitting this disease is with the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

When we start talking about sexual transmission, we're diverting attention from where it really should be and that's on combating this mosquito.

Obviously there are, I'm sure, doctors and experts who are out there investigating that and will dedicate the time and the effort to it. But in so many of these countries throughout Latin America, they want to focus their attention on what needs to be done most quickly and most importantly and they really are trying to protect pregnant women going forward -- Lynda.

KINKADE: OK. Shasta Darlington in Brazil, thank you very much.

Still ahead on INTERNATIONAL DESK, Iran's president takes in some ancient Roman history. But many Italians are upset his trip left other parts of their culture under wraps.

Plus a Messi mystery solved. We now know the identity of the little boy wearing his football jersey in a photo that sparked a global search.

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KINKADE: Welcome back. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is expected this hour at his first meeting in France on the second leg of his European tour.

Now while in Italy Mr. Rouhani visited the coliseum in Rome, opting to take a sightseeing break after striking up some business deals. Speaking earlier, the president said it's up to the U.S. to improve relations with Iran. He says Washington should drop its hostile stance towards his country.

President Rouhani's trip has been met with cultural differences, provoking some very strong reactions in Italy. Let's bring in CNN contributor Barbie Nadeau. She joins us now from Rome.

And, Barbie, to the surprise of many, Rome authorities had to cover up some very famous statues from the 2nd century B.C.

BARBIE NADEAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I guess, when in Rome, do as the Romans do didn't apply to this trip. And there's been a big scandal here about just why the government or who exactly was behind the --

[10:15:00]

NADEAU: -- covering of these beautiful statues that are really a centerpiece when most dignitaries visit, in fact, were covered up by large pieces of plywood for the Iranian delegation's visit. These are only the female statues, the nude statues of Venus and other figures, which were covered up for this particular occasion, the first time, as far as we know, that that's ever been done for a visiting dignitary.

KINKADE: Indeed and which typically includes wine was out of the question, though perhaps it was worthwhile, given the billion-dollar deals that were signed.

NADEAU: That's right, there was no wine served at the meal hosted by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. And as you said, $18.4 billion worth of deals that were done during this very important business trip.

This Iranian delegation had 120 businessmen. The Italian delegation had 200 businessmen. And as for all practical purposes, it was very much worth covering up those statues and keeping the wine in the cellar for this particular event.

KINKADE: All right, Barbie Nadeau, thank you very much for that update. We appreciate it.

Washington and Beijing are discussing ways to put more pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear program. U.S. secretary of state John Kerry has been in China talking with the president and other top officials. He and his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said they agreed on a need for a new U.N. resolution over North Korea's nuclear activities. They also discussed territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The search is over for a little boy whose football jersey sparked a social media mystery.

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KINKADE (voice-over): You may remember this photo from last week, a photo showing a boy wearing a makeshift jersey with Lionel Messi's name and number 10 written on the back.

After the photo surfaced on Turkish websites, there were claims the boy was from Iraq. It turns out he's from Afghanistan. His name is Murtaza Ahmadi and he's 5 years old. His uncle says his older brother took the photo and posted others on his Facebook page. Now fans of the football star hope to get him a real Messi jersey.

We're going to have much more after this very short break. Stay with us.

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KINKADE: Fluctuating crude oil prices are a turbulent backdrop to Iran's return to international markets. We want to give you a look at the country's biggest and most ambitious energy project, planted at the gigantic oil and gas field called Pars South. Fred Pleitgen was there.

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FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Even from faraway, the flames mark the location of Iran's most ambitious gas project. The Assaluyeh complex already has several working refineries. This one was opened only two weeks ago.

Maintenance workers make sure everything is functioning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a minor problem, no, not major problems. For example, a change in the gas states and some deterring activities on the (INAUDIBLE).

The Assaluyeh complex services the Pars South gas field, which lies in the Persian Gulf. Pars South is the biggest gas field in the world with around 1,800 trillion cubic feet of reserves.

PLEITGEN: Despite the low international oil and gas prices, Iran is moving ahead with the development of this --

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PLEITGEN: -- facility. It's not just going to be refineries. There's also going to be several ports and petrochemical companies, making this one of the biggest complexes of its kind in the world.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Construction is in full swing at several other refinery sites in the complex. Sanctions against Iran held the project up but they never stopped the development, says the project director of one facility.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We found solution for each problem we faced regarding the sanctions. But we can see that, in five years, maybe more than five years, we have this big plan. This is $4.5 billion project.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Now that most sanctions have been lifted, those in charge of the mega complex want to accelerate construction, even though the managing director says they will continue to rely mostly on Iranian suppliers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have got even more than 65 percent, more or less about 70 percent of the material but Iranians manufacture, Iranians are the local manufacturer for cables, for the valves, for the vessel, for the tank and for the machine.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Iran is poised to become one of the biggest exporters of oil and gas in the world, now that most of the sanctions against Tehran have been lifted. The Pars South gas field and this mega refining complex are key to the country's future hydrocarbon strategy -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Assaluyeh, Iran.

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KINKADE: Looks like Apple may be ending a very long and very profitable run with a bang. The tech giant has reported record-smashing quarterly earnings but it's also signaling leaner days ahead for the first time in many years.

CNN's Maggie Lake is following this story and joins us now from New York.

And, Maggie, Apple saw its weakest iPhone sales since the product launched back in 2007.

Is interest in the iPhone waning?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if interest is waning but they are definitely reaching saturation point in some markets. Everyone who wants one has one in some of the more -- the areas like the U.S. where they've been and leased the models out.

Other places, it's more about what's going on in the global economy. Some of those growth areas are starting to slow. Tim Cook talked cautiously about China, Russia, Brazil; you were just talking about oil certainly taking a toll on some of these emerging economies. So that is weighing as well.

But these are good problems to have. Other companies wish. Let's keep these numbers in perspective, Lynda. If you take a look at what happened, this company still sells a heck of a lot of phones, 74.8 million iPhones sold. Their profit: $18.4 billion; sales, $74.9 billion. It's hard to think of other companies that are reaching that level.

Not only that, one number that we don't have on there, they made $20 billion from the services that they sell. When we buy music off of iTunes or apps -- and a lot of analysts think it's a sort of transition of the service as they move away from hardware, that area is what is going to grow rapidly. Not quite there yet.

And so it's important to remember, it is for investors, though, that stock trading down 5 percent, it's a problem because they are focused right now on that slowing iPhone sales growth. It's still where they get most of their profit currently and they're going to -- they've warned that they're going to fall for the first time, decline, in 13 years. So that's what investors are focused on today.

KINKADE: There's still incredible profit, Maggie.

So what should Apple do with all this cash?

LAKE: Well, that's the other thing. They are sitting on $200 billion worth of cash, $200 billion.

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LAKE: -- a lot of governments would like to have. But investors are getting anxious. They'd like to see them deploy some of that money and put it to work. Have a listen to what one told me last hour.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ultimate value stock right now, its PE ratio now 7 when you take out its cash. And Tim Cook, I got to give him credit. He's an incredible operator of business but he's the worst capital allocator in the history of American business, to have $200 billion on the books and not do anything about it is the reason why Apple is so cheap.

Apple stock should be twice as high as where it is if they were allocating capital correctly. So the currently 35 percent of the market cap is cash. And until Tim Cook learns how to be a little bit more like Warren Buffett, Apple is going to trade at a discount to its peers.

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LAKE: Ed Roscar (ph) is, by the way, bullish on Apple. And what he'd like to see them buy: Netflix. Now I don't know if Tim Cook is going to do that. But a lot of people do think they can use all that money to build up that services and start to get a lot more revenue from that side. So it will be an interesting one to watch -- Lynda.

KINKADE: Certainly an interesting move. Maggie Lake, thanks so much.

A South African man has started a scholarship program for young women but critics are calling this particular program invasive and sexist. That's because to qualify, recipients must be virgins and remain so throughout their education. Here's CNN's David McKenzie.

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DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are some of Tubi Lekle's (ph) final days at home. Spending time with her granny and young sister before she heads to the city for college.

An accomplished student, Tubi (ph) won a government scholarship. One of the main requirements: that she remain a virgin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're keeping ourselves from boys.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): To stay with the program she must to submit to virginity tests during her college vacation.

If she fails the test, she loses her funding.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have any children, you see. And I'm 18 years old. I'm going to study hard to change and to conquer the world.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Tubi (ph) is known as a maiden in Zulu culture, where virginity testing is common practice. Here in rural KwaZulu-Natal, tradition rules. But rights activists we called say the scholarship is invasive and sexist.

MCKENZIE: So you say it's discriminating because it's based on someone being a virgin?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They just need to support them.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Mayor Dudu Mazibuko thought up the virgin-only scholarships. She was a teen mother herself.

DUDU MAZIBUKO, MAYOR: We have tried many ways to tamp down this teenage pregnancy and now -- and the infection of HIV and AIDS.

MCKENZIE: And nothing is working.

MAZIBUKO: Nothing is working.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): In this part of South Africa, the odds are stacked against students finishing school, especially girls. So-called sugar daddies prey on poor young girls, exchanging money for sex. When girls get pregnant, they drop out.

MAZIBUKO: Young girls are vulnerable. They can't refuse to have sex with an older person. They cannot even instruct an old man to wear a condom.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): South Africa's main opposition party has lodged a complaint against Mazibuko's program with the country's human rights commission.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I tell them, there's no worry. It's my choice.

MCKENZIE (voice-over): Tubi (ph) says the virgin scholarship is her choice, her only chance to get into college -- David McKenzie, CNN, Ladysmith, South Africa.

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KINKADE: Still to come at the INTERNATIONAL DESK --

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KINKADE: -- a song for Syria. Refugees at a camp in Jordan fight through another winter as the prospect of returning home falls to the wayside.

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KINKADE: Hello, welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Lynda Kinkade. Here are the headlines we're following.

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KINKADE: E.U. authorities are lashing out at Greece over the ongoing migrant crisis. They say Athens has neglected its obligations to Europe's external borders. Let's get the details from our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson in London.

Nic, as if Greece didn't have enough problems internally over the past year, it's now under fire for failing to manage its borders.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It's strong, strong language as well, coming from the European Commission, saying that it is seriously neglecting its obligations, that there are serious deficiencies in what it should be doing.

Just to rewind the clock a little bit here, what the European Commission is talking about here, in the fall of last year it was agreed that hot zones would be established in Greece and in Italy and these hot zones were places where migrants should be registered as they come into these countries.

What the European Commission did in November was send out some inspectors to Greece to see how well Greece was getting on. What they found out at these sites where the migrants were supposed to be being registered that, often cases, identification process wasn't being done properly, the registration process wasn't being done properly, that fingerprints that were being taken weren't being uploaded to international databases, which are vital for counterterrorism and obviously information about migration for the other countries in Europe.

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