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Putin Agrees to Suspend Russian Flights to Egypt; Dam Break Devastates Brazilian Town; Carson on Questions about His Past; Pinpointing Signs of a Bomb; Pyramiden, Soviet Ghost Town. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired November 6, 2015 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN HOST: Hi, there, and welcome to the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center.
Want to bring you up to date on that breaking news. Russian President Vladimir Putin says all Russian flights to Egypt should be suspended until
it's known what caused Saturday's crash in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people.
This comes as British media report that U.K. intelligence believes it was a bomb that caused the Russian airliner to explode midair.
Our Matthew Chance is live in Moscow to bring this all together. More importantly, this Russian announcement, clearly the Russians conceding that
it's now more than likely this was a bomb.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a major development, I think a major turnaround in the positions of the Russians
because until now they said they wanted to wait to see what the investigation turned out. The investigation could take months. And they
said ahead of the Federal Aviation Agency saying that yesterday.
And they would be very reluctant to embrace this possibility even that it could have been a terrorist attack that brought down that Metrojet airliner
and caused 224 people to lose their lives.
But that has changed now. We don't know exactly what's changing, but Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on the advice of the head of his
security agency, the FSB, Aleksandr Bortnikov is head of that agency, he's suspended, I think from immediate effect, that seems to be the implication
on the statement that's been issued by the Kremlin, all flights between Russia and Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula until the causes of the
crash of the Airbus A321, the type of aircraft that Metrojet was operating in Egypt, have been determined by the investigation.
The president also instructed officials to provide assistance to Russian citizens to return from Egypt as well because obviously Sharm el-Sheikh and
the Sinai Peninsula in general is a major destination, particularly at this time of year, for Russian tourists. It's one of the top two alongside
And so you get tens of thousands of people at this time of year, possibly hundreds of thousands, that make their way to Sharm el-Sheikh to get a bit
of winter sun. Of course, that is exactly what the people on board that Metrojet Airbus had done, as well. So it's a major destination.
So this is a big thing, the fact that tourists can no longer go there. But more importantly I think it shows that the Russians are now starting to
acknowledge that a bomb could have been the cause of this catastrophe.
CURNOW: OK. With that the foundation of our conversation, do we know what changed the Russian position?
Do we think intelligence was shared between the U.K. and Russia?
CHANCE: Well, that seems to be the implication because it was Aleksandr Bortnikov, as I said, the head of the FSB, which is the successor
organization to the KGB, who issued the advice to the government and to the president in the first place. That was at a committee meeting that was
broadcast on state television.
Obviously, he would have been in contact with his security counterparts in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
But it is interesting, the difference between today and yesterday, because just yesterday the Russian foreign ministry was expressing its shock that
if there was information that the United Kingdom had -- remember when the United Kingdom suspended its flights to Sharm el-Sheikh and to Sinai, if
there was information that the United Kingdom had, the foreign ministry said, then it should have shared it with Russia and hadn't.
Now that may have changed over the course of the past 24 hours and on the basis of any intelligence sharing, the Russians may have changed their
But we're speculating because we haven't been told explicitly what has changed from the Russian point of view to make them change their position
CURNOW: Indeed. Stand by, Matthew. I want to bring in our Nima Elbagir from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.
Nima, what does this tell you, this new information?
Clearly the Russians are concerned that that building behind you, that airport is just not safe.
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And I'm going to step out of the way because I want to show you that President Putin's words are having
a pretty immediate effect. Right behind me there, you can see in front of the departure hall, those are queues of waiting Russian tourists.
It has been less than an hour since we had President Putin's statement and already Russian tourists are turning up here, hoping to receive that
promised support that President Putin spoke about, to get them out of Sharm el-Sheikh.
It is certainly, while not saying anything really that much, but it certainly contributes to the bigger picture that so many tourists here are
grappling with, which is, that although they don't know the whys, the whats and the hows, they do know that this is, at the moment --
ELBAGIR: -- not a safe situation. That is what so many are telling us. This all comes as the U.K. ministry of defense announced that a small team,
they're saying, of military personnel arriving here have arrived here and will be part of a broader securing operation because the U.K. tour
operators say that even if and when more flights come on track, that they don't want people bringing hold luggage on board. It has got to be just
And that really gives you a greater sense here, Robyn, of how much people are as yet not quite comfortable with the security setup here.
CURNOW: Indeed. And more and more investigators arriving and they are obviously focusing their attention, according to that BBC report, on
luggage handlers on the hold.
Is there a lot of coordination or do you think this could get murky, as well, in terms of trying to figure out who goes where and what within this
ELBAGIR: Well, given that you have, at the moment, so many different countries, nationals involved in this, it is always very difficult
operations to make run smoothly.
But what we heard from the British ambassador a little earlier today, he made a real point of reiterating it, Robyn, is that he said we are
receiving real and practical coordination and cooperation from the Egyptians.
And that is a slightly different position that we were in yesterday or the day before, when the Egyptians were coming out very angrily, saying that
the Brits did this unilaterally, that intelligence hasn't been shared.
Now we are seeing Egyptians saying we are willing to work with you. We want this to go smoothly because fundamentally Sharm is such a big revenue
generator, as is the tourism industry across the whole of Egypt.
It is in the Egyptian government's interest to be seen to be working well with all of these international partners.
CURNOW: Indeed. And tens of thousands of tourists stranded there.
Thank you so much, Nima.
Matthew, I want to ask you a question, on the political consequences of this Russian decision. What does this mean for President Putin? How do
you think it emboldens him?
Or how do you think the Russian public will react?
Do you think they will support whatever he does next?
CHANCE: Well, I think the real question is, if this was a bomb, what impact will it have politically on public support for Russia's intervention
in Syria? Because inevitably, it is going to be linked. So far support is pretty high for that. It is at a distance, that campaign. You've got
Russian warplanes striking for the past couple of months at various targets inside Syria, ISIS and other rebel groups, of course, as well.
And the Russian public has just watched on like it was some kind of giant video game. If it is found that this was a bomb and that ISIS planted it
and it was some kind of blowback or active retaliation for Russia's intervention in Syria, that public support is obviously threatened.
Now it could go the other way as well. So we are just in the realms of speculation here and the Kremlin will be looking at this carefully and they
will be very sensitive about it. It could also go the other way. It may actually bolster the Russian public and say we need to crack down harder,
even harder on ISIS and it may give Putin even more support to go even deeper into the Syrian conflict.
But it is very unpredictable; it's very dynamic. It's going to be very interesting to watch.
CURNOW: Good. Thank you for your analysis, Matthew Chance, appreciate it.
I want to take us now to 10 Downing Street, where Fred Pleitgen is standing by.
We heard that this was British intelligence initially.
What do we know about it?
And do you think the U.K. intelligence agency shared this information with the Russians?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think there is a real possibility that perhaps they didn't share all of the
information but at least they did possibly outline what exactly brought them to the conclusions that they have.
And it is interesting because, Robyn, we have been alluding to these media reports that have been out here in Britain, that, according to the BBC,
now come to the conclusion that most probably there was a bomb that was planted inside the cargo hold of the aircraft.
And we have been hearing also in the past couple of days from U.S. sources as well, that they believe someone might have smuggled a bomb on the plane.
And a lot of that was gathered through signals intelligence, which is, of course, the eavesdropping on communications of extremist organizations
inside the Sinai Peninsula, some of them of course affiliated with ISIS.
And it seems to be that after the Russian airliner went down, these intelligence agencies, the Brits first and foremost, seemed to have gone
through some of the intercepts that they had from the past and then saw some sort of pattern, saw some sort of chatter there, that they believe
links all of this to someone possibly putting a bomb inside that airplane.
Now according to these reports, it appears as though they think it was inside the cargo hold of the airplane. They are not sure whether or not it
would have been inside a piece of luggage or whether it might have been someone that just placed it in there.
But of course, what we are seeing right now at Sharm el-Sheikh airport, the security measures that are in place here, the fact that no check-in luggage
is being allowed onto aircraft, even though there has been a team of British experts on the ground, including military personnel --
PLEITGEN: -- for several days now, putting additional security measures in place, it shows they really are very, very worried about that check-in
luggage and about allowing anything into the cargo hold of any sort of aircraft.
So even with measures in place, it seems as though they are still not totally sure that they can guarantee the safety of the people who are set
to fly back, if they allow their luggage onto those planes as well -- Robyn.
CURNOW: OK. Thank you very much, Fred Pleitgen, and all of our correspondents. Appreciate it.
Well, coming up next, check out this video from Brazil.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): A dam break has buried a small town in mud and floodwaters. Our correspondent in Brazil has an update on the rescue and
CURNOW: Welcome back. I'm Robyn Curnow and you are watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK.
The number of casualties from a collapsed dam at a Brazilian mine may be growing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): The dam was holding back wastewater from an iron ore mine when it burst. Dozens of people are missing after mudslides swept
through the village.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Shasta Darlington joins me now live from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with more details.
Hi, there, Shasta.
What more can you tell us?
SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Robyn, according to firefighters on the scene, the death toll is rising. They are now talking
about two confirmed dead, 30 injured.
But the real concern here is the number of missing. According to the union leader representing the workers at that mine, there were about 50 workers
on the scene at the time and a total of 15 are still missing.
Of course, when that dam burst, it was a tsunami of sludge that came crashing down on this village of Bento Rodrigues, wiping out much of it,
especially in the area of about 200 homes. So the rescue work continues.
DARLINGTON: The good news is they have managed to rescue about 500 people. The bad news is they just don't know how many casualties we will be talking
At the same time, nearby in the city of Mariana, officials are preparing schools and other official buildings to receive a lot of these people who
have been left homeless so that, again, all of these works are continuing to try to bring some normalcy back to this area.
But even at this point we don't know how many deaths we really are talking about -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Indeed. The pictures that we are showing as you are talking, it is horrifying images of how this damage was wrought on this village.
Do we know what caused this dam to break?
DARLINGTON: They are still looking into this. As you mentioned, it was really just the tsunami that submerged many houses. It carried cars along
with it. According to the mine Samarco, which is jointly owned by Brazil's Vale and Australia's BHP Billiton, they are trying to figure out what the
cause is and they will of course let people know when they determine that.
At this time they also say that people should be focused on the rescue efforts and obviously investors are not pleased with this. Their share
prices have taken a hit also because there is talk that, because this was wastewater, it could contaminate the river system in the area, which would
obviously bring even further damage to the towns and they may go after the mining company to take some responsibility, not only for the accident but
any environmental damage we could be talking about -- Robyn.
CURNOW: Indeed. This is wastewater from an iron ore mine. So the health and environmental consequences, no doubt, long-term.
Shasta Darlington, thanks so much for updating us on the story.
Moving on, it looks like something out of a science fiction film but it is real.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): Take a look at this. It's a massive shelf cloud over the ocean, moving towards Australia's Bondi Beach there. Witnesses say it
looked like a huge wave about to engulf the area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Jennifer Gray joins me now to explain what it is.
JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, wow is right. Not all that uncommon but ominous looking skies across Australia yesterday, just outside
Look at this. A lot of people have mistaken it for a tornado forming because it can hang very, very close to the ground. But it is called a
shelf cloud and basically it is formed along the leading edge of a thunderstorm, where you have a gust front that's pushing air out in all
different directions and it's pushing it forward so it creates this huge wedge right here. And that's what we call a shelf cloud.
Look at this. I want to point out that little boat right there on the left corner of your picture. I'm sure it was incredibly frightening for them.
But yes, they did have thunderstorms yesterday around the Sydney area. You can see them pushing offshore. So that's where we got the image, from the
shelf cloud, of the leading edge of the thunderstorms and the satellite picture shows the same definitely clearing out better weather for today.
But a scary sight along the coast there for those beachgoers, Robyn.
Can you imagine seeing that coming your way?
CURNOW: I know, but I was looking at the pictures. There are also some great pictures on cnn.com. And a lot of beachgoers just sitting there,
watching it in their Speedos on their beach towels. So it was a very Aussie casualness to it all. But thank you, extraordinary pictures,
Jennifer Gray there.
You are at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. Just ahead, we are going to turn our attention to U.S. politics.
He's gaining in the polls and nipping at Donald Trump's heels in the race for U.S. president. We will take a look at Ben Carson's amazing life story
that some say isn't real.
CURNOW: Turning to U.S. politics now, a new CNN/ORC poll shows Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an 18-point lead in the key
state of Iowa.
But the Republican race is much closer. The survey of likely Republican caucusgoers shows Donald Trump has 25 percent while Ben Carson has 23
percent. The two candidates are well ahead of their nearest competitors, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
Jon Mann is spearheading our coverage of the U.S. election as he hosts our new and continuing political show, "POLITICAL MANN."
And great it's back. I want to talk about Ben Carson. There's new controversy about him; our CNN colleagues have been digging and some real
questions about his past.
JONATHAN MANN, CNN HOST: About his past. And he has a remarkable past, a life story is amazing, we're talking about a man who was born poor into a
broken family in Detroit, struggled to get into Yale University and turned into an American success story, a headline-making brain surgeon.
The questions about his past relate to what happened back in Detroit when he was a boy. He has written and spoken publicly about coming close to
killing one of his classmates, a 14-year old in 9th grade, with a knife that he pulled out of his pocket and tried to stab his young friend with.
According to Carson's account, the knife hit the boy's belt buckle and broke off, essentially saving his life. And Carson said that experience
turned his life around.
Well, it's such an amazing story and it's so much a part of his life story that CNN investigative reporters went out to try and find that friend, find
other people who saw the event and find out more about it.
And guess what? Nobody remembered a thing. No one had ever been there. No one could remember the boy, Bob, that we were told about and there was
no evidence to support any part of this. Well, Carson was confronted with this fact just a short time ago on CNN. Here is what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a bunch of lies. This is what it is, it's a bunch of lies, attempting to say that I'm
lying about my history.
I think it's pathetic. Basically what the media does is they try to get you distracted with all of this stuff so that you don't talk about the
things that are important because we have so many important things.
And I'm not proud of the fact that I had these rage episodes. But I am proud of the fact that I was able to get over them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: And he got over the rage episodes, he says, with the Bible. His enormous faith is a big part of his appeal to caucusgoers, evangelical
Christians. His personal story and his faith intertwined, that is what Ben Carson is selling to U.S. voters.
CURNOW: Indeed. He is connected to evangelical voters precisely because of this description of his spiritual journey as such. So it is going to be
very interesting to see what the political consequences of this are.
MANN: It cuts two ways, oddly enough.
On the one hand, there is so much mistrust of the mainstream media among Republican voters that this is almost a badge of honor, proof that he
matters now as a candidate, proof that he's made it far enough that he is a target important enough for all of the Republican enemies in the media to
go after him.
But there is another aspect to this. His life story --
MANN: -- is his only credential. He's never held public office. And it's the fact that he was born to a mother, who was herself one of 25 children,
a mother who was married at age 13 and then discovered, after she had Ben and his brother, that her husband, his father, was a bigamist. And she
chose to raise the boys on her own.
His life story is so astonishing.
But what if it doesn't turn out to be true?
What if it doesn't turn out to be the story that he tells?
It cuts to the very core of this candidacy. And so that is why this is more than just a trivial memory or a bit of boasting about his past. His
past is what, if there is anything, his past is would make him fit to be president.
CURNOW: Indeed. It is about vetting him.
CURNOW: Let's just talk about your new show. It's very exciting but it's about U.S. domestic politics on CNN International.
Why do we care?
And we do care. I mean, we're both foreigners, essentially.
I mean, it is fascinating, isn't it?
MANN: You know, they used to call the circus the greatest show on Earth. American politics is a circus and it is the greatest show on Earth. And
the whole world is watching.
I'm from Canada and I live here and I am fascinated. But Canadians are fascinating back home. You're not from here. People back home are
fascinated, as well. This is the most extraordinary, exhaustive, expensive electoral process in the world.
And these people emerge as larger-than-life characters that the whole world ends up talking about.
So "POLITICAL MANN" tries to do it with a slightly more jaundiced, irreverent and distant eye.
We hope everyone will watch.
CURNOW: Yes, absolutely. Certainly tune in.
Thanks a lot, Jon Mann.
Well absolutely don't miss the premiere of "POLITICAL MANN." In London you can catch the show Saturday, November 7th, at 11:30 pm. And we are looking
for you to send questions about the U.S. political race. Send them to us on Twitter @PoliticalMann or use the #AnswerMann.
Still ahead, the latest on the theories into what brought down that Russian jet and an expert tells us it is not only possible to tell if a bomb was
placed on a plane but how the explosives were made. We take you inside the laboratory to see how that is done.
CURNOW: Welcome back, everyone. You are watching the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I'm Robyn Curnow. Here is a check of the headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW (voice-over): Russian President Vladimir Putin says all Russian flights to Egypt should be suspended until it is known what caused
Saturday's crash in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 224 people. The U.S. and the U.K. say intelligence suggests it could have been a bomb.
British tourists stranded when London suspended flights after the crash have begun to leave Sharm el-Sheikh. Egyptian civil aviation minister says
eight flights were scheduled to leave Friday. The U.K. government said it could take 10 days to get all the passengers out.
A dam break has inundated a Brazilian town with mud and floodwaters. The dam was holding back wastewater from an iron ore mine when it burst. At
least two people are confirmed dead and more than a dozen others are missing.
In Myanmar, they are preparing for Sunday's general election that's been billed as the most open in decades. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's
party is expected to do well but current laws ban anyone with foreign family members from becoming president and her children are British.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: Returning now to our top story, increasing suspicion that it was a bomb that brought down the Russian Metrojet plane. The investigation is
not yet complete but we wanted to take a look at just what has been done to determine if the plane was deliberately targeted. CNN's Kyung Lah visited
a forensic lab to find out.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The power of a bomb aboard a passenger plane, this demonstration by the U.S. attorney's office shows the end
THOMAS ANTHONY, FORENSIC BOMB EXPERT: Coming through the opposite side.
LAH (voice-over): The beginnings tracked by forensic bomb expert, Thomas Anthony.
LAH: Is this a classic C-4 explosion?
ANTHONY: It is. Less push and more force like that. We have less residue than a low explosive.
LAH (voice-over): Starting with a C-4 bomb, a type of plastic explosive, the former FAA civil aviation security manager walks us through the impact
of several types of bombs and the telltale signs they leave behind.
ANTHONY: The residue of the black powder coming from a central point, look at the edges here. The edges in the black powder are very, very different.
They have this sort of, like, almost coral-like look to them.
This is napalm. Look at the residue of the napalm that was left behind. That's something that is indicative and characteristic of napalm.
LAH: Are there countless numbers of explosives?
ANTHONY: There are dozens of types of explosives.
LAH (voice-over): Investigators begin to narrow the possibilities with field tests like this one that quickly analyze residue. This orange color
points to a CH4 bomb. Anthony says the severity of a bomb on a plane depends on many factors like timing and placement and there isn't always
LAH: Is it possible an explosive can go off on a plane and there be no residue?
ANTHONY: It's possible there could be no residue left.
LAH (voice-over): Here's why. Look at the wreckage from the Metrojet crash, much of it consumed by fire.
ANTHONY: If you have melting aircraft parts, melting aluminum, it's mixing with the other parts that it could easily disguise any evidence of an IED.
LAH (voice-over): Anthony says it's critical to have forensic proof in an aviation investigation and only a lab could sift out evidence from this.
But just as important, piecing together clues beyond the wreckage, knowing when and who may have placed an explosive device aboard the plane.
ANTHONY: There are so many electronics that we can buy off the shelf that can be programmed to activate hours, days, weeks, months in the future.
LAH (voice-over): -- Kyung Lah, CNN, Los Angeles.
There is more to come here at the IDESK, including the abandoned Soviet mining town that time forget. Arwa Damon gives us a tour, up next.
CURNOW: Hi, there. Welcome back.
New York is investigating whether ExxonMobil misled the public by clouding the debate over climate change. Environmental groups are hailing the probe
as a victory. They have long criticized Exxon's alleged support for think tanks and other groups that expressed climate change skepticism.
And other oil companies could eventually be investigated, too. New York's attorney general has demanded extensive financial records and e-mails from
For it's part, Exxon says, quote, "We unequivocally reject allegations that ExxonMobil suppressed climate change research."
France will close its borders for several weeks because of the Paris climate conference next month. The French interior minister says it's to
prevent a terror attack or any disruption to this, quote, "big international event attended by world leaders."
Europe has an open borders treaty but the minister says it allows closures in certain circumstances, such as the conference. Instead France will
establish a stricter border control process.
There's a very big chance, a real chance you could bump into a polar bear. And there's no way to communicate with the outside world except by letter.
CNN's Arwa Damon takes us to an abandoned Soviet mining town in Norway that is frozen in time.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We came actually to get shots of the glaciers and other stuff that we needed for
our climate change story. But this is one of those trips with a lot of added perks. So getting to experience this is one of them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you are in Russia, more or less. I hope everybody brought their passports. No, just kidding.
Here in Pyramiden, there is an absolute chance that you might actually see a polar bear right around the corner. So you have to walk together as one
SACHA (PH): Good afternoon, everybody. Yes, my name is Sacha (ph). I live here. Coal mining in Pyramiden started only in 1956. Pyramiden was
developing and it's increasing in size and growing bigger, 1,200 people were living here.
This was a dormitory mostly for single women.
SACHA (PH): And local people call it Paris.
ALEXANDER ROMANOVSKI, TOUR GUIDE: It was a very good place to work. Salaries here were much higher than on the mainland due to the remoteness
And behind Lenin there is a huge building. It is our cultural and sports center. There is a gym for playing sports games. There is a concert hall.
Still there is an old grand piano standing on the stage there.
DAMON: This is basically the world's northernmost piano. And even though I can't really play the piano because I tried when I was a kid and got told
I played like an elephant, you kind of have to play the world's most northernmost piano.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a projector room. This is from where films were projected on the screen.
DAMON: (INAUDIBLE) cartoon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have nothing here. We don't have television.
DAMON: Oh, it's Michael Douglas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
It's a Soviet portrait of Michael Douglas.
We don't have radio.
Library. And I'm holding Soviet ABC in my hands.
We don't have cellphone network.
This is the swimming pool, 25 meters, Olympic size.
That's why we write letters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But in 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed and coal mining became unprofitable here. In 1998 the decision was made to close down the
mine and to close down the settlement. As a result, everybody back to the mainland. Hence Pyramiden became a ghost town.
GUL TUYSUZ, CNN PRODUCER: I'm taking a bit of coal in Pyramiden. And this is a symbolic wagon of the last coal ever mined here in this abandoned
CURNOW: Trust Arwa's team to find that place.
Well, that does it for us here at the INTERNATIONAL DESK. I will be back in 15 minutes. In the meantime, I'm going to hand you over to "WORLD
SPORT" and Christina Macfarlane. Thanks for watching.