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Religious Studies Department Santa Clara University

Spring 2012


Spring 2012

In April, I attended Assisi 2012, which drew together more than 250 participants from 55 countries to explore new ways of advancing the cause of inter-religious dialogue. The Umbrian hilltop town of Assisi was chosen as the venue because of its long association with openness, charity, dialogue, peace, harmony and communion, and with the particular charisms of the Franciscans founded by St. Francis and St. Clare. I was asked to speak on St. Clare and the unique ways she and the Poor Ladies at San Damiano created church in living the Gospel. I stood in the sanctuary of the Basilica of St. Clare, and began, “Our conference work, just as the work of the San Damiano community 800 years ago, is one of house repair . . .“ After the keynote address, my husband and I walked outside the city walls of Assisi, to the church of San Damiano, where Clare, the namesake of our University, lived most of her life. I asked a friar there about Clare and the San Damiano community. “She left an imprint of contemplation and silence, of Eucharist love and light. People come here for peace,” he said. “San Damiano links a person to eternity, in a dialogue of presence. It is a place for the Church and the world to be restored and reconciled.” Clare, Chiara in Italian, means "light." Her mother, Ortulana, while praying at a Church for a safe delivery, heard a voice, which said, "You will give birth to a light that will shine brilliantly in the world." Thus, she named her daughter, Chiara. The prophecy did not stipulate that this light would be limited to the 13th century, nor to Umbria. For a while now, I’ve wondered if Clare can be a light to us here at Santa Clara. Students, one by one, catch the light within themselves. I imagine Clare would write to each of them words similar to those she wrote to the twenty-three year old Agnes: “May you go forward, securely, joyfully and swiftly.” In her final blessing, Clare instructed her sisters to be “mirrors and examples” to one another, and to the world. As we do good, we draw out the good in one other. From my perspective, I find this mirror-activity in the Religious Studies faculty and staff, and in students – reflecting good to one another, and to the world.

Contents Speaker Series


Faculty Updates


Rutillio and Romero Commemoration


Ghost Monkey Quest


Alumna Spotlight


RS Reception & Awards


Alumni Updates



On the evening of May 10 , bells of our Mission Church rang out. In the sanctuary, alumna Elisse La Barre, ’09, stepped to the conductor’s stand, and with the gesture of her baton, brought her sister’s premier work, St. Clare’s Vespers Concert: Correspondence, to life. Leslie La Barre, ’10, had composed music inspired by Saint Clare’s Letters to Agnes of Prague, and wove antiphons and the hymn dedicated to St. Clare from the Santa Clara Mission Choral book, not heard for over 200 years, into the concert. Alumna, guest and faculty soloists with SCU chamber musicians performed the stunning Correspondence in candlelight before an audience of over a hundred to th celebrate the 800 anniversary of St. Clare of Assisi. “Correspondence was an amazing experience, drawing influences from the relevant 800 year-old text of St. Clare, transcribing 200-year-old music written for her from the Mission, and being a graduate from Santa Clara University, writing music specifically for the Mission Church,” Leslie said. “I found sheer joy and the timelessness of Clare’s letters.” Elisse found refractions of light, too. “It was about connections, soloists and the musicians with texts, ancient, in an avant-garde composition, and about connections with one another as musicians.” Indeed, the ensemble emulated an irrepressible joy, playing off one another. It was a great exchange. If I am seeing clearly, I perceive something similar catching light in our Religious Studies Department, and in the University. Reflections about the conference, Assisi 2012 attended by Professor Jean Molesky-Poz For more information on St. Clare, check the Religious Studies website (

Newsletter Editors: Adam Reiss & Olivia Skierka


From Ambrose to Zuccotti Park: RS Spring Speaker Series

Professor Sarita Tamayo-Moraga received this year’s faculty award for the Broncos Read Program. Check out the full size poster on the 1st floor of the library.

Faculty Updates James Bennett has been speaking to campus and community groups about Mormonism and its impact on Mitt Romney's campaign. In addition to presenting at the Religious Studies Department's own Speaker Series in late February, he also gave public lectures for the Ignatian Center and for the Jesuit Community in April, as well as being interviewed about Mormonism and politics by local television and radio stations. In the fall he will be teaching a Religious Studies seminar on Religion and the Presidency, which will track the role of religion in the fall election. In addition, Professor Bennett has been contributing to the new blog, "Religion in the American West" ( On March 19, Emeritus Professor Michael J. Buckley, SJ, gave the first annual Newman Legacy Lecture, co-sponsored by the National Institute for Newman Studies and Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. The following day, Fr. Buckley gave two student seminars on Catholic higher education to Duquesne undergraduate and graduate students. Socorro Castañeda-Liles and her husband Josef Castañeda-Liles (Associate Director of Prospect Research, SCU) received a Special Projects grant for their book project entitled Portraits of the Dream: The Importance of Investing in Undocumented America from the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education.

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The Religious Studies Department’s 2012 Speaker Series continued spring quarter with three engaging contributions that bridged ancient Jewish and Christian texts and rituals with contemporary questions. On Wednesday, April 18, Professor Michael McCarthy, SJ opened our quarter with “Sacred Politics: Scripture and the Presidential Election.” He framed his remarks with civil religious imagery and rhetoric to evoke the tensions that persist amid public appropriations of scripture in a nation neither traditionally Christian nor straightforwardly secular. Professor McCarthy noted that the Augustinian origins of the Latin form of the familiar “e pluribus unum” (e pluribus unum facere) support a model of church that comes into being through careful interpretation of scripture. Repeatedly getting participants into the action, he invited small groups to wrestle with biblical texts on violence, sexuality and social issues, asking us to “make one” from their often divergent meanings. This exercise underscored the cacophony of conflicting voices in scripture, tempering tendencies to invoke scripture as unequivocally supporting preexisting perspectives or partisan ends. The congressional budget debate earlier in the week offered a case in point, with some Catholic politicians defending the budget’s consistency with the principle of subsidiarity and other commentators judging its priorities an affront to the gospel, depending upon their interpretive lenses and sympathies. Professor Catherine Murphy brought together timely Occupy Movement images and rallying cries from the previous (May) day’s events with biblical and social scientific analyses in “Apocalyptic Economics: The Bible and the 99%.” Professor Murphy effortlessly combined the rise of income inequality (and its impact on students, in particular) with dynamic images and pop culture references (a favorite: “the post-apocalyptic landscape of The Hunger Games”) to captivate participants from start to finish. She offered an overview of scriptural passages on economics—some of which reflected the polyvocal characteristics Professor McCarthy had identified—to reveal repeated accounts prioritizing concern for the economically vulnerable. She emphasized the incongruence with many contemporary churches, which often prioritize sexual sins to economic sins. The priority of economic crimes is especially pronounced in apocalyptic judgment scenes, where the oppression of the poor becomes the chief crime for which humans are judged. She suggested that this emphasis was a response to imperial domination and the increased economic pressure it exerted on the vulnerable. Her attention to the rise of apocalyptic literature in the Jewish tradition fruitfully shed light upon the relevance of such texts for understanding contemporary “woes” that cry out in a similar moment of cultural crisis. Closing out the academic year, Professor Gary Macy combined theological developments on the meaning of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist with characteristic humor in “Transubstantiation is Not a Train in Russia.” Beginning with the Emmaeus narrative and tracing historical interpretive developments, Professor Macy evinced how, in the midst of sharing a meal and book, Christian participants would genuinely feel the presence of the Risen Christ enabling them to become a “new creation,” Jesus’ presence on earth. His contextualization helped demystify (Continued on 3)


Remembering Rutilio and Romero This March marked the 32nd anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the 35th anniversary of the death of Rutilio Grande, S.J. of El Salvador. Both were friends and companions on a journey of solidarity and justice for the poor of El Salvador. Ultimately, their commitment to the poor led to their death. To remember their lives and celebrate their memory, Professors Ana Maria Pineda, RSM and Juan Velasco, presented "Archbishop Romero and Rutilio Grande, SJ: Companions on the Journey," using poetry, vignettes, photos and mural art. Religious Studies minor and Studio Art major, Melina Ramirez ‘12, participated in the 2011 immersion trip to El Salvador and was able to visit many sites significant to Romero’s work. She remarked on this experience: “Romero’s life showed me the importance of hope and faith in unjust times, as well as the importance of opening one’s heart to strangers.” In tribute to her time in El Salvador, Melina painted a portrait of Romero for the Art Center for Peace (Suchitoto, El Salvador). She presented the portrait at the event (pictured above).

(continued from 2) Christian beliefs about what “happens to” the bread and wine at Eucharistic celebrations, conveying the sacrament’s empowerment of participants to live a Christian life, which he noted they cannot do alone. He cited one of Augustine’s sermons (272) in this regard: “You reply ‘Amen’ to that which you are . . . Be a member of the body of Christ that your ‘Amen’ may be true.” Reminding attendees of the myriad ways in which we tell ourselves who we are by symbols and rituals, Professor Macy highlighted theologians’ understandings of what the consecration of Eucharistic symbols signify and effect as well as why Aristotelian metaphysics were adapted to explain real presence using the tongue-twister “transubstantiation.” We were very pleased that the spring events attracted sizable crowds of undergraduate, graduate and OSHER students, faculty, staff and community members. The events in winter and spring quarters alike generated stimulating dialogue and new interest in the Religious Studies major and minor. I would like to thank all those who supported the series this year, in particular Vicky Gonzalez for all of her hard work and Professor David Pinault for helping imagine the series’ “rebirth.” We hope to continue this series in upcoming quarters, so stay tuned for details and please join us!

(continued from 2) Portraits of the Dream will feature the narratives of 16 professionals, artists, academics, and activists who were previously undocumented, or in a few cases, are currently undocumented and public about their immigration status. Each contributor will reflect about the experience of being undocumented, and how this experience has shaped their personal and professional goals. In addition to the narrative, each contributor will have his/her portrait taken by Michael Collopy, who is renowned for his evocative duotones of some of the world’s leading peacemakers captured in his book Architects of Peace, as well as his work on Mother Teresa, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Quincy Jones, and many other world leaders, entertainers, and activists. On a personal note, Professor Castañeda-Liles’s husband will be graduating with his Ph.D. in Sociology this June, and their daughter Lupita will be graduating from Pre-School. In March Kristin Heyer joined the planning committee for Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church. After its second international meeting in Trento, Italy in 2010, the group has launched several smaller initiatives (SCU hosted its Wired Asia Skype conference in November) and plans are underway for regional conferences in Nairobi, Berlin, and Hong Kong-Macau; a six-part book series; and doctoral scholarship programs. Updated information is available at Visiting Professor Bryan Massingale published an op-ed on Paul Ryan’s budget in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on March 26. Later that week he gave the Flannery Lecture at Gonzaga University on "Cultured Indifference: The Culture of Racism and Catholic Ethical Reflection." He received the honorary doctorate in theology from Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, on May 17, 2012. On May 2, Frederick Parrella spoke to about fifty seniors on the topic “Theology of Marriage” in the Donohoe Alumni House on campus. This is the first in the series called “Life After SCU” for the graduating senior class. The July issue of Lectionary Homiletics will contain three of his short essays, “Theological Perspectives,” on the Book of Samuel for the lectionary readings that month. (Continued on 5)

--Kristin Heyer


Ghost Monkey Quest

Bug-blinded in one eye: a sorry start to my stay in the tropics. But worth it—worth the tiger-stripe mosquitoes, the steam-bath heat, the mud-slipping slog through the jungle—to get up close to ghost monkeys. “Ghost monkey” (kera hantu) is one name for these creatures. The world’s smallest primates (five to six inches in height), they emerge at night to stalk insects, passing like shadows among the forest network of vines and tree limbs. “Tarsier” is how they’re called by the world at large. Local residents in Sulawesi (the Indonesian island I visited to see these creatures) also call them tangkasi (from an Indonesian word that means ‘agile,’ ‘adroit’: a good name, because these creatures are skilled at ten-foot leaps from branch to branch to pounce on insect-snacks). I’d first heard about tarsiers from friends in ProFauna Indonesia, a group that brings together Indonesian Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists to collaborate on wildlife rescue and the protection of the nation’s environment. They’d told me of how the tarsiers of Sulawesi’s Tangkoko forest are being harmed by large-scale human damage to their habitat. The village of Batu Putih on the jungle’s edge is the jump-off point for tarsier hikes. A fishing town, Batu Putih is situated behind a black-sand beach near volcanic mountains by the Celebes Sea. I left with my guides—teens from the village—in late afternoon. We timed our expedition so we’d arrive in the forest’s heart before twilight, when tarsiers emerge from what biologists call their “sleeping-trees.” By law Tangkoko is a protected nature reserve. But when we first entered the forest, we saw villagers burning brush and chopping down trees to clear space for planting. Local human encroachment is a problem. Far worse is happening just a few miles away. Mining companies are blasting holes in nearby hillsides in search of gold. Chemical runoff “tailings” pollute the rivers. Environmental activists belonging to the group Cagar Hijau (Green Sanctuary) warn that these activities threaten the forest “wildlife corridors” traversed by animals such as the tarsiers. Human livelihoods, too, are at risk. At least one of the extractive-industry companies active in the region, Mikgro Metal Perdana, is based in the People’s Republic of China. Despite lacking the necessary permits, Mikgro is engaged in iron mining on Bangka Island, just off Sulawesi’s coast, while disregarding Photo Credit: David Pinault protests from fishing communities who warn of harm to the region’s coral reefs. The iron ore is shipped directly to China. Mikgro’s actions are characteristic of many state-run corporations owned by the government of Communist China, which extracts raw materials from throughout Asia and Africa to fuel the PRC’s expanding economy. Grim news. As we walked, the boys guiding me worried aloud about how much longer the tarsiers’ homes—and their own jobs as guides—would last. In recent months, increasingly vocal resistance to mining in Sulawesi has grown among the local population: Muslims and Christians, lodge-keepers, forest rangers, fisher-folk. At first we could still hear sounds from the village: tinny radio music; men’s laughter; the slap of waves on the beach. But soon the world became less human. The croak overhead of a hornbill; the whoop-whoop-whoop of a koel (triggering good memories of India); the call of other birds unknown to me. A fair-sized black-and-yellow bird passed by my face with a dreamlike lazy flap of its wings—and then I realized: a butterfly. Pressing in on us, more and more loudly as late afternoon advanced: a whine, a hum, from every shrub, every bush. By no means monotonous: it would rise, throb, dwindle; rise, throb, dwindle. Surrounded by trees, with the last sunlight fading, I had the thought: I’m in a ship’s engine room. Apa suara itu? I asked what was making that sound. Itu jangkrik-jangrik, Pak: Cicadas, sir. Itu jam wéker untuk tangkasi-tangkasi, joked one of the boys: “They’re the alarm clock for the tarsiers.” The ghost monkeys emerge at dusk to hunt these chirring insects. Cicada alarm clocks. I laughed as I stopped to remove my sunglasses and wipe the sweat from my face—and that’s when something hit my left eye with the sting of a dart. Whatever kind of bug it was, it was big—elephant big. Painful, too. My fingers were smeared with DEET to keep off mosquitoes; I had to fight the urge to rub my eye. The guesthouse was more than an hour’s walk back through the jungle; and we were close—very close, the boys reassured me—to the tarsiers’ sleeping-trees. I blinked and blinked and told myself: Tough it out. Di sini, Pak: Here we are, sir. The boys pointed to a clearing before us, and a circle of banyan trees. They pointed to the biggest, a good hundred feet tall; this, they said, was the ghost monkeys’ favorite.


Thick twining branches looped about the banyan. A fissure like a cave mouth gaped in the trunk. “Inside,” they instructed me. I poked my head within. A shaft-like opening ran up, a hundred feet into darkness. Tree limbs grew in that space, each rising within the shaft. Too dark at first to see anything clearly. The bug in my eye didn’t help. Then I saw them. A cluster of four, each clinging to the same branch in its sleep, one tarsier just above the next, curled in a group as tight as they could make it. Careful not to disturb them, I withdrew my head. The boys and I retreated across the clearing, crouched, waited. The insect whine grew urgent. Twilight. Tree leaves lost their green, became silhouettes. In the banyan’s mouth, ten feet up, just visible: a shadow. Ears; inquisitive bulbous eyes; long trailing tail ending in a tuft. Motionless. “The family’s nighttime scout,” whispered one of the boys. “If everything looks safe, he’ll signal the others to come out.” I inched forward for a closer look. The scout spotted me. We exchanged glances. A feeling of being assessed: it was studying me, passing judgment. Harmful? Harmless? Then came the ghost monkey’s call: whistle-chirps, high-pitched and squeaky. A second tarsier emerged; then another; and a fourth. The squeak-chirps continued, as if each called encouragement to the next. A pause. More calls back and forth. A moment later, they jumped to neighboring trees, then out, deep into the neighboring dark, hoping for food. Nighttime. Back at the lodge, Photo Credit: David Pinault I washed my hands free of DEET, flushed my eye, rinsed away bits of bug, stared anxiously at the mirror. What gazed back was bloodshot and blurred; but functional, still functional. Good enough. Too hot to sleep. I sat in bed reading, shrouded in my mosquito net. Then: a tap-tap at the door. Persistent, urgent; asking for entry. Who would visit past midnight? I opened, to find a flurry of moths, brown-winged and big: a furry brush by my lips as they dove at my lamp. I turned off the light and stepped outdoors. Overhead, treetops of palms and a black sky of stars. What lingered from the day: that exchange of glances, the ghost monkey’s calm assessing gaze. Eco-theologian Father Thomas Berry: “If the earth does grow inhospitable toward human presence, it is primarily because we have lost our sense of courtesy toward the earth and its inhabitants, our sense of gratitude…for the numinous quality of every earthly reality.” In Tangkoko forest it was easy to rediscover that gratitude. --David Pinault

(Continued from 3)

Ana Maria Pineda published a chapter entitled, “Hospitality" in Religion and Justice edited by Michael D. Palmer, Stanley M. Burgess (Wiley-Blackwell). In addition, she was a delegate from SCU to the White House Summit held at Evergreen Valley College to discuss policy, and programmatic areas of concerns for Hispanic leaders in collaboration with senior Obama Administration officials. Subsequently, she received an invitation to a White House briefing for Religion Scholars in Washington, D.C. Jean Ponder Soto was awarded a Lonergan Institute Fellowship at Boston College for Fall 2012. The title of her research project is “Lonergan’s Method and the Method of Ministry in Social Media.” A class on social media and ministry that she taught during the 2010 academic year for the GPPM inspired her to do further research into social media. While at Boston College, Jean plans on following several social media projects with the aim of discovering if and how they succeed in their ministry goals. Jean will interview the staff at various BC sites to learn about their best practices of using social media for educational purposes and why they work well. Some other fellowship projects that Jean will follow are through the Tepeyac Institute, a diocesan lay ministry training center in Jean’s hometown of El Paso, TX. Robert Dueweke, O.S.A., director of the Institute, will launch a project to test a hypothesis that following the liturgical year on Facebook posts can be a prompt for beginning or deepening a religious conversion. In the second Tepeyac project, social media will be used to explore the kinds of questions about religion the younger Hispanic population might have.

Correction: Professor Frederick Parrella received the Faculty Senate Professor Award, not Teaching Award as reported in Winter Perspectives; we regret the initial error.


Alumna Spotlight on Jessica Coblentz ‘08 Last summer, while I was beginning the application process for graduate schools in Religious Studies, I contacted Jessica Coblentz ’08, who recently graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a Master of Theological Studies degree and was beginning her first year of doctoral studies at Boston College. From my first point of contact with Jessica last summer, I have been impressed by her brilliance, kindness, and humility. Even though I have not yet met Jessica, she has given up so much of her time chatting with me on the phone to answer my many questions about grad school, emailing me housing options and potential roommates, and even recommending classes that may be of interest to me. Jessica is truly a person of competence, conscience, and compassion and a role model for women like me in pursuit of graduate work in Religious Studies. Here are some of her responses during our recent interview: How has your SCU Religious Studies major impacted you?


On May 24 Religious Studies students, faculty and staff honored graduating seniors. Professor James Bennett offered the invocation and Professor Michael Castori, SJ, (pictured above) addressed attendees on how his experiences in Tonga influenced his pursuit of graduate studies in scripture. Professor David DeCosse and Brittany Adams ’12 (pictured below) presented findings from their research on student attitudes regarding immigration at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics on May 30, 2012.

First, in many ways my work continues to grapple with the intellectual questions I first encountered as an RS major: How does theology shape our world, and how does the world shape our theology? Who or what gets overlooked in the interchange between theology and our world? How might we construct a more ethical theological discourse, and with it, a more life-giving community? Although my work tends to be quite theoretical—I have always loved philosophy and theory—it is firmly grounded in practical concerns about suffering and social transformation. The Santa Clara RS faculty demonstrated this kind of teaching and scholarship, and always encouraged me to do the same. Second, through the RS faculty and peers, I learned the value of being a generous colleague and collaborative thinker. My experience as a member of the RS department taught me to be open to new ideas and the to embrace the contributions of others, which keeps me going in an academic environment that can be competitive and rather isolating. SCU taught me that tackling the big questions of our world requires that we help one another think through difficult ideas. What are your doctoral interests at BC? In terms of logistics: I am finishing my first year of the PhD in Theology, with a focus in Systematic Theology and a minor in Theological Ethics; my advisor is Professor M. Shawn Copeland. Broadly construed, I work at the intersection of political, feminist, and postcolonial theological discourses, and I am concerned about how Christian theology shapes, and is shaped by, very limited and potentially oppressive frameworks of history, community, personhood. I want to tease out these entanglements and propose constructive alternatives for new ways of life in the church and world--ways of life that privilege the wellbeing of those who suffer most. -Brittany Adams ‘12

Congratulations to the Class of 2012!


Congratulations to our Graduating Seniors and TAK Inductees

Graduating Majors: Brittany Adams Paria Amini Zena Andreani Elizabeth Broder (December ’11) Andrew Koike Paul Kosloski (December ’11) Caroline Read

Graduating Minors: Natasha Brown Megan Brunkhorst Heidi Cossentine Natalie Ganem Ian Ghows Julie Gibson (March ’12) Andrew Hodun Ainsley Kelly Stephanie Lim Melissa Martin (December ’11) Jahayra Molina Andrea Navarro Arianna Nuti Melina Ramirez Tanya Schmidt Maija Swanson Tora Troop Jenna Velasquez

Above: Professor Gary Macy congratulates Grassi Award recipients, Jahayra Molina, Tora Troop, and Drew Hodun.

2012 Religious Studies Award Recipients Religious Studies Prize – Brittany Adams Theodore J. Mackin , SJ Senior Paper Award – Paria Amini Tennant C. Wright, SJ Award for Outstanding RS Minor – Tanya Schmidt Joseph A. Grassi Social Justice Award – Andrew Hodun, Jahayra Molina, Tora Troop Catherine Bell Award – Celina Mogan Chair’s Recognition Award – Caroline Read Pillar of the Temple Award – Zena Andreani

New Theta Alpha Kappa Honor Society Members: Paria Amini David Bibee Heidi Cossentine Natalie Ganem Julie Gibson Andrew Hodun AInsley Kelly Melissa Martin Celina Mogan Andrea Navarro Maija Swanson Tora Troop

Above: Mackin Award winner Paria Amini talks with Professor Catherine Murphy over dinner.


Religious Studies

Alumni Updates Mary Jo Ignoffo (‘78) published Captive of the Labyrinth, a history of the Winchester Mystery House. Laura Martin (‘10) will begin her Masters of Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School in the fall. Brittany Adams (‘12) was accepted to Yale, Boston College, and Harvard Divinity School and will begin the Masters of Theological Studies at Harvard University in the fall.

We offer warmest congratulations to Adam Reiss ’12 on the occasion of his SCU graduation. We are immensely grateful for his superb work on Perspectives and the revamped Religious Studies website during his years with the department ( and wish him all the best in his future endeavors (with pigeons and t-shirts).

Attention Alumni: We would love to hear from you! Tell us what you’ve been up to for inclusion in upcoming issues of Perspectives. Please e-mail any information to

Find us on the Web:

Santa Clara University Religious Studies Dept. 500 El Camino Real Santa Clara, CA 95053-0335

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Perspectives Spring 2012  

perspectives spring 2012

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