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Enter the World of Madcap Italian Mastermind Franco Battiato

Superior Viaduct’s Reissues of His First Three Albums Are Extraordinary

At the end of last year, top-shelf San Francisco reissue label Superior Viaduct rereleased the first three albums by Sicilian-born musician Franco Battiato. His name might not ring a bell for many Americans, but in Italy, Battiato’s something of a legend: an avant-garde pioneer who became a mainstream superstar.

Perhaps the overall appeal of his output in total—starting with his frisky pop singles from the 1960s to the adult contemporary-leaning work of his later years—will never be anything but intrinsically Italian. But for several years in the ’70s, Battiato was a one-of-a-kind global visionary, marrying gonzo prog-rock song structures with blurping synthesizers, gentle folk textures, free-jazz wildness, Italian operatic drama, and peerless pop instincts. Often, these elements would collide within a single song. And—on these three rereleased albums, anyway—the result was some of the most delectable, weird, wonderful music I have ever heard. To say that these reissues are worth tracking down is an understatement.

1971’s Fetus is the best example of Battiato’s playfulness, with crazy sound effects—courtesy of the legendary EMS VCS 3 synthesizer—alternating with winsome song fragments constructed from acoustic guitar and Battiato’s fervent Italian vocals. This is Battiato at his catchiest, especially on songs like “Energia” and “Fenomenologia,” which sound like number-one smashes from an alternate dimension, one in which the guitar-bass-drums rock band format has been replaced by cosmic synths, heavenly harp-like guitars, and tribally thumping tom-toms. Battiato rerecorded Fetus with English lyrics for the UK-based Island Records (unreleased at the time, you can find it on streaming services as Foetus, although it doesn’t come close to the original Italian LP’s greatness), but Battiato was injured in a car crash, and Island’s attempt to market his music to English-speaking countries was put on hold.

With 1972’s Pollution, Battiato’s chimerical approach to sound aligned with the maturing progressive rock movement. Making use of a full backing band, the maestro directs his cohort to emit dreamy, Pink Floyd grooves on “Beta,” and pilots the synth-and-guitar tangles in the lengthy title track. He also layers in existing recordings of classical music from Johann Strauss and Bedrich Smetana, and the album concludes with what sounds like a ghostly requiem mass filtered through his VCS 3, with a recording of Battiato dolefully, ridiculously sobbing on top of it. It’s an irresistibly spooky, funny, invigorating record, a one-of-a-kind experience from a headspace where genre demarcations do not apply.

On 1973’s Sulle Corde di Aries, Battiato stretched out. The album kicks off with a side-long composition, “Sequenze e Frequenze,” that begins with free-jazz trumpet blares and a wraithlike choir that sounds like Ennio Morricone soundtracking a Jodorowsky film. Synths descend, and Battiato incorporates Gregorian chant and Hindustani classical music in a fantasy world populated by chattering music boxes. The three tracks on Side Two are similarly meditative, exploring Eastern musical attitudes through Western timbres (depicted explicitly in one song’s title, “Da Oriente ad Occidente”), and creating squelching, womblike songs that are equal parts zany exploration and liturgical calm.


All three albums are available on 180-gram vinyl via Superior Viaduct. The sound is breathlike and stunning, especially compared to inferior imported CD versions of the album—the clunky edits and occasionally crude instrumentation sound entirely natural on Superior Viaduct’s reissues. Anyone with even the slightest thirst for musical adventure will find downpours of delight in Battiato’s eccentric, spellbinding world of sound.


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Ciao STL Brings Carnevale to St Louis

First celebrated in 1094, today Carnevale festivals are held all over Italy, from Venice and Milan down to the villages and towns of Sicily. Sharing in this tradition,  Ciao St Louis is proud to present our first annual Carnevale Grande Masquerade Ball!

We cordially invite you to join us as we bring the tastes, color, music and excitement of Italy’s Carnevale to St. Louis!

When: Saturday, February 10, 2018–6:30pm-11:30pm

Where: The Ballroom at River City Hotel & Casino 

Price: $100pp: reservations available at

Dress code: formal, black tie optional.  Masks.

What you receive: 6:30-7:30:  Cocktail hour with passed appetizers, Prosecco and live entertainment. 

7:30-11:30: Premium open bar, customized Italian food stations, dessert station,  music, dancing, mask contest, surprise performances!

**special room rates available for those wishing to spend the night in the hotel. Message me for details.

Thank You,

Laura DiMaggio
Ciao St Louis Event Chairperson
Marianna Vitale
Ciao St Louis Event co-chair
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20 Italian Regions, 20 Christmas Desserts

Italian Christmas desserts

It’s well known that every Italian region has its own culinary traditions, and it’s no exception when it comes to Christmas sweets. We picked one dolce di Natale for each region (some regions have more than one). What’s your favorite?

Aosta Valley: Mecoulin. Hailing from the Cogne valley, Mecoulin is similar to panettone and to pandolce from Liguria; it’s a ‘milk bread’ with raisins. His recipe dates back to the Middle Ages, when it was baked in common ovens, making it an occasion for the community to be together while waiting for Christmas.

Trentino-Alto Adige: Zelten. Originating in South Tyrol in the 18th century, Zelten is a spicy sweet bread with dried fruits that has variations depending on the valley where it’s made. The German name ‘zelten’ means ‘sometimes’, to indicate that it was only made a certain time of the year, in this case Christmas.

Piedmont: Tronchetto di Natale. Inspired by the chestnut or oak tree trunk that was blessed and then burned on Christmas Eve, it is a calorie-rich roll made with eggs, flour and mascarpone, topped with chestnut cream and chocolate flakes.

Friuli Venezia Giulia: Gubana. A leavened spiral-shaped sweet dough filled with dried fruits, raisins and amaretto, and dipped in grappa; it originated in the 1400s and the recipe has remained unchanged since.

Veneto: Pandoro. Along with panettone, Pandoro is the most popular Christmas sweet in Italy. It derives from the ‘pan de oro’ created in Verona in the 19th century to celebrate the first Christmas under the Scala dynasty, and was first patented with the name Pandoro in 1894 by Domenico Melegatti, founder of the company by the same name.

Lombardy: Panettone. The most famous Italian Christmas sweet, now exported beyond the boot, originated in Milan in the 9th century; the dough is made with flour, eggs, butter, raisins and candied fruit. Today, there are several versions of it, which may feature chocolate, be orange-flavored, or filled with pistachio cream.

Liguria: Pandolce. Hailing from Genoa, where it originated in the Middle Ages, it’s a sweet bread with raisins, candied fruit, including pumpkin, pine nuts, and pistachios.

Emilia-Romagna: Panspeziale or Certosino. It’s a typical sweet from Bologna, made with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate, candied fruits; it originated in the Middle Ages, when it was made by the pharmacists of the time, known as speziali, and later called certosini.

Tuscany: Panforte. The original recipe dates back to the year 1000, when it was prepared by the ‘speziali’ for the noble class, the wealthy and the clergy, because it contained ingredients that were expensive at the time, such as orange, cedar, melon, almonds and spices. It hails, proudly, from Siena.

Marche: Bostrengo. Similar to Tuscan panforte, it contains dried and candied fruit, and cereals like farro, barley and rice. Originally, it was a ‘piatto povero’ (poor dish) of the Christmas period because it was made with leftovers.

Umbria: Panpepato. Sweet and sour at the same time, almost spicy, panpepato is bread stuffed with almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange, cedar, raisins, cocoa, coffee, liqueur, grape must.

Abruzzo: Parrozzo. The ‘pane rozzo’ (rough bread) was prepared for the first time in 1920 by pastry chef Luigi D’Amico from Pescara, inspired by the corn loaves of the peasant tradition; the chef added eggs, almond flour and chocolate. The first person to taste it was apparently poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, who even wrote a poem about it, ‘La canzone del Parrozzo’ (The Parrozzo Song).

Molise: Caragnoli. Caragnoli are helix-shaped pancakes prepared with eggs, flour and oil and then dipped in honey; they originated in the 1500s.

Lazio: Pangiallo. From Imperial Rome to today, this dessert was prepared on the day of the winter solstice as a good omen for the return of long, mild, sunny days. It includes dried and candied fruits and raisins. The yellow color (giallo) is given by the mixture of flour, oil and saffron with which the loaf is brushed before baking it.

Campania: Struffoli. Originally from Naples, struffoli are small dough balls made with flour, sugar, eggs and lard, baked or fried, served with pieces of candied fruit, honey and pieces of sugar. Its origins go back to Magna Grecia, when there was a similar version called loukumades.

Puglia: Cartellate. Also found in neighboring Calabria and Basilicata, these phyllo doughs of flour, eggs and sugar, served with the addition of vincotto or honey, date back to the 6th century BC. With Christianity, they took on religious significance, as it was said that their shape represented the strips that wrapped Jesus child.

Basilicata: Calzoncelli. Fried ravioli filled with chickpeas cream, chocolate or boiled chestnuts, usually covered with homemade red wine or Aglianico wine. They originated around Potenza and spread throughout the region in the 16th century.

Calabria: Nepitelle. Typical of the provinces of Catanzaro and Crotone, these half-moon shaped sweets are filled with walnuts, dried figs, almonds, Strefa liqueur, cocoa and dark chocolate, or honey, depending on the area where they’re made. The name comes from the Latin nepitedum, which indicates eyelids because nepitelle resemble a closed eye.

Sicily: Buccellati. Originating in Palermo, buccellati are stuffed with dried figs, raisins, almonds, orange peel, pistachios, vanilla, and other ingredients that vary depending on the areas where they’re prepared. Also called cucciddati, they’re considered the evolution of the panificatus, a typical dessert prepared by the Romans.

Sardinia: Sebadas. While they can be found year-round, these fried sweets filled with the local pecorino and covered with the exquisite corbezzolo honey, are typical of Christmas for Sardinians. They originated in the 16th century.

For more Christmas stories, click here.

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Loretta Vitale-April teaches us how to make lemoncello on Ciao Radio

In this Ciao St Louis Radio Show learn how to make Lemoncello and listen to some great music and conversation.


Part 1


Part 2


Ciao St Louis complete podcast from 12/17/2017

Continue reading Loretta Vitale-April teaches us how to make lemoncello on Ciao Radio

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Rome lampoons early death of Christmas tree ‘Baldy’

Romans are up in arms over the tree that has been dubbed ‘Spelacchio’, which roughly translates as mangy or baldy. — Reuters picRomans are up in arms over the tree that has been dubbed ‘Spelacchio’, which roughly translates as mangy or baldy. — Reuters pic

ROME, Dec 20 — “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how pitifully bare are your branches!” Romans yesterday were mourning the untimely death of the Eternal City’s tree, affectionately nicknamed ‘Baldy’.

With a week still to go until December 25, the tree in the Italian capital’s main square of Piazza Venezia has become such a laughing stock that it led the city’s mayor to launch an investigation into what prompted Baldy’s premature demise.

“Rome’s tree is dry, dead on arrival. It’s a metaphor for the state of the capital,” one local wrote on Twitter, while another wondered: “What time does the funeral start?”

According to Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, a preliminary enquiry found that the tree was not properly covered during transport from the Dolomites in northern Italy, where it had been grown.

A wide range of Romans — including environmentalists and professional gardeners — have opined that a tree of a more robust variety also would have survived for longer before starting to shed.

Poor Baldy is a Norway spruce, while the European silver fir would have been a much safer bet for a tree, these self-professed Christmas tree experts said.

Many have compared “the fir tree agony” — which has cost the city some €48,000 (RM231,833) — to the governing Five Star Movement (M5S), which won the mayorship in 2016 but has struggled with a transport and rubbish crisis.

“As if the mess they have created over the past year and a half was not enough, we must put up with this misery,” tweeted another Roman.

Il Messaggero declared it a national embarrassment, saying that “in Russia, they’ve dubbed our dying tree a ‘toilet brush’.” — AFP

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Italian king’s reburial reopens old wounds


Queen Elena of Italy (second right) and King Victor Emmanuel III (second left) leave Vatican city after an official visit to Pope Pie XII on December 26, 1939Image copyrightAFP
Image captionKing Victor Emmanuel III (second left), seen here with his wife Queen Elena, died in exile in Egypt in 1947

The body of King Victor Emmanuel III has returned to Italy from Egypt, 70 years after he died there in exile.

But the royal reburial has brought back difficult memories for many and caused anger, as the BBC’s Sofia Bettiza in Rome reports.

King Victor Emmanuel III was infamously nicknamed Sciaboletta, meaning “little sabre”, because of his size: he was 1.53m (5ft) tall.

A special sword had to be forged for him, so it would not scrape the ground when he carried it.

His physical stature may have been small, but Victor Emmanuel’s impact on Italian affairs certainly was not.

He is known in Italy as the king whose actions gave rise to the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and the end of the monarchy.

Now, seven decades after his death, he is causing fresh controversy.

Victor Emmanuel died in exile in Egypt in 1947. He had fled Italy four years earlier, fearing arrest by the German army after declaring an armistice with the Allies during World War Two.

His remains were finally flown back to his homeland on Sunday, amid condemnation and outrage, particularly among Italy’s Jewish community.

“This cannot fail to generate deep concern,” said Noemi Di Segni, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities.

“Victor Emmanuel III was an accomplice of the fascist regime, whose rise he never opposed.”


In 1922, Victor Emmanuel chose not to mobilise the army against Mussolini’s fascists and instead asked him to form a government, paving the way for 20 years of dictatorship.

He was later also heavily criticised for signing racial laws in 1938 that legalised the persecution of Jews.

This file photo taken on 1 November 1938 shows Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini (right) and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy (left) during a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, to celebrate the Victory day, in RomeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe king (left) and Benito Mussolini attend the celebration of Victory Day in Rome in 1938

Some of Victor Emmanuel’s descendants are calling for his remains to be moved to the Pantheon, the ancient Roman monument where Italy’s first two Savoy kings lie.

Emanuele Filiberto, his great-grandson, told Italian media that members of his house shouldn’t be buried in “just any tomb”.

“It’s not anachronistic to hope that kings be respected,” he said.

But the request was branded as “mockery” by the Jewish community in Rome. Many pointed out that the Pantheon is very close to the ghetto – the city’s Jewish neighbourhood where, in 1943, about 1,000 Jews were rounded up and deported to Nazi death camps. Only 16 survived.

Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy (centre) takes part in a private ceremony to pay tribute to Victor Emmanuel III and his wife Queen Elena of Montenegro on 18 December 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionEmanuele Filiberto, the king’s great-grandson, supports the idea of burying him at the Pantheon

Even the manner in which the king’s remains were physically transported to Italy has sparked anger – on a military plane, paid for by the state.

“A disagreeable choice,” said Massimo D’Alema, a former Italian prime minister.

“We need to be careful about the symbols we are sending,” said Luigi Di Maio, the leader of the Five Star Movement, who is running in the next election and could become Italy’s new prime minister. “We are reopening a wound in our history.”


Three years after the king fled Italy – leaving his homeland, and significantly the Italian army, in chaos – he abdicated in favour of his son.

A month later, in June 1946, Italy voted to become a republic.

It was also decided that all members of the Savoy family would be barred from setting foot in Italy ever again – a ban that was overturned in 2002.

Presentation line

Who was King Victor Emmanuel III?

  • 1900: Victor Emmanuel III becomes King of Italy
  • 1922: He asks Mussolini to form a new government, paving the way for the fascist regime
  • 1938: The king signs laws restricting civil rights of Jews
  • 9 September 1943: Victor Emmanuel III flees Italy
  • 9 May 1946: The king abdicates in favour of his son
  • 2 June 1946: Italian referendum, Italy becomes a republic
  • 28 December 1947: Victor Emmanuel III dies in exile in Egypt
Presentation line

His remains were returned at the weekend after a formal request by his family in 2011.

On Monday they paid tribute to him at a family mausoleum near Turin in a small private ceremony.

Victor Emmanuel was reburied next to his wife, Elena of Montenegro, a woman who was 1.80m tall and used to call him “mon petit roi” (my small king).

His grandson, Victor Emmanuel, who would be the king if Italy still had a monarchy, says he still hopes his grandfather’s body could be moved to the Pantheon – “where kings belong”.

The tomb of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy at the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, in Vicoforte, Italy, 18 December 2017.Image copyrightEPA
Image captionThe king’s tomb at a mausoleum near Turin

His niece Maria Pia says he was “adorable”.

“I used to call him little grandpa. He was affected by rickets – his legs were so short that when he stood up from his chair he had to do a little jump, like us children.”

The rest of the country will probably remember him in a very different way.


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Spring 2018 Italian Language Classes

Classes will begin the week of January 22, 2018

The  following classes will be offered:

·       Beginner’s I

Monday evenings- 6:30-8:30p.m.   M. Colombo

·       Advanced Italian

Monday evenings- 6:30-8:30p.m.  G. Leopardi

·       Italian for Travelers (6 weeks)

Thursday evenings- 7:00-9:00p.m.  B. Klein

·       Special Topics Course

Thursday evenings- 7:00-9:00p.m. G. Leopardi

Our courses place an emphasis on communicating in Italian.  Textbooks are primarily in Italian.

All adult evening classes are taught at St. Mary Magdalen School on S. Kingshighway and Sutherland Avenues.  

Tuition for our 12-week classes is $85; one night per week; 2 hours per night; there are no classes the week of Easter or Holy Week.  Our Italian for Travelers is a 6-week class and the cost is $43.

The Federation of Italian-American Organizations has as its primary purpose the preservation and promotion of our Italian-American culture and heritage through the advancement of education, art, music, language, literature and culture.  The member organizations are:  CiaoStl, Fratellanza Society, Hill 2000, Hill Business Association, Il Pensiero newspaper, Italian Club of St. Louis, Italian Open, La Festa di Santa Fara of St. Louis, Misericordia Society, the National Italian-American Bar Association, Saint Ambrose Catholic Church, St. Roch Catholic Church and UNICO-St. Louis Chapter.  


For additional information or to register, please visit

or contact us at: 314-680-6871 (Marie) or

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Buon Natale! 5 Italian Christmas Movies to Light Up Your Language Skills


 “Natale a New York” (“Christmas in New York”)

Maybe it’s best to start somewhere familiar.

There are loads of movies about Christmas in New York, and Italy’s lineup is no exception. “Natale a New York” (literally, “Christmas in New York”) is a pretty straightforward wacky comedy about just that.

The film revolves around a wide cast of characters and their various adventures over the holiday season, divided into three groups spending their Christmas in New York City.

It’s a comedy that contains fast-paced, casual Italian that can get a bit colorful at times. That’s to say, this isn’t a film for the little ones. Advanced speakers may be able to handle it without much help, but beginners would best benefit from turning on subtitles, as the dialogue moves pretty quickly.

This movie is probably best for fans of ensemble-based holiday comedies like “Love Actually.” It could also suit people who just love a good New York-focused Christmas flick like “Elf” or “Home Alone 2.”

“Natale a New York” was released fairly recently, so you’ll get contemporary Italian language and humor. If the setting itself weren’t familiar enough for American audiences, there’s also the soundtrack. While there are Italian-made tracks to be found, there are also plenty of English-language pop songs throughout the movie.

All in all, it’s a blend of Italian and American culture with a holiday tone to get you going.

“Vacanze di Natale” (“Christmas Vacation”)

This one goes a little further back. “Vacanze de Natale” is an early 1980s holiday film from Roman-born director Carlo Vanzina.

This one is another comedy, revolving around two different families who butt heads in the Alps of Northern Italy. The conflict comes between a wealthy Milanese family and a rougher family from Rome.

This film props up, in an irreverent comedic tone, some differences in class and culture among the regions of Italy. Expect to hear different speech patterns between characters and get a peek into dialect and slang.

The movie, another more adult-oriented work, is a bit reminiscent of the similarly-named “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” in its comedic look at family-based holiday chaos. The dialogue tends to be quick and full of colloquial terms, so it can offer a good insight into more casual Italian.

The film itself has been considered culturally significant, having been showcased at the 67th Venice International Film Festival as part of a tribute to Italian comedy on the big screen.

Around the holidays, spending time with your family can be nice, but it can also get pretty wild. Sometimes it’s fun to watch a movie that reminds you that’s normal.

“La Freccia Azzurra” (“The Blue Arrow”)

So far, this list has only gotten to some adult comedies. This doesn’t mean that Italy doesn’t have feel-good family movies to offer during the holidays, though. “La Freccia Azzura” is a kid-friendly animated film from the mid 1990s that revolves around a ragtag group of toys trying to save the day.

This movie might actually be familiar to you, though you might not realize why at first. It was actually dubbed and released in English under the title “How the Toys Saved Christmas” with celebrities like Mary Tyler Moore in the cast.

Remember all that stuff about La Befana and The Epiphany? That all comes into play in this movie. While the English dub has the story take place at Christmas itself, the original Italian movie is about La Befanagetting sick and needing someone to replace her for her upcoming Epiphany trip.

Her replacement, the villainous Scarafoni, instead hatches a plan to sell the toys off for a profit. The toys then have to work together to find their real homes in time for the holiday.

This is a good movie for kids and families, but also for less advanced Italian students. Since the movie was made for young audiences, the Italian isn’t especially complex or difficult to understand. Students can also compare the Italian and English dubs to look for differences in the adaptations.

The roots in Italian holiday culture also make it a great film to learn about the traditional celebrations in the boot.

“Una Famiglia Perfetta” (“A Perfect Family”)

This movie is the most recent release on the list, having debuted in 2012. “Una Famiglia Perfetta” is another live action adult comedy with a focus on the ensemble cast, and its release year gives it a modern tone that audiences can relate to.

The film itself tells an interesting story: A lonely, rich man named Leone hires a cast of actors to play his loving family for the holidays. The premise itself is an adaptation of the 1990s Spanish film “Familia.”

The role of Leone is played by award-winning Italian actor Sergio Castellitto, and a number of other big-name Italian performers fill out the cast.

“Una Famiglia Perfetta” shows off some of the more simple traditions of Italian Christmas, less based in religion and more in common family rituals. This includes the playing of tombola games and eating seasonal foods and pastries.

It’s an interesting, comedic look into what makes up a “family holiday” in Italy, even if it’s being ordered to a group of actors trying to play a part.

The movie is best enjoyed without subtitles by advanced learners, but isn’t so fast that intermediate students can’t get through it. Even if beginners can’t quite figure it out on their own, the cultural insight can be a big help at any level of study.

“Non è Mai Troppo Tardi” (“It’s Never Too Late”)

If there’s a movie you’ve seen a thousand versions of during the holidays, it’s probably “A Christmas Carol.” Many of us can retell the whole story without having to do so much as a Wikipedia search.

That’s a big part of why “Non è Mai Troppo Tardi” (“It’s Never Too Late”) can be a helpful for picking up Italian around the holidays.

The 1953 comedy takes on the old Christmas story in an Italian context, revolving around the greedy Antonio Trabbi instead of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Besides that, however, the story basically follows the same arc.

Antonio has to go on adventures with ghosts during Christmas to learn that greed and bitterness will only hurt him and those he cares about. When he wakes up, he starts his life over and tries to be more generous and kind.

The familiarity of this story is an advantage for Italian learners. Even if you’re new to the language, following the movie should be no struggle.

Plus, as the oldest film on this list, it offers an interesting look into vintage Italian films and how language evolves. Watch this movie and one of the newer ones on this list and compare the speaking styles for a fun exercise in how Italian has shifted over the decades.


Italy has a unique, rich culture surrounding how it celebrates Christmas, and it’s not one to be missed. Check out these films if you ever get the need for some Italian holiday spirit.

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