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Paket Umroh 2015

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saco-indonesia.com, Petir adalah peristiwa alam yang sering terjadi di bumi, terjadinya seringkali mengikuti peristiwa hujan baik air atau es, peristiwa ini telah dimulai dengan munculnya awan hitam dan lidah api listrik bercahaya terang yang bergerak merambat terus memanjang kearah bumi bagaikan sulur akar dan kemudian diikuti oleh suara menggelegar dan efeknya juga akan sangat fatal bila mengenai mahluk hidup.
PROSES TERJADINYA PETIR

Terdapat 2 teori yang mendasari proses terjadinya petir :

    Proses Ionisasi
    Proses Gesekan antar awan

a. Proses Ionisasi
Petir telah terjadi diakibatkan oleh terkumpulnya ion bebas bermuatan negatif dan positif di awan, ion listrik dihasilkan oleh gesekan antar awan dan kejadian Ionisasi ini telah disebabkan oleh perubahan bentuk air mulai dari cair menjadi gas atau sebaliknya, bahkan perubahan padat (es) telah menjadi cair dan pada tahap pembekuan ini mencapai suhu dibawah 0 derajat yaitu antara -10 sampai -14 derajad celcius
Ion bebas telah menempati permukaan awan dan bergerak mengikuti angin berhembus, bila awan-awan telah terkumpul di suatu tempat maka awan bermuatan akan memiliki beda potensial cukup besar untuk dapat menyambar permukaan bumi maka inilah yang disebut petir.

b. Gesekan antar awan
Pada awalnya awan akan bergerak mengikuti arah angin, selama proses bergeraknya awan ini maka akan saling bergesekan satu dengan yang lainnya , dari proses ini terlahir electron-electron bebas bermutan negatif yang telah memenuhi permukaan awan. proses ini bisa digambarkan secara sederhana pada sebuah penggaris plastik yang digosokkan pada rambut maka penggaris ini akan mampu menarik potongan kertas.
Pada suatu saat awan ini akan terkumpul di sebuah kawasan, saat inilah petir dimungkinkan telah terjadi karena electron-elektron bebas ini telah saling menguatkan satu dengan lainnya. Sehingga telah memiliki cukup beda potensial untuk dapat menyambar permukaan bumi. kedua teori ini mungkin juga masuk akal meski kejadian sebenarnya masih merupakan sebuah misteri.
PERLINDUNGAN TERHADAP BAHAYA PETIR

Manusia selalu mencoba untuk dapat menjinakkan keganasan alam,atau setidaknya menghidarinya, salah satunya adalah Sambaran Petir. dan metode yang pernah dikembangkan:
1. Penangkal Petir Kovensional / Faraday / Frangklin
Kedua ilmuan diatas Faraday dan Frangklin telah mengetengahkan system yang hampir sama , yakni system penyalur arus listrik dengan menghubungkan antara bagian atas bangunan dan grounding. Sedangkan system perlindungan yang telah dihasilkan ujung penerima / Splitzer adalah sama pada rentang 30 ~ 45 ‘ . Perbedaannya adalah system yang telah dikembangkan oleh Faraday bahwa Kabel penghantar terletak pada sisi luar bangunan dengan pertimbangan bahwa kabel penghantar juga berfungsi sebagai penerima sambaran, dan bentuknya Berupa sangkar elektris atau biasa disebut sangkar Faraday.
2. Penangkal Petir Radio Aktif
Penelitian terus terus berkembang dan dihasilkan kesimpulan bahwa petir telah terjadi karena ada muatan listrik di awan dihasilkan oleh proses ionisasi , maka penggagalan proses ionisasi di lakukan dengan cara memakai Zat beradiasi misl. Radiun 226 dan Ameresium 241 , karena 2 bahan ini juga mampu menghamburkan ion radiasinya yang bisa menetralkan muatan listrik awan.
Sedang manfaat lain adalah hamburan ion radiasi akan dapat menambah muatan pada Ujung Finial / Splitzer dan bila mana awan yang bermuatan besar tidak mampu di netralkan oleh zat radiasi kemudian menyambar, maka akan condong mengenai unit radiasi ini .
Keberadaan penangkal petir jenis ini juga sudah dilarang pemakaiannya , berdasarkan kesepakatan internasional dengan pertimbangan mengurangi pemakaian zat beradiasi dimasyarakat yang disinyalir mempunyai efek negatif pada lingkungan hidup dan kesehatan.
3. Penangkal Petir Elektrostatic
Prinsip kerja penangkal petir Elektrostatik adalah dengan mengadopsi sebagian system penangkal petir Radioaktif , yakni dengan menambah muatan pada ujung finial / splitzer agar petir selalu memilih ujung ini untuk disambar .
Perbedaan dari sisten Radioaktif dan Elektrostatik ada pada energi yang dipakai. Untuk Penangkal Petir Radioaktif muatan listrik dihasilkan dari proses hamburan zat beradiasi sedangkan pada penangkal petir elektrostatik energi listrik dihasilkan dari Listrik Awan yang menginduksi permukaan bumi.
CARA KERJA PENANGKAL PETIR NEOFLASH

Mekanisme Kerja
Ketika awan bermuatan listrik telah melintas diatas sebuah bangunan yang terpasang penangkal petir neoFlash, maka elektroda penerima pada bagian samping NeoFLASH ini dapat mengumpulkan dan menyimpan energi listrik awan pada unit kapasitornya . Setelah energi ini cukup besar maka dilepas dan diperbesar beda potensialnya pada bagian Ion Generator.
Pelepasan muatan listrik pada unit Ion Generator ini di picu oleh sambaran, yakni ketika lidah api menyambar permukaan bumi maka semua muatan listrik di bagian ion generator dilepaskan keudara melalui Central Pick Up agar menimbulkan lidah api penuntun keatas ( Streamer leader ) untuk dapat menyambut sambaran petir yang terjadi kemudian menuntunya masuk kedalam satu titik sambar yang terdapat unit Neoflash ini.
Kerja Simultan
Pada unit Penangkal Petir NEOFLASH secara simultan bekerja bergantian dari masing-masing unit penerima induksi , jumlahnya tergantung dari tipe dan modelnya. Bekerjanya secara bergantian dimana bila salah satu bagian unit melepaskan muatan ke udara / streamer maka ada bagian lain yang dalam proses pengisian muatan awan.
Tentu akurasi dan kemampuan Penangkal Petir NeoFlash masih tergantung dari 2 hal pendukung instalasi, yaitu:
1. Kabel Penghantar harus minimal 50 mm
2. Grounding maksimal 5 Ohm
Bila 2 syarat pendukung ini juga sudah terpenuhi maka kemampuan penangkal petir neoflash akan maksimal.
ISTILAH PENANGKAL PETIR & ANTI PETIR

Penangkal Petir dan Anti Petir mungkin itu adalah istilah yang sudah salah kaprah dalam bahasa kita, kesan yang ditimbulkan dua istilah ini adalah aman 100 % terhadap petir, akan tetapi kejadiannya tidak demikian.
Dalam penanganan bahaya petir memang ada beberapa faktor yang sangat mempengaruhi, bilamana kita ingin solusi/penyelesaian total akan bahaya petir, kita harus melihat faktor faktor tersebut.
Sambaran Tidak langsung pada bangunan yakni ketika sambaran mengenai obyek diluar areal perlindungan dari penangkal petir yang terpasang , kemudian arus petir ini akan merambat melalui instalasi listrik , kabel data atau apa saja mengarah ke bangunan. Akhirnya hentakan tegangan dan arus merusak unit peralatan listrik / elektronik kita.
Masalah ini juga semakin runyam disaat ini karena banyak peralatan elektronik dengan menggunakan tegangan kerja kecil , DC , dan sensitif, Khususnya di urusan data transfer.
Maka pada dasarnya pengaman sambaran petir langsung / Eksternal penangkal petir bukan membuat posisi kita aman 100 % terhadap petir, akan tetapi membuat posisi bangunan kita terhindar dari kerusakan fatal akibat sambaran Langsung, serta meminimalisir efek kerusakan pada peralatan elektronik bila ada sambaran menyambar bangunan kita.
mungkin Penyalur Arus Petir adalah istilah tepatnya.
Masih ada kemungkinan lain yakni sambaran petir tidak langsung , yakni sambaran yang pada dasarnya tidak mengenai lokasi bangunan tetapi mengenai jauh diluar lokasi tetapi lonjakan listriknya merambat masuk ke jaringan instalasi listrik di bangunan dan merusak peralatan elektronik, Untuk penanganan sambaran petir tidak langsung dapat digunakan Arrester yakni perangkat yang bisa memotong dan membelokkan lonjakan arus / tegangan petir ke dalam grounding .


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

CARA KERJA PENANGKAL PETIR

Saco-Indonesia.com - Asus belum mau berhenti meluncurkan produk tablet dengan harga terjangkau. Di ajang Computex 2013 Taiwan, Senin (3/6/2013), Asus merilis tablet yang dinamakan MeMo Pad HD 7.

Sesuai dengan namanya, produk yang satu ini hadir dengan bentang layar 7 inci. Jenis yang digunakan adalah IPS dan mendukung resolusi 1280 x 800 piksel.

Dari segi prosesor, MeMo Pad HD 7 menggunakan ARM Cortex A7 quad-core. Sayang tidak disebutkan berapa kecepatannya. Kapasitas RAM-nya pun belum dibeberkan.

Dikutip dari Engadget, Senin (3/6/2013), perangkat ini pun sudah dipersenjatai 2 kamera, 5 megapiksel di bagian belakang dan 1,2 megapiksel di bagian depan. Selain itu, MeMo Pad HD 7 hadir dengan Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, speaker SonicMaster, Bluetooth 4.0, dan GPS.

Ada dua versi perangkat yang akan dijual oleh Asus. Versi pertama memiliki media penyimpanan internal berkapasitas 32GB yang dijual dengan harga 150 dollar AS atau sekitar Rp 1,5 juta.

Asus juga menyiapkan versi yang lebih terjangkau lagi, yaitu 8GB dengan harga 130 dollar AS atau sekitar Rp 1,3 juta. Versi yang satu ini dikabarkan hanya akan masuk ke pasar berkembang (emerging market), mungkin termasuk Indonesia.

Ini bukan pertama kalinya Asus meluncurkan tablet 7 inci dengan harga terjangkau. Sebelumnya, perusahaan yang berpusat di Taiwan tersebut bekerjasama dengan Google dalam menghasilkan Nexus 7. Perangkat versi 16GB WiFi Only dijual dengan harga 199 dollar AS.

Asus juga pernah meluncurkan 'saudara' dari produk baru ini, yaitu MeMo Pad 7. Produk yang satu ini sudah beredar di Indonesia dengan harga Rp 1,5 juta.

Editor:Liwon Maulana
Sumber:Kompas.com
Asus Rilis Sebuah Tablet Android Murah

Memilih untuk pergi berwisata ke luar kota bersama keluarga dan teman terdekat memang sangat menyenangkan. Namun jika berpergian ke luar kota dengan jumlah orang yang banyak dan tidak memiliki alat transportasi akan dapat menjadi kerepotan tersendiri jika harus menggunakan transportasi umum. Apalagi ke daerah-daerah dengan akses transportasi umum yang kurang memadai.

Nah, salah satu cara yang bisa dilakukan adalah dengan menyewa mobil dengan sopir. Memang lebih enak memilih sewa mobil jakarta lengkap dengan sopirnya seperti yang menjadi salah satu layanan di trisanggaraya.com. Selain lebih mudah untuk berpergian, sopir tersebut juga telah mengetahui daerah yang akan dituju. Namun, kita harus tetap memperhatikan beberapa hal agar penyewaan mobil dan perjalanan wisata Anda tidak sia-sia. Berikut beberapa tips saat menyewa mobil dengan sopir.

Pertama, buat catatan kecil mengenai perjalanan Anda dengan rinci, yakni tempat-tempat mana aja yang akan Anda dan keluarga kunjungi. Setelah itu berikan catatan tersebut kepada sopir untuk ditentukan dan mengurutkan tempat-tempat mana yang terlebih dahulu akan dituju.

Kedua, pastikan mengenai hal-hal yang bersifat sensitif seperti biaya yang harus dikeluarkan untuk menyewa mobil bersama sopir, seperti biaya bensin selama perjalanan, uang makan, uang parkir, uang tiket masuk objek wisata, dan uang tips. Sehingga perjalanan Anda tidak terganggu oleh hal-hal sepele.

Ketiga, sebaiknya Anda telah melakukan riset terlebih dahulu mengenai tempat yang akan dituju melalui internet, media cetak, atau pengalaman teman. Mulai dari letak penginapan, jarak tempuh, dan estimasi biaya yang akan dikeluarkan.

Keempat, disiplinlah dengan waktu dan perkirakan waktu belanja Anda. Bila salah menggunakan waktu dengan baik, segala rencana yang telah disusun akan berantakan. Terlebih lagi hal tersebut dapat memperlama waktu penyewaan dan Anda bisa dikenakan tambahan biaya.

Kelima, Umumnya, pemakaian mobil dengan sopir berkisar antara 10-12 jam sehari, tergantung di masing-masing daerah di Indonesia. Bahkan beberapa daerah juga ada yang menyewakan mobil dan sopir selama 24 jam. Pastikan Anda memakai mobil tak melebihi waktu yang disepakati.

Kelima, bersikaplah dengan sopan terhadap sopir yang telah mengantarkan Anda. Namun, jangan terlalu mudah percaya kepada orang yang baru Anda kenali. Intinya, gunakan insting Anda untuk tetap berhati-hati selama berwisata. Hal ini juga untuk menjaga keamanan dan kenyamanan Anda dalam berwisata. Terlebih apabila memakai jasa sewa mobil jakarta, maka bisa dibuktikan dan dijadikan referensi ke teman dan relasi serta keluarga Anda.

TIPS SEWA MOBIL JAKARTA UNTUK BERWISATA

Saco-Indonesia.com  Para ilmuwan terus mengeksplorasi kemampuan tanaman mariyuana alias ganja dalam pengobatan. Studi teranyar menyebutkan, ganja mengandung komponen yang bisa membantu mengontrol gula darah.

Daun ganja juga memiliki kaitan yang kuat dengan berat badan. Selain meningkatkan nafsu makan, daun ganja ternyata bisa membantu seseorang untuk tetap langsing.

Tiga studi terakhir menunjukkan, para pengguna mariyuana mempunyai risiko lebih kecil mengalami kegemukan. Selain itu, mereka juga memiliki risiko diabetes lebih rendah dan nilai indeks massa tubuhnya lebih kecil. Ketiga manfaat tersebut didapatkan meski para pengguna ganja mengasup lebih banyak kalori.

Bagaimana hal tersebut terjadi? Salah satu alasannya adalah karena pengguna mariyuana memiliki metabolisme karbohidrat lebih baik.

"Level insulin puasa mereka juga lebih rendah dan mereka juga memiliki risiko lebih rendah mengalami resistensi insulin (kondisi yang memicu diabetes) akibat kemampuan tubuh mereka dalam menjaga kadar gula darah normal," kata Murray Mittleman, peneliti dari Harvard Medical School.

Penelitian yang dilakukan Mittleman itu meliputi 4.600 pria dan wanita yang berpartisipasi dalam National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey antara tahun 2005-2010.

Dari para responden tersebut, 48 persen pernah mengisap mariyuana paling tidak sekali dalam hidup mereka dan 12 persen masih mengisap sampai sekarang.

Para peneliti mengontrol faktor risiko lain yang berpengaruh pada risiko diabetes, seperti usia, jenis kelamin, penggunaan akohol, kebiasaan merokok, dan aktivitas fisik.

Kendati faktor-faktor risiko itu diperhitungkan, para pengguna mariyuana sampai sekarang memiliki level insulin puasa 16 persen lebih rendah dibanding orang yang tidak pernah mengisap atau sudah tidak mengisap lagi. Para pengisap ganja itu juga mendapatkan penurunan kadar resistensi insulin sekitar 17 persen.

Level insulin puasa dan juga kadar resistensi insulin terkait erat dengan terjadinya diabetes tipe dua serta obesitas.

Para pengguna mariyuana ternyata juga memiliki kadar kolesterol baik lebih tinggi, yang bisa melindungi tubuh dari penyakit jantung. Secara umum, mereka juga memiliki lingkar pinggang lebih kecil.

Para peneliti belum memahami dengan jelas kaitan tersebut karena penelitian ini bukanlah studi kontrol. Belum diketahui pula apakah mariyuana atau faktor gaya hidup lain yang dimiliki para responden yang menyebabkan mereka mendapat sejumlah keuntungan kesehatan tersebut.

Salah satu dugaan adalah pengaruh mariyuana pada reseptor tertentu di otak yang berkaitan dengan nafsu makan dan metabolisme.

Editor:Liwon Maulana
Ternyata Mariyuana, Obat Diabetes Masa Depan?

saco-indonesia.com, Kepolisian Resor Kota Bandarlampung telah berhasil menangkap Prayoga alias Yoga, warga Jl Ryacudu Kelurahan Waydadi, Kecamatan Sukarame, yang juga sempat mengaku sebagai anggota Badan Narkotika Nasional ( BNN ). Setelah diselidiki ternyata Yoga hanya mengaku-ngaku saja.

Kasat Narkoba Polesta Bandarlampung Kompol Sunaryoto juga mengatakan, tersangka telah berhasil ditangkap seusai pesta narkoba jenis sabu pada Rabu (29/1) sekitar pukul 05.30 WIB di rumahnya. "Penangkapan tersangka berdasarkan informasi dari masyarakat bahwa ada seorang pengusaha laundry yang juga mengaku sebagai anggota BNN ," kata dia.

Ia juga menyatakan, di tempat tersebut diduga sering telah dijadikan ajang transaksi narkoba. Berdasarkan informasi tersebut, pihaknya telah melakukan penyelidikan di tempat itu, dan mencurigai sebuah rumah yang digunakan untuk usaha pencucian "Firly Laundry".

Petugas kepolisian telah menggerebek tempat itu, dan juga menangkap tersangka yang bernama Prayoga alias Yoga serta melakukan penggeledahan di rumah ini.

"Pada saat dilakukan penggeledahan di rumahnya, polisi telah menemukan tiga buah plastik klip yang berisikan sabu, empat korek api, dan seperangkat alat hisap atau bong," kata dia.

Sunaryoto juga mengungkapkan, selain narkoba jenis sabu, polisi juga telah menemukan sepucuk senjata api rakitan berikut 10 butir peluru aktif yang berada di dalam tas kecil yang disimpan tersangka di dalam kamarnya.

Berdasarkan hasil pemeriksaan tersangka juga mengaku bahwa sabu tersebut didapatkan dari seseorang bernama Wiwid, warga Kecamatan Sukarame, dengan cara membelinya.

"Tersangka telah membeli sabu seharga Rp 300 ribu satu paketnya, sedangkan senjata api dan 10 butir amunisi yang telah dimiliki tersangka tersebut diberi dari seorang bernama Anton, warga Tegineneng Kabupaten Pesawaran," kata dia.

Berdasarkan informasi tersangka Yoga itu, polisi kemudian telah melakukan pengejaran terhadap tersangka Wiwid. Tapi tersangka sudah tidak ada di tempatnya dan melarikan diri, sehingga dimasukkan daftar pencarian orang (DPO).

Tersangka telah dijerat dengan pasal 114 ayat 1 subpasal 112 ayat 1 Undang Undang No. 35 Tahun 2009 tentang Narkotika, dengan ancaman hukuman paling singkat lima tahun dan paling lama 20 tahun penjara.

Selain itu, tersangka juga telah dikenakan UU Darurat No. 12 Tahun 1951 atas kepemilikan senjata api dengan ancaman hukuman mati, penjara seumur hidup dan setinggi-tingginya 20 tahun penjara.

Pengakuan tersangka Yoga bahwa barang tersebut miliknya dan baru selesai dipakai. Shabu didapatkannya dengan membeli dari seseorang yang dikenalnya bernama Widada alias Wiwid, warga Sukarame yang diduga merupakan seorang oknum anggota TNI.

"Saya beli dari Wiwid satu paketnya seharga Rp300 ribu dan membeli tiga paket. Saya mengonsumsi shabu baru dua bulan, selain juga mengedarkannya karena keuntungannya lumayan," kata dia.

Ia juga mengaku senjata api dan peluru itu, telah diberikan oleh temannya yang bernama Anton, dari Kecamatan Tegineneng, Kabupaten Pesawaran, sedangkan mobil sedan warna silver menyewa dari rental mobil.

"Saya dikasih senjata api itu, sudah dua bulan dan ada sama saya. Saya punya itu hanya untuk jaga-jaga, bukan untuk melakukan kejahatan," katanya.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

PENGUSAHA LAUNDRY GELAR PESTA SABU
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WASHINGTON — The former deputy director of the C.I.A. asserts in a forthcoming book that Republicans, in their eagerness to politicize the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, repeatedly distorted the agency’s analysis of events. But he also argues that the C.I.A. should get out of the business of providing “talking points” for administration officials in national security events that quickly become partisan, as happened after the Benghazi attack in 2012.

The official, Michael J. Morell, dismisses the allegation that the United States military and C.I.A. officers “were ordered to stand down and not come to the rescue of their comrades,” and he says there is “no evidence” to support the charge that “there was a conspiracy between C.I.A. and the White House to spin the Benghazi story in a way that would protect the political interests of the president and Secretary Clinton,” referring to the secretary of state at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But he also concludes that the White House itself embellished some of the talking points provided by the Central Intelligence Agency and had blocked him from sending an internal study of agency conclusions to Congress.

Photo
 
Michael J. Morell Credit Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“I finally did so without asking,” just before leaving government, he writes, and after the White House released internal emails to a committee investigating the State Department’s handling of the issue.

A lengthy congressional investigation remains underway, one that many Republicans hope to use against Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 election cycle.

In parts of the book, “The Great War of Our Time” (Twelve), Mr. Morell praises his C.I.A. colleagues for many successes in stopping terrorist attacks, but he is surprisingly critical of other C.I.A. failings — and those of the National Security Agency.

Soon after Mr. Morell retired in 2013 after 33 years in the agency, President Obama appointed him to a commission reviewing the actions of the National Security Agency after the disclosures of Edward J. Snowden, a former intelligence contractor who released classified documents about the government’s eavesdropping abilities. Mr. Morell writes that he was surprised by what he found.

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“You would have thought that of all the government entities on the planet, the one least vulnerable to such grand theft would have been the N.S.A.,” he writes. “But it turned out that the N.S.A. had left itself vulnerable.”

He concludes that most Wall Street firms had better cybersecurity than the N.S.A. had when Mr. Snowden swept information from its systems in 2013. While he said he found himself “chagrined by how well the N.S.A. was doing” compared with the C.I.A. in stepping up its collection of data on intelligence targets, he also sensed that the N.S.A., which specializes in electronic spying, was operating without considering the implications of its methods.

“The N.S.A. had largely been collecting information because it could, not necessarily in all cases because it should,” he says.

The book is to be released next week.

Mr. Morell was a career analyst who rose through the ranks of the agency, and he ended up in the No. 2 post. He served as President George W. Bush’s personal intelligence briefer in the first months of his presidency — in those days, he could often be spotted at the Starbucks in Waco, Tex., catching up on his reading — and was with him in the schoolhouse in Florida on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Bush presidency changed in an instant.

Mr. Morell twice took over as acting C.I.A. director, first when Leon E. Panetta was appointed secretary of defense and then when retired Gen. David H. Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer, a relationship that included his handing her classified notes of his time as America’s best-known military commander.

Mr. Morell says he first learned of the affair from Mr. Petraeus only the night before he resigned, and just as the Benghazi events were turning into a political firestorm. While praising Mr. Petraeus, who had told his deputy “I am very lucky” to run the C.I.A., Mr. Morell writes that “the organization did not feel the same way about him.” The former general “created the impression through the tone of his voice and his body language that he did not want people to disagree with him (which was not true in my own interaction with him),” he says.

But it is his account of the Benghazi attacks — and how the C.I.A. was drawn into the debate over whether the Obama White House deliberately distorted its account of the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens — that is bound to attract attention, at least partly because of its relevance to the coming presidential election. The initial assessments that the C.I.A. gave to the White House said demonstrations had preceded the attack. By the time analysts reversed their opinion, Susan E. Rice, now the national security adviser, had made a series of statements on Sunday talk shows describing the initial assessment. The controversy and other comments Ms. Rice made derailed Mr. Obama’s plan to appoint her as secretary of state.

The experience prompted Mr. Morell to write that the C.I.A. should stay out of the business of preparing talking points — especially on issues that are being seized upon for “political purposes.” He is critical of the State Department for not beefing up security in Libya for its diplomats, as the C.I.A., he said, did for its employees.

But he concludes that the assault in which the ambassador was killed took place “with little or no advance planning” and “was not well organized.” He says the attackers “did not appear to be looking for Americans to harm. They appeared intent on looting and conducting some vandalism,” setting fires that killed Mr. Stevens and a security official, Sean Smith.

Mr. Morell paints a picture of an agency that was struggling, largely unsuccessfully, to understand dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa when the Arab Spring broke out in late 2011 in Tunisia. The agency’s analysts failed to see the forces of revolution coming — and then failed again, he writes, when they told Mr. Obama that the uprisings would undercut Al Qaeda by showing there was a democratic pathway to change.

“There is no good explanation for our not being able to see the pressures growing to dangerous levels across the region,” he writes. The agency had again relied too heavily “on a handful of strong leaders in the countries of concern to help us understand what was going on in the Arab street,” he says, and those leaders themselves were clueless.

Moreover, an agency that has always overvalued secretly gathered intelligence and undervalued “open source” material “was not doing enough to mine the wealth of information available through social media,” he writes. “We thought and told policy makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage Al Qaeda by undermining the group’s narrative,” he writes.

Instead, weak governments in Egypt, and the absence of governance from Libya to Yemen, were “a boon to Islamic extremists across both the Middle East and North Africa.”

Mr. Morell is gentle about most of the politicians he dealt with — he expresses admiration for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, though he accuses former Vice President Dick Cheney of deliberately implying a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq that the C.I.A. had concluded probably did not exist. But when it comes to the events leading up to the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, he is critical of his own agency.

Mr. Morell concludes that the Bush White House did not have to twist intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s alleged effort to rekindle the country’s work on weapons of mass destruction.

“The view that hard-liners in the Bush administration forced the intelligence community into its position on W.M.D. is just flat wrong,” he writes. “No one pushed. The analysts were already there and they had been there for years, long before Bush came to office.”

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UNITED NATIONS — Wearing pinstripes and a pince-nez, Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy for Syria, arrived at the Security Council one Tuesday afternoon in February and announced that President Bashar al-Assad had agreed to halt airstrikes over Aleppo. Would the rebels, Mr. de Mistura suggested, agree to halt their shelling?

What he did not announce, but everyone knew by then, was that the Assad government had begun a military offensive to encircle opposition-held enclaves in Aleppo and that fierce fighting was underway. It would take only a few days for rebel leaders, having pushed back Syrian government forces, to outright reject Mr. de Mistura’s proposed freeze in the fighting, dooming the latest diplomatic overture on Syria.

Diplomacy is often about appearing to be doing something until the time is ripe for a deal to be done.

 

 

Now, with Mr. Assad’s forces having suffered a string of losses on the battlefield and the United States reaching at least a partial rapprochement with Mr. Assad’s main backer, Iran, Mr. de Mistura is changing course. Starting Monday, he is set to hold a series of closed talks in Geneva with the warring sides and their main supporters. Iran will be among them.

In an interview at United Nations headquarters last week, Mr. de Mistura hinted that the changing circumstances, both military and diplomatic, may have prompted various backers of the war to question how much longer the bloodshed could go on.

“Will that have an impact in accelerating the willingness for a political solution? We need to test it,” he said. “The Geneva consultations may be a good umbrella for testing that. It’s an occasion for asking everyone, including the government, if there is any new way that they are looking at a political solution, as they too claim they want.”

He said he would have a better assessment at the end of June, when he expects to wrap up his consultations. That coincides with the deadline for a final agreement in the Iran nuclear talks.

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Whether a nuclear deal with Iran will pave the way for a new opening on peace talks in Syria remains to be seen. Increasingly, though, world leaders are explicitly linking the two, with the European Union’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, suggesting last week that a nuclear agreement could spur Tehran to play “a major but positive role in Syria.”

It could hardly come soon enough. Now in its fifth year, the Syrian war has claimed 220,000 lives, prompted an exodus of more than three million refugees and unleashed jihadist groups across the region. “This conflict is producing a question mark in many — where is it leading and whether this can be sustained,” Mr. de Mistura said.

Part Italian, part Swedish, Mr. de Mistura has worked with the United Nations for more than 40 years, but he is more widely known for his dapper style than for any diplomatic coups. Syria is by far the toughest assignment of his career — indeed, two of the organization’s most seasoned diplomats, Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan, tried to do the job and gave up — and critics have wondered aloud whether Mr. de Mistura is up to the task.

He served as a United Nations envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and before that in Lebanon, where a former minister recalled, with some scorn, that he spent many hours sunbathing at a private club in the hills above Beirut. Those who know him say he has a taste for fine suits and can sometimes speak too soon and too much, just as they point to his diplomatic missteps and hyperbole.

They cite, for instance, a news conference in October, when he raised the specter of Srebrenica, where thousands of Muslims were massacred in 1995 during the Balkans war, in warning that the Syrian border town of Kobani could fall to the Islamic State. In February, he was photographed at a party in Damascus, the Syrian capital, celebrating the anniversary of the Iranian revolution just as Syrian forces, aided by Iran, were pummeling rebel-held suburbs of Damascus; critics seized on that as evidence of his coziness with the government.

Mouin Rabbani, who served briefly as the head of Mr. de Mistura’s political affairs unit and has since emerged as one of his most outspoken critics, said Mr. de Mistura did not have the background necessary for the job. “This isn’t someone well known for his political vision or political imagination, and his closest confidants lack the requisite knowledge and experience,” Mr. Rabbani said.

As a deputy foreign minister in the Italian government, Mr. de Mistura was tasked in 2012 with freeing two Italian marines detained in India for shooting at Indian fishermen. He made 19 trips to India, to little effect. One marine was allowed to return to Italy for medical reasons; the other remains in India.

He said he initially turned down the Syria job when the United Nations secretary general approached him last August, only to change his mind the next day, after a sleepless, guilt-ridden night.

Mr. de Mistura compared his role in Syria to that of a doctor faced with a terminally ill patient. His goal in brokering a freeze in the fighting, he said, was to alleviate suffering. He settled on Aleppo as the location for its “fame,” he said, a decision that some questioned, considering that Aleppo was far trickier than the many other lesser-known towns where activists had negotiated temporary local cease-fires.

“Everybody, at least in Europe, are very familiar with the value of Aleppo,” Mr. de Mistura said. “So I was using that as an icebreaker.”

The cease-fire negotiations, to which he had devoted six months, fell apart quickly because of the government’s military offensive in Aleppo the very day of his announcement at the Security Council. Privately, United Nations diplomats said Mr. de Mistura had been manipulated. To this, Mr. de Mistura said only that he was “disappointed and concerned.”

Tarek Fares, a former rebel fighter, said after a recent visit to Aleppo that no Syrian would admit publicly to supporting Mr. de Mistura’s cease-fire proposal. “If anyone said they went to a de Mistura meeting in Gaziantep, they would be arrested,” is how he put it, referring to the Turkish city where negotiations between the two sides were held.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon remains staunchly behind Mr. de Mistura’s efforts. His defenders point out that he is at the center of one of the world’s toughest diplomatic problems, charged with mediating a conflict in which two of the world’s most powerful nations — Russia, which supports Mr. Assad, and the United States, which has called for his ouster — remain deadlocked.

R. Nicholas Burns, a former State Department official who now teaches at Harvard, credited Mr. de Mistura for trying to negotiate a cease-fire even when the chances of success were exceedingly small — and the chances of a political deal even smaller. For his efforts to work, Professor Burns argued, the world powers will first have to come to an agreement of their own.

“He needs the help of outside powers,” he said. “It starts with backers of Assad. That’s Russia and Iran. De Mistura is there, waiting.”

With Iran Talks, a Tangled Path to Ending Syria’s War

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Harvey R. Miller, Renowned Bankruptcy Lawyer, Dies at 82

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THE WRITERS ASHLEY AND JAQUAVIS COLEMAN know the value of a good curtain-raiser. The couple have co-authored dozens of novels, and they like to start them with a bang: a headlong action sequence, a blast of violence or sex that rocks readers back on their heels. But the Colemans concede they would be hard-pressed to dream up anything more gripping than their own real-life opening scene.

In the summer of 2001, JaQuavis Coleman was a 16-year-old foster child in Flint, Mich., the former auto-manufacturing mecca that had devolved, in the wake of General Motors’ plant closures, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities, with a decimated economy and a violent crime rate more than three times the national average. When JaQuavis was 8, social services had removed him from his mother’s home. He spent years bouncing between foster families. At 16, JaQuavis was also a businessman: a crack dealer with a network of street-corner peddlers in his employ.

One day that summer, JaQuavis met a fellow dealer in a parking lot on Flint’s west side. He was there to make a bulk sale of a quarter-brick, or “nine-piece” — a nine-ounce parcel of cocaine, with a street value of about $11,000. In the middle of the transaction, JaQuavis heard the telltale chirp of a walkie-talkie. His customer, he now realized, was an undercover policeman. JaQuavis jumped into his car and spun out onto the road, with two unmarked police cars in pursuit. He didn’t want to get into a high-speed chase, so he whipped his car into a church parking lot and made a run for it, darting into an alleyway behind a row of small houses, where he tossed the quarter-brick into some bushes. When JaQuavis reached the small residential street on the other side of the houses, he was greeted by the police, who handcuffed him and went to search behind the houses where, they told him, they were certain he had ditched the drugs. JaQuavis had been dealing since he was 12, had amassed more than $100,000 and had never been arrested. Now, he thought: It’s over.

But when the police looked in the bushes, they couldn’t find any cocaine. They interrogated JaQuavis, who denied having ever possessed or sold drugs. They combed the backyard alley some more. After an hour of fruitless efforts, the police were forced to unlock the handcuffs and release their suspect.

JaQuavis was baffled by the turn of events until the next day, when he received a phone call. The previous afternoon, a 15-year-old girl had been sitting in her home on the west side of Flint when she heard sirens. She looked out of the window of her bedroom, and watched a young man throw a package in the bushes behind her house. She recognized him. He was a high school classmate — a handsome, charismatic boy whom she had admired from afar. The girl crept outside and grabbed the bundle, which she hid in her basement. “I have something that belongs to you,” Ashley Snell told JaQuavis Coleman when she reached him by phone. “You wanna come over here and pick it up?”

Photo
Three of the nearly 50 works of urban fiction published by the Colemans over the last decade, often featuring drug deals, violence, sex and a brash kind of feminism.Credit Marko Metzinger

In the Colemans’ first novel, “Dirty Money” (2005), they told a version of this story. The outline was the same: the drug deal gone bad, the dope chucked in the bushes, the fateful phone call. To the extent that the authors took poetic license, it was to tone down the meet-cute improbability of the true-life events. In “Dirty Money,” the girl, Anari, and the crack dealer, Maurice, circle each other warily for a year or so before coupling up. But the facts of Ashley and JaQuavis’s romance outstripped pulp fiction. They fell in love more or less at first sight, moved into their own apartment while still in high school and were married in 2008. “We were together from the day we met,” Ashley says. “I don’t think we’ve spent more than a week apart in total over the past 14 years.”

That partnership turned out to be creative and entrepreneurial as well as romantic. Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

“When you read our books, you’re gonna realize: ‘Ashley & JaQuavis are storytellers,’ ” says Ashley. “Our tales will get your heart pounding.”

THE COLEMANS’ HOME BASE — the cottage from which they operate their cottage industry — is a spacious four-bedroom house in a genteel suburb about 35 miles north of downtown Detroit. The house is plush, but when I visited this past winter, it was sparsely appointed. The couple had just recently moved in, and had only had time to fully furnish the bedroom of their 4-year-old son, Quaye.

In conversation, Ashley and JaQuavis exude both modesty and bravado: gratitude for their good fortune and bootstrappers’ pride in having made their own luck. They talk a lot about their time in the trenches, the years they spent as a drug dealer and “ride-or-die girl” tandem. In Flint they learned to “grind hard.” Writing, they say, is merely a more elevated kind of grind.

“Instead of hitting the block like we used to, we hit the laptops,” says Ashley. “I know what every word is worth. So while I’m writing, I’m like: ‘Okay, there’s a hundred dollars. There’s a thousand dollars. There’s five thousand dollars.’ ”

They maintain a rigorous regimen. They each try to write 5,000 words per day, five days a week. The writers stagger their shifts: JaQuavis goes to bed at 7 p.m. and wakes up early, around 3 or 4 in the morning, to work while his wife and child sleep. Ashley writes during the day, often in libraries or at Starbucks.

They divide the labor in other ways. Chapters are divvied up more or less equally, with tasks assigned according to individual strengths. (JaQuavis typically handles character development. Ashley loves writing murder scenes.) The results are stitched together, with no editorial interference from one author in the other’s text. The real work, they contend, is the brainstorming. The Colemans spend weeks mapping out their plot-driven books — long conversations that turn into elaborate diagrams on dry-erase boards. “JaQuavis and I are so close, it makes the process real easy,” says Ashley. “Sometimes when I’m thinking of something, a plot point, he’ll say it out loud, and I’m like: ‘Wait — did I say that?’ ”

Their collaboration developed by accident, and on the fly. Both were bookish teenagers. Ashley read lots of Judy Blume and John Grisham; JaQuavis liked Shakespeare, Richard Wright and “Atlas Shrugged.” (Their first official date was at a Borders bookstore, where Ashley bought “The Coldest Winter Ever,” the Sister Souljah novel often credited with kick-starting the contemporary street-lit movement.) In 2003, Ashley, then 17, was forced to terminate an ectopic pregnancy. She was bedridden for three weeks, and to provide distraction and boost her spirits, JaQuavis challenged his girlfriend to a writing contest. “She just wasn’t talking. She was laying in bed. I said, ‘You know what? I bet you I could write a better book than you.’ My wife is real competitive. So I said, ‘Yo, all right, $500 bet.’ And I saw her eyes spark, like, ‘What?! You can’t write no better book than me!’ So I wrote about three chapters. She wrote about three chapters. Two days later, we switched.”

The result, hammered out in a few days, would become “Dirty Money.” Two years later, when Ashley and JaQuavis were students at Ferris State University in Western Michigan, they sold the manuscript to Urban Books, a street-lit imprint founded by the best-selling author Carl Weber. At the time, JaQuavis was still making his living selling drugs. When Ashley got the phone call informing her that their book had been bought, she assumed they’d hit it big, and flushed more than $10,000 worth of cocaine down the toilet. Their advance was a mere $4,000.

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The roots of street lit, found in the midcentury detective novels of Chester Himes and the ‘60s and ‘70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines.Credit Marko Metzinger

Those advances would soon increase, eventually reaching five and six figures. The Colemans built their career, JaQuavis says, in a manner that made sense to him as a veteran dope peddler: by flooding the street with product. From the start, they were prolific, churning out books at a rate of four or five a year. Their novels made their way into stores; the now-defunct chain Waldenbooks, which had stores in urban areas typically bypassed by booksellers, was a major engine of the street-lit market. But Ashley and JaQuavis took advantage of distribution channels established by pioneering urban fiction authors such as Teri Woods and Vickie Stringer, and a network of street-corner tables, magazine stands, corner shops and bodegas. Like rappers who establish their bona fides with gray-market mixtapes, street-lit authors use this system to circumnavigate industry gatekeepers, bringing their work straight to the genre’s core readership. But urban fiction has other aficionados, in less likely places. “Our books are so popular in the prison system,” JaQuavis says. “We’re banned in certain penitentiaries. Inmates fight over the books — there are incidents, you know? I have loved ones in jail, and they’re like: ‘Yo, your books can’t come in here. It’s against the rules.’ ”

The appeal of the Colemans’ work is not hard to fathom. The books are formulaic and taut; they deliver the expected goods efficiently and exuberantly. The titles telegraph the contents: “Diary of a Street Diva,” “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Murderville.” The novels serve up a stream of explicit sex and violence in a slangy, tangy, profane voice. In Ashley & JaQuavis’s books people don’t get killed: they get “popped,” “laid out,” get their “cap twisted back.” The smut is constant, with emphasis on the earthy, sticky, olfactory particulars. Romance novel clichés — shuddering orgasms, heroic carnal feats, superlative sexual skill sets — are rendered in the Colemans’ punchy patois.

Subtlety, in other words, isn’t Ashley & JaQuavis’s forte. But their books do have a grainy specificity. In “The Cartel” (2008), the first novel in the Colemans’ best-selling saga of a Miami drug syndicate, they catch the sights and smells of a crack workshop in a housing project: the nostril-stinging scent of cocaine and baking soda bubbling on stovetops; the teams of women, stripped naked except for hospital masks so they can’t pilfer the merchandise, “cutting up the cooked coke on the round wood table.” The subject matter is dark, but the Colemans’ tone is not quite noir. Even in the grimmest scenes, the mood is high-spirited, with the writers palpably relishing the lewd and gory details: the bodies writhing in boudoirs and crumpling under volleys of bullets, the geysers of blood and other bodily fluids.

The luridness of street lit has made it a flashpoint, inciting controversy reminiscent of the hip-hop culture wars of the 1980s and ’90s. But the street-lit debate touches deeper historical roots, reviving decades-old arguments in black literary circles about the mandate to uplift the race and present wholesome images of African-Americans. In 1928, W. E. B. Du Bois slammed the “licentiousness” of “Home to Harlem,” Claude McKay’s rollicking novel of Harlem nightlife. McKay’s book, Du Bois wrote, “for the most part nauseates me, and after the dirtier parts of its filth I feel distinctly like taking a bath.” Similar sentiments have greeted 21st-century street lit. In a 2006 New York Times Op-Ed essay, the journalist and author Nick Chiles decried “the sexualization and degradation of black fiction.” African-American bookstores, Chiles complained, are “overrun with novels that . . . appeal exclusively to our most prurient natures — as if these nasty books were pairing off back in the stockrooms like little paperback rabbits and churning out even more graphic offspring that make Ralph Ellison books cringe into a dusty corner.”

Copulating paperbacks aside, it’s clear that the street-lit debate is about more than literature, touching on questions of paternalism versus populism, and on middle-class anxieties about the black underclass. “It’s part and parcel of black elites’ efforts to define not only a literary tradition, but a racial politics,” said Kinohi Nishikawa, an assistant professor of English and African-American Studies at Princeton University. “There has always been a sense that because African-Americans’ opportunities to represent themselves are so limited in the first place, any hint of criminality or salaciousness would necessarily be a knock on the entire racial politics. One of the pressing debates about African-American literature today is: If we can’t include writers like Ashley & JaQuavis, to what extent is the foundation of our thinking about black literature faulty? Is it just a literature for elites? Or can it be inclusive, bringing urban fiction under the purview of our umbrella term ‘African-American literature’?”

Defenders of street lit note that the genre has a pedigree: a tradition of black pulp fiction that stretches from Chester Himes, the midcentury author of hardboiled Harlem detective stories, to the 1960s and ’70s “ghetto fiction” of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, to the current wave of urban fiction authors. Others argue for street lit as a social good, noting that it attracts a large audience that might otherwise never read at all. Scholars like Nishikawa link street lit to recent studies showing increased reading among African-Americans. A 2014 Pew Research Center report found that a greater percentage of black Americans are book readers than whites or Latinos.

For their part, the Colemans place their work in the broader black literary tradition. “You have Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, James Baldwin — all of these traditional black writers, who wrote about the struggles of racism, injustice, inequality,” says Ashley. “We’re writing about the struggle as it happens now. It’s just a different struggle. I’m telling my story. I’m telling the struggle of a black girl from Flint, Michigan, who grew up on welfare.”

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The Colemans in their new four-bedroom house in the northern suburbs of Detroit.Credit Courtesy of Ashley and JaQuavis Coleman

Perhaps there is a high-minded case to be made for street lit. But the virtues of Ashley & JaQuavis’s work are more basic. Their novels do lack literary polish. The writing is not graceful; there are passages of clunky exposition and sex scenes that induce guffaws and eye rolls. But the pleasure quotient is high. The books flaunt a garish brand of feminism, with women characters cast not just as vixens, but also as gangsters — cold-blooded killers, “murder mamas.” The stories are exceptionally well-plotted. “The Cartel” opens by introducing its hero, the crime boss Carter Diamond; on page 9, a gunshot spatters Diamond’s brain across the interior of a police cruiser. The book then flashes back seven years and begins to hurtle forward again — a bullet train, whizzing readers through shifting alliances, romantic entanglements and betrayals, kidnappings, shootouts with Haitian and Dominican gangsters, and a cliffhanger closing scene that leaves the novel’s heroine tied to a chair in a basement, gruesomely tortured to the edge of death. Ashley & JaQuavis’s books are not Ralph Ellison, certainly, but they build up quite a head of steam. They move.

The Colemans are moving themselves these days. They recently signed a deal with St. Martin’s Press, which will bring out the next installment in the “Cartel” series as well as new solo series by both writers. The St. Martin’s deal is both lucrative and legitimizing — a validation of Ashley and JaQuavis’s work by one of publishing’s most venerable houses. The Colemans’ ambitions have grown, as well. A recent trilogy, “Murderville,” tackles human trafficking and the blood-diamond industry in West Africa, with storylines that sweep from Sierra Leone to Mexico to Los Angeles. Increasingly, Ashley & JaQuavis are leaning on research — traveling to far-flung settings and hitting the books in the libraries — and spending less time mining their own rough-and-tumble past.

But Flint remains a source of inspiration. One evening not long ago, JaQuavis led me on a tour of his hometown: a popular roadside bar; the parking lot where he met the undercover cop for the ill-fated drug deal; Ashley’s old house, the site of his almost-arrest. He took me to a ramshackle vehicle repair shop on Flint’s west side, where he worked as a kid, washing cars. He showed me a bathroom at the rear of the garage, where, at age 12, he sneaked away to inspect the first “boulder” of crack that he ever sold. A spray-painted sign on the garage wall, which JaQuavis remembered from his time at the car wash, offered words of warning:

WHAT EVERY YOUNG MAN SHOULD KNOW
ABOUT USING A GUN:
MURDER . . . 30 Years
ARMED ROBBERY . . . 15 Years
ASSAULT . . . 15 Years
RAPE . . . 20 Years
POSSESSION . . . 5 Years
JACKING . . . 20 YEARS

“We still love Flint, Michigan,” JaQuavis says. “It’s so seedy, so treacherous. But there’s some heart in this city. This is where it all started, selling books out the box. In the days when we would get those little $40,000 advances, they’d send us a couple boxes of books for free. We would hit the streets to sell our books, right out of the car trunk. It was a hustle. It still is.”

One old neighborhood asset that the Colemans have not shaken off is swagger. “My wife is the best female writer in the game,” JaQuavis told me. “I believe I’m the best male writer in the game. I’m sleeping next to the best writer in the world. And she’s doing the same.”

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple

Mr. Napoleon was a self-taught musician whose career began in earnest with the orchestra led by Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers.

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WASHINGTON — A decade after emergency trailers meant to shelter Hurricane Katrina victims instead caused burning eyes, sore throats and other more serious ailments, the Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of regulating the culprit: formaldehyde, a chemical that can be found in commonplace things like clothes and furniture.

But an unusual assortment of players, including furniture makers, the Chinese government, Republicans from states with a large base of furniture manufacturing and even some Democrats who championed early regulatory efforts, have questioned the E.P.A. proposal. The sustained opposition has held sway, as the agency is now preparing to ease key testing requirements before it releases the landmark federal health standard.

The E.P.A.’s five-year effort to adopt this rule offers another example of how industry opposition can delay and hamper attempts by the federal government to issue regulations, even to control substances known to be harmful to human health.

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Document: The Formaldehyde Fight

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that can also cause respiratory ailments like asthma, but the potential of long-term exposure to cause cancers like myeloid leukemia is less well understood.

The E.P.A.’s decision would be the first time that the federal government has regulated formaldehyde inside most American homes.

“The stakes are high for public health,” said Tom Neltner, senior adviser for regulatory affairs at the National Center for Healthy Housing, who has closely monitored the debate over the rules. “What we can’t have here is an outcome that fails to confront the health threat we all know exists.”

The proposal would not ban formaldehyde — commonly used as an ingredient in wood glue in furniture and flooring — but it would impose rules that prevent dangerous levels of the chemical’s vapors from those products, and would set testing standards to ensure that products sold in the United States comply with those limits. The debate has sharpened in the face of growing concern about the safety of formaldehyde-treated flooring imported from Asia, especially China.

What is certain is that a lot of money is at stake: American companies sell billions of dollars’ worth of wood products each year that contain formaldehyde, and some argue that the proposed regulation would impose unfair costs and restrictions.

Determined to block the agency’s rule as proposed, these industry players have turned to the White House, members of Congress and top E.P.A. officials, pressing them to roll back the testing requirements in particular, calling them redundant and too expensive.

“There are potentially over a million manufacturing jobs that will be impacted if the proposed rule is finalized without changes,” wrote Bill Perdue, the chief lobbyist at the American Home Furnishings Alliance, a leading critic of the testing requirements in the proposed regulation, in one letter to the E.P.A.

Industry opposition helped create an odd alignment of forces working to thwart the rule. The White House moved to strike out key aspects of the proposal. Subsequent appeals for more changes were voiced by players as varied as Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, and Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi, as well as furniture industry lobbyists.

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 helped ignite the public debate over formaldehyde, after the deadly storm destroyed or damaged hundreds of thousands of homes along the Gulf of Mexico, forcing families into temporary trailers provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The displaced storm victims quickly began reporting respiratory problems, burning eyes and other issues, and tests then confirmed high levels of formaldehyde fumes leaking into the air inside the trailers, which in many cases had been hastily constructed.

Public health advocates petitioned the E.P.A. to issue limits on formaldehyde in building materials and furniture used in homes, given that limits already existed for exposure in workplaces. But three years after the storm, only California had issued such limits.

Industry groups like the American Chemistry Council have repeatedly challenged the science linking formaldehyde to cancer, a position championed by David Vitter, the Republican senator from Louisiana, who is a major recipient of chemical industry campaign contributions, and whom environmental groups have mockingly nicknamed “Senator Formaldehyde.”

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Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring

In laminate flooring, formaldehyde is used as a bonding agent in the fiberboard (or other composite wood) core layer and may also be used in glues that bind layers together. Concerns were raised in March when certain laminate flooring imported from China was reported to contain levels of formaldehyde far exceeding the limit permitted by California.

Typical

laminate

flooring

CLEAR FINISH LAYER

Often made of melamine resin

PATTERN LAYER

Paper printed to resemble wood,

or a thin wood veneer

GLUE

Layers may be bound using

formaldehyde-based glues

CORE LAYER

Fiberboard or other

composite, formed using

formaldehyde-based adhesives

BASE LAYER

Moisture-resistant vapor barrier

What is formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a common chemical used in many industrial and household products as an adhesive, bonding agent or preservative. It is classified as a volatile organic compound. The term volatile means that, at room temperature, formaldehyde will vaporize, or become a gas. Products made with formaldehyde tend to release this gas into the air. If breathed in large quantities, it may cause health problems.

WHERE IT IS COMMONLY FOUND

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS

Pressed-wood and composite wood products

Wallpaper and paints

Spray foam insulation used in construction

Commercial wood floor finishes

Crease-resistant fabrics

In cigarette smoke, or in the fumes from combustion of other materials, including wood, oil and gasoline.

Exposure to formaldehyde in sufficient amounts may cause eye, throat or skin irritation, allergic reactions, and respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing or asthma.

Long-term exposure to high levels has been associated with cancer in humans and laboratory animals.

Exposure to formaldehyde may affect some people more severely than others.

By 2010, public health advocates and some industry groups secured bipartisan support in Congress for legislation that ordered the E.P.A. to issue federal rules that largely mirrored California’s restrictions. At the time, concerns were rising over the growing number of lower-priced furniture imports from Asia that might include contaminated products, while also hurting sales of American-made products.

Maneuvering began almost immediately after the E.P.A. prepared draft rules to formally enact the new standards.

White House records show at least five meetings in mid-2012 with industry executives — kitchen cabinet makers, chemical manufacturers, furniture trade associations and their lobbyists, like Brock R. Landry, of the Venable law firm. These parties, along with Senator Vitter’s office, appealed to top administration officials, asking them to intervene to roll back the E.P.A. proposal.

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which reviews major federal regulations before they are adopted, apparently agreed. After the White House review, the E.P.A. “redlined” many of the estimates of the monetary benefits that would be gained by reductions in related health ailments, like asthma and fertility issues, documents reviewed by The New York Times show.

As a result, the estimated benefit of the proposed rule dropped to $48 million a year, from as much as $278 million a year. The much-reduced amount deeply weakened the agency’s justification for the sometimes costly new testing that would be required under the new rules, a federal official involved in the effort said.

“It’s a redlining blood bath,” said Lisa Heinzerling, a Georgetown University Law School professor and a former E.P.A. official, using the Washington phrase to describe when language is stricken from a proposed rule. “Almost the entire discussion of these potential benefits was excised.”

Senator Vitter’s staff was pleased.

“That’s a huge difference,” said Luke Bolar, a spokesman for Mr. Vitter, of the reduced estimated financial benefits, saying the change was “clearly highlighting more mismanagement” at the E.P.A.

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The review’s outcome galvanized opponents in the furniture industry. They then targeted a provision that mandated new testing of laminated wood, a cheaper alternative to hardwood. (The California standard on which the law was based did not require such testing.)

But E.P.A. scientists had concluded that these laminate products — millions of which are sold annually in the United States — posed a particular risk. They said that when thin layers of wood, also known as laminate or veneer, are added to furniture or flooring in the final stages of manufacturing, the resulting product can generate dangerous levels of fumes from often-used formaldehyde-based glues.

Industry executives, outraged by what they considered an unnecessary and financially burdensome level of testing, turned every lever within reach to get the requirement removed. It would be particularly onerous, they argued, for small manufacturers that would have to repeatedly interrupt their work to do expensive new testing. The E.P.A. estimated that the expanded requirements for laminate products would cost the furniture industry tens of millions of dollars annually, while the industry said that the proposed rule over all would cost its 7,000 American manufacturing facilities over $200 million each year.

“A lot of people don’t seem to appreciate what a lot of these requirements do to a small operation,” said Dick Titus, executive vice president of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association, whose members are predominantly small businesses. “A 10-person shop, for example, just really isn’t equipped to handle that type of thing.”

Photo
 
Becky Gillette wants strong regulation of formaldehyde. Credit Beth Hall for The New York Times

Big industry players also weighed in. Executives from companies including La-Z-Boy, Hooker Furniture and Ashley Furniture all flew to Washington for a series of meetings with the offices of lawmakers including House Speaker John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, and about a dozen other lawmakers, asking several of them to sign a letter prepared by the industry to press the E.P.A. to back down, according to an industry report describing the lobbying visit.

Within a matter of weeks, two letters — using nearly identical language — were sent by House and Senate lawmakers to the E.P.A. — with the industry group forwarding copies of the letters to the agency as well, and then posting them on its website.

The industry lobbyists also held their own meeting at E.P.A. headquarters, and they urged Jim Jones, who oversaw the rule-making process as the assistant administrator for the agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, to visit a North Carolina furniture manufacturing plant. According to the trade group, Mr. Jones told them that the visit had “helped the agency shift its thinking” about the rules and how laminated products should be treated.

The resistance was particularly intense from lawmakers like Mr. Wicker of Mississippi, whose state is home to major manufacturing plants owned by Ashley Furniture Industries, the world’s largest furniture maker, and who is one of the biggest recipients in Congress of donations from the industry’s trade association. Asked if the political support played a role, a spokesman for Mr. Wicker replied: “Thousands of Mississippians depend on the furniture manufacturing industry for their livelihoods. Senator Wicker is committed to defending all Mississippians from government overreach.”

Individual companies like Ikea also intervened, as did the Chinese government, which claimed that the new rule would create a “great barrier” to the import of Chinese products because of higher costs.

Perhaps the most surprising objection came from Senator Boxer, of California, a longtime environmental advocate, whose office questioned why the E.P.A.’s rule went further than her home state’s in seeking testing on laminated products. “We did not advocate an outcome, other than safety,” her office said in a statement about why the senator raised concerns. “We said ‘Take a look to see if you have it right.’ ”

Safety advocates say that tighter restrictions — like the ones Ms. Boxer and Mr. Wicker, along with Representative Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, have questioned — are necessary, particularly for products coming from China, where items as varied as toys and Christmas lights have been found to violate American safety standards.

While Mr. Neltner, the environmental advocate who has been most involved in the review process, has been open to compromise, he has pressed the E.P.A. not to back down entirely, and to maintain a requirement that laminators verify that their products are safe.

An episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes” in March brought attention to the issue when it accused Lumber Liquidators, the discount flooring retailer, of selling laminate products with dangerous levels of formaldehyde. The company has disputed the show’s findings and test methods, maintaining that its products are safe.

“People think that just because Congress passed the legislation five years ago, the problem has been fixed,” said Becky Gillette, who then lived in coastal Mississippi, in the area hit by Hurricane Katrina, and was among the first to notice a pattern of complaints from people living in the trailers. “Real people’s faces and names come up in front of me when I think of the thousands of people who could get sick if this rule is not done right.”

An aide to Ms. Matsui rejected any suggestion that she was bending to industry pressure.

“From the beginning the public health has been our No. 1 concern,” said Kyle J. Victor, an aide to Ms. Matsui.

But further changes to the rule are likely, agency officials concede, as they say they are searching for a way to reduce the cost of complying with any final rule while maintaining public health goals. The question is just how radically the agency will revamp the testing requirement for laminated products — if it keeps it at all.

“It’s not a secret to anybody that is the most challenging issue,” said Mr. Jones, the E.P.A. official overseeing the process, adding that the health consequences from formaldehyde are real. “We have to reduce those exposures so that people can live healthy lives and not have to worry about being in their homes.”

The Uphill Battle to Better Regulate Formaldehyde

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