PAKET UMROH BULAN FEBRUARI MARET APRIL MEI 2018




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REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, MINA — Tiap tahun, ratusan tukang cukur paruh waktu tanpa izin resmi membanjiri kota suci Mina. Mereka tumpah ruah untuk melakukan ritual haji terakhir, yakni mencukur rambut jamaah haji.

“Saya mencukur rambut karena ini adalah perintah Nabi Muhammad. Saat ini udara sangat panas, jadi mencukur rambut bukan gagasan yang buruk,” ujar jamaah haji asal Yaman Mohamed Hassan saat akan dicukur dengan menggunakan pisau.

Sambil mengusap darah yang mengalir di kepalanya dengan tangan, Hassan mengatakan Allah akan melindungi dirinya dan jamaah haji lain.

Para tukang cukur ini menggunakan pisau cukur yang sama bagi puluhan jamaah haji. Hal ini menjadikan praktik mereka sangat berisiko dalam penyebaran penyakit di antara dua juta orang yang berhaji tahun ini.

Praktik mencukur seperti ini yang coba dihentikan kementerian kesehatan Arab Saudi selama bertahun-tahun. Para tukang cukur mampu menghindari aparat dengan mengatakan mereka adalah kerabat kliennya dan mengaku tidak menerima upah mencukur.

Tahun ini, pihak berwenang memasang iklan besar-besaran di televisi dan radio berisi peringatan mengenai potensi bahaya kesehatan mencukur rambut sembarangan. Mereka juga membawa tukang cukur berlisensi dari seluruh negeri ke Mina. Selain itu, mereka juga memasang poster, seperti biasa.

Hal ini bukannya tanpa hambatan. Pemilik salon berlisensi di Mina mengatakan para jamaah haji memiliki dana yang terbatas. Sedikitnya 60 persen jamaah haji mempercayakan pencukuran rambut mereka kepada tukang cukur tidak resmi atau mencukur rambut mereka sendiri.

“Saya tidak mampu membayar apapun melebihi 10 saudi riyal (2,7 dolar AS). Tukang cukur yang direkomendasikan pemerintah harganya mahal,” ujar seorang pekerja pabrik dari Mesir, Salam Assem, seperti dikutip dari Reuters, Rabu (16/10).

Pejabat kementerian kesehatan mengatakan sulit mengetahui berapa banyak jamaah yang tertular penyakit akibat pemakaian pisau cukur yang sama. Sebabnya, jamaah kembali ke negara masing-masing. Hal ini menyulitkan pengumpulan data dan koordinasi. Namun, kekhawatiran penularan penyakit sangat nyata.

“Berbagi pakai penggunaan pisau cukur sangat berbahaya. Melalui luka terbuka, virus seperti HIV, hepatitis B dan C dan malaria bisa menular dari satu orang ke orang lain. Bahkan melalui tangan yang kotor bisa tertular kudis dan infeksi kulit lainnya,” kata doketr di sebuah rumah sakit di Mina Amin al-Mahdi.

Sebuah penelitian pada 2008 yang diterbitkan dalam Jurnal Infeksi dan Kesehatan Publik terdapat daftar panjang penyebab tekanan ekstrem, misalnya udara panas, sengatan matahari, rasa haus, padatnya orang, kepadatan lalu lintas, licinnya jalanan dan jalan yang tidak rata.
 

Sumber : http://www.jurnalhaji.com

Baca Artikel Lainnya : CALON HAJI DAN UMRAH DI PERBOLEHKAN MEMBAWA UANG

 

JANGAN BERCUKUR SEMBARANGAN

saco-indonesia.com, Seorang balita tewas tertembak senapan angin di bagian belakang kepalanya. Korban meninggal dunia saat menjalani perwatan di rumah sakit Dr. Haryoto.

Pelaku yang tak lain adalah paman korban, Nawawi, telah diamankan ke mapolsek Sukodono beserta barang bukti senapan angin. Korban yang diduga telah terkena tembakan pamannya yang sedang latihan di belakang rumahnya.

Informasi yang telah berhasil dihimpun, Korban Daniah yang berusia 5 tahun putri pasangan Wawan dan Fitriah, warga desa karangsari Kecamatan Sukodono telah dilarikan kerumah sakit akibat tertembak senapan angin/ di bagian belakang kepalanya.

Kejadian ini, bermula saat pamannya, Nawawi, sedang berlatih menembak  di belakang halaman rumahnya. Tak disangka korban yang melintas dan tertembak di bagian kepala belakangnya.

Korban akhinya tewas setelah menjalani perwatan intesif dirumah sakit pemerintah. Diduga korban meninggal ada pendaharan dibagian otaknya. “Latihan tidak melihat sekelilingnya,” terang Faisol, kerabat korban.

Setelah melakukan pemeriksaan intensif, polisi akhirnya telah menetapkan Nawawi sebagai tersangka dan langsung dijebloskan ke tahanan Mapolsek Sukodono.
“Setelah cukup bukti,petugas langsung menetapkan (Nawawi-red)sebagai tersangka dan langsung ditahan,” Ujar

Kapolsek Sukodono, AKP Sudartono seraya juga mengatakan lokasi terjadi penembakan, dibelakang rumah yang telah dijadikan tempat latihan menembak.
Ditambahkanya, dari pemeriksaan penembakan dikarenakan ketidak sengajaan.

Namun pelaku juga tidak memperhatikan keamanan latihan menembak. “Kami telah mengancam tersangka dengan Undang-undang perlindungan anak, karena lalai bermain senapan angin hingga memakan korban jiwa,”terang Sudartono

Sementara itu, pihak keluarga korban telah menyerahkan kasus ini kepolisi. Bahkan korban juga berharap pelaku dihukum dengan seberat beratnya.

“Karena tersangka bermain tembak-tembakan di gang rumah yang padat penduduk,” ujar Thoriq, keluarga korban.


Editor : Dian sukmawati

BALITA TEWAS TERTEMBAK SENAPAN ANGIN

Oleh
Kumpulan Ulama

KEWAJIBAN-KEWAJIBAN BAGI JAMA'AH HAJI

[1]. Agar segera bertobat kepada Allah dengan sebenar-benarnya dari segala dosa, dan memilih harta yang halal untuk ibadah haji dan umrahnya.

[2]. Agar menjaga lidahnya dari dusta, menggunjing, mengadu domba dan menghina orang lain.

[3]. Dalam melaksanakan haji dan umrahnya, hendaklah bermaksud untuk mendapatkan ridha Illahi dan pahala akhirat, jauh dari rasa ingin dipandang, ingin tersohor dan berbangga diri.

[4]. Hendaklah mempelajari amalan-amalan yang disyariatkan dalam haji dan umrah, dan menanyakan hal-hal yang kurang jelas baginya.

[5]. Apabila telah sampai di miqat, diperbolehkan memilih antara haji Ifrad, Tammatu' dan Qiran. Haji Tammatu' lebih utama bagi yang tidak membawa binatang kurban, sedang bagi yang membawanya, lebih utama baginya melaksanakan haji Qiran.

[6]. Seseorang yang berihram, apabila ia merasa khawatir tidak dapat melanjutkan ibadah hajinya dikarenakan sakit, atau musuh, atau karena sebab lain, maka disyaratkan ketika berihram mengucapkan : "Inna mahallii haistuu habastanii" Artinya : Tempat tahallulku adalah di tempat ku tertahan".

[7]. Anak-anak yang masih kecil haji mereka adalah sah, hanya saja haji semacam itu belum termasuk haji fardhu.

[8]. Orang yang sedang berihram boleh mandi dan membasuh kepalanya atau menggaruknya dikala perlu.

[9]. Bagi wanita yang sedang berihram diperbolehkan untuk menutup wajahnya dengan kerudung apabila takut dilihat kaum pria.

[10]. Mengenakan ikat kepala dibawah kerudung agar mudah sewaktu membuka wajah, sebagaimana yang sering dilakukan oleh sebagian kaum wanita, tidak ada dasarnya dalam syari'at.

[11]. Bagi yang sedang berihram boleh mencuci kain ihramnya kemudian mengenakannya kembali dan boleh juga menggantinya dengan yang lain.

[12]. Seseorang yang sedang berihram, apabila ia mengenakan pakaian berjahit atau menutupi kepalanya atau memakai wangi-wangian karena lupa atau pun karena tidak tahu akan hukumnya, maka ia tidak dikenakan fidyah.

[13]. Bagi yang melakukan haji Tamattu' atau umrah, hendaklah menghentikan bacaan talbiyah apabila ia sampai di Ka'bah sebelum memulai Tawaf.

[14]. Ramal (lari-lari kecil) dan Idhtiba' (mengenakan selendang ihram dengan meletakkan sebagiannya di atas pundak kiri, dan bagian lain disebelah ketiak kanan), hanya dilakukan pada Tawaf Qudum saja, dan ramal itu dikhususkan pada tiga putaran pertama, lagi pula untuk kaum pria saja, tidak untuk wanita.

[15]. Seseorang yang sedang melakukan Tawaf, apabila ia ragu apakah sudah melakukan tiga putaran atau empat umpamanya, maka hendaklah dihitung tiga putaran. Demikian pula diwaktu Sa'i.

[16]. Boleh melakukan Tawaf dibelakang sumur Zamzam dan Maqam Ibrahim dikala penuh sesak, karena Masjid Haram seluruhnya merupakan tempat Tawaf.

[17]. Adalah termasuk perbuatan mungkar, jika seorang wanita melakukan Tawaf dengan memakai perhiasan dan wangi-wangian serta tidak menutup aurat.

[18]. Wanita yang sedang datang bulan atau baru bersalin setelah berihram, tidak boleh melakulan tawaf, kecuali setelah ia dalam keadaan suci.

[19]. Bagi wanita boleh berihram dengan mengenakan pakaian yang ia sukai, asalakan pakaian itu tidak menyerupai pakaian pria dan jangan sampai menampakkan perhiasan, tetapi hendaklah mengenakan pakaian yang tidak merangsang.

[20]. Melafalkan niat dalam ibadah selain Haji dan Umrah adalah bid'ah yang diada-adakan, lebih-lebih bila dilafalkan niat itu dengan suara keras.

[21]. Diharamkan bagi seorang muslim mukallaf melintasi miqat tanpa berihram, apabila ia bermaksud melakukan ibadah haji dan umrah.

[22]. Jama'ah haji atau umrah yang datang lewat udara, hendaklah berihram ketika berada sejajar dengan batas miqat, oleh karena itu hendaknya ia bersiap-siap untuk berihram sebelum naik pesawat.

[23]. Bagi yang tempat tinggalnya di daerah miqat, tidak perlu pergi ke salah satu tempat miqat, dan cukuplah tempat tinggalnya itu sebagi miqat untuk berihram haji dan umrah.

[24]. Memperbanyak umrah setelah menunaikan haji, dari Tan'im atau Jir'anah, sebagaimana yang dilakukan oleh sebagian jama'ah, adalah hal yang tidak ada dalilnya.

[25]. Hendaklah para jama'ah haji pada hari tarwiyah berihram dari tempat tinggalnya di Mekkah, dan tidak perlu berihram dari dalam kota Mekkah atau dari bawah Pancuran Emas Ka'bah, sebagaimana yang dilakukan oleh sebagian jama'ah haji. Dan tidak perlu baginya Tawaf Wada' ketika berangkat menuju Mina.

[26]. Berangkat dari Mina menuju Arafah pada tanggal 9 Dzu-l-Hijjah, lebih utama dilakukan setelah terbit matahari.

[27]. Tidak diperkenankan meninggalkan Arafah sebelum terbenam matahari.
Dan disaat berangkat setelah terbenam matahari, hendaknya dengan tenang dan penuh kekhusuan.

[28]. Shalat Maghrib dan Isya dilakukan setelah sampai di Muzdalifah, baik sampainya pada waktu Maghrib ataupun setelah masuk waktu Isya.

[29]. Memungut batu pelempar Jamrah, boleh dilakukan dimana saja, dan tidak harus dipungut dari Muzdalifah.

[30]. Tidak disunatkan mencuci batu-batu itu, sebab hal itu tidak pernah dilakukan oleh Rasulullah begitu pula para sahabat beliau. Dan agar jangan melontar dengan batu yang telah dipakai melontar.

[31]. Diperbolehkan bagi orang-orang yang lemah, seperti wanita, anak-anak kecil dan yang semisalnya, untuk berangkat menuju Mina saat lewat pertengahan malam.

[32]. Apabila telah sampai di Mina pada hari Raya, hendaknya jama'ah haji menghentikan bacaan Talbiyah, dan agar melontar Jamrah Aqabah dengan tujuh batu berturut-turut.

[33]. Tidak disyaratkan agar batu itu tinggal di tempat lontaran, tapi yang disyaratkan adalah jatuhnya batu di tempat lontaran itu.

[34]. Penyembelihan Qurban waktunya adalah sampai terbenam matahari pada hari Tasyriq yang ketiga menurut pendapat Ulama yang paling benar.

[35]. Tawaf Ifadhah atau Tawaf Ziyarah adalah salah satu rukun haji yang tidak dianggap sah haji seseorang apabila Tawaf itu ditinggalkan, dan ini hendaknya dilakukan pada Hari Raya, tapi boleh juga ditunda sampai setelah hari-hari Mina.

[36]. Bagi yang melakukan Haji Qiran, ia hanya wajib melakukan satu kali sa'i. Demikian pula bagi yang melakukan Haji Ifrad dan ia tetap berihram sampai hari nahr.

[37]. Bagi Jama'ah haji, lebih utama baginya melakukan amalan-amalan haji pada hari nahr dengan tertib, yaitu memulai dengan melontar Jamrah Aqabah kemudian menyembelih binatang kurban, lantas mencukur bersih atau memendekkan rambutnya, setelah itu Tawaf Ifadhah di Baitullah dan selanjutnya Sa'i. Dan boleh juga amalan-amalan tersebut dilakukan dengan tidak tertib, yaitu dengan mendahulukan atau mengakhirkan satu dari yang lainnya.

[38]. Tahalul penuh dapat dilaksanakan setelah melakukan hal-hal dibawah ini :
a). Melontar Jamrah Aqabah
b). Mencukur bersih atau memendekkan rambut
c). Tawaf Ifadhah dan Sa'i.

[39]. Apabila seorang jamaah haji menghendaki pulang secepatnya (pada tanggal 12) dari Mina. Maka harus keluar dari Mina sebelum terbenam matahari.

[40]. Anak kecil yang tidak mampu melontar, hendaklah diwakili oleh walinya setelah ia melontar untuk dirinya sendiri.

[41]. Begitu juga orang-orang yang tidak mampu melontar karena sakit atau lanjut usia atau karena hamil, boleh mewakilkan kepada orang lain untuk melontar.

[42]. Bagi yang mewakili, boleh melontar setiap jamrah dari ketiga jamrah itu untuk dirinya sendiri terlebih dahulu, kemudian untuk yang diwakilinya dalam satu tempat.

[43]. Bagi yang melakukan haji Tamattu' atau Qiran, sedang ia bukan penduduk Masjid Haram (Mekkah), wajib baginya membayar dam, yaitu seekor kambing, atau sepertujuh onta/sapi.

[44]. Bagi yang melakukan haji Tamattu' atau Qiran, dan ia tidak mampu menyembelih binatang kurban, maka ia diwajibkan untuk berpuasa tiga hari dalam masa haji dan tujuh hari apabila telah pulang ke keluarganya.

[45]. Puasa tiga hari itu lebih utama dilakukan sebelum Hari Arafah, agar pada Hari Arafah itu ia dalam keadaan tidak berpuasa. Jika puasa itu belum dilakukan makan hendaklah dilakukan pada hari-hari Tasyriq.

[46]. Puasa tiga hari tersebut boleh dilakukan secara berturut-turut atau terpisah-pisah. Begitu pula puasa yang tujuh hari.

[47]. Tawaf Wada' hukumnya wajib bagi setiap jama'ah haji, kecuali bagi wanita yang sedang datang bulan atau baru bersalin.

[48]. Disunahkan berziarah ke Masjid Rasul Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, baik sebelum haji ataupun sesudahnya.

[49]. Bagi yang berziarah ke Masjid Nabawi, disunatkan memulai dengan shalat dua rakaat Tahiyat al-Masjid dimana saja di dalam Masjid. Dan yang lebih utama shalat dilakukan di Raudhah yang mulia.

[50]. Ziarah ke kubur Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, dan ke pekuburan lain, hanya disyari'atkan untuk kaum pria, bukan untuk kaum wanita, dengan syarat agar dilakukan tanpa bersusah payah.

[51]. Mengusap-ngusap dinding kubur Rasul, atau menciumnya ataupun mengelilinginya (bertawaf di sekitarnya), adalah perbuatan bid'ah yang mungkar, yang tidak pernah dilakukan oleh ulama-ulama Salaf. Lebih-lebih apabila ia mengelilinginya dengan maksud mendekatkan diri kepada Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, maka hal itu adalah syirik besar.

[52]. Tidak boleh bagi seseorang memohon kepada Rasul agar beliau memenuhi hajatnya atau melepaskan dirinya dari kesulitan, sebab hal itu syirik.

[53]. Kehidupan Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, didalam kubur adalah kehidupan alam barzakh, bukan seperti hidup di dunia sebelum wafatnya. Dan kehidupan itu hanya Allah saja yang mengetahui hakekat dan keadaannya.

[54]. Mengutamakan berdo'a didekat kubur Rasul Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, sambil menghadap kearahnya dengan mengangkat kedua belah tangan, sebagaimana yang dilakukan oleh sebagian penziarah, adalah termasuk bid'ah yang diada-adakan.

[55]. Ziarah ke kubur Rasul Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, bukanlah wajib, dan bukan merupakan suatu syarat dalam ibadah haji, sebagaimana anggapan sebagian orang awam.

[56]. Hadits-hadits yang dipergunakan sebagai dasar hukum oleh orang-orang yang membolehkan untuk bersusah-payah mendatangi kubur Rasul Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam adalah hadits-hadits yang lemah sanadnya atau hadits-hadits bikinan.

[Disalin dari buku Petunjuk Jamaa Haji dan Umrah serta Penziarah Masjid Rasul Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, pengarang Kumpulan Ulama, hal 42-45, Diterbitkan dan diedarkan oleh Department Agama, Waqaf, Dakwah dan Bimbingan Islam, Saudi Arabia]

Sumber : http://www.alquran-sunnah.com

Baca Artikel Lainnya : SEPULUH KEUTAMAAN TENTANG HAJI

 

RANGKUMAN UNTUK JAMAAH HAJI DAN UMRAH

saco-indonesia.com, Wakil Ketua Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK), Bambang Widjojanto, telah mengaku pihaknya tidak akan tergesa-gesa dalam melakukan penahanan terhadap Gubernur Banten, Ratu Atut Choysiah. Pasalnya, KPK juga harus memeriksa terlebih dahulu saksi-saksi secara intensif agar bisa melakukan penahanan.

“Polanya KPK juga tidak terburu-buru untuk menahan orang. Tapi memeriksa saksi-saksi secara intensif,” kata Bambang melalui pesan singkatnya, Jumat (20/12/2013).

Bambang juga mengaku KPK tidak memiliki kekhawatiran Atut akan menghilangkan bukti atas tindakan pidana korupsi maupun Tindakan Pidana Pencucian Uang (TPPU) yang telah dilakukannya. Pasalnya, KPK juga akan menelusuri harta bendanya mengalir.

“Selama ini juga kan KPK tetap berhasil dalam menyita barang-barang mereka. Coba lihat kasus Djoko Susilo,” ucapnya.

Sebelumnya, juru bicara KPK, Johan Budi, juga mengungkapkan hanya penyidik yang tahu mengenai informasi kapan Atut akan ditahan. “Belum ada informasi (Atut ditahan atau tidak). Itu penyidik yang tahu,” kata Johan.

Seperti yang telah diketahui, hari ini, KPK juga akan memeriksa Atut untuk yang pertama kali dengan statusnya sebagai tersangka. Atut telah menjadi tersangka pada Selasa 17 Desember dengan tuduhan diduga ikut terlibat dalam kasus suap Pilkada Lebak yang menyeret mantan Ketua Mahkamah Konstitusi, Akil Mochtar. Atut juga akan ditetapkan menjadi tersangka pada kasus dugaan korupsi pengadaan alat kesehatan di Banten pada periode 2011-2012.

Penetapan tersangka Atut, juga merupakan pengembangan KPK setelah lebih dulu menetapkan adiknya Tubagus Chaeri Wardhana alias Wawan sebagai tersangka suap sengketa Pilkada terhadap Akil. Uang suap senilai Rp1 miliar itu rencananya juga akan diberikan melalui pengacara Susi Tur Andayani. Dalam perkara ini, Atut disangkakan memiliki peran sebagai pihak pemberi suap.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

KPK TAK TERGESA GESA UNTUK MENAHAN ATUT

saco-indonesia.com, Turut dapat meramaikan ulang tahun MNC yang ke-22 tahun, Mikha Angelo juga mengaku kesulitan saat berkolaborasi dengan Coboy Junior. Diakui Mikha, Coboy Junior ternyata juga memiliki karakter suara yang tinggi.

Terlebih keputusan tampil satu panggung baru bisa diterima Mikha saat dirinya hadir tiba di lokasi perayaan untuk dapat melakukan gladi resik. Bersyukur penampilan Mikha dan Coboy Junior dapat berjalan dengan lancar.

"Sama Coboy Junior dadakan banget. Susah untuk menyesuaikan vokalnya, suaranya tinggi-tinggi banget. Syukur akhirnya bisa juga," ungkap Mikha di Kawasan TMII Jakarta Timur.

Tak hanya berkolaborasi dengan Coboy Junior saja , Mikha juga berduet bersama Fatin Shidqia. Tampilan bersama Fatin, Mikha juga tak menemukan kesulitan. Pasalnya mereka juga pernah berduet menyanyikan lagu Lucky sebelumnya.

"Satu lagu lagi featuring sama Fatin. Kalau sama Fatin sih nggak dadakan juga, karena sebelumnya kita sudah pernah ngebawain bareng," akunya.

Editor : dian sukmawati
Sumber ; kapanlagi.com

COBOY JUNIOR JUGA MEMPUNYAI KARAKTER SUARA YANG TINGGI

Mr. Bartoszewski was given honorary Israeli citizenship for his work to save Jews during World War II and later surprised even himself by being instrumental in reconciling Poland and Germany.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, 93, Dies; Polish Auschwitz Survivor Aided Jews

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

Marty Napoleon, 93, Dies; Jazz Pianist Played With Louis Armstrong

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

HOBART, Tasmania — Few places seem out of reach for China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has traveled from European capitals to obscure Pacific and Caribbean islands in pursuit of his nation’s strategic interests.

So perhaps it was not surprising when he turned up last fall in this city on the edge of the Southern Ocean to put down a long-distance marker in another faraway region, Antarctica, 2,000 miles south of this Australian port.

Standing on the deck of an icebreaker that ferries Chinese scientists from this last stop before the frozen continent, Mr. Xi pledged that China would continue to expand in one of the few places on earth that remain unexploited by humans.

He signed a five-year accord with the Australian government that allows Chinese vessels and, in the future, aircraft to resupply for fuel and food before heading south. That will help secure easier access to a region that is believed to have vast oil and mineral resources; huge quantities of high-protein sea life; and for times of possible future dire need, fresh water contained in icebergs.

It was not until 1985, about seven decades after Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen raced to the South Pole, that a team representing Beijing hoisted the Chinese flag over the nation’s first Antarctic research base, the Great Wall Station on King George Island.

But now China seems determined to catch up. As it has bolstered spending on Antarctic research, and as the early explorers, especially the United States and Australia, confront stagnant budgets, there is growing concern about its intentions.

China’s operations on the continent — it opened its fourth research station last year, chose a site for a fifth, and is investing in a second icebreaker and new ice-capable planes and helicopters — are already the fastest growing of the 52 signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. That gentlemen’s agreement reached in 1959 bans military activity on the continent and aims to preserve it as one of the world’s last wildernesses; a related pact prohibits mining.

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But Mr. Xi’s visit was another sign that China is positioning itself to take advantage of the continent’s resource potential when the treaty expires in 2048 — or in the event that it is ripped up before, Chinese and Australian experts say.

“So far, our research is natural-science based, but we know there is more and more concern about resource security,” said Yang Huigen, director general of the Polar Research Institute of China, who accompanied Mr. Xi last November on his visit to Hobart and stood with him on the icebreaker, Xue Long, or Snow Dragon.

With that in mind, the polar institute recently opened a new division devoted to the study of resources, law, geopolitics and governance in Antarctica and the Arctic, Mr. Yang said.

Australia, a strategic ally of the United States that has strong economic relations with China, is watching China’s buildup in the Antarctic with a mix of gratitude — China’s presence offers support for Australia’s Antarctic science program, which is short of cash — and wariness.

“We should have no illusions about the deeper agenda — one that has not even been agreed to by Chinese scientists but is driven by Xi, and most likely his successors,” said Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a former senior official in the Australian Department of Defense.

“This is part of a broader pattern of a mercantilist approach all around the world,” Mr. Jennings added. “A big driver of Chinese policy is to secure long-term energy supply and food supply.”

That approach was evident last month when a large Chinese agriculture enterprise announced an expansion of its fishing operations around Antarctica to catch more krill — small, protein-rich crustaceans that are abundant in Antarctic waters.

“The Antarctic is a treasure house for all human beings, and China should go there and share,” Liu Shenli, the chairman of the China National Agricultural Development Group, told China Daily, a state-owned newspaper. China would aim to fish up to two million tons of krill a year, he said, a substantial increase from what it currently harvests.

Because sovereignty over Antarctica is unclear, nations have sought to strengthen their claims over the ice-covered land by building research bases and naming geographic features. China’s fifth station will put it within reach of the six American facilities, and ahead of Australia’s three.

Chinese mappers have also given Chinese names to more than 300 sites, compared with the thousands of locations on the continent with English names.

In the unspoken competition for Antarctica’s future, scientific achievement can also translate into influence. Chinese scientists are driving to be the first to drill and recover an ice core containing tiny air bubbles that provide a record of climate change stretching as far back as 1.5 million years. It is an expensive and delicate effort at which others, including the European Union and Australia, have failed.

In a breakthrough a decade ago, European scientists extracted an ice core nearly two miles long that revealed 800,000 years of climate history. But finding an ice core going back further would allow scientists to examine a change in the earth’s climate cycles believed to have occurred 900,000 to 1.2 million years ago.

China is betting it has found the best location to drill, at an area called Dome A, or Dome Argus, the highest point on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Though it is considered one of the coldest places on the planet, with temperatures of 130 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, a Chinese expedition explored the area in 2005 and established a research station in 2009.

“The international community has drilled in lots of places, but no luck so far,” said Xiao Cunde, a member of the first party to reach the site and the deputy director of the Institute for Climate Change at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences. “We think at Dome A we will have a straight shot at the one-million-year ice core.”

Mr. Xiao said China had already begun drilling and hoped to find what scientists are looking for in four to five years.

To support its Antarctic aspirations, China is building a sophisticated $300 million icebreaker that is expected to be ready in a few years, said Xia Limin, deputy director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration in Beijing. It has also bought a high-tech fixed-wing aircraft, outfitted in the United States, for taking sensitive scientific soundings from the ice.

China has chosen the site for its fifth research station at Inexpressible Island, named by a group of British explorers who were stranded at the desolate site in 1912 and survived the winter by excavating a small ice cave.

Mr. Xia said the inhospitable spot was ideal because China did not have a presence in that part of Antarctica, and because the rocky site did not have much snow, making it relatively cheap to build there.

Anne-Marie Brady, a professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the author of a soon-to-be-released book, “China as a Polar Great Power,” said Chinese scientists also believed they had a good chance of finding mineral and energy resources near the site.

“China is playing a long game in Antarctica and keeping other states guessing about its true intentions and interests are part of its poker hand,” she said. But she noted that China’s interest in finding minerals was presented “loud and clear to domestic audiences” as the main reason it was investing in Antarctica.

Because commercial drilling is banned, estimates of energy and mineral resources in Antarctica rely on remote sensing data and comparisons with similar geological environments elsewhere, said Millard F. Coffin, executive director of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart.

But the difficulty of extraction in such severe conditions and uncertainty about future commodity prices make it unlikely that China or any country would defy the ban on mining anytime soon.

Tourism, however, is already booming. Travelers from China are still a relatively small contingent in the Antarctic compared with the more than 13,000 Americans who visited in 2013, and as yet there are no licensed Chinese tour operators.

But that is about to change, said Anthony Bergin, deputy director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “I understand very soon there will be Chinese tourists on Chinese vessels with all-Chinese crew in the Antarctic,” he said.

 

Top News China’s Intents Are Questioned as It Builds in Antarctica

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.

Continue reading the main story
 

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.”

Continue reading the main story

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

The bottle Mr. Sokolin famously broke was a 1787 Château Margaux, which was said to have belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Sokolin had been hoping to sell it for $519,750.

William Sokolin, Wine Seller Who Broke Famed Bottle, Dies at 85

Mr. King sang for the Drifters and found success as a solo performer with hits like “Spanish Harlem.”

Ben E. King, Soulful Singer of ‘Stand by Me,’ Dies at 76

BEIJING (AP) — The head of Taiwan's Nationalists reaffirmed the party's support for eventual unification with the mainland when he met Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of continuing rapprochement between the former bitter enemies.

Nationalist Party Chairman Eric Chu, a likely presidential candidate next year, also affirmed Taiwan's desire to join the proposed Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank during the meeting in Beijing. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and doesn't want the island to join using a name that might imply it is an independent country.

Chu's comments during his meeting with Xi were carried live on Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Television.

The Nationalists were driven to Taiwan by Mao Zedong's Communists during the Chinese civil war in 1949, leading to decades of hostility between the sides. Chu, who took over as party leader in January, is the third Nationalist chairman to visit the mainland and the first since 2009.

Relations between the communist-ruled mainland and the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan began to warm in the 1990s, partly out of their common opposition to Taiwan's formal independence from China, a position advocated by the island's Democratic Progressive Party.

Despite increasingly close economic ties, the prospect of political unification has grown increasingly unpopular on Taiwan, especially with younger voters. Opposition to the Nationalists' pro-China policies was seen as a driver behind heavy local electoral defeats for the party last year that led to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou resigning as party chairman.

Taiwan party leader affirms eventual reunion with China

Even as a high school student, Dave Goldberg was urging female classmates to speak up. As a young dot-com executive, he had one girlfriend after another, but fell hard for a driven friend named Sheryl Sandberg, pining after her for years. After they wed, Mr. Goldberg pushed her to negotiate hard for high compensation and arranged his schedule so that he could be home with their children when she was traveling for work.

Mr. Goldberg, who died unexpectedly on Friday, was a genial, 47-year-old Silicon Valley entrepreneur who built his latest company, SurveyMonkey, from a modest enterprise to one recently valued by investors at $2 billion. But he was also perhaps the signature male feminist of his era: the first major chief executive in memory to spur his wife to become as successful in business as he was, and an essential figure in “Lean In,” Ms. Sandberg’s blockbuster guide to female achievement.

Over the weekend, even strangers were shocked at his death, both because of his relatively young age and because they knew of him as the living, breathing, car-pooling center of a new philosophy of two-career marriage.

“They were very much the role models for what this next generation wants to grapple with,” said Debora L. Spar, the president of Barnard College. In a 2011 commencement speech there, Ms. Sandberg told the graduates that whom they married would be their most important career decision.

In the play “The Heidi Chronicles,” revived on Broadway this spring, a male character who is the founder of a media company says that “I don’t want to come home to an A-plus,” explaining that his ambitions require him to marry an unthreatening helpmeet. Mr. Goldberg grew up to hold the opposite view, starting with his upbringing in progressive Minneapolis circles where “there was woman power in every aspect of our lives,” Jeffrey Dachis, a childhood friend, said in an interview.

The Goldberg parents read “The Feminine Mystique” together — in fact, Mr. Goldberg’s father introduced it to his wife, according to Ms. Sandberg’s book. In 1976, Paula Goldberg helped found a nonprofit to aid children with disabilities. Her husband, Mel, a law professor who taught at night, made the family breakfast at home.

Later, when Dave Goldberg was in high school and his prom date, Jill Chessen, stayed silent in a politics class, he chastised her afterward. He said, “You need to speak up,” Ms. Chessen recalled in an interview. “They need to hear your voice.”

Years later, when Karin Gilford, an early employee at Launch Media, Mr. Goldberg’s digital music company, became a mother, he knew exactly what to do. He kept giving her challenging assignments, she recalled, but also let her work from home one day a week. After Yahoo acquired Launch, Mr. Goldberg became known for distributing roses to all the women in the office on Valentine’s Day.

Ms. Sandberg, who often describes herself as bossy-in-a-good-way, enchanted him when they became friendly in the mid-1990s. He “was smitten with her,” Ms. Chessen remembered. Ms. Sandberg was dating someone else, but Mr. Goldberg still hung around, even helping her and her then-boyfriend move, recalled Bob Roback, a friend and co-founder of Launch. When they finally married in 2004, friends remember thinking how similar the two were, and that the qualities that might have made Ms. Sandberg intimidating to some men drew Mr. Goldberg to her even more.

Over the next decade, Mr. Goldberg and Ms. Sandberg pioneered new ways of capturing information online, had a son and then a daughter, became immensely wealthy, and hashed out their who-does-what-in-this-marriage issues. Mr. Goldberg’s commute from the Bay Area to Los Angeles became a strain, so he relocated, later joking that he “lost the coin flip” of where they would live. He paid the bills, she planned the birthday parties, and both often left their offices at 5:30 so they could eat dinner with their children before resuming work afterward.

Friends in Silicon Valley say they were careful to conduct their careers separately, politely refusing when outsiders would ask one about the other’s work: Ms. Sandberg’s role building Facebook into an information and advertising powerhouse, and Mr. Goldberg at SurveyMonkey, which made polling faster and cheaper. But privately, their work was intertwined. He often began statements to his team with the phrase “Well, Sheryl said” sharing her business advice. He counseled her, too, starting with her salary negotiations with Mark Zuckerberg.

“I wanted Mark to really feel he stretched to get Sheryl, because she was worth it,” Mr. Goldberg explained in a 2013 “60 Minutes” interview, his Minnesota accent and his smile intact as he offered a rare peek of the intersection of marriage and money at the top of corporate life.

 

 

While his wife grew increasingly outspoken about women’s advancement, Mr. Goldberg quietly advised the men in the office on family and partnership matters, an associate said. Six out of 16 members of SurveyMonkey’s management team are female, an almost unheard-of ratio among Silicon Valley “unicorns,” or companies valued at over $1 billion.

When Mellody Hobson, a friend and finance executive, wrote a chapter of “Lean In” about women of color for the college edition of the book, Mr. Goldberg gave her feedback on the draft, a clue to his deep involvement. He joked with Ms. Hobson that she was too long-winded, like Ms. Sandberg, but aside from that, he said he loved the chapter, she said in an interview.

By then, Mr. Goldberg was a figure of fascination who inspired a “where can I get one of those?” reaction among many of the women who had read the best seller “Lean In.” Some lamented that Ms. Sandberg’s advice hinged too much on marrying a Dave Goldberg, who was humble enough to plan around his wife, attentive enough to worry about which shoes his young daughter would wear, and rich enough to help pay for the help that made the family’s balancing act manageable.

Now that he is gone, and Ms. Sandberg goes from being half of a celebrated partnership to perhaps the business world’s most prominent single mother, the pages of “Lean In” carry a new sting of loss.

“We are never at 50-50 at any given moment — perfect equality is hard to define or sustain — but we allow the pendulum to swing back and forth between us,” she wrote in 2013, adding that they were looking forward to raising teenagers together.

“Fortunately, I have Dave to figure it out with me,” she wrote.

Dave Goldberg Was Lifelong Women’s Advocate

Ms. Crough played the youngest daughter on the hit ’70s sitcom starring David Cassidy and Shirley Jones.

Suzanne Crough, Actress in ‘The Partridge Family,’ Dies at 52

Mr. Mankiewicz, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for “I Want to Live!,” also wrote episodes of television shows such as “Star Trek” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.”

Don Mankiewicz, Screenwriter in a Family Film Tradition, Dies at 93

Over the last five years or so, it seemed there was little that Dean G. Skelos, the majority leader of the New York Senate, would not do for his son.

He pressed a powerful real estate executive to provide commissions to his son, a 32-year-old title insurance salesman, according to a federal criminal complaint. He helped get him a job at an environmental company and employed his influence to help the company get government work. He used his office to push natural gas drilling regulations that would have increased his son’s commissions.

He even tried to direct part of a $5.4 billion state budget windfall to fund government contracts that the company was seeking. And when the company was close to securing a storm-water contract from Nassau County, the senator, through an intermediary, pressured the company to pay his son more — or risk having the senator subvert the bid.

The criminal complaint, unsealed on Monday, lays out corruption charges against Senator Skelos and his son, Adam B. Skelos, the latest scandal to seize Albany, and potentially alter its power structure.

Photo
 
Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, discussed the case involving Dean G. Skelos and his son, Adam. Credit Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

The repeated and diverse efforts by Senator Skelos, a Long Island Republican, to use what prosecutors said was his political influence to find work, or at least income, for his son could send both men to federal prison. If they are convicted of all six charges against them, they face up to 20 years in prison for each of four of the six counts and up to 10 years for the remaining two.

Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, of Long Island, who serves as chairman of the Republican conference, emerged from a closed-door meeting Monday night to say that conference members agreed that Mr. Skelos should be benefited the “presumption of innocence,” and would stay in his leadership role.

“The leader has indicated he would like to remain as leader,” said Mr. LaValle, “and he has the support of the conference.” The case against Mr. Skelos and his son grew out of a broader inquiry into political corruption by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, that has already changed the face of the state capital. It is based in part, according to the six-count complaint, on conversations secretly recorded by one of two cooperating witnesses, and wiretaps on the cellphones of the senator and his son. Those recordings revealed that both men were concerned about electronic surveillance, and illustrated the son’s unsuccessful efforts to thwart it.

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Adam Skelos took to using a “burner” phone, the complaint says, and told his father he wanted them to speak through a FaceTime video call in an apparent effort to avoid detection. They also used coded language at times.

At one point, Adam Skelos was recorded telling a Senate staff member of his frustration in not being able to speak openly to his father on the phone, noting that he could not “just send smoke signals or a little pigeon” carrying a message.

The 43-page complaint, sworn out by Paul M. Takla, a special agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, outlines a five-year scheme to “monetize” the senator’s official position; it also lays bare the extent to which a father sought to use his position to help his son.

The charges accuse the two men of extorting payments through a real estate developer, Glenwood Management, based on Long Island, and the environmental company, AbTech Industries, in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the expectation that the money paid to Adam Skelos — nearly $220,000 in total — would influence his father’s actions.

Glenwood, one of the state’s most prolific campaign donors, had ties to AbTech through investments in the environmental firm’s parent company by Glenwood’s founding family and a senior executive.

The accusations in the complaint portray Senator Skelos as a man who, when it came to his son, was not shy about twisting arms, even in situations that might give other arm-twisters pause.

Seeking to help his son, Senator Skelos turned to the executive at Glenwood, which develops rental apartments in New York City and has much at stake when it comes to real estate legislation in Albany. The senator urged him to direct business to his son, who sold title insurance.

After much prodding, the executive, Charles C. Dorego, engineered a $20,000 payment to Adam Skelos from a title insurance company even though he did no work for the money. But far more lucrative was a consultant position that Mr. Dorego arranged for Adam Skelos at AbTech, which seeks government contracts to treat storm water. (Mr. Dorego is not identified by name in the complaint, but referred to only as CW-1, for Cooperating Witness 1.)

Senator Skelos appeared to take an active interest in his son’s new line of work. Adam Skelos sent him several drafts of his consulting agreement with AbTech, the complaint says, as well as the final deal that was struck.

“Mazel tov,” his father replied.

Senator Skelos sent relevant news articles to his son, including one about a sewage leak near Albany. When AbTech wanted to seek government contracts after Hurricane Sandy, the senator got on a conference call with his son and an AbTech executive, Bjornulf White, and offered advice. (Like Mr. Dorego, Mr. White is not named in the complaint, but referred to as CW-2.)

The assistance paid off: With the senator’s help, AbTech secured a contract worth up to $12 million from Nassau County, a big break for a struggling small business.

But the money was slow to materialize. The senator expressed impatience with county officials.

Adam Skelos, in a phone call with Mr. White in late December, suggested that his father would seek to punish the county. “I tell you this, the state is not going to do a [expletive] thing for the county,” he said.

Three days later, Senator Skelos pressed his case with the Nassau County executive, Edward P. Mangano, a fellow Republican. “Somebody feels like they’re just getting jerked around the last two years,” the senator said, referring to his son in what the complaint described as “coded language.”

The next day, the senator pursued the matter, as he and Mr. Mangano attended a wake for a slain New York City police officer. Senator Skelos then reassured his son, who called him while he was still at the wake. “All claims that are in will be taken care of,” the senator said.

AbTech’s fortunes appeared to weigh on his son. At one point in January, Adam Skelos told his father that if the company did not succeed, he would “lose the ability to pay for things.”

Making matters worse, in recent months, Senator Skelos and his son appeared to grow wary about who was watching them. In addition to making calls on the burner phone, Adam Skelos said he used the FaceTime video calling “because that doesn’t show up on the phone bill,” as he told Mr. White.

In late February, Adam Skelos arranged a pair of meetings between Mr. White and state senators; AbTech needed to win state legislation that would allow its contract to move beyond its initial stages. But Senator Skelos deemed the plan too risky and caused one of the meetings to be canceled.

In another recorded call, Adam Skelos, promising to be “very, very vague” on the phone, urged his father to allow the meeting. The senator offered a warning. “Right now we are in dangerous times, Adam,” he told him.

A month later, in another phone call that was recorded by the authorities, Adam Skelos complained that his father could not give him “real advice” about AbTech while the two men were speaking over the telephone.

“You can’t talk normally,” he told his father, “because it’s like [expletive] Preet Bharara is listening to every [expletive] phone call. It’s just [expletive] frustrating.”

“It is,” his father agreed.

Dean Skelos, Albany Senate Leader, Aided Son at All Costs, U.S. Says

Ms. Meadows was the older sister of Audrey Meadows, who played Alice Kramden on “The Honeymooners.”

Jayne Meadows, Actress and Steve Allen’s Wife and Co-Star, Dies at 95

Ms. Turner and her twin sister founded the Love Kitchen in 1986 in a church basement in Knoxville, Tenn., and it continues to provide clothing and meals.

Ellen Turner Dies at 87; Opened Kitchen to Feed the Needy of Knoxville

As governor, Mr. Walker alienated Republicans and his fellow Democrats, particularly the Democratic powerhouse Richard J. Daley, the mayor of Chicago.

Dan Walker, 92, Dies; Illinois Governor and Later a U.S. Prisoner
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