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Tujuh tahun menjadi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (TKI) di Korea di Korea, benar-benar tidak disia-siakan oleh Mugiyanto, yang umurnya sudah tidak terbilang muda.
Bapak satu anak yang tinggal di Dusun Silowan, Kelurahan Pager Sari, Kecamatan Bergas, Kabupaten Semarang, Jawa Tengah ini merasa cukup mengais modal dengan tiga tahun menjadi buruh bimbel (1997-2000), dan empat tahun menjadi buruh tekstil (2005-2009). Setelah itu, ia menekuni bisnis pembuatan batako, paving, bis beton, kolong selokan, dan lain-lain.
Sekitar tujuh tahun menjadi TKI merupakan waktu yang sangat singkat sekali dalam mencari modal. Oleh karena itu, ia tidak membuang-buang waktu yang relatif singkat tersebut untuk bekerja dan menabung.
Mengapa ia tidak membuang-buang waktu? Sebab, Mugiyanto setelah mendarat di tanah Air akan menjalani usaha sendiri.
Mugiyanto menjelaskan, untuk melakoni bisnisnya tersebut modal yang dibutuhkan mencapai ratusan juta. Modal tersebut dikucurkannya untuk membeli tanah tempat produksi dan gudang sederhana sebesar Rp90 juta. Untuk peralatan dan mesin cetak batako, bis beton, dibutuhkan modal sebesar Rp45 juta. Membeli dua unit truk kecil untuk mengantar produk pesanan dan operasional diperlukan uang sebesar Rp100 juta. Nah, itu belum terhitung bahan-bahan, seperti pasir, semen, dan sirtu.
Jadi, dalam membuka usahanya, ia menyiapkan modal kurang lebih sebesar Rp225 juta. "Semua uang saya peroleh dari menabung selama menjadi TKI di Korea," ujarnya.
Kini, usahanya berjalan maju. Mugoyanto mengaku dirinya mampu meraup untung sebesar Rp5 juta hingga Rp 7 juta per bulannya. (*DI)
'Mugiyanto, Mantan TKI yang Sukses Jadi Pengusaha Batako ':
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> PEMBUATAN BATAKO, DENGAN MESIN BATAKO
Bekasi, Saco-Indonesia.com — Dari beberapa pelacakan aset yang dilakukan Komisi Pembe-rantasan Korupsi telah ditemukan sedikitnya 150 item aset milik Tubagus Chaeri Wardana alias Wawan yang diduga merupakan hasil tindak pidana korupsi. Aset-aset tersebut berupa mobil, tanah, dan bangunan yang tersebar di sejumlah tempat.
KPK telah menetapkan Wawan sebagai tersangka tindak pidana pencucian uang (TPPU). Bahkan, Wawan tak hanya dikenai pasal-pasal dalam Undang- Undang Nomor 8 Tahun 2010 tentang TPPU. KPK juga menjerat Wawan dengan UU TPPU tahun 2003 untuk mengantisipasi adanya aset-aset yang diduga diperoleh dari tindak pidana korupsi sebelum tahun 2010.
”KPK menduga ada aset-aset TCW (Tubagus Chaeri Wardana) yang diduga diperoleh dari tindak pidana korupsi sebelum tahun 2010,” kata Juru Bicara KPK Johan Budi SP, di Jakarta, Rabu (15/1/2013).
Berdasarkan informasi yang diperoleh Kompas, dari hasil pelacakan aset oleh KPK ditemukan sedikitnya 150 item aset milik Wawan yang diduga hasil korupsi. KPK telah mengidentifikasi aset-aset tersebut, antara lain berupa mobil, tanah, dan bangunan yang tersebar di beberapa tempat.
30 perusahaan keluarga
Perolehan aset-aset tersebut diduga dari tindak pidana korupsi melalui sejumlah perusahaan yang terafiliasi ke Wawan dan kakaknya, Gubernur Banten Ratu Atut Chosiyah. Ada sekitar 30 perusahaan milik keluarga Wawan dan Atut yang menguasai tender-tender pengadaan di wilayah Banten. Perusahaan tersebut rata-rata ikut tender dengan nilai proyek di atas Rp 5 miliar. Semua aliran uang dari perusahaan itu mengalir ke keluarga Wawan dan Atut.
Johan saat dikonfirmasi ihwal aset-aset milik Wawan yang diduga diperoleh dari tindak pidana korupsi mengatakan, ”Sekarang sedang dilakukan asset tracing (pelacakan aset). Sudah kami temukan. Diduga ada puluhan dalam bentuk tanah dan bangunan di beberapa tempat yang kami duga merupakan aset yang bersangkutan. Ini masih dalam tahap pelacakan.”
Johan belum dapat memastikan apakah aset-aset Wawan yang diduga diperoleh dari hasil korupsi tersebut telah disita KPK. Namun, dia memastikan, dalam perkara TPPU, KPK akan menyita aset-aset tersangka yang memang diduga berasal dari hasil korupsi.
”Kalau memang diduga diperoleh dari tindak pidana korupsi, akan disita. Apalagi sudah jadi prosedur di KPK, begitu seseorang ditetapkan menjadi tersangka, maka yang dilakukan penyidik adalah melacak aset-asetnya,” kata Johan.
Tersangka pencucian uang
Secara terpisah, pengacara Wawan, Pia Akbar Nasution, mengaku baru tahu kliennya ditetapkan sebagai tersangka TPPU oleh KPK dari media. Menurut Pia, dia hanya menangani kasus dugaan korupsi dalam penanganan sengketa Pilkada Kabupaten Lebak di Mahkamah Konstitusi di mana Wawan juga menjadi tersangka.
”Kalau soal TPPU-nya Pak Wawan saya belum dapat informasi karena surat kuasa kami hanya di kasus suap MK. Belum ada informasi soal TPPU-nya,” kata Pia.
Menurut Pia, meski hampir setiap hari berkomunikasi dengan Wawan, kliennya tidak membicarakan ihwal status sebagai tersangka TPPU. Termasuk penetapan Wawan sebagai tersangka pengadaan alat kesehatan di Kota Tangerang Selatan.
Terkait kemungkinan Atut juga menjadi tersangka TPPU, Johan mengatakan sangat terbuka. ”Sepanjang ditemukan dua alat bukti yang cukup, yang dapat menyimpulkan dia terlibat, kemungkinan itu bisa saja. Namun, sampai hari ini (kemarin) belum ada tersangka baru dalam perkara TPPU ini,” katanya.
KPK sebelumnya kembali menetapkan Atut sebagai tersangka dugaan korupsi terkait penerimaan sesuatu selama dia menjabat sebagai Gubernur Banten. Atut bahkan diduga memeras bawahannya, kepala-kepala dinas di jajaran Pemerintah Provinsi Banten agar memberikan fee dari proyek yang dikerjakan dinas-dinas yang bersangkutan. Jika kepala-kepala dinas tidak menuruti permintaannya, Atut tidak segan mencopot mereka.
Editor : Maulana Lee> Ditemukan KPK 150 Aset Wawan yang Diduga Hasil Korupsi
Bekasi, Saco-Indonesia.com,- Kemungkinan besar Partai Demokrat akan menjadi partai politik pertama yang merasakan “hukuman langsung dari rakyat,” akibat dari begitu banyaknya para petingginya yang terlibat kasus korupsi kelas paus, baik yang sudah masuk penjara, dalam status tersangka (dan ditahan KPK), maupun yang semakin terindikasi kuat terlibat di berbagai kasus korupsi.
Hukuman dari rakyat itu berupa nanti tidak lagi memilih partai itu dalam Pemilu 2014. Indikasi-indikasinya semakin menguat di saat Pemilu Legislatif 2014 itu kian dekat (9 April 2014). Indikasi-indikasi itu berupa semakin merosotnya elektabilitas partai berlambang Mercy itu dari periode ke periode survei-survei yang dilakukan beberapa lembaga survei.
Salah satunya yang terbaru adalah hasil survei yang diumumkan oleh Lingkaran Survei Indonesia (LSI) pada Minggu, 2 Februari 2014, bahwa pada survei Januari 2014 elektabilitas Demokrat hanya tersisa 4,7 persen. Sedikit lagi jatuh di bawah ambang batas parlemen (parliamentary threshold) yang ditetapkan oleh UU No. 8 Tahun 2012 tentang Pemilu, yakni 3,5 persen. Artinya, jika pada Pemilu Legislatif 2014 nanti perolehan suara Demokrat berada di bawah angka 3,5 persen, praktis partai ini tinggal namanya saja, alias tersingkir dari parlemen. Tidak akan ada satu pun anggota DPR yang berasal dari partai politik yang sangat dicintai oleh “pemilikinya”, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). DPR 2014-2019 bakal steril dari yang namanya Partai Demokrat.
“Rezim Partai Demokrat diprediksi akan runtuh pada Pemilu 2014. Konvensi pemilihan calon presiden yang digelar partai itu belum mampu menaikkan elketabilitas,” tulis Harian Kompas, Senin, 3 Februari 2014, ketika memberitakan hasil survei LSI itu.
Apabila suara yang diperoleh parpol ini kelak tidak mencapai ambang batas parlemen itu, maka sia-sia pula konvensi calon presiden mereka itu. Karena dengan sendirinya, mereka tak punya hak untuk mengajukan calon presidennya.
LSI yang terus melakukan survei berkala itu mencatat hasil surveinya terhadap Partai Demokrat sejak Pemilu 2009 sampai sekarang. Pada saat Pemilu 2009, Demokrat keluar sebagai pemenangnya dengan perolehan suara 20,85 persen. Januari 2011 elektabilitasnya masih tinggi (20,5 persen). Seiring dengan mulai terbongkarnya kasus korupsi yang “dipelopori” oleh Bendahara Umum DPP Partai Demokrat ketika itu, Muhammad Nazaruddin, rakyat mulai kehilangan kepercayaannya, hasil survei Oktober 2011 elektabiltas partai ini merosot menjadi 16,5 persen suara. Januari 2012 (13,7 persen), Maret 2013 (11,7 persen), Oktober 2013 (9,8 persen), dan Januari 2014 menuju “lampu merah” tanda bahaya dengan elektabilitas hanya tersisa 4,7 persen suara!
Peneliti LSI Adjie Alfaraby menjelaskan anjloknya elektabilitas Partai Demokrat disebabkan keroposnya struktural, kultur, dan ideologi partai. Struktur ideologi hancur saat (mantan) petinggi partai itu, seperti Anas Urbaningrum, M Nazaruddin, Andi Mallarangeng, dan Angelina Sondakh, tersangkut kasus korupsi. Kultur yang hanya bergantung pada ketokohan Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono juga melemahkan Demokrat (Harian Kompas, Senin, 03/02/14).
Analisis Adjie itu sangat benar. Di kala begitu banyaknya petinggi Demokrat yang tersangkut kasus korupsi, partai ini masih terlalu bergantung kepada SBY. Padahal SBY sendiri adalah sosok yang lemah. Lemah dalam memimpinnya partainya, dan sangat lemah sebagai Presiden untuk memimpin Republik ini.
Kepimpinan (leadership) SBY sebagai Presiden sangat lemah, terbukti dari sikapnya yang peragu, tidak tegas, dan tidak konsisten dan tidak konsekuen dalam mengabil keputusan utnuk mengatasi berbagai permasalahan krusial bangsa ini. Pidato-pidato dan pernyataannnya yang indah-indah hampir selalu tidak sesuai dengan prakteknya.
Bayangkan saja, katanya Demokrat sangat anti korupsi (ingat iklan Pemilu mereka di tahun 2009 dengan tagline “Katakan Tidak Pada Korupsi”) dan pernyataan-pernyataan bernada heroik SBY tentang pemerintahannya yang selalu siap berperang melawan korupsi, dia akan selalu berada di garis paling depan dalam perang melawan korupsi, dalam kenyataannya justru di masa pemerintahannya kali ini tumbuh dengan sangat suburnya praktek-praktek korupsi yang terjadi di hampir semua instansi, mulai dari pusat sampai ke daerah-daerah. Di Pusat, justru para petinggi Demokrat menjadi “mayoritas” dalam praktek-praktek korupsi itu.
Muhammad Nazaruddin dan Angelina Sondakh yang sudah dipenjarakan KPK karena terbukti korupsi, dan Andi Mallarangeng serta Anas Urbaningrum yang sudah ditetapkan sebagai tersangka sudah mampu menghancurkan elektabilitas Demokrat sampai tersisa 4,7 persen suara menurut hasil survei LSI. Padahal masih berpotensi kuat akan menyusul lagi beberapa petinggi partai itu yang diduga terlibat kasus korupsi lainnya, sementara itu Pemilu tinggal dua bulan lagi.
Beberapa petinggi Partai Demokrat yang berpotensi menambah semakin banyaknya daftar tersangka korupsi oleh KPK adalah Sutan Bathoegana. Jhonny Allen Marbun, dan Tri Yulianto. Sementara itu nama Sekretaris Jenderal Partai Demokrat Edhie Baskoro (Ibas) juga kian santer disebut-sebut oleh saksi dan tersangka korupsi proyek Hambalang sebagai juga ikut terlibat.
Sutan Bathoegana, Jhonny Allen Marbun, dan Tri Yulianto, ketiganya dari Komisi VII (Komisi Energi) DPR mewakili Partai Demokrat, diduga terlibat dalam kasus suap (mantan) Kepala SKK Migas Rudi Rubiandini, yang ditangkap KPK pada 14 Agustus 2013 lalu. Dalam kesaksiannya Rudi Rubiandini mengungkapkan keterlibatan nama-nama tersebut di samping beberapa nama lainnya, seperti Wakil Ketua Komisi Energi DPR Zainudin Amali dari Fraksi Golkar.
Bahkan dari penelusuran dan penyidikan kasus tersebut mengarah juga kepada Menteri Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral Jero Wacik, yang juga adalah petinggi Demokrat (Sekretaris Majelis Tinggi). Karena diragukan dia tidak tahu-menahu tentang adanya praktek suap di SKK Migas itu.
Nama-nama yang disebutkan di atas itu diduga terlibat dalam kasus suap (mantan) Kepala SKK Migas Rudi Rubiandini itu berdasarkan pengakuan Rudi Rubiandini di persidangan Tipikor dan rekaman penyadapan percakapan yang dimiliki KPK.
Rudi mengaku pernah menyerahkan uang sebesar 200 ribu dollar AS langsung kepada Sutan Bathoegana untuk tunjangan Hari Raya (Lebaran 2013) anggota Komisi Energi DPR. Penyerahan uang THR itu atas permintaan dari Sutan kepada Rudi, mengatasnamakan Komisi yang dipimpinnya itu. Status Sutan sampai saat ini masih sebagai saksi kasus Rudi. Dia sudah bolak-nalik dipanggil KPK untuk statusnya tersebut. Yang terakhir, rumah mewahnya di Bogor dan ruang kerjanya di gedung DPR sudah digeledah penyidik KPK.
Komisi Energi DPR juga dikatakan pernah menagih fee sebesar 200.000 dollar AS kepada Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Manusia atas “jasa” Komisi itu meloloskan APBN 2013 Perubahan untuk Kementerian itu, melalui Sekretaris Jenderal Kementrian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral Waryono Karno, yang kini sudah dijadikan tersangka oleh KPK.
Atas tagihan Komisi Energi DPR itu, Waryono menghubungi Rudi Rubiandini, supaya SKK Migas ikut urunan membayar fee tersebut. Rudi kemudian menelepon Direktur Utama Pertamina Karen Agustiawan untuk ikut urunan juga, tetapi ditolak Karen, dengan alasan Pertamina sudah membayar fee itu langsung kepada Komisi itu. Rudi mengancam, kalau Karen menolak, dia akan melaporkannya ke Menteri (Jero wacik). KPK mempunyai rekaman percakapan antara Rudi dengan Karen tentang ini. Karen membantah pernyataannya itu, dengan alasan dia berkata begitu, supaya tidak ditagih terus oleh Rudi. Status Karen masih sebagai saksi.
Ada pula tagihan “utang warisan” yang disampaikan oleh Jhonny Allen Marbun kepada Rudi dengan jumlah yang jauh lebih besar, yakni 1 juta dollar AS. Menurut Jhonny sebagaimana diungkapkan oleh Rudi, sebelum dibubarkan Mahkamah Konstitusi dan diganti dengan SKK Migas, BP Migas yang ketika itu dikepalai oleh Raden Priyono telah berjanji untuk membayar fee kepada Komisi Energi DPR sebesar jumlah 1 juta dollar itu. “Utang warisan” kini harus dibayar oleh SKK Migas. “Utang warisan” itu kemudian ditawari dan disepakati menjadi separohnya, yaitu 500 juta dollar AS, dan boleh dicicil. Ketika cicilan itu belum dibayar lunas, Rudi Rubiandini keburu ditangkap KPK.
Dari penelusuran dugaan praktek korupsi antara SKK Migas dengan partner mereka di DPR, Komisi VII bidang Energi itu diharapkan juga sampai ke Menteri Jero Wacik. Sebab, seperti yang ditulis Majalah Tempo, sulit membayangkan Jero tak tahu-menahu praktek kotor di SKK Migas itu. Posisinya amat sentral karena dia menjadi ketua komisi pengawas satuan kerja itu. Dia juga atasan langsung mantan sekretaris jenderal kementerian ini, Waryono Karno.
Bayangkan saja, apa jadinya, jika dalam pengembangan kasus ini kemudian, KPK berhasil menemukan minimal dua bukti permulaan untuk menetapakan para petinggi Partai Demokrat itu: Sutan Bathoegana, Tri Yulianto, Jhonny Allen Marbuin, dan bahkan Jero Wacik sebagai tersangkat (dan ditahan) di saat menjelang Pemilu ini!
Tanpa penetapan mereka sebagai tersangka sekalipun, dengan status mereka saat ini saja, (diduga kuat terlibat) sudah cukup merupakan pukulan maut bagi Partai Demokrat. Apalagi jika fakta megerikan bagi Demokrat itu menjadi kenyataan, yakni KPK menetapkan nama-nama itu sebagai tersangka. Itu akan menjadi pukulan maha maut bagi Demokrat.
Tidak perlu semua dari mereka, cukup satu nama saja, misalnya, Sutan saja, sudah lebih dari cukup untuk membuat kiamat Partai Demokrat di Pemilu 2014 ini. Besar kemungkinan elektabilitasnya langsung berada di bawah ambang batas parlemen, tidak mencapai 3,5 persen!
Majalah Tempo (edisi 3-9 Februari 2014) menulis juga tentang penampilan Sutan pasca digeledah rumahnya oleh KPK, sikapnya yang biasanya kocak, dengan tawa ceriahnya, dan “terkenal” dengan candaannya “ngeri-ngeri sedap” kini seolah lenyap dari diri Sutan. Dia kini lebih terlihat murung dan kurus.
Jika itu benar-benar terjadi, maka Partai Demokrat akan menjadi parpol pertama yang merasakan betapa dahsyatnya hukuman dari rakyat terhadap parpol yang terjerat begitu banyak kasus korupsi. ***
Editor : Maulana Lee> Parpol Pertama yang Bakal Merasakan Dahsyatnya Hukuman dari Rakyat? Adalah Partai Demokrat
PALU, Saco-Indonesia.com — Kepala Bidang Humas Kepolisian Daerah Sulawesi Tengah AKBP Soemarno mengatakan, tidak ada anggota Polres Poso yang menjadi korban dalam peristiwa ledakan bom bunuh diri, Senin (3/6/2013) pagi, di Mapolres Poso. Peristiwa ini terjadi setelah apel pagi sekitar puku 08.00 Wita.
"Hanya pelakunya saja yang tewas," kata Soemarno, seperti dikutip Antara.
Pascakejadian, Kepala Polda Sulawesi Tengah Brigjen Pol Ari Dono Sukmanto meninjau lokasi di halaman Mapolres Poso. Saat ini polisi sedang melakukan olah tempat kejadian perkara (TKP). Sementara itu, Polres Poso telah dibatasi dengan garis polisi guna kelancaran proses olah TKP.
Pelaku bom bunuh diri adalah seorang pria yang mengendarai sepeda motor setelah menerobos pos penjagaan polisi. Soemarno mengatakan, polisi belum bisa melakukan identifikasi pelaku karena jenazah dalam kondisi hancur.
> Yusuf Mansur Wisata Hati Libatkan Segala Urusan Bersama AllahYusuf Mansur Wisata Hati
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 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
The 2015 Met Gala has only officially begun, but there's a clear leader in the race for best couple, no small feat at an event that threatens to sap Hollywood of every celebrity it has for the duration of an East Coast evening.
That would be Marc Jacobs and his surprise guest (who, by some miracle, remained under wraps until their red carpet debut), Cher.
“This has been a dream of mine for a very, very long time,” Mr. Jacobs said.
It is Cher's first appearance at the Met Gala since 1997, when she arrived on the arm of Donatella Versace.
– MATTHEW SCHNEIER
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 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
The 6-foot-10 Phillips played alongside the 6-11 Rick Robey on the Wildcats team that won the 1978 N.C.A.A. men’s basketball title.Mike Phillips, Half of Kentuckyâ€™s â€˜Twin Towersâ€™ of Basketball, Dies at 59 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
Last summer at a writers’ workshop in Oregon, the novelists Anthony Doerr, Karen Russell and Elissa Schappell were chatting over cocktails when they realized they had all published work in the same magazine. It wasn’t one of the usual literary outlets, like Tin House, The Paris Review or The New Yorker. It was Rhapsody, an in-flight magazine for United Airlines.
It seemed like a weird coincidence. Then again, considering Rhapsody’s growing roster of A-list fiction writers, maybe not. Since its first issue hit plane cabins a year and a half ago, Rhapsody has published original works by literary stars like Joyce Carol Oates, Rick Moody, Amy Bloom, Emma Straub and Mr. Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction two weeks ago.
As airlines try to distinguish their high-end service with luxuries like private sleeping chambers, showers, butler service and meals from five-star chefs, United Airlines is offering a loftier, more cerebral amenity to its first-class and business-class passengers: elegant prose by prominent novelists. There are no airport maps or disheartening lists of in-flight meal and entertainment options in Rhapsody. Instead, the magazine has published ruminative first-person travel accounts, cultural dispatches and probing essays about flight by more than 30 literary fiction writers.
An airline might seem like an odd literary patron. But as publishers and writers look for new ways to reach readers in a shaky retail climate, many have formed corporate alliances with transit companies, including American Airlines, JetBlue and Amtrak, that provide a captive audience.
Mark Krolick, United Airlines’ managing director of marketing and product development, said the quality of the writing in Rhapsody brings a patina of sophistication to its first-class service, along with other opulent touches like mood lighting, soft music and a branded scent.
“The high-end leisure or business-class traveler has higher expectations, even in the entertainment we provide,” he said.
Some of Rhapsody’s contributing writers say they were lured by the promise of free airfare and luxury accommodations provided by United, as well as exposure to an elite audience of some two million first-class and business-class travelers.
“It’s not your normal Park Slope Community Bookstore types who read Rhapsody,” Mr. Moody, author of the 1994 novel “The Ice Storm,” who wrote an introspective, philosophical piece about traveling to the Aran Islands of Ireland for Rhapsody, said in an email. “I’m not sure I myself am in that Rhapsody demographic, but I would like them to buy my books one day.”
In addition to offering travel perks, the magazine pays well and gives writers freedom, within reason, to choose their subject matter and write with style. Certain genres of flight stories are off limits, naturally: no plane crashes or woeful tales of lost luggage or rude flight attendants, and nothing too risqué.
“We’re not going to have someone write about joining the mile-high club,” said Jordan Heller, the editor in chief of Rhapsody. “Despite those restrictions, we’ve managed to come up with a lot of high-minded literary content.”
Guiding writers toward the right idea occasionally requires some gentle prodding. When Rhapsody’s executive editor asked Ms. Russell to contribute an essay about a memorable flight experience, she first pitched a story about the time she was chaperoning a group of teenagers on a trip to Europe, and their delayed plane sat at the airport in New York for several hours while other passengers got progressively drunker.
“He pointed out that disaster flights are not what people want to read about when they’re in transit, and very diplomatically suggested that maybe people want to read something that casts air travel in a more positive light,” said Ms. Russell, whose novel “Swamplandia!” was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize.
She turned in a nostalgia-tinged essay about her first flight on a trip to Disney World when she was 6. “The Magic Kingdom was an anticlimax,” she wrote. “What ride could compare to that first flight?”
Ms. Oates also wrote about her first flight, in a tiny yellow propeller plane piloted by her father. The novelist Joyce Maynard told of the constant disappointment of never seeing her books in airport bookstores and the thrill of finally spotting a fellow plane passenger reading her novel “Labor Day.” Emily St. John Mandel, who was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction last year, wrote about agonizing over which books to bring on a long flight.
“There’s nobody that’s looked down their noses at us as an in-flight magazine,” said Sean Manning, the magazine’s executive editor. “As big as these people are in the literary world, there’s still this untapped audience for them of luxury travelers.”
United is one of a handful of companies showcasing work by literary writers as a way to elevate their brands and engage customers. Chipotle has printed original work from writers like Toni Morrison, Jeffrey Eugenides and Barbara Kingsolver on its disposable cups and paper bags. The eyeglass company Warby Parker hosts parties for authors and sells books from 14 independent publishers in its stores.
JetBlue offers around 40 e-books from HarperCollins and Penguin Random House on its free wireless network, allowing passengers to read free samples and buy and download books. JetBlue will start offering 11 digital titles from Simon & Schuster soon. Amtrak recently forged an alliance with Penguin Random House to provide free digital samples from 28 popular titles, which passengers can buy and download over Amtrak’s admittedly spotty wireless service.
Amtrak is becoming an incubator for literary talent in its own right. Last year, it started a residency program, offering writers a free long-distance train trip and complimentary food. More than 16,000 writers applied and 24 made the cut.
Like Amtrak, Rhapsody has found that writers are eager to get onboard. On a rainy spring afternoon, Rhapsody’s editorial staff sat around a conference table discussing the June issue, which will feature an essay by the novelist Hannah Pittard and an unpublished short story by the late Elmore Leonard.
“Do you have that photo of Elmore Leonard? Can I see it?” Mr. Heller, the editor in chief, asked Rhapsody’s design director, Christos Hannides. Mr. Hannides slid it across the table and noted that they also had a photograph of cowboy spurs. “It’s very simple; it won’t take away from the literature,” he said.
Rhapsody’s office, an open space with exposed pipes and a vaulted brick ceiling, sits in Dumbo at the epicenter of literary Brooklyn, in the same converted tea warehouse as the literary journal N+1 and the digital publisher Atavist. Two of the magazine’s seven staff members hold graduate degrees in creative writing. Mr. Manning, the executive editor, has published a memoir and edited five literary anthologies.
Mr. Manning said Rhapsody was conceived from the start as a place for literary novelists to write with voice and style, and nobody had been put off that their work would live in plane cabins and airport lounges.
Still, some contributors say they wish the magazine were more widely circulated.
“I would love it if I could read it,” said Ms. Schappell, a Brooklyn-based novelist who wrote a feature story for Rhapsody’s inaugural issue. “But I never fly first class.”Rhapsody, a Lofty Literary Journal, Perused at 39,000 Feet | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
Fullmer, who reigned when fight clubs abounded and Friday night fights were a television staple, was known for his title bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio.Gene Fullmer, a Brawling Middleweight Champion, Dies at 83 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
Mr. Fox, known for his well-honed countrified voice, wrote about things dear to South Carolina and won over Yankee critics.William Price Fox, Admired Southern Novelist and Humorist, Dies at 89 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
The neighborhood where Freddie Gray came of age has survived harrowing rates of unemployment, poor health, violent crime and incarceration.Hard but Hopeful Home to â€˜Lot of Freddiesâ€™ | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
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?”
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.
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.”
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 Litâ€™s Power Couple | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
Ms. Crough played the youngest daughter on the hit ’70s sitcom starring David Cassidy and Shirley Jones.Suzanne Crough, Actress in â€˜The Partridge Family,â€™ Dies at 52 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
The program traces the outbreak to its origin, thought to be a tree full of bats in Guinea.
A variation of volleyball with nine men on each side is profiled Tuesday night on the World Channel in an absorbing documentary called “9-Man.”
“Hard Earned,” an Al Jazeera America series, follows five working-class families scrambling to stay ahead on limited incomes.
Ms. Rendell was a prolific writer of intricately plotted mystery novels that combined psychological insight, social conscience and teeth-chattering terror.Ruth Rendell, Novelist Who Thrilled and Educated, Dies at 85 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
Judge Patterson helped to protect the rights of Attica inmates after the prison riot in 1971 and later served on the Federal District Court in Manhattan.Robert Patterson Jr., Lawyer and Judge Who Fought for the Accused, Dies at 91 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016
Ms. Plisetskaya, renowned for her fluidity of movement, expressive acting and willful personality, danced on the Bolshoi stage well into her 60s, but her life was shadowed by Stalinism.Maya Plisetskaya, Ballerina Who Embodied Bolshoi, Dies at 89 | PAKET UMROH BULAN JANUARI 2016