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  • Orang yang ingin bergembira harus menyukai kelelahan akibat bekerja.
  • Janganlah engkau berteman dengan orang jahat karena sifatmu akan mencuri sifatnya tanpa engkau sadari.
  • Plato berkata ,”Orang yang berilmu mengetahi orang yang bodoh karena dia pernah bodoh,sedangkan orang yang bodoh tidak mengetahui orang yang berilmu karena dia tidak pernah berilmu”.
  • Budi pekerti yang tinggi adalah rasa malu terhadap diri sendiri.
  • Plato di Tanya ,”Bagaimana caranya agar seseorang biasa hidup dengan tenang?”. Dia menjawab ,” Jika orang itutidak melakukan kejahatan dan tidak beredih akan sesuatu yang di alaminya,maka dia tentu akan merasa tenang”.
  • Kerendahan seseorang di ketahui melalui dua hal : banyak berbicara tentang hal-hal yang tidak berguna,dan bercerita padahal tidak di tanya.
  • Jangan terlalu banyak mengenal orang .sebab, kalian lebih sering di sakiti oleh orang yang kalian kenal,sedangkan orang yang tidak kalian kenal nyaris tidak dapat menyakiti kalian.
  • Jangan terburu buru nanti akan berakibat malu, haraplah sabar biar jangan dikatakan orang bar bar
  • Motivasi adalah kekuatan untuk terus maju menerjang semua rintangan yg ada tuk meraih apa yg kita inginkan
  • Jauh lebih lega jika kamu telah jujur mengungkapkan rasa kepada dia yg kamu cinta daripada memendamnya dalam hati.
  • Kemampuan terbaikku adalah cara berpikirku. Kemampuan terbaikmu adalah cara berpikirmu
  • Ketika kamu menuliskan kekesalan, ketika itu; kamu hanya akan membuat dirimu mengesalkan
  • Tidak perlu berusaha tuk menjadi oranglain. Sebab, kamu adalah istimewa, dan lebih baik dari mereka
  • Kekurangan ialah kelebihan yang tertutupi. Tidak ada yg perlu ditutup, tetapi cukup membukanya
  • Akan lebih baik jika mengatakan “Aku akan berusaha selalu”, daripada “Aku akan selalu”
  • Kasih yang ditabur kepada sesama, kelak akan membuahkan kebahagiaan
  • Dosa kita kepada yang Maha Kuasa hanya taubat jawabannya, dosa kita kepada sesama berminta maaf penawarnya
  • Dalam duka pasti ada suka. Jangan menyerah; karena dengan putus asa kita tidak lebih dari pecundang
  • ketika seseorang melukaimu, janganlah bersedih Karena Tuhan selalu menitipkan penyembuh buatmu
  • Mereka yang menyambut tantangan, adalah mereka yang memberi ruang pada impian tuk menjadi kenyataan
  • Jangan rendahkan dirimu untuk mendapatkan sesuatu, tapi rendahkan hatimu untuk berikan sesuatu
  • Secara tidak sadar, seseorang yang menyakitimu hanya akan membuatmu semakin kuat!
  • Seseorang menangis, bukan karena ia lemah. tetapi karena dia sudah terlalu lama KUAT.
  • Kamu adalah seorang yang istimewa. Kamu hanya tidak menyadarinya, atau mungkin belum menyadarinya
  • Seorang yang cerdik adalah dia yang memanfaatkan setiap peluang yang ada
  • Mereka yang menyambut tantangan, adalah mereka yang memberi ruang pada impian tuk menjadi kenyataan
  • sakit dlm perjuangan itu hanya sementara. bisa semenit/setahun. namun jika menyerah rasa sakit itu akan terasa selamanya.
  • Jangan remehkan hal-hal sepele. Sebab, dari sinilah hal-hal besar biasanya terwujud
  • Hidup menawarkan begitu banyak pilihan. Pilih serta jalani yang terbaik, dan menjadi seorang pemenang!
  • Tegap langkahmu dalam mengahadi kerasnya kehidupan tidaklah cukup tanpa disertai tegapnya iman
  • Kebohongan hanyalah ketenangan sesaat. Dan bila tidak diselesaikan, akan menjadi kegelisahan seumur hidup
  • Secara tidak sadar, dengan kejujuran; kamu telah menyelamatkan dirimu sendiri
  • Menyelesaikan permasalahan dengan emosi/kemarahan hanya akan menimbulkan permasalahan lainnya
  • Sebab, setiap perbuatan baik akan ada ganjarannya. Biarkan sang waktu yang menjawab
  • mengapa harus marah, ketika ruang “MAAFKAN” masih tersedia?
  • Taburlah sebanyak mungkin kebaikan. Sebab, buahnya akan sangat mendamaikan
  • Jangan katakan sulit. Ketahuilah; tidak ada yang sulit bila dikerjakan dengan sepenuh hati
  • Peluh yang menetes ketika kau mencari nafkah, akan terbayar dengan nikmat dan berkah yang kau makan
  • Tak perlu banyak kata utk menunjukan kau peduli, karena trkadang diam-mu adl cara trbaik u/ mnunjukan kepedulianmu.
  • Jangan berusaha/mengerjakan sesuatu dengan setengah hati, karena hasil yang kamu dapat juga hanya setengahnya.
  • Jangan lelah untuk mencari ilmu karena segala sesuatu di dunia ini perlu ilmu, jika tak ada ilmu maka kita sama saja dengan orang mati, tak akan bisa berbuat apa-apa
  • Datangilah sahabatmu di saat dia susah dan lenyaplah di saat dia bahagia, karena sesungguhnya kamulah yang akan diingat di saat dia sedang susah di saat kamu membantunya
  • Sesungguhnya di saat kesusahan teman, satu senyum yang tulus lebih berharga daripada sejuta kata yang tiada guna.
  • Sesungguhnya masih banyak orang di dunia yang lebih susah dari kita, maka hentikanlah segala keluhan kita dan bersyukur terhadap apa yang kita punya.
  • Berusaha untuk selalu berfikir positif dan optimis dalam semua kesulitan ,Jangan terobsesi pada pengalaman masa lalu atau masa depan, tapi tataplah masa kini. Masa lalu sudah lewat, tak akan kembali lagi, masa depan itu belum terjadi jadi kita tak tahu apa yang terjadi dan akhirnya hanya berangan berharap sesuatu, tapi di masa kinilah, kita harus menentukan dan membuat keputusan terhadap diri kita.
  • Berfikir positif dan optimis terlihat seperti kalimat puisi yang sepele, tapi sdarilah ini sangat penting dalam peran anda mengambil keputusan yang akan menentukan kesuksesan atau kehancuran
  • Bercerminlah dari kesalahan orang lain, selain dari kesalahan diri kita sendiri,bercermin pada kesalahan diri sendiri supaya tidak terjatuh pada lubang yang sama, dan dengan bercermin dari kesalahan orang, maka akan lebih memacu kita agar kesalahan itu tidak menimpa kita.
  • Jujurlah meskipun kejujuran itu membawa kita ke neraka.
  • Tidak akan keadilan bisa ditegakkan selama kita masih acuh terhadap hukum yang ada dan mementingkan kepentingan pribadi.
  • Jika kamu mencintai seseorang, cintailah dia apa adanya, bukan karena kamu ingin dia menjadi seperti yang kamu inginkan, karena sesungguhnya kamu hanya mencintai cerminan diri kamu pada dirinya.
  • Bermimpilah akan sesuatu dan jadikanlah mimpimu itu kenyataan, sesungguhnya tak akan ada dunia ini jika tak ada yang bermimpi
  • Jika kamu gagal mendapatkan sesuatu, hanya satu hal yang harus kamu lakukan, coba lagi!!!!
  • Janganlah kamu mencintai seseorang karena paras/wajahnya, hartanya dan jabatannya, tapi cintai karena kebaikan dan ketulusan hatinya karena diantara itu semua, hanya kebaikan dan ketulusan hatinya yang tetap abadi.
  • Langkah yang bijak akan senantiasa membawa hidup anda ke jalan yang tenang dan bahagia dalam menggapai cita – cita
KATA KATA BIJAK MOTIVASI KERJA

saco-indonesia.com, Kecelakaan telah terjadi di Jalur Pantura Barat, Jalan Raya Desa Kluwut, Kecamatan Bulakamba, Kabupaten Brebes, Jawa Tengah. Sepasang suami istri tewas mengenaskan usai terlindas sebuah truk tronton.

Korban yang bernama Suwarto yang berusia (40) tahun yang bekerja sebagai satpam kantor Pajak Kota Tegal dan istrinya yang juga merupakan warga Kelurahan Tegalsari, Kecamatan Tegal Barat, Kota Tegal.

"Diduga korban mengantuk dan kedua anak korban telah dilarikan ke Puskesmas terdekat untuk dapat dirawat intensif," ujar Kepala Satuan Pos Lantas Tanjung, Aipda Adiat, Minggu (2/2) kemarin.

Adiat juga menjelaskan, korban telah mengendarai sepeda motor jenis Yamaha Cripton warna hitam melaju dengan kecepatan sedang menuju arah barat. Namun, korban menabrak trotoar di pinggir Jalan Raya Kluwut dan bersama kedua anaknya terpental ke tengah jalan. Dalam waktu yang bersamaan muncul sebuah truk tronton dari arah timur hingga menggilas pasangan suami istri tersebut.

"Kami juga masih harus mengumpulkan keterangan terkait kecelakaan yang telah menewaskan pasutri ini," kata Adiat.

Adiat juga menambahkan, kini kedua korban tewas masih berada di Rumah Sakit Bhakti Asih Kabupaten Brebes. Saat ini, pihaknya juga akan mengamankan sopir truk tronton untuk dapat dimintai keterangan.

"Kami belum bisa menetapkan sang sopir sebagai tersangka, karena masih butuh pengembangan dan pendalaman bukti-bukti untuk dapat dilakukan penyelidikan. Selanjutnya truk tronton telah diamankan di Pos Lantas Tanjung," pungkasnya.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

SATPAM KANTOR PAJAK TEGAL TEWAS TERLINDAS TRONTON

 



"... Indeed, Allah will not change the fate of a people unless they themselves change the state of his soul ..." Surah Ar-Rad 13:11 -

Truly a statement, an event, or even a piece of a sentence may affect a person's way of thinking, I give examples of the following story:

A father with three small children entering the night train, and there are already many people who are fast asleep, the middle of the night, when people fall asleep, the three children misbehave, they disturb the sleeping passengers. a few moments later there are men who rebuked her father. "I'm sorry, but your son is really naughty, they would not really unsettle the passengers?" then there are women who adds "Do not you feel guilty for your children's behavior?" as did the other passengers, they are grumbling about the behavior of three children. The father then said quietly apologized, "forgive us, in fact the children are not naughty, just that they are so since 1 hour ago because his mother had died." all passengers just snapped, their anger turns into compassion towards the children.

 

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POSITIVETHINKING VS NEGATIVE PREJUDICE

Kawah Putih adalah sebuah danau kawah dari Gunung Patuha yang telah terletak di daerah selatan kota bandung, tidak jauh dari obyek wisata Situ patenggang (5km), yaitu berjarak sekitar 46 kilometer dengan waktu tempuh 2,5 jam perjalanan dari pusat kota atau 35 kilometer dari ibukota Kabupaten Bandung, Soreang. Bersuhu antara 8-22 derajat, terdapat dua kawah yaitu Kawah Saat ( Saat dalam bahasa sunda berarti Surut) berada di bagian barat dan Kawah Putih yang berada di bawahnya pada ketinggian 2.194 meter. Kedua kawah tersebut telah terbentuk akibat letusan yang terjadi sekitar abad X dan XII

Dahulu kala sebelum Kawah Putih di buka untuk umum, masyarakat setempat percaya bahwa Kawah Putih telah menyimpan misteri dan Angker karena banyaknya burung yang mati saat melintasi Kawah Putih, namun pada tahun 1837 seorang ilmuwan dari Jerman, Dr. Franz Wilhelm Junghun telah membantahnya. Ia pun kemudian melakukan penelitian dan menemukan fakta bahwa banyaknya burung mati saat melintasi kawasan tersebut tidak lain dikarenakan adanya semburan lava belerang. Karena kandungan belerang di Kawah Putih yang sangat tinggi maka pada zaman pemerintahan Belanda sempat dibangun pabrik belerang yang di beri nama Zwavel Ontgining Kawah Putih yang kemudian usaha tersebut di lanjutkan pada pemerintahan Jepang dengan mengganti namanya menjadi Kawah Putih Kenzanka Gokoya Ciwidey.

Kemudian pada tahun 1987 PT. Perhutani unit III Jawa Barat, Banten telah mulai mengembangkan kawasan Kawah Putih sebagai obyek wisata, Keindahan danau Kawah Putih memang sangat mempesona. Danau Kawah Putih telah memiliki ciri khas dan keunikan yaitu air di danau kawahnya bisa berubah warna, seperti hijau apel, kebiru-biruan bila cuaca terang terkena pantulan matahari, coklat susu, namun paling sering terlihat airnya berwarna putih disertai kabut tebal di atasnya. Kawasan ini tidak jarang sebagai obyek untuk foto pre wedding karena pemandangannya yang eksotis.

Obyek wisata danau Kawah Putih di buka pada pukul 07.00 sampai pukul 17.00, setiap harinya. Fasilitas yang tersedia pun juga sudah memadai dengan adanya area parkir, mushola, transportasi transit, pusat informasi serta adanya warung-warung makanan. Untuk tarif masuk Kawah Putih terbilang mahal yaitu Rp.150.000 untuk mobil sampai di atas kawasan Kawah Putih, Rp.35.000 untuk motor dan Rp. 15.000 per orang.

Akses ke Kawah Putih transport

Dari jakarta melewati tol Cipularang menuju pintu keluar tol Kopo, lalu menuju Soreang ke arah selatan kota Ciwidey. Lamanya perjalanan dari Ciwidey sekitar 20 sampai 30 menit menuju gerbang masuk obyek wisata Kawah Putih, dan pengunjung disarankan menggunakan kendaraan untuk menuju Kawah Putih dari pintu masuk dikarenakan jaraknya yang sangat cukup jauh dan menanjak sekitar 5,6 Kilometer atau sekitar 10-15 menit dengan berkendara.

Jika Anda menggunakan kendaraan pribadi maka Anda bisa langsung menuju area parkir yang tidak jauh dari Kawah Putih, sementara pengunjung dengan rombongan besar hanya bisa menuju Kawah Putih dengan menggunakan Kendaraan Khusus yang tersedia di area parkir, karena kondisi jalan yang sempit dan menanjak tidak memungkinkan untuk dilewati bus atau kendaraan besar lainnya.

Anda bisa juga dari Terminal Kebun Kelapa maupun Leuwi Panjang, Bandung dengan menggunakan transportasi umum menuju Ciwidey. Kemudian perjalanan dilanjutkan dengan menggunakan angkutan pedesaan dengan tujuan Situ Patenggan.

TEMPAT WISATA KAWAH PUTIH

Bulan suci Ramadhan adalah bulan yang penuh berkah, rahmat, dan ampunan. Dalam bulan suci Ramadhan, setiap amal kebaikan diberikan ganjaran berkali lipat. Sebagaimana disebutkan dalam sebuah hadits berikut ini.

Rasulullah Shallallahu 'Alaihi Wasallam bersabda,

"Setiap amalan anak Adam akan dilipatgandakan pahalanya, satu kebaikan akan berlipat menjadi 10 kebaikan sampai 700 kali lipat. Allah 'Azza wa Jalla  berfirman, ‘Kecuali puasa, sungguh dia bagianku dan Aku sendiri yang akan membalasnya, karena (orang yang berpuasa) dia telah meninggalkan syahwatnyadan makannya karena Aku’. Bagi orang yang berpuasa mendapat dua kegembiraan; gembira ketika berbuka puasa dan gembira ketika berjumpa Tuhannya dengan puasanya. Dan sesungguhnya bau tidak sedap mulutnya lebih wangi di sisi Allah dari pada bau minyak kesturi.” (HR. Bukhari dan Muslim, lafadz milik Muslim)

Setiap amal baik akan diganjar berkali lipat, tak terkecuali melakukan ibadah umrah di Bulan Ramadhan. Melasanakan ibadah umrah di bulan ramadhan memiliki nilai yang luar biasa, yaitu pahalanya sama seperti menunaikan haji bersama Rasulullah Saw.

"Umrah pada bulan Ramadhan menyerupai haji." (HR. Al-Bukhari dan Muslim) dalam riwayat lain, "seperti haji bersamaku." Sebuah kabar gembira untuk mendapatkan pahala haji bersama Nabi Shallallahu 'Alaihi Wasallam.

 

Oleh sebab itu, tak heran jika umrah ramadhan menjadi favorit kaum muslimin untuk berburu pahala. Sesuai kemampuan yang dimiliki, mereka bisa memilih beragam paket umrah ramadhan yang disediakan tour dan travel. Ada paket umrah ramadhan di awal bulan, tengah bulan,  atau akhir bulan. Bahkan, ada paket umrah ramadhan sebulan penuh.

Tidak menjadi masalah jika memilih satu dari sekian paket yang ditawarkan tersebut. Awal bulan, tengah bulan, atau akhir bulan. Sebab Ibnu Abbas mengatakan bahwa Rasulullah Saw bersabda, “Barangsiapa mendapati bulan Ramadhan di Makkah, lalu berpuasa secara utuh dan melakukan shalat malam pada beberapa malamnya, maka Alah akan mencatat untuknya seratus ribu bulan Ramadhan selain di Makkah. Dia juga akan mencatat satu kebajikan tiap siang hari, dan satu kebajikan tiap malam hari.”

“Allah akan memberi pahala sama dengan pahala memerdekakan seorang budak tiap siang hari, dan seorang budak lagi tiap malam hari, juga dua barang bawaan kuda di jalan Allah tiap siang hari dan dua barang bawaan kuda di jalan Allah tiap malam hari.”

Al-Khuza’iy mengatakan bahwa Ishak dan Ibnu Abi Umar menceritakan kepada kami, “Abdurrahim bin Zaid telah bercerita kepada kami dengan isnad seperti itu.” (Al-Azraqy: 11/23 dan Ibnu Majah: 1041).

Nah, bayangkan jika selama satu bulan penuh pada bulan suci Ramadhan kita berada di tanah suci. Segala amal baik kita mendapatkan ganjaran seolah beramal di Bulan Ramadhan selama seratus ribu bulan dibandingkan beramal pada Bulan Ramadhan di luar tanah suci. Padahal, amal kebaikan di Bulan Ramdhan akan diganjar berkali lipat dibandingkan amal kebaikan di bulan biasa. Subhanallah...

 Oleh sebab itu, selama menjalankan ibadah umrah Ramadhan di tanah suci, jangan lupa untuk melakukan amal-amal berikut ini.

Shalat wajib berjamaah

Atha’ menceritakan dari Abdullah bin Zubair RA, bahwa Rasulullah SAW bersabda, “Satu kali shalat di masjidku ini lebih utama daripada seratus ribu kali shalat di tempat lain, selain Masjidil Haram. Dan satu kali shalat di Masjidil Haram lebih utama daripada seratus kali shalat di masjidku.” (Al-Fakihy: 11/90).

Itulah pahala shalat yang dilakukan secara individu di Masjidil haram dan Masjid Nabawi. Nah, bagaimana jika melakukan shalat berjamaah di Masjidil Haram?

Ibnu Abbas RA berkata, “Barangsiapa mengerjakan shalat di Masjidil Haram, di sekitar Baitullah yang dihormati, dengan berjamaah, maka Allah akan mencatat untuknya sebanyak dua puluh lima kali seratus ribu kali shalat.”

Lalu seorang tabi’in bertanya kepadanya, “Apakah ini pendapatmu, wahai Ibnu Abbas, ataukah dari Rasulullah SAW?” Dia menjawab, “Oh, bukan pendapatku, melainkan dari Rasulullah SAW.” (Al-Fakihy: 11/92).

Said bin Jubair menceritakan dari Ibnu Abbas RA, sesungguhnya Nabi SAW pernah membaca firman Allah, “Sesungguhnya (apa yang disebutkan) dalam, (surah) ini, benar-benar menjadi peringatan bagi kaum yang menyembah Allah.” (QS. Al-Anbiya’: 106). Lalu beliau bersabda, “Itu adalah shalat lima waktu berjamaah di masjid ini.” (Al-Fakihy: 11/96).

Shalat malam/Tarawih berjamaah

Nabi Shallallahu 'Alaihi Wasallam bersabda, "Barangsiapa yang menunaikan shalat malam di bulan Ramadan dengan keimanan dan mengharap pahala, diampuni dosa-dosanya yang telah lalu." (HR. Bukhari dan Muslim)

Nabi Shallallahu 'Alaihi Wasallam pernah bersabda, "Siapa yang shalat bersama imamnya sehingga selesai, maka dicatat baginya shalat sepanjang malam." (HR. Ahlus Sunan)

Bersedekah                         

Seperti kita ketahui, Rasulullah Shallallahu 'Alaihi Wasallam adalah manusia paling dermawan. Beliau menjadi lebih demawan lagi ketika di bulan Ramadhan. Sampai-sampai digambarkan beliau menjadi lebih pemurah dengan kebaikan daripada angin yang berhembus dengan lembut. Beliau bersabda, "Shadaqah yang paling utama adalah shadaqah pada bulan Ramadhan." (HR. al-Tirmidzi dari Anas)

Rasulullah Shallallahu 'Alaihi Wasallam bersabda, "Siapa yang memberi berbuka orang puasa, baginya pahala seperti pahala orang berpuasa tadi tanpa dikurangi dari pahalanya sedikitpun." (HR. Ahmad, Nasai, dan dishahihkan al-Albani)

Selain ketiga amal tersebut, terdapat amal kebaikan lain yang bisa dijadikan sebagai alat menangguk pahala Ramadhan yang melimpah ruah saat melakukan umrah ramadhan di tanah suci. Mitra haji dan umrah bisa mengikuti di artikel berikutnya. (RA)

AMAL IBADAH LIMPAH RUAH SAAT UMROH RAMADHAN

From sea to shining sea, or at least from one side of the Hudson to the other, politicians you have barely heard of are being accused of wrongdoing. There were so many court proceedings involving public officials on Monday that it was hard to keep up.

In Newark, two underlings of Gov. Chris Christie were arraigned on charges that they were in on the truly deranged plot to block traffic leading onto the George Washington Bridge.

Ten miles away, in Lower Manhattan, Dean G. Skelos, the leader of the New York State Senate, and his son, Adam B. Skelos, were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on accusations of far more conventional political larceny, involving a job with a sewer company for the son and commissions on title insurance and bond work.

The younger man managed to receive a 150 percent pay increase from the sewer company even though, as he said on tape, he “literally knew nothing about water or, you know, any of that stuff,” according to a criminal complaint the United States attorney’s office filed.

The success of Adam Skelos, 32, was attributed by prosecutors to his father’s influence as the leader of the Senate and as a potentate among state Republicans. The indictment can also be read as one of those unfailingly sad tales of a father who cannot stop indulging a grown son. The senator himself is not alleged to have profited from the schemes, except by being relieved of the burden of underwriting Adam.

The bridge traffic caper is its own species of crazy; what distinguishes the charges against the two Skeloses is the apparent absence of a survival instinct. It is one thing not to know anything about water or that stuff. More remarkable, if true, is the fact that the sewer machinations continued even after the former New York Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, was charged in January with taking bribes disguised as fees.

It was by then common gossip in political and news media circles that Senator Skelos, a Republican, the counterpart in the Senate to Mr. Silver, a Democrat, in the Assembly, could be next in line for the criminal dock. “Stay tuned,” the United States attorney, Preet Bharara said, leaving not much to the imagination.

Even though the cat had been unmistakably belled, Skelos father and son continued to talk about how to advance the interests of the sewer company, though the son did begin to use a burner cellphone, the kind people pay for in cash, with no traceable contracts.

That was indeed prudent, as prosecutors had been wiretapping the cellphones of both men. But it would seem that the burner was of limited value, because by then the prosecutors had managed to secure the help of a business executive who agreed to record calls with the Skeloses. It would further seem that the business executive was more attentive to the perils of pending investigations than the politician.

Through the end of the New York State budget negotiations in March, the hopes of the younger Skelos rested on his father’s ability to devise legislation that would benefit the sewer company. That did not pan out. But Senator Skelos did boast that he had haggled with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, in a successful effort to raise a $150 million allocation for Long Island to $550 million, for what the budget called “transformative economic development projects.” It included money for the kind of work done by the sewer company.

The lawyer for Adam Skelos said he was not guilty and would win in court. Senator Skelos issued a ringing declaration that he was unequivocally innocent.

THIS was also the approach taken in New Jersey by Bill Baroni, a man of great presence and eloquence who stopped outside the federal courthouse to note that he had taken risks as a Republican by bucking his party to support paid family leave, medical marijuana and marriage equality. “I would never risk my career, my job, my reputation for something like this,” Mr. Baroni said. “I am an innocent man.”

The lawyer for his co-defendant, Bridget Anne Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff to Mr. Christie, a Republican, said that she would strongly rebut the charges.

Perhaps they had nothing to do with the lane closings. But neither Mr. Baroni nor Ms. Kelly addressed the question of why they did not return repeated calls from the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., begging them to stop the traffic tie-ups, over three days.

That silence was a low moment. But perhaps New York hit bottom faster. Senator Skelos, the prosecutors charged, arranged to meet Long Island politicians at the wake of Wenjian Liu, a New York City police officer shot dead in December, to press for payments to the company employing his son.

Sometimes it seems as though for some people, the only thing to be ashamed of is shame itself.

Finding Scandal in New York and New Jersey, but No Shame
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Many bodies prepared for cremation last week in Kathmandu were of young men from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

KATHMANDU, Nepal — When the dense pillar of smoke from cremations by the Bagmati River was thinning late last week, the bodies were all coming from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas, and they were all of young men.

Hindu custom dictates that funeral pyres should be lighted by the oldest son of the deceased, but these men were too young to have sons, so they were burned by their brothers or fathers. Sukla Lal, a maize farmer, made a 14-hour journey by bus to retrieve the body of his 19-year-old son, who had been on his way to the Persian Gulf to work as a laborer.

“He wanted to live in the countryside, but he was compelled to leave by poverty,” Mr. Lal said, gazing ahead steadily as his son’s remains smoldered. “He told me, ‘You can live on your land, and I will come up with money, and we will have a happy family.’ ”

Weeks will pass before the authorities can give a complete accounting of who died in the April 25 earthquake, but it is already clear that Nepal cannot afford the losses. The countryside was largely stripped of its healthy young men even before the quake, as they migrated in great waves — 1,500 a day by some estimates — to work as laborers in India, Malaysia or one of the gulf nations, leaving many small communities populated only by elderly parents, women and children. Economists say that at some times of the year, one-quarter of Nepal’s population is working outside the country.

Nepal’s Young Men, Lost to Migration, Then a Quake

Mr. Haroche was a founder of Liberty Travel, which grew from a two-man operation to the largest leisure travel operation in the United States.

Gilbert Haroche, Builder of an Economy Travel Empire, Dies at 87

Gagne wrestled professionally from the late 1940s until the 1980s and was a transitional figure between the early 20th century barnstormers and the steroidal sideshows of today

Verne Gagne, Wrestler Who Grappled Through Two Eras, Dies at 89

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

As he reflected on the festering wounds deepened by race and grievance that have been on painful display in America’s cities lately, President Obama on Monday found himself thinking about a young man he had just met named Malachi.

A few minutes before, in a closed-door round-table discussion at Lehman College in the Bronx, Mr. Obama had asked a group of black and Hispanic students from disadvantaged backgrounds what could be done to help them reach their goals. Several talked about counseling and guidance programs.

“Malachi, he just talked about — we should talk about love,” Mr. Obama told a crowd afterward, drifting away from his prepared remarks. “Because Malachi and I shared the fact that our dad wasn’t around and that sometimes we wondered why he wasn’t around and what had happened. But really, that’s what this comes down to is: Do we love these kids?”

Many presidents have governed during times of racial tension, but Mr. Obama is the first to see in the mirror a face that looks like those on the other side of history’s ledger. While his first term was consumed with the economy, war and health care, his second keeps coming back to the societal divide that was not bridged by his election. A president who eschewed focusing on race now seems to have found his voice again as he thinks about how to use his remaining time in office and beyond.

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Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

At an event announcing the creation of a nonprofit focusing on young minority men, President Obama talked about the underlying reasons for recent protests in Baltimore and other cities.

By Associated Press on Publish Date May 4, 2015. Photo by Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

In the aftermath of racially charged unrest in places like Baltimore, Ferguson, Mo., and New York, Mr. Obama came to the Bronx on Monday for the announcement of a new nonprofit organization that is being spun off from his White House initiative called My Brother’s Keeper. Staked by more than $80 million in commitments from corporations and other donors, the new group, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, will in effect provide the nucleus for Mr. Obama’s post-presidency, which will begin in January 2017.

“This will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life,” Mr. Obama said. “And the reason is simple,” he added. Referring to some of the youths he had just met, he said: “We see ourselves in these young men. I grew up without a dad. I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path. The only difference between me and a lot of other young men in this neighborhood and all across the country is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”

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Organizers said the new alliance already had financial pledges from companies like American Express, Deloitte, Discovery Communications and News Corporation. The money will be used to help companies address obstacles facing young black and Hispanic men, provide grants to programs for disadvantaged youths, and help communities aid their populations.

Joe Echevarria, a former chief executive of Deloitte, the accounting and consulting firm, will lead the alliance, and among those on its leadership team or advisory group are executives at PepsiCo, News Corporation, Sprint, BET and Prudential Group Insurance; former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; Senator Cory Booker, Democrat of New Jersey; former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.; the music star John Legend; the retired athletes Alonzo Mourning, Jerome Bettis and Shaquille O’Neal; and the mayors of Indianapolis, Sacramento and Philadelphia.

The alliance, while nominally independent of the White House, may face some of the same questions confronting former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as she begins another presidential campaign. Some of those donating to the alliance may have interests in government action, and skeptics may wonder whether they are trying to curry favor with the president by contributing.

“The Obama administration will have no role in deciding how donations are screened and what criteria they’ll set at the alliance for donor policies, because it’s an entirely separate entity,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One en route to New York. But he added, “I’m confident that the members of the board are well aware of the president’s commitment to transparency.”

The alliance was in the works before the disturbances last week after the death of Freddie Gray, the black man who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody in Baltimore, but it reflected the evolution of Mr. Obama’s presidency. For him, in a way, it is coming back to issues that animated him as a young community organizer and politician. It was his own struggle with race and identity, captured in his youthful memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” that stood him apart from other presidential aspirants.

But that was a side of him that he kept largely to himself through the first years of his presidency while he focused on other priorities like turning the economy around, expanding government-subsidized health care and avoiding electoral land mines en route to re-election.

After securing a second term, Mr. Obama appeared more emboldened. Just a month after his 2013 inauguration, he talked passionately about opportunity and race with a group of teenage boys in Chicago, a moment aides point to as perhaps the first time he had spoken about these issues in such a personal, powerful way as president. A few months later, he publicly lamented the death of Trayvon Martin, a black Florida teenager, saying that “could have been me 35 years ago.”

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President Obama on Monday with Darinel Montero, a student at Bronx International High School who introduced him before remarks at Lehman College in the Bronx. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

That case, along with public ruptures of anger over police shootings in Ferguson and elsewhere, have pushed the issue of race and law enforcement onto the public agenda. Aides said they imagined that with his presidency in its final stages, Mr. Obama might be thinking more about what comes next and causes he can advance as a private citizen.

That is not to say that his public discussion of these issues has been universally welcomed. Some conservatives said he had made matters worse by seeming in their view to blame police officers in some of the disputed cases.

“President Obama, when he was elected, could have been a unifying leader,” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a Republican candidate for president, said at a forum last week. “He has made decisions that I think have inflamed racial tensions.”

On the other side of the ideological spectrum, some liberal African-American activists have complained that Mr. Obama has not done enough to help downtrodden communities. While he is speaking out more, these critics argue, he has hardly used the power of the presidency to make the sort of radical change they say is necessary.

The line Mr. Obama has tried to straddle has been a serrated one. He condemns police brutality as he defends most officers as honorable. He condemns “criminals and thugs” who looted in Baltimore while expressing empathy with those trapped in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness.

In the Bronx on Monday, Mr. Obama bemoaned the death of Brian Moore, a plainclothes New York police officer who had died earlier in the day after being shot in the head Saturday on a Queens street. Most police officers are “good and honest and fair and care deeply about their communities,” even as they put their lives on the line, Mr. Obama said.

“Which is why in addressing the issues in Baltimore or Ferguson or New York, the point I made was that if we’re just looking at policing, we’re looking at it too narrowly,” he added. “If we ask the police to simply contain and control problems that we ourselves have been unwilling to invest and solve, that’s not fair to the communities, it’s not fair to the police.”

Moreover, if society writes off some people, he said, “that’s not the kind of country I want to live in; that’s not what America is about.”

His message to young men like Malachi Hernandez, who attends Boston Latin Academy in Massachusetts, is not to give up.

“I want you to know you matter,” he said. “You matter to us.”

Advertisement Politics Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues

BALTIMORE — In the afternoons, the streets of Locust Point are clean and nearly silent. In front of the rowhouses, potted plants rest next to steps of brick or concrete. There is a shopping center nearby with restaurants, and a grocery store filled with fresh foods.

And the National Guard and the police are largely absent. So, too, residents say, are worries about what happened a few miles away on April 27 when, in a space of hours, parts of this city became riot zones.

“They’re not our reality,” Ashley Fowler, 30, said on Monday at the restaurant where she works. “They’re not what we’re living right now. We live in, not to be racist, white America.”

As Baltimore considers its way forward after the violent unrest brought by the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of injuries he suffered while in police custody, residents in its predominantly white neighborhoods acknowledge that they are sometimes struggling to understand what beyond Mr. Gray’s death spurred the turmoil here. For many, the poverty and troubled schools of gritty West Baltimore are distant troubles, glimpsed only when they pass through the area on their way somewhere else.

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Officers blocked traffic at Pennsylvania and West North Avenues after reports that a gun was discharged in the area. Credit Drew Angerer for The New York Times

And so neighborhoods of Baltimore are facing altogether different reckonings after Mr. Gray’s death. In mostly black communities like Sandtown-Winchester, where some of the most destructive rioting played out last week, residents are hoping businesses will reopen and that the police will change their strategies. But in mostly white areas like Canton and Locust Point, some residents wonder what role, if any, they should play in reimagining stretches of Baltimore where they do not live.

“Most of the people are kind of at a loss as to what they’re supposed to do,” said Dr. Richard Lamb, a dentist who has practiced in the same Locust Point office for nearly 39 years. “I listen to the news reports. I listen to the clergymen. I listen to the facts of the rampant unemployment and the lack of opportunities in the area. Listen, I pay my taxes. Exactly what can I do?”

And in Canton, where the restaurants have clever names like Nacho Mama’s and Holy Crepe Bakery and Café, Sara Bahr said solutions seemed out of reach for a proudly liberal city.

“I can only imagine how frustrated they must be,” said Ms. Bahr, 36, a nurse who was out with her 3-year-old daughter, Sally. “I just wish I knew how to solve poverty. I don’t know what to do to make it better.”

The day of unrest and the overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations that followed led to hundreds of arrests, often for violations of the curfew imposed on the city for five consecutive nights while National Guard soldiers patrolled the streets. Although there were isolated instances of trouble in Canton, the neighborhood association said on its website, many parts of southeast Baltimore were physically untouched by the tumult.

Tensions in the city bubbled anew on Monday after reports that the police had wounded a black man in Northwest Baltimore. The authorities denied those reports and sent officers to talk with the crowds that gathered while other officers clutching shields blocked traffic at Pennsylvania and West North Avenues.

Lt. Col. Melvin Russell, a community police officer, said officers had stopped a man suspected of carrying a handgun and that “one of those rounds was spent.”

Colonel Russell said officers had not opened fire, “so we couldn’t have shot him.”

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Lambi Vasilakopoulos, right, who runs a casual restaurant in Canton, said he was incensed by last week's looting and predicted tensions would worsen. Credit Drew Angerer for The New York Times

The colonel said the man had not been injured but was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Nearby, many people stood in disbelief, despite the efforts by the authorities to quash reports they described as “unfounded.”

Monday’s episode was a brief moment in a larger drama that has yielded anger and confusion. Although many people said they were familiar with accounts of the police harassing or intimidating residents, many in Canton and Locust Point said they had never experienced it themselves. When they watched the unrest, which many protesters said was fueled by feelings that they lived only on Baltimore’s margins, even those like Ms. Bahr who were pained by what they saw said they could scarcely comprehend the emotions associated with it.

But others, like Lambi Vasilakopoulos, who runs a casual restaurant in Canton, said they were incensed by what unfolded last week.

“What happened wasn’t called for. Protests are one thing; looting is another thing,” he said, adding, “We’re very frustrated because we’re the ones who are going to pay for this.”

There were pockets of optimism, though, that Baltimore would enter a period of reconciliation.

“I’m just hoping for peace,” Natalie Boies, 53, said in front of the Locust Point home where she has lived for 50 years. “Learn to love each other; be patient with each other; find justice; and care.”

A skeptical Mr. Vasilakopoulos predicted tensions would worsen.

“It cannot be fixed,” he said. “It’s going to get worse. Why? Because people don’t obey the laws. They don’t want to obey them.”

But there were few fears that the violence that plagued West Baltimore last week would play out on these relaxed streets. The authorities, Ms. Fowler said, would make sure of that.

“They kept us safe here,” she said. “I didn’t feel uncomfortable when I was in my house three blocks away from here. I knew I was going to be O.K. because I knew they weren’t going to let anyone come and loot our properties or our businesses or burn our cars.”

Baltimore Residents Away From Turmoil Consider Their Role

Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.

The Rolfses, longtime collectors of Edison phonographs, knew that if they turned the cranks on the dolls’ backs, the steel phonograph needle might damage or destroy the grooves of the hollow, ring-shaped cylinder. And so for years, the dolls sat side by side inside a display cabinet, bearers of a message from the dawn of sound recording that nobody could hear.

In 1890, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The recordings inside, which featured snippets of nursery rhymes, wore out quickly.

Yet sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists.

Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.

Audio

The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.

In 2014, the technology was made available for the first time outside the laboratory.

“The fear all along is that we don’t want to damage these records. We don’t want to put a stylus on them,” said Jerry Fabris, the curator of the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. “Now we have the technology to play them safely.”

Last month, the Historical Park posted online three never-before-heard Edison doll recordings, including the two from the Rolfses’ collection. “There are probably more out there, and we’re hoping people will now get them digitized,” Mr. Fabris said.

The technology, which is known as Irene (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), was developed by the particle physicist Carl Haber and the engineer Earl Cornell at Lawrence Berkeley. Irene extracts sound from cylinder and disk records. It can also reconstruct audio from recordings so badly damaged they were deemed unplayable.

“We are now hearing sounds from history that I did not expect to hear in my lifetime,” Mr. Fabris said.

The Rolfses said they were not sure what to expect in August when they carefully packed their two Edison doll cylinders, still attached to their motors, and drove from their home in Hortonville, Wis., to the National Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center had recently acquired Irene technology.

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Cylinders carry sound in a spiral groove cut by a phonograph recording needle that vibrates up and down, creating a surface made of tiny hills and valleys. In the Irene set-up, a microscope perched above the shaft takes thousands of high-resolution images of small sections of the grooves.

Stitched together, the images provide a topographic map of the cylinder’s surface, charting changes in depth as small as one five-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Pitch, volume and timbre are all encoded in the hills and valleys and the speed at which the record is played.

At the conservation center, the preservation specialist Mason Vander Lugt attached one of the cylinders to the end of a rotating shaft. Huddled around a computer screen, the Rolfses first saw the wiggly waveform generated by Irene. Then came the digital audio. The words were at first indistinct, but as Mr. Lugt filtered out more of the noise, the rhyme became clearer.

“That was the Eureka moment,” Mr. Rolfs said.

In 1890, a girl in Edison’s laboratory had recited:

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

Audio

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

She was very, very good.

But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Recently, the conservation center turned up another surprise.

In 2010, the Woody Guthrie Foundation received 18 oversize phonograph disks from an anonymous donor. No one knew if any of the dirt-stained recordings featured Guthrie, but Tiffany Colannino, then the foundation’s archivist, had stored them unplayed until she heard about Irene.

Last fall, the center extracted audio from one of the records, labeled “Jam Session 9” and emailed the digital file to Ms. Colannino.

“I was just sitting in my dining room, and the next thing I know, I’m hearing Woody,” she said. In between solo performances of “Ladies Auxiliary,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Dead or Alive,” Guthrie tells jokes, offers some back story, and makes the audience laugh. “It is quintessential Guthrie,” Ms. Colannino said.

The Rolfses’ dolls are back in the display cabinet in Wisconsin. But with audio stored on several computers, they now have a permanent voice.

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

Mr. Pfaff was an international affairs columnist and author who found Washington’s intervention in world affairs often misguided.

William Pfaff, Critic of American Foreign Policy, Dies at 86

GREENWICH, Conn. — Mago is in the bedroom. You can go in.

The big man lies on a hospital bed with his bare feet scraping its bottom rail. His head is propped on a scarlet pillow, the left temple dented, the right side paralyzed. His dark hair is kept just long enough to conceal the scars.

The occasional sounds he makes are understood only by his wife, but he still has that punctuating left hand. In slow motion, the fingers curl and close. A thumbs-up greeting.

Hello, Mago.

This is Magomed Abdusalamov, 34, also known as the Russian Tyson, also known as Mago. He is a former heavyweight boxer who scored four knockouts and 14 technical knockouts in his first 18 professional fights. He preferred to stand between rounds. Sitting conveyed weakness.

But Mago lost his 19th fight, his big chance, at the packed Theater at Madison Square Garden in November 2013. His 19th decision, and his last.

Now here he is, in a small bedroom in a working-class neighborhood in Greenwich, in a modest house his family rents cheap from a devoted friend. The air-pressure machine for his mattress hums like an expectant crowd.

 

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Mike Perez, left, and Magomed Abdusalamov during the fight in which Abdusalamov was injured. Credit Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

 

Today is like any other day, except for those days when he is hurried in crisis to the hospital. Every three hours during the night, his slight wife, Bakanay, 28, has risen to turn his 6-foot-3 body — 210 pounds of dead weight. It has to be done. Infections of the gaping bedsore above his tailbone have nearly killed him.

Then, with the help of a young caretaker, Baka has gotten two of their daughters off to elementary school and settled down the toddler. Yes, Mago and Baka are blessed with all girls, but they had also hoped for a son someday.

They feed Mago as they clean him; it’s easier that way. For breakfast, which comes with a side of crushed antiseizure pills, he likes oatmeal with a squirt of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. But even oatmeal must be puréed and fed to him by spoon.

He opens his mouth to indicate more, the way a baby does. But his paralysis has made everything a choking hazard. His water needs a stirring of powdered food thickener, and still he chokes — eh-eh-eh — as he tries to cough up what will not go down.

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Mago used to drink only water. No alcohol. Not even soda. A sip of juice would be as far as he dared. Now even water betrays him.

With the caretaker’s help, Baka uses a washcloth and soap to clean his body and shampoo his hair. How handsome still, she has thought. Sometimes, in the night, she leaves the bedroom to watch old videos, just to hear again his voice in the fullness of life. She cries, wipes her eyes and returns, feigning happiness. Mago must never see her sad.

 

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 Abdusalamov's hand being massaged. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

 

When Baka finishes, Mago is cleanshaven and fresh down to his trimmed and filed toenails. “I want him to look good,” she says.

Theirs was an arranged Muslim marriage in Makhachkala, in the Russian republic of Dagestan. He was 23, she was 18 and their future hinged on boxing. Sometimes they would shadowbox in love, her David to his Goliath. You are so strong, he would tell her.

His father once told him he could either be a bandit or an athlete, but if he chose banditry, “I will kill you.” This paternal advice, Mago later told The Ventura County Reporter, “made it a very easy decision for me.”

Mago won against mediocre competition, in Moscow and Hollywood, Fla., in Las Vegas and Johnstown, Pa. He was knocked down only once, and even then, it surprised more than hurt. He scored a technical knockout in the next round.

It all led up to this: the undercard at the Garden, Mike Perez vs. Magomed Abdusalamov, 10 rounds, on HBO. A win, he believed, would improve his chances of taking on the heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, who sat in the crowd of 4,600 with his fiancée, the actress Hayden Panettiere, watching.

Wearing black-and-red trunks and a green mouth guard, Mago went to work. But in the first round, a hard forearm to his left cheek rocked him. At the bell, he returned to his corner, and this time, he sat down. “I think it’s broken,” he repeatedly said in Russian.

 

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Bakanay Abdusalamova, Abdusalamov's wife, and her injured husband and a masseur in the background. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

 

Maybe at that point, somebody — the referee, the ringside doctors, his handlers — should have stopped the fight, under a guiding principle: better one punch too early than one punch too late. But the bloody trade of blows continued into the seventh, eighth, ninth, a hand and orbital bone broken, his face transforming.

Meanwhile, in the family’s apartment in Miami, Baka forced herself to watch the broadcast. She could see it in his swollen eyes. Something was off.

After the final round, Perez raised his tattooed arms in victory, and Mago wandered off in a fog. He had taken 312 punches in about 40 minutes, for a purse of $40,000.

 

 

In the locker room, doctors sutured a cut above Mago’s left eye and tested his cognitive abilities. He did not do well. The ambulance that waits in expectation at every fight was not summoned by boxing officials.

Blood was pooling in Mago’s cranial cavity as he left the Garden. He vomited on the pavement while his handlers flagged a taxi to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. There, doctors induced a coma and removed part of his skull to drain fluids and ease the swelling.

Then came the stroke.

 

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A championship belt belonging to Abdusalamov and a card from one of his daughters. Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times

 

It is lunchtime now, and the aroma of puréed beef and potatoes lingers. So do the questions.

How will Mago and Baka pay the $2 million in medical bills they owe? What if their friend can no longer offer them this home? Will they win their lawsuits against the five ringside doctors, the referee, and a New York State boxing inspector? What about Mago’s future care?

Most of all: Is this it?

A napkin rests on Mago’s chest. As another spoonful of mush approaches, he opens his mouth, half-swallows, chokes, and coughs until it clears. Eh-eh-eh. Sometimes he turns bluish, but Baka never shows fear. Always happy for Mago.

Some days he is wheeled out for physical therapy or speech therapy. Today, two massage therapists come to knead his half-limp body like a pair of skilled corner men.

Soon, Mago will doze. Then his three daughters, ages 2, 6 and 9, will descend upon him to talk of their day. Not long ago, the oldest lugged his championship belt to school for a proud show-and-tell moment. Her classmates were amazed at the weight of it.

Then, tonight, there will be more puréed food and pulverized medication, more coughing, and more tender care from his wife, before sleep comes.

Goodbye, Mago.

He half-smiles, raises his one good hand, and forms a fist.

Meet Mago, Former Heavyweight

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?”

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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.

Photo
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.”

Photo
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

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

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Children playing last week in Sandtown-Winchester, the Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was raised. One young resident called it “a tough community.”
Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Children playing last week in Sandtown-Winchester, the Baltimore neighborhood where Freddie Gray was raised. One young resident called it “a tough community.”

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Imagine an elite professional services firm with a high-performing, workaholic culture. Everyone is expected to turn on a dime to serve a client, travel at a moment’s notice, and be available pretty much every evening and weekend. It can make for a grueling work life, but at the highest levels of accounting, law, investment banking and consulting firms, it is just the way things are.

Except for one dirty little secret: Some of the people ostensibly turning in those 80- or 90-hour workweeks, particularly men, may just be faking it.

Many of them were, at least, at one elite consulting firm studied by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. It’s impossible to know if what she learned at that unidentified consulting firm applies across the world of work more broadly. But her research, published in the academic journal Organization Science, offers a way to understand how the professional world differs between men and women, and some of the ways a hard-charging culture that emphasizes long hours above all can make some companies worse off.

Photo
 
Credit Peter Arkle

Ms. Reid interviewed more than 100 people in the American offices of a global consulting firm and had access to performance reviews and internal human resources documents. At the firm there was a strong culture around long hours and responding to clients promptly.

“When the client needs me to be somewhere, I just have to be there,” said one of the consultants Ms. Reid interviewed. “And if you can’t be there, it’s probably because you’ve got another client meeting at the same time. You know it’s tough to say I can’t be there because my son had a Cub Scout meeting.”

Some people fully embraced this culture and put in the long hours, and they tended to be top performers. Others openly pushed back against it, insisting upon lighter and more flexible work hours, or less travel; they were punished in their performance reviews.

The third group is most interesting. Some 31 percent of the men and 11 percent of the women whose records Ms. Reid examined managed to achieve the benefits of a more moderate work schedule without explicitly asking for it.

They made an effort to line up clients who were local, reducing the need for travel. When they skipped work to spend time with their children or spouse, they didn’t call attention to it. One team on which several members had small children agreed among themselves to cover for one another so that everyone could have more flexible hours.

A male junior manager described working to have repeat consulting engagements with a company near enough to his home that he could take care of it with day trips. “I try to head out by 5, get home at 5:30, have dinner, play with my daughter,” he said, adding that he generally kept weekend work down to two hours of catching up on email.

Despite the limited hours, he said: “I know what clients are expecting. So I deliver above that.” He received a high performance review and a promotion.

What is fascinating about the firm Ms. Reid studied is that these people, who in her terminology were “passing” as workaholics, received performance reviews that were as strong as their hyper-ambitious colleagues. For people who were good at faking it, there was no real damage done by their lighter workloads.

It calls to mind the episode of “Seinfeld” in which George Costanza leaves his car in the parking lot at Yankee Stadium, where he works, and gets a promotion because his boss sees the car and thinks he is getting to work earlier and staying later than anyone else. (The strategy goes awry for him, and is not recommended for any aspiring partners in a consulting firm.)

A second finding is that women, particularly those with young children, were much more likely to request greater flexibility through more formal means, such as returning from maternity leave with an explicitly reduced schedule. Men who requested a paternity leave seemed to be punished come review time, and so may have felt more need to take time to spend with their families through those unofficial methods.

The result of this is easy to see: Those specifically requesting a lighter workload, who were disproportionately women, suffered in their performance reviews; those who took a lighter workload more discreetly didn’t suffer. The maxim of “ask forgiveness, not permission” seemed to apply.

It would be dangerous to extrapolate too much from a study at one firm, but Ms. Reid said in an interview that since publishing a summary of her research in Harvard Business Review she has heard from people in a variety of industries describing the same dynamic.

High-octane professional service firms are that way for a reason, and no one would doubt that insane hours and lots of travel can be necessary if you’re a lawyer on the verge of a big trial, an accountant right before tax day or an investment banker advising on a huge merger.

But the fact that the consultants who quietly lightened their workload did just as well in their performance reviews as those who were truly working 80 or more hours a week suggests that in normal times, heavy workloads may be more about signaling devotion to a firm than really being more productive. The person working 80 hours isn’t necessarily serving clients any better than the person working 50.

In other words, maybe the real problem isn’t men faking greater devotion to their jobs. Maybe it’s that too many companies reward the wrong things, favoring the illusion of extraordinary effort over actual productivity.

How Some Men Fake an 80-Hour Workweek, and Why It Matters
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