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HADITS - HADITS TENTANG BERPUASA DI BULAN RAJAB
Oleh: Ust. Farid Nu'man

Islamedia - Beberapa hari ini, kami mendapatkan beberapa pertanyaan tentang banyaknya beredarnya SMS dan BBM (Blackberry Messanger) yang menyebutkan keutamaan berpuasa pada bulan Rajab, dengan fadhilah yang “wow” dan bombastis. Sayangnya SMS dan BBM tersebut tidak menyebutkan sumber nukilan dari mana hadits-hadits itu berasal. Pertanyaan ini, selalu berulang dari tahun ke tahun, tahun lalu … tahun lalu … terus begitu, kami mendapatkan pertanyaan serupa setiap menjelang atau awal bulan Rajab.

Berikut ini akan kami paparkan perkataan para Imam tentang hadits-hadits keutamaan puasa pada bulan Rajab. Semoga ini bisa diambil manfaatnya bagi siapa saja yang objektif dan mau menerima kebenaran.

* * *

1. Imam Ibnu Hajar Al ‘Asqalani Rahimahullah mengatakan:
قال ابن حجر : لم يرد في فضله، ولا في صيامه، ولا في صيام شئ منه معين، ولا في قيام ليلة مخصوصة منه، حديث صحيح يصلح للحجة.

“Tidak ada hadits yang menyebutkan keutamaannya, tidak pula keutamaan puasanya, tidak ada puasa khusus pada Rajab, tidak juga shalat malam secara khusus, dan hadits shahih lebih utama dijadikan hujjah (dalil).”[1]

Imam Ibnu Hajar juga berkata dalam Kitab Tabyinul ‘Ajab, sebagaimana dikutip oleh Imam Abdul Hay Al Luknawi:
أما الأحاديث الواردة في فضل رجب أو صيامه أو صيام شيء منه فهي على قسمين ضعيفة وموضوعة

“Adapun hadits-hadits yang ada tentang keutamaan Rajab atau puasanya atau sedikit puasa pada bulan Rajab, terdiri atas dua bagian; yaitu dhaif (lemah) dan maudhu’ (palsu).”[2]

2. Syaikh Sayyid Sabiq Rahimahullah berkata:
وصيام رجب، ليس له فضل زائد على غيره من الشهور، إلا أنه من الاشهر الحرم. ولم يرد في السنة الصحيحة: أن للصيام فيه فضيلة بخصوصه، وأن ما جاء في ذلك مما لا ينتهض للاحتجاج به

Puasa Rajab, tidak memiliki kelebihan apa pun dibanding bulan-bulan lainnya, hanya saja dia termasuk bulan-bulan haram. Tidak ada dalam sunah yang shahih tentang bahwa puasa pada bulan tersebut memiliki keutamaan khusus, ada pun riwayat yang ada menyebutkan tentang hal itu tidak kuat dijadikan sebagai hujjah.[3]

3. Imam Al Munawi Rahimahullah berkata:
بل عامة الأحاديث المأثورة فيه عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم كذب

“Bahkan Umumnya hadits-hadits tentang keutamaan Rajab adalah dusta.”[4]

Sebagai contoh:

“Sesungguhnya di surga ada sungai bernama Rajab, airnya lebih putih dari susu dan rasanya lebih manis dari madu. Barangsiapa yang berpuasa Rajab satu hari saja, maka Allah akan memberikannya minum dari sungai itu.”[5]
“Ada lima malam yang doa tidak akan ditolak: awal malam pada bulan Rajab, malam nishfu sya’ban, malam Jumat, malam idul fitri, dan malam hari raya qurban.”[6]
“Rajab adalah bulannya Allah, Sya’ban adalah bulanku, dan Ramadhan adalah bulan umatku.”[7]
“Dinamakan Rajab karena di dalamnya banyak kebaikan yang diagungkan (yatarajjaba) bagi Sya’ban dan Ramadhan.”[8]

Dan masih banyak lagi yang lainnya, seperti shalat raghaib (12 rakaat) pada hari kamis ba’da maghrib di bulan Rajab (Ini ada dalam kitab Ihya Ulumuddin-nya Imam Al Ghazali). Segenap ulama seperti Imam An Nawawi mengatakan ini adalah bid’ah yang buruk dan munkar, juga Imam Ibnu Taimiyah, Imam Ibnu Nuhas, dan lainnya mengatakan hal serupa).

Imam An Nawawi juga menyebut tidak ada yang shahih tentang puasa Rajab dan keutamannya, seperti yang akan nanti kami kutipkan.

Sekedar Ingin Berpuasa Di Bulan Rajab? Boleh!

Walau demikian, tidak berarti kelemahan semua riwayat ini menunjukkan larangan ibadah-ibadah secara global. Melakukan puasa, sedekah, memotong hewan untuk sedekah, dan amal shalih lainnya adalah perbuatan mulia dan dianjurkan, kapan pun dilaksanakannya termasuk bulan Rajab (kecuali puasa pada hari-hari terlarang puasa).

Tidak mengapa puasa pada bulan Rajab, seperti puasa senin kamis dan ayyamul bidh(tanggal 13,14,15 bulan hijriah), sebab ini semua memiliki perintah secara umum dalam syariat. Tidak mengapa sekedar memotong hewan untuk disedekahkan, yang keliru adalah meyakini dan MENGKHUSUSKAN ibadah-ibadah ini dengan fadhilah tertentu yang hanya bisa diraih di bulan Rajab, dan tidak pada bulan lainnya. Jika seperti ini, maka membutuhkan dalil shahih yang khusus, baik Al Quran atau As Sunnah yang shahih.

Imam An Nawawi Rahimahullah mengatakan:
وَلَمْ يَثْبُت فِي صَوْم رَجَب نَهْيٌ وَلَا نَدْبٌ لِعَيْنِهِ ، وَلَكِنَّ أَصْلَ الصَّوْمِ مَنْدُوبٌ إِلَيْهِ ، وَفِي سُنَن أَبِي دَاوُدَ أَنَّ رَسُول اللَّه صَلَّى اللَّه عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ نَدَبَ إِلَى الصَّوْم مِنْ الْأَشْهُر الْحُرُم ، وَرَجَب أَحَدهَا . وَاَللَّهُ أَعْلَمُ .

“Tidak ada yang shahih tentang larangan berpuasa pada bulan Rajab, dan tidak shahih pula mengkhususkan puasa pada bulan tersebut, tetapi pada dasarnya berpuasa memang hal yang disunahkan. Terdapat dalam Sunan Abu Daud bahwa Rasulullah Shallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallammenganjurkan berpuasa pada asyhurul hurum (bulan-bulan haram), dan Rajab termasuk asyhurul hurum. Wallahu A’lam.[9]

Hadits yang dimaksud Imam An Nawawi berbunyi:
عَنْ مُجِيبَةَ الْبَاهِلِيَّة ;ِ عَنْ أَبِيهَا أَوْ عَمِّهَا أَنَّهُ أَتَى رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ثُمَّ انْطَلَقَ فَأَتَاهُ بَعْدَ سَنَةٍ وَقَدْ تَغَيَّرَتْ حَالُهُ وَهَيْئَتُهُ فَقَالَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَمَا تَعْرِفُنِي قَالَ وَمَنْ أَنْتَ قَالَ أَنَا الْبَاهِلِيُّ الَّذِي جِئْتُكَ عَامَ الْأَوَّلِ قَالَ فَمَا غَيَّرَكَ وَقَدْ كُنْتَ حَسَنَ الْهَيْئَةِ قَالَ مَا أَكَلْتُ طَعَامًا إِلَّا بِلَيْلٍ مُنْذُ فَارَقْتُكَ فَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ لِمَ عَذَّبْتَ نَفْسَكَ ثُمَّ قَالَ صُمْ شَهْرَ الصَّبْرِ وَيَوْمًا مِنْ كُلِّ شَهْرٍ قَالَ زِدْنِي فَإِنَّ بِي قُوَّةً قَالَ صُمْ يَوْمَيْنِ قَالَ زِدْنِي قَالَ صُمْ ثَلَاثَةَ أَيَّامٍ قَالَ زِدْنِي قَالَ صُمْ مِنْ الْحُرُمِ وَاتْرُكْ صُمْ مِنْ الْحُرُمِ وَاتْرُكْ صُمْ مِنْ الْحُرُمِ وَاتْرُكْ وَقَالَ بِأَصَابِعِهِ الثَّلَاثَةِ فَضَمَّهَا ثُمَّ أَرْسَلَهَا

Dari Mujibah Al Bahili, dari ayahnya, atau pamannya, bahwasanya dia memdatangi Nabi Shallallahu ‘Alaihi wa Sallam, lalu dia pergi. Kemudian mendatangi lagi setelah satu tahun lamanya, dan dia telah mengalami perubahan baik keadaan dan penampilannya. Dia berkata: “Wahai Rasulullah, apakah kau mengenali aku?” Nabi bertanya: “Siapa kamu? ” Al Bahili menjawab: “Saya Al Bahili yang datang kepadamu setahun lalu.” Nabi bertanya:: “Apa yang membuatmu berubah, dahulu kamu terlihat baik-baik saja?” Al Bahili menjawab: “Sejak berpisah denganmu, saya tidak makan kecuali hanya malam.” Bersabda Rasulullah: “Kanapa kamu siksa dirimu?”, lalu bersabda lagi: “Puasalah pada bulan kesaabaran, dan sehari pada tiap bulannya.” Al Bahili berkata: “Tambahkan, karena saya masih punya kekuatan.” Beliau bersabda: “Puasalah dua hari.” Beliau berakata: “Tambahkan.” Beliau bersabda: “Puasalah tiga hari.” Al Bahili berkata: “Tambahkan untukku.” Nabi bersabda: “Puasalah pada bulan-bulan haram, dan tinggalkanlah (sebagiannya), Puasalah pada bulan-bulan haram, dan tinggalkanlah (sebagiannya), Puasalah pada bulan-bulan haram, dan tinggalkanlah (sebagiannya). Beliau berkata dengan tiga jari hemarinya, lalu menggenggamnya kemudian dilepaskannya. [10]

Wallahu A’lam

[1] Dikutip oleh Syaikh Sayyid Sabiq dalam Fiqhus Sunnah, 1/453

[2] Al Atsar Al Marfu’ah fil Akhbar Al Maudhu’ah, hal. 59

[3] Fiqhus Sunnah, 1/453

[4] Faidhul Qadir, 4/24

[5] Status hadits: batil. Lihat As Silsilah Adh Dhaifah No. 1898. Imam Ibnul Jauzi mengatakan: tidak shahih. Imam Adz Dzahabi mengatakan: batil. Lihat Syaikh Muhammad bin Darwisy bin Muhammad, Asnal Mathalib, Hal. 86

[6] Status hadits: Maudhu’(palsu). As Silsilah Adh Dhaifah No. 1452. Lihat juga Syaikh Khalid bin Sa’ifan, Ma Yatanaaqaluhu Al ‘Awwam mimma Huwa Mansuub li Khairil Anam, Hal. 14

[7] Status hadits: Dhaif (lemah). Lihat As Silsilah Adh Dhaifah No. 4400. Imam Al Munawi mengutip dari Imam Zainuddin Al ‘Iraqi mengatakan: dhaif jiddan – sangat lemah. LihatFaidhul Qadir, 4/24

[8] Status hadits: Maudhu’ (palsu). As Silsilah Adh Dhaifah No. 3708. Lihat juga Imam As Suyuthi, Al Jami’ Ash Shaghir No. 4718

[9] Al Minhaj Syarh Shahih Muslim, 8/39

[10] HR. Abu Daud No. 2428, Al Baihaqi dalam As Sunan Al Kubra No. 8209, juga Syu’abul Iman No. 3738. Syaikh Sayyid Sabiq mengatakan: sanadnya jayyid. Lihat Fiqhus Sunnah, 1/453. Namun Syaikh Al Albani mendhaifkan dalam berbagai kitabnya, seperti Dhaif Abi Daud, Tahqiq Riyadhish Shalihin, dan lain-lain

HADITS - HADITS TENTANG BERPUASA DI BULAN RAJAB

Salah satu peluang usaha yang lagi trend adalah Peluang usaha bisnis balon dekorasi. Semakin banyak orang yang membuat pesta di negeri ini, maka semakin banyak pula pintu rejeki bagi pengusaha balon dekorasi.

Meningkatnya pertumbuhan ekonomi masyarakat Indonesia mendorong banyaknya di selengggarakan acara acara pesta seperti acar ulang tahun, reoni, presmian dan sebagainya. Nah seiring dengan meningkatnya penyelenggara acara2 pesta maka semakin terbuka pula peluang usaha bisnis balon dekorasi ini.

Pada umumnya konsumen lebih suka memakai jasa dari pengusaha balon dekorasi sebab lebih praktis dan tampilannya juga lebih cantik daripada bikin sendiri. Acara acara pesta sering memakai jasa balon dekorasi ini seperti acara pernikahan, ulang tahun, atau acara komunitas tertentu seperti acara peluncuruan produk terbaru, peresmian kantor baru, atau acara ulang tahun suatu perusahaan.

Biasanya dekorasi yang sering di lihat adalah dekorasi hiasan bunga, namun sekarang banyak yang menambah hiasan hiasan rangkaian aneka balon sebab akan lebih menarik dan rame apalagi jika di tambah dengan hiasan yang lain seperti penghias dinding, plafon ruangan dan sebagainya.

Peluang Usaha Bisnis Balon DekorasiTampilan hiasan balon dekorasi tidak kalah menarik dengan hiasan dekorasi bunga, harganya juga bisa lebih ringan dan konsumen bisa memesan balon dengan berbagai bentuk. Keunggulan lain yang ada pada balon dekorasi adalah balon dekorasi juga bisa di gunakan untuk promosi produk.

Balon promosi umumnya berbeda dengan balon dekorasi, balon promosi ukurannya lebih besar daripada balon dekorasi. Balon promosi juga biasanya tersedia dalam berbagai bentuk seperti bentuk kotak, bentuk oval atau bentuk bentuk sesuai pesanan yang lain.

Di kota-kota besar peluang usaha balon dekorasi ini sangat terbuka khususnya di kota-kota besar yang berada di luar pulau jawa. Tingginya daya beli masyarkat luar pulau jawa mendorong banyaknya didirikan  kantor-kantor baru. Ini tentu sangat menguntungkan bagi pengusaha balon dekorasi.

Faktor lain yang membuat usaha balon dekorasi memiliki prospek bisnis yang bagus adalah meningkatnya jumlah orang yang berduit di negeri ini, dan orang berduit biasanya sering mengadakan acara-acara tertentu yang membutuhkan jasa dekorasi termasuk juga balon dekorasi. Selain itu, budaya merayakan hari ulang tahun masih sangat kental di beberapa daerah di Indonesia.

Para pelaku usaha balon dekorasi biasanya juga menyediakan balon-balon mainan, sebab biasanya dalam suatu pesta yang di selenggarakan oleh perorangan, para tamu sering membawa keluarganya yang termasuk juga anak2 anaknya. Nah, balaon mainan anak-anak sangat pentingn peranannya dalam acara seperti ini. Semakin komplit perlengkapan balon dekorasi yang tersedia, maka semakin besar pula omzet yang akan di dapat.

Usaha balo dekorasi bisa di jalankan dengan skala besar atau skala kecil / usaha modal kecil. Usaha balon dekorasi skala besar biasanya modalnya bisa mencapai ratusan juta Rupiah, namun untuk usaha balon dekorasi skala kecil, Modal kurang dari Rp. 50.000.000 ( lima puluh juta ) pun sudah bisa di jalankan.

Peluang Usaha Bisnis Balon DekorasiUntuk memudahkan konsumen memilih jasa dekorasi, biasanya pemain bisnis ini mengemas jasanya dalam beberapa paket. Balon Indonesia, misalnya, menyiapkan paket sederhana yang terdiri dari dekorasi satu kreasi gapura balon, 10 kreasi bunga, serta 10 kreasi balon lampion. Kedua, paket standar bertarif Rp 1.950.000 dengan fasilitas dua dekorasi balon berdiri, balon satuan dengan luas hiasan delapan meter persegi (m²).

Terakhir, paket meriah dengan harga Rp 2,8 juta hingga Rp 5 juta. Di paket ini, patokan harga bergantung pada tingkat kerumitan dan banyaknya balon. “Namun, biasanya, paket meriah terdiri dari empat dekorasi balon berdiri (standing) satu gapura, satu balon karakter, 20 balon kreasi lampion dan kreasi bunga dengan luas hiasan hingga 20 m²,” jelas Dwi.

Tak jauh berbeda dengan Balon Indonesia, Fimas Balon juga mengemas jasanya dalam dua paket. Pertama, paket sederhana berharga Rp 1,5 juta dengan luas 2,5 x 2 m². Kedua, paket meriah yang harganya disesuaikan dengan permintaan. “Yang pasti luasan ruang yang dihias lebih dari 2,5 x 2 m²,” tambah Ari Setiawan, pemilik Fimas Balon. Dalam sebulan, Ari mampu menangani hingga sepuluh paket balon dekorasi.

Untuk Memulai, Jadilah Agen Balon Dekorasi Terlebih Dahulu

Dengan menjadi nagen terlebih dahulu, maka anda akan tahu dengan pasti berapa besarnya modal yang di perlukan untuk membeli perlengkapan perlengkapannya seperti membeli mesin jahit balon, alat stok gas, pompa angin dan lain-lain.

Untuk bisa menjadi agen tentu anda harus memiliki relasi dengan pemilik ketiga perlengkapan tersebut, sekaligus pemasok karet untuk bahan balon. Setelah mahir di bidang agen, selanjutnya anda bisa beranjak ke tahap berikutnya yaitu tahap promosi agar mendapatkan klien yang banyak. Promosi yang baik saat ini adalah promosi melalui internet misalnya dengan membuat website atau lewat jejaring sosial seperti facebook, twitter dan jejaring sosial lainnya.

Pada saat mulai berdiri anda bisa menjalin kerja sama dengan pemain-pemain besar dengan  tujuan agar mendapatkan order. Saat mulai membuka usaha balon dekorasi ini, anda juga tidak perlu merekrut banyak karyawan, cukup merekrut karyawan yang sangat di butuhkan saja, selebihnya bisa anda kerjakan sendiri.

Bahan baku balon dekorasi ini adalah karet balon yang banyak dijual pemasok (supplier) karet atau lateks balon lokal. Carilah lateks balon dalam berbagai warna dan ukuran. Harganya berkisar Rp 500 hingga  Rp 1.000 per lembar. Pembentukan dan pencantuman tulisan di balon, biasanya kita lakukan sendiri, karena baru bisa diputuskan setelah bertemu klien.

DEKORASI BALON PROMOSI

Pasangan Nia Ramadhani dan Ardie Bakrie tengah dalam kegembiraan. Anak pertamanya, Mikhayla Zalindra Bakrie pada Minggu 2 Juni genap berusia 1 tahun.

Di hari spesial itu, pasangan Nia-Ardie merayakan ulang tahun anaknya dengan warga di sebuah taman di Kelurahan Jatinegara Kaum, Jakarta Timur.

Taman yang sebelumnya hanya terkesan biasa pun menjadi beraneka warna akibat sentuhan renovasi ala taman-taman bermain berbayar. Berbagai permainan seperti papan luncur, ayunan, kuda-kudaan, dan lainnya semakin menjadi daya tarik bagi anak-anak di lingkungan sekitar.

Suasana 

ulang tahun pertama anak Nia Ramadhani & Ardie Bakrie

Dan 'taman baru' tersebut pun diberikan secara simbolis oleh Ardie dan Nia kepada Kepala Kasubid Pertamanan Jakarta Timur.

"Kami bukan riya atau sombong, tapi karena ini buat kepentingan masyarakat di sini juga," kata Ardie di Taman Interaktif & Sosial, Jl. TB Badarudin, Jatinegara Kaum, Pulo Gadung, Jakarta Timur (2/6).

Saat acara berlangsung, warga sekitar memenuhi lokasi karena memang terbuka bagi seluruh warga, tak terkecuali. Tampak Raffi Ahmad dan politisi menghadiri acara itu. Sang kakek, Aburizal Bakrie pun turut hadir.

Ultah pertama anak Ardie Bakrie - Nia Ramadhani Warga ramaikan

Sewa Mobil merupakan cara yang mudah dan aman dalam berkendara di Jakarta. Tanpa harus untuk membeli mobil dan mempekerjakan sopir, kenyamanan berkendara sudah dapat dinikmati dengan harga yang telah terjangkau.

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SEWA DAN RENTAL MOBIL DI JAKARTA - AMAN, NYAMAN DAN TERPERCAYA

Probolinggo, Saco-Indonesia.com - Setelah pemeriksaan selama lima hari terungkap bahwa tersangka Buasir Nur Khotib alias Kolor Ijo (50) telah mencuri di 43 lokasi berbeda dan di 31 tempat di antaranya, dia memperkosa korban.

Dan sejak Rabu (5/2/2014) Buasir dibawa ke Polda Jawa Timur di Surabaya karena kuat dugaan tersangka juga melakukan kejahatan di dua wilayah hukum, Polresta Probolinggo dan Polres Probolinggo.

Kapolresta Probolinggo, AKBP Iwan Setyawan mengatakan, di Polres Kabupaten Probolinggo, mendapat 27 laporan dari para korban. "Aksi tersangka ini memang di dua daerah, Kota dan Kabupaten Probolinggo," kata Iwan, Rabu (5/2/2014) siang.

Pada awalnya, diketahui ada lima lokasi tindak kejahatan pencurian dan perkosaan yang dilakukan tersangka. Namun, setelah ditangkap, ayah tiga anak ini mengaku telah beraksi di 31 lokasi yang berbeda. Bahkan terakhir, tersangka mengaku sudah beraksi di 43 lokasi berbeda.

Kapolresta Iwan menduga, tersangka mengalami kelainan seks. Pihaknya yakin bila masih ada banyak korban, yang belum melapor. Kini, setelah dilakukan pelimpahan kasus, penyidikan terhadap Kolor Ijo akan dilanjutkan oleh Polda Jatim.

Buasir ditangkap Tim Buser Polresta Probolinggo di rumahnya, Desa Poh Sangit Lor, Kecamatan Wonomerto Kabupaten Probolinggo, pada 30 Januari 2014 setelah satu korbannya berhasil mengenali wajah pelaku dari sketsa yang dibuat polisi.

Selama ini, saat beraksi tersangka mengenakan celana pendek dengan ikat kolor berwarna hijau. Setelah masuk rumah korban, pelaku mengambil barang-barang berharga. Sebagian korban perempuan, diperkosa di ladang atau sawah.

Sumber :kompas.com

Editor : Maulana Lee

Aku "Kolor Ijo" Mencuri di 43 Lokasi dan Memperkosa 31 Korban

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mazel tov,” his father replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is,” his father agreed.

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

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

Cher and Marc Jacobs

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

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

WASHINGTON — The last three men to win the Republican nomination have been the prosperous son of a president (George W. Bush), a senator who could not recall how many homes his family owned (John McCain of Arizona; it was seven) and a private equity executive worth an estimated $200 million (Mitt Romney).

The candidates hoping to be the party’s nominee in 2016 are trying to create a very different set of associations. On Sunday, Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, joined the presidential field.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida praises his parents, a bartender and a Kmart stock clerk, as he urges audiences not to forget “the workers in our hotel kitchens, the landscaping crews in our neighborhoods, the late-night janitorial staff that clean our offices.”

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a preacher’s son, posts on Twitter about his ham-and-cheese sandwiches and boasts of his coupon-clipping frugality. His $1 Kohl’s sweater has become a campaign celebrity in its own right.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky laments the existence of “two Americas,” borrowing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s phrase to describe economically and racially troubled communities like Ferguson, Mo., and Detroit.

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Senator Marco Rubio of Florida praises his parents, a bartender and a Kmart stock clerk. Credit Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Some say, ‘But Democrats care more about the poor,’ ” Mr. Paul likes to say. “If that’s true, why is black unemployment still twice white unemployment? Why has household income declined by $3,500 over the past six years?”

We are in the midst of the Empathy Primary — the rhetorical battleground shaping the Republican presidential field of 2016.

Harmed by the perception that they favor the wealthy at the expense of middle-of-the-road Americans, the party’s contenders are each trying their hardest to get across what the elder George Bush once inelegantly told recession-battered voters in 1992: “Message: I care.”

Their ability to do so — less bluntly, more sincerely — could prove decisive in an election year when power, privilege and family connections will loom large for both parties.

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Questions of understanding and compassion cost Republicans in the last election. Mr. Romney, who memorably dismissed the “47 percent” of Americans as freeloaders, lost to President Obama by 63 percentage points among voters who cast their ballots for the candidate who “cares about people like me,” according to exit polls.

And a Pew poll from February showed that people still believe Republicans are indifferent to working Americans: 54 percent said the Republican Party does not care about the middle class.

That taint of callousness explains why Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declared last week that Republicans “are and should be the party of the 47 percent” — and why another son of a president, Jeb Bush, has made economic opportunity the centerpiece of his message.

With his pedigree and considerable wealth — since he left the Florida governor’s office almost a decade ago he has earned millions of dollars sitting on corporate boards and advising banks — Mr. Bush probably has the most complicated task making the argument to voters that he understands their concerns.

On a visit last week to Puerto Rico, Mr. Bush sounded every bit the populist, railing against “elites” who have stifled economic growth and innovation. In the kind of economy he envisions leading, he said: “We wouldn’t have the middle being squeezed. People in poverty would have a chance to rise up. And the social strains that exist — because the haves and have-nots is the big debate in our country today — would subside.”

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Who Is Running for President (and Who’s Not)?

Republicans’ emphasis on poorer and working-class Americans now represents a shift from the party’s longstanding focus on business owners and “job creators” as the drivers of economic opportunity.

This is intentional, Republican operatives said.

In the last presidential election, Republicans rushed to defend business owners against what they saw as hostility by Democrats to successful, wealthy entrepreneurs.

“Part of what you had was a reaction to the Democrats’ dehumanization of business owners: ‘Oh, you think you started your plumbing company? No you didn’t,’ ” said Grover Norquist, the conservative activist and president of Americans for Tax Reform.

But now, Mr. Norquist said, Republicans should move past that. “Focus on the people in the room who know someone who couldn’t get a job, or a promotion, or a raise because taxes are too high or regulations eat up companies’ time,” he said. “The rich guy can take care of himself.”

Democrats argue that the public will ultimately see through such an approach because Republican positions like opposing a minimum-wage increase and giving private banks a larger role in student loans would hurt working Americans.

“If Republican candidates are just repeating the same tired policies, I’m not sure that smiling while saying it is going to be enough,” said Guy Cecil, a Democratic strategist who is joining a “super PAC” working on behalf of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Republicans have already attacked Mrs. Clinton over the wealth and power she and her husband have accumulated, caricaturing her as an out-of-touch multimillionaire who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars per speech and has not driven a car since 1996.

Mr. Walker hit this theme recently on Fox News, pointing to Mrs. Clinton’s lucrative book deals and her multiple residences. “This is not someone who is connected with everyday Americans,” he said. His own net worth, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, is less than a half-million dollars; Mr. Walker also owes tens of thousands of dollars on his credit cards.

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But showing off a cheap sweater or boasting of a bootstraps family background not only helps draw a contrast with Mrs. Clinton’s latter-day affluence, it is also an implicit argument against Mr. Bush.

Mr. Walker, who featured a 1998 Saturn with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer in a 2010 campaign ad during his first run for governor, likes to talk about flipping burgers at McDonald’s as a young person. His mother, he has said, grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing until she was in high school.

Mr. Rubio, among the least wealthy members of the Senate, with an estimated net worth of around a half-million dollars, uses his working-class upbringing as evidence of the “exceptionalism” of America, “where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who come from power and privilege.”

Mr. Cruz alludes to his family’s dysfunction — his parents, he says, were heavy drinkers — and recounts his father’s tale of fleeing Cuba with $100 sewn into his underwear.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey notes that his father paid his way through college working nights at an ice cream plant.

But sometimes the attempts at projecting authenticity can seem forced. Mr. Christie recently found himself on the defensive after telling a New Hampshire audience, “I don’t consider myself a wealthy man.” Tax returns showed that he and his wife, a longtime Wall Street executive, earned nearly $700,000 in 2013.

The story of success against the odds is a political classic, even if it is one the Republican Party has not been able to tell for a long time. Ronald Reagan liked to say that while he had not been born on the wrong side of the tracks, he could always hear the whistle. Richard Nixon was fond of reminding voters how he was born in a house his father had built.

“Probably the idea that is most attractive to an average voter, and an idea that both Republicans and Democrats try to craft into their messages, is this idea that you can rise from nothing,” said Charles C. W. Cooke, a writer for National Review.

There is a certain delight Republicans take in turning that message to their advantage now.

“That’s what Obama did with Hillary,” Mr. Cooke said. “He acknowledged it openly: ‘This is ridiculous. Look at me, this one-term senator with dark skin and all of America’s unsolved racial problems, running against the wife of the last Democratic president.”

G.O.P. Hopefuls Now Aiming to Woo the Middle Class

Mr. Paczynski was one of the concentration camp’s longest surviving inmates and served as the personal barber to its Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss.

Jozef Paczynski, Inmate Barber to Auschwitz Commandant, Dies at 95

Mr. Goldberg was a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capitalist who was married to Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook.

Dave Goldberg Was Lifelong Women’s Advocate

Dave Goldberg, Head of Web Survey Company and Half of a Silicon Valley Power Couple, Dies at 47

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

Since a white police officer, Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in a confrontation last August in Ferguson, Mo., there have been many other cases in which the police have shot and killed suspects, some of them unarmed. Mr. Brown's death set off protests throughout the country, pushing law enforcement into the spotlight and sparking a public debate on police tactics. Here is a selection of police shootings that have been reported by news organizations since Mr. Brown's death. In some cases, investigations are continuing.

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The apartment complex northeast of Atlanta where Anthony Hill, 27, was fatally shot by a DeKalb County police officer. Credit Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Chamblee, Ga.
Fatal Police Shootings: Accounts Since Ferguson

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

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

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

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Document: The Formaldehyde Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring

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

Typical

laminate

flooring

CLEAR FINISH LAYER

Often made of melamine resin

PATTERN LAYER

Paper printed to resemble wood,

or a thin wood veneer

GLUE

Layers may be bound using

formaldehyde-based glues

CORE LAYER

Fiberboard or other

composite, formed using

formaldehyde-based adhesives

BASE LAYER

Moisture-resistant vapor barrier

What is formaldehyde?

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

WHERE IT IS COMMONLY FOUND

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS

Pressed-wood and composite wood products

Wallpaper and paints

Spray foam insulation used in construction

Commercial wood floor finishes

Crease-resistant fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Vitter’s staff was pleased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Uphill Battle to Better Regulate Formaldehyde

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Late in April, after Native American actors walked off in disgust from the set of Adam Sandler’s latest film, a western sendup that its distributor, Netflix, has defended as being equally offensive to all, a glow of pride spread through several Native American communities.

Tantoo Cardinal, a Canadian indigenous actress who played Black Shawl in “Dances With Wolves,” recalled thinking to herself, “It’s come.” Larry Sellers, who starred as Cloud Dancing in the 1990s television show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” thought, “It’s about time.” Jesse Wente, who is Ojibwe and directs film programming at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, found himself encouraged and surprised. There are so few film roles for indigenous actors, he said, that walking off the set of a major production showed real mettle.

But what didn’t surprise Mr. Wente was the content of the script. According to the actors who walked off the set, the film, titled “The Ridiculous Six,” included a Native American woman who passes out and is revived after white men douse her with alcohol, and another woman squatting to urinate while lighting a peace pipe. “There’s enough history at this point to have set some expectations around these sort of Hollywood depictions,” Mr. Wente said.

The walkout prompted a rhetorical “What do you expect from an Adam Sandler film?,” and a Netflix spokesman said that in the movie, blacks, Mexicans and whites were lampooned as well. But Native American actors and critics said a broader issue was at stake. While mainstream portrayals of native peoples have, Mr. Wente said, become “incrementally better” over the decades, he and others say, they remain far from accurate and reflect a lack of opportunities for Native American performers. What’s more, as Native Americans hunger for representation on screen, critics say the absence of three-dimensional portrayals has very real off-screen consequences.

“Our people are still healing from historical trauma,” said Loren Anthony, one of the actors who walked out. “Our youth are still trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in this society. Kids are killing themselves. They’re not proud of who they are.” They also don’t, he added, see themselves on prime time television or the big screen. Netflix noted while about five people walked off the “The Ridiculous Six” set, 100 or so Native American actors and extras stayed.

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But in interviews, nearly a dozen Native American actors and film industry experts said that Mr. Sandler’s humor perpetuated decades-old negative stereotypes. Mr. Anthony said such depictions helped feed the despondency many Native Americans feel, with deadly results: Native Americans have the highest suicide rate out of all the country’s ethnicities.

The on-screen problem is twofold, Mr. Anthony and others said: There’s a paucity of roles for Native Americans — according to the Screen Actors Guild in 2008 they accounted for 0.3 percent of all on-screen parts (those figures have yet to be updated), compared to about 2 percent of the general population — and Native American actors are often perceived in a narrow way.

In his Peabody Award-winning documentary “Reel Injun,” the Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond explored Hollywood depictions of Native Americans over the years, and found they fell into a few stereotypical categories: the Noble Savage, the Drunk Indian, the Mystic, the Indian Princess, the backward tribal people futilely fighting John Wayne and manifest destiny. While the 1990 film “Dances With Wolves” won praise for depicting Native Americans as fully fleshed out human beings, not all indigenous people embraced it. It was still told, critics said, from the colonialists’ point of view. In an interview, John Trudell, a Santee Sioux writer, actor (“Thunderheart”) and the former chairman of the American Indian Movement, described the film as “a story of two white people.”

“God bless ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ” Michael Horse, who played Deputy Hawk in “Twin Peaks,” said sarcastically. “Even ‘Avatar.’ Someone’s got to come save the tribal people.”

Dan Spilo, a partner at Industry Entertainment who represents Adam Beach, one of today’s most prominent Native American actors, said while typecasting dogs many minorities, it is especially intractable when it comes to Native Americans. Casting directors, he said, rarely cast them as police officers, doctors or lawyers. “There’s the belief that the Native American character should be on reservations or riding a horse,” he said.

“We don’t see ourselves,” Mr. Horse said. “We’re still an antiquated culture to them, and to the rest of the world.”

Ms. Cardinal said she was once turned down for the role of the wife of a child-abusing cop because the filmmakers felt that casting her would somehow be “too political.”

Another sore point is the long run of white actors playing American Indians, among them Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn and, more recently, Johnny Depp, whose depiction of Tonto in the 2013 film “Lone Ranger,” was viewed as racist by detractors. There are, of course, exceptions. The former A&E series “Longmire,” which, as it happens, will now be on Netflix, was roundly praised for its depiction of life on a Northern Cheyenne reservation, with Lou Diamond Phillips, who is of Cherokee descent, playing a Northern Cheyenne man.

Others also point to the success of Mr. Beach, who played a Mohawk detective in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and landed a starring role in the forthcoming D C Comics picture “Suicide Squad.” Mr. Beach said he had come across insulting scripts backed by people who don’t see anything wrong with them.

“I’d rather starve than do something that is offensive to my ancestral roots,” Mr. Beach said. “But I think there will always be attempts to drawn on the weakness of native people’s struggles. The savage Indian will always be the savage Indian. The white man will always be smarter and more cunning. The cavalry will always win.”

The solution, Mr. Wente, Mr. Trudell and others said, lies in getting more stories written by and starring Native Americans. But Mr. Wente noted that while independent indigenous film has blossomed in the last two decades, mainstream depictions have yet to catch up. “You have to stop expecting for Hollywood to correct it, because there seems to be no ability or desire to correct it,” Mr. Wente said.

There have been calls to boycott Netflix but, writing for Indian Country Today Media Network, which first broke news of the walk off, the filmmaker Brian Young noted that the distributor also offered a number of films by or about Native Americans.

The furor around “The Ridiculous Six” may drive more people to see it. Then one of the questions that Mr. Trudell, echoing others, had about the film will be answered: “Who the hell laughs at this stuff?”

Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias
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