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Membaca judul diatas, tentu banyak orang yang akan mengernyitkan dahi, sebagai tanda ketidakpercayaannya. Bahkan, mungkin demikian pula dengan Anda. Sebab, Nabi Sulaiman AS adalah seorang utusan Allah yang diberikan keistimewaan dengan kemampuannya menaklukkan seluruh makhluk ciptaan Allah, termasuk angin yang tunduk di bawah kekuasaannya atas izin Allah. Bahkan, burung dan jin selalu mematuhi perintah Sulaiman.
 

BACA SELENGKAPNYA DI : CANDI BOROBUDUR PENINGGALAN NABI SULAIMAN ?

 

Dalam bukunya, Matematika Islam 3 (Republika, 2009), KH Fahmi Basya menyebutkan beberapa ciri-ciri Candi Borobudur yang menjadi bukti sebagai peninggalan putra Nabi Daud tersebut. Di antaranya, hutan atau negeri Saba, makna Saba, nama Sulaiman, buah maja yang pahit, dipindahkannya istana Ratu Saba ke wilayah kekuasaan Nabi Sulaiman, bangunan yang tidak terselesaikan oleh para jin, tempat berkumpulnya Ratu Saba, dan lainnya.
 
Dalam Alquran, kisah Nabi Sulaiman dan Ratu Saba disebutkan dalam surah An-Naml [27]: 15-44, Saba [34]: 12-16, al-Anbiya [21]: 78-81, dan lainnya. Tentu saja, banyak yang tidak percaya bila Borobudur merupakan peninggalan Sulaiman ?
Pengantar
Masa lalu memang penuh misteri. Banyak orang meyakini bahwa Candi Borobudur sebagai peninggalan Dinasti Syailendra pada abad 8 masehi. Namun hal itu dibantah oleh KH. Fahmi Basya. Ahli matematika Islam ini meyakini bahwa Borobudur sangat terkait erat dengan sejarah Nabi Sulaiman. Borobudur adalah peninggalan Ratu Saba’ seperti yang diceritakan dalam Al-Quran. Buku ini bukan karya sehari dua hari disusun. Tulisan ini sudah ditulis dengan sangat serius selama puluhan tahun; sejak tahun 1979 hingga 2012. Dalam buku ini penulis menjelaskan dengan sangat detail dan ilmiah bukti-bukti bahwa Borobudur adalah peninggalan Ratu Saba’. Ada 40 bukti eksak yang dijelaskan. Salah satu bukti paling kuat dan belum bisa dibantah adalah ditemukannya surat dari Nabi Sulaiman bertuliskan “Bismilllahirrahmanirrahim” di atas sebuah plat emas di dalam kolam pemandian Ratu Saba’ (Ratu Boko) di daerah Sleman, Jawa Tengah.
Borobudur Peninggalan Islam ?
Menurut literatur yang ada, candi Borobudur adalah sebuah candi Budha. tapi lain halnya menurut pak Fahmi Basya, Candi Borobudur adalah sebuah peninggalan Islam, tepatnya peninggalan Nabi Sulaiman ribuan tahun yang lalu. Tidak main-main, pak Fahmi Basya melakukan penelitian selama 35 tahun dan bukti yang didapat sangat kuat dan juga hasil penelitian tersebut didukung dalil didalam ayat-ayat Al-Quran. Dalam membaca Sejarah Candi Borobudur Versi Islam, Ada baiknya anda juga membaca : Kisah Nabi Sulaiman di Tanah Jawa.
Menurut cerita yang dipaparkan, Candi Borobudur terletak di daerah kekuasaannya Nabi Sulaiman. Nabi Sulaiman adalah nabi yang diberi mukjizat bisa berbicara dengan hewan, juga dapat memerintah jin dengan ijin Allah. Ada seekor burung yang menghilang ketika dicari oleh Sulaiman, burung itu adalah burung Hud-Hud. Sewaktu Sulaiman bertemu dengan burung tersebut, maka burung Hud-Hud melaporkan sebuah alasan yang kuat kenapa ia menghilang dari Sulaiman. Alasan tersebut sekaligus meredam kemarahan Sulaiman atasnya. Sewaktu menghilang Burung Hud-Hud melintasi sebuah negeri, yaitu negeri Saba’ dan para penduduknya menyembah selain Allah, yaitu menyembah Matahari. Juga ada seorang ratu yang menjadi pemimpinnya.
Nabi Sulaiman pun memaklumi alasan tersebut kemudian menyuruh burung Hud-Hud untuk menyampaikan sebuah surat yang ditujukan kepada ratu Saba’, ratu yang menjadi pemimpin negeri Saba’. Surat itu tak lain adalah surat agar Ratu dan penduduk negeri Saba’ bertaubat dan berserah diri kepada Allah. Ratu Saba’ pun kemudian bertabat dan berserah diri. Nabi Sulaiman pun memerintahkan jin untuk memindahkan singgasana ratu Saba ke istananya Sulaiman dalam waktu sekejap sebelum ratu Saba’ datang ke Sulaiman. Singgasana ratu Saba’ adalah singgasana ratu Boko yang ada di Sleman, Yogyakarta, dan dipindahkan ke atas Borobudur di Magelang. terbukti di Istana Ratu Boko ada singgasana yang hilang serta sisa-sisa bangunan tempat berkumpul untuk menyembah matahari. jadi Borobudur itu adalah sebuah bangunan buatan jin atas perintah Nabi Sulaiman. Dari segi relief pun banyak yang menggambarkan cerita Nabi Sula
Sungguh tidak banyak yang mengetahui bahwa simbul-simbul Islam banyak ditemukan di Borobudur. Karena sudah sejak lama, borobudur menjadi klaim hindu/budha. Ekspedisi Melintas Dua Shubuh bersama KH Fahmi Basya sungguh menakjubkan. Hasil penelitian beliau telah menemukan adanya indikator-indikator bahwa kisah Nabi Sulaiman dan ratu Saba ada di Borobudur dan Ratu Boko. Sleman berasal dari Sulaiman. Wonosobo berasal dari Hutan (ratu) Shaba. Lihat pula relief-relief di sekitarBorobudur, disana sarat dengan cerita-cerita Nabi Sulaiman seperti burung Hud-hud, Tabut dan lain-lain. ImanCandi Borobudur
Adanya phenomena angka 19 di Candi Borobudur. Adapun mengenai phenomena angka 19 itu terdapat di dalam Alqur’an berasal dari kalimat Bismillaahirrahmaanirrahiim yang terdiri dari 19 huruf. Kalimat Bismillaahirrahmaanirrahiim ini yang memperkenalkannya kepada kita adalah nabi Sulaiman As. ketika beliau berkirim surat kepada Ratu Saba’
Kop Surat dari Surat nabi Sulaiman As itu adalah kalimat Bismillaahirrahmaanirrahiim .
Isi suratnya adalah: ” Alla ta’luu ‘alaiyya, wa’tuunni muslimiin ” ( Jangan menyombong kepadaku dan datanglah kepadaku dengan berserah diri ). Dan perlu diketahui surat itu sampai sekarang masih ada yaitu di Musium Nasional berupa lempengan emas bertuliskan Bismillah, surat itu awalnya ditemukan dikolam dekat Candi borobudur.Lempengan emas bertuliskan kalimat ‘Bismillah”
Jadi, dapat dikatakan bahwa phenomena 19 itu sudah diketahui oleh Nabi Sulaiman As. Oleh sebab itu di Candi borobudur ada phenomena 19.
Tuntutlah Ilmu ke Negeri  Cina atau Syain ?
 Mari kita bangkit dari tidur panjang, kitalah pewaris negri hebat itu. Tuntutlah ilmu walaupun sampai ke negri Syain, adalah rekomendasi yang disampaikan Nabi Muhammad SAW untuk seluruh umatnya.
Negri hebat itu adalah negri kita, Indonesia.
Sayang …, hanya karena candi Borobudur adalah candi Budha, kita menjadi BUTA, bahwa candi Borobudur adalah hasil karya bangsa kita yang kebetulan beragama Budha (?) (masih perlu pembuktian lagi untuk menyebut para pembangun candi Borobudur beragama Budha).
Saat ini Negri Syain oleh kebanyakan orang termasuk Ulama diartikan sebagai Negri Cina. Benarkah demikian ?.
Berikut argumen yang membantah bahwa negri Syain adalah Negri Cina. Yang lebih tepat negri Syain adalah negri Syailendra di Pulau Jawa, INDONESIA .
 
1. Tinjauan menurut Waktu
Lahirnya Agama Islam semasa dengan berdirinya candi Borobudur, abad 6 akhir atau abad 7 awal. Ketika Nabi Muhammad merekomendasikan Negri Syain bagi umatnya untuk menuntut ilmu pasti didasari pengetahuan yang seumur dengan beliau. Suatu hal yang mustahil bila beliau menyarankan untuk belajar kepada seseorang yang lahir di negri Syain 1500 tahun lagi. Juga mustahil beliau menyarankan untuk belajar kepada seseorang yang lahir di negri Syain 1500 tahun yang lalu. Hal ini menguatkan dugaan bahwa Negri Syain yang dimaksud nabi Muhammad adalah Syailendra di Pulau Jawa, bukanya negri Cina.
 
2. Tinjauan menurut Hubungan Relegius
Borobudur merupakan miniatur Al-Quran, Borobudur berceritera tentang hal yang bersesuaian dengan Al-Quran dengan cara yang berbeda. Al-Quran berceritera tentang suatu hal dengan bahasa syair, sedang Borobudur bercerita tentang hal yang sama dengan bahasa teater dalam bentuk Relief.
 
· Puncak Borobudur dengan satu Stupa besar, disekelilingnya terdapat relief yang menggambarkan ceritera yang bersesuaian dengan Surat ke 1 (satu) di Al-quran.
· Lantai dua dari atas terdapat 8 (delapan) Stupa, disekelilingnya terdapat relief yang menceriterakan suatu hal yang bersesuaian dengan Surat ke 8 (delapan) di Al-Quran
· Lantai tiga dari atas terdapat 16 (enam belas) Stupa, disekelilingnya terdapat relief yang menceriterakan suatu hal yang bersesuaian dengan Surat ke 16 (enam belas) di Al-Quran
· Lantai empat dari atas terdapat 32 (tiga puluh dua) Stupa, disekelilingnya terdapat relief yang menceriterakan suatu hal yang bersesuaian dengan Surat ke 32 (tiga puluh dua) di Al-Quran
· Lantai lima dari atas terdapat 64 (enam puluh empat) Stupa, disekelilingnya terdapat relief yang menceriterakan suatu hal yang bersesuaian dengan Surat ke 64 (enam puh empat) di Al-Quran
· Lantai enam dari atas (lantai dasar) terdapat 72 (tujuh puluh dua) Stupa, disekelilingnya terdapat relief yang menceriterakan suatu hal yang bersesuaian dengan Surat ke 72 (tujuh puluh dua) di Al-Quran
 
Dari kesesuain relief Borobudur dengan Al-Quran diatas, rasanya lebih masuk akal bahwa negri Syain yang dimaksud nabi Muhammad SAW adalah negri Syailendra
 
3. Tinjauan menurut Kondisi Sosial
Kondisi Sosial Negeri Cina saat awal lahirnya Agama Islam sedang dalam keadaan kacau karena perang saudara. Mustahil Nabi Muhammad menyarankan untuk belajar ke negri yang sedang kacau balau oleh perang saudara. Kalau saat ini tahun 2007, ada orang yang menyarankan untuk belajar ke: Irak, Afganistan atau Lebanon, pasti orang itu akan ditertawakan orang sedunia. Pada saat itu Negri Syailendra berada dalam keadaan makmur sejahtera. Tidak salah kalau nabi Muhammad merekomendasikan sebagai negri rujukan menuntut ilmu.
 
4. Tinjauan menurut Kemajuan Budaya
Dari catatan sejarah negri Syailendra memiliki keunggulan budaya dibandingkan dengan negri Cina. Syailendra memiliki peninggalan yang menunjukkan seberapa tinggi “budaya” nya saat itu.
Pembangunan Borobudur memakan waktu lebih dari seratus tahun, diketahui dari umur batu di dasar candi berbeda 104 tahun lebih tua dari batu yang terdapat di puncak candi. Hal ini menunjukkan bahwa negri Syailendra punya tenaga-tenaga ahli yang mengorganisir proyek raksasa baik besarnya bangunan, banyaknya orang yang terlibat pembangunannya dan lama pengerjaannya. Tanpa perencanaan yang luar biasa rapinya, mustahil Borobudur berdiri. Struktur bangunan candi yang demikian besar membutuhkan pengetahuan teknik bangunan yang sangat rumit, bahkan ketelitian lingkaran yang ada di borobudur lebih kecil toleransi ukurnya dibandingkan dengan Theodolit modern.
Belum lagi pengetahuan metalurgi pembuatan keris, pada abad ke 7 negri Syailendra sudah menguasai teknik peleburan Titanium bahan pamor keris. Dan masih banyak bukti ketinggian budaya negri Syailendra yang lain
 
5. Tinjauan menurut Letak Geografis
Negeri Cina dan Jazirah Arab terhubung lewat darat, hanya dengan berkendaraan onta atau kuda saja sudah bisa sampai. Tidak meng- gambarkan kesulitan yang harus ditempuh untuk menuntut ilmu. Negri Syailendra terdapat di Pulau Jawa. Harus mengarung lautan yang luas dan ganas, tanpa kemauan dan perjuangan yang luar biasa berat tidak mungkin sampai. Wallah ‘Alam Bishawab
 

- See more at: http://pbsstainmetro.blogspot.com/2014/02/candi-borobudur-peninggalan-nabi.html

 

Editor by : Oshimura

CANDI BOROBUDUR PENINGGALAN NABI SULAIMAN ?

saco-indonesia.com, Pesawat Garuda GA 173 Boeing 73800 PK-GMC telah mengalami gangguan teknis di Bandara Internasional Sultan Syarif Kasim (SSK) II Pekanbaru. Penumpang pun diminta untuk turun kembali dari pesawat untuk perbaikan.

Dalam jadwal, pesawat Garuda penerbangan GA 173 ini dari Pekanbaru akan menuju Jakarta Kamis (6/2/) pukul 08.30 pagi WIB. Namun, adanya gangguan teknis dan demi keselamatan penumpang, pilot terpaksa berbalik dan kembali mendarat di Bandara Internasional SSK II Pekanbaru.

"Jadwal terbangnya, 08.30 pagi WIB, take off dari PKU-JKT, beberapa menit terbang, kemudian kita dengar dari radio ada return to base (RTB). Setelah mendarat di cek. Garuda beralasan ada technical risen, kemudian seluruh kru pilot dan penumpang keluar sambil menunggu perbaikan, pesawat parkir di posisi semula," ujar OIC Airport Duty Manager (ADM) Bandara SSK II, Baiquni, Kamis (6/2).

Menurut Baiquni, tak ada masalah yang signifikan atas kerusakan pada mesin Garuda tersebut, itu merupakan kejadian yang biasa, tapi cukup mengkhawatirkan para penumpang.

"Ada beberapa hal pada mesin yang mau di cek, mana-mana yang telah menjadi persoalan, masalah teknisi mesin tengah di perbaiki," ujarnya.

Ketika ditanya kelayakan pesawat tersebut, Baiquni juga mengatakan pihak pesawat garuda kondisi baru. " Pesawatnya baru kok, bukan bekas," katanya.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

PESAWAT GARUDA MENDARAT LAGI SETELAH LEPAS LANDAS

Bogor ternyata tidak hanya terkenal dengan Kebun Raya Bogor nya. Kota hujan di Jawa Barat ini telah memiliki objek wisata berupa air terjun yang sangat indah. Salah satu tempat wisata tersebut adalah Air Terjun Curug Luhur.

Curug Luhur telah terletak di Desa Gunung Malang, Kecamatan Tenjolaya, Kabupaten Bogor, Jawa Barat. Tepatnya di sebelah kanan jalan raya kawasan Bogor - Gunung Salak Endah. Kawasan wisata Curug Luhur telah dikelola oleh swasta sehingga tiket masuknya agak mahal sekitar Rp 30 ribu per orang.

air terjun curug luhur bogor
Curug Luhur
Kawasan wisata Curug Luhur ini memang telah menawarkan keindahan dan kenyamanan dalam berlibur. Keindahan alam berupa air terjun yang mempesona dipadukan dengan beberapa fasilitas yang ada, membuat tempat ini sangat cocok untuk sobat melepas lelah dalam kesibukan kerja.

air terjun curug luhur
Suasana Kawasan Wisata Curug Luhur
Curug Luhur juga merupakan air terjun yang telah memiliki ketinggian sekitar 62 meter. Sebenarnya Curug Luhur cuma ada satu buah air terjun saja dengan aliran air yang sangat deras. Namun saat ini di sebelah kiri air terjun utama terdapat air terjun kecil dengan ketinggian yang hampir sama yang sengaja dibuat oleh penduduk setempat.

Pengunjung disarankan untuk tidak berenang di kolam penampung air terjun tersebut karena memang kolam ini telah memiliki kedalaman sampai 7 meter dan memiliki pusaran arus yang sangat kuat dan pernah memakan korban jiwa.

air terjun curug luhur
Waterboom
Bila ingin berenang, pengunjung bisa memanfaatkan kolam renang atau waterboom yang sengaja disiapkan oleh pihak pengelola kawasan wisata ini. Disini juga terdapat kolam renang untuk dewasa dan anak-anak jadi jangan kuatir bagi yang membawa putra-putri tercinta.

air terjun curug luhur bogor
Air Terjun Mini
Tidak jauh dari air terjun utama terdapat deretan air yang mengalir deras pada dinding tanah setinggi sekitar 2 meter yang biasanya digunakan oleh pengunjung untuk membasuh tangan dan tubuh karena airnya sangat segar dan dingin.

Kawasan wisata Curug Luhur ini memang nyaman dan asri. Rindangnya pepohonan hijau dan derasnya air terjun Curug Luhur membuat siapa saja betah berlama-lama disini. Apalagi dengan beberapa fasilitas pendukung yang ada seperti restoran, kolam renang, toilet, warung kecil, musholla, dan lain-lain.

Untuk menuju ke lokasi wisata ini cukup mudah. Ada 2 jalur atau rute yang bisa dipilih yaitu :

    Dari Bogor - Bogor Trade Mall (BTM) - Ciapus - Curug Luhur
    Dari Bogor ke arah Leuwiliang - Ciampea - ke arah Gunung Salah Endah - Tenjolaya - Curug Luhur


Jadi bila sobat berencana ke kawasan wisata Curug Luhur, bawalah pakaian renang, agar liburan sobat disini lebih menyenangkan dan jangan lupa membawa pasangan atau buah hati sobat.

TEMPAT WISATA CURUG LUHUR

Saco-Indonesia.com - Tahun ini NASA kembali menggelar kompetisi pengembangan aplikasi bertema luar angkasa International Space Apps Challenge.

Dari 21 aplikasi yang berhasil dibuat pada masa kompetisi tingkat Indonesia 20-21 April lalu, dua di antaranya terpilih mewakili Indonesia di tingkat nasional, yaitu Open TEC dan SpaceTrek.

Open TEC adalah aplikasi pendeteksi gempa yang bisa menunjukkan lokasi potensi gempa dengan menganalisis Total Electron Content (TEC) di lapisan atmosfir bagian atas.

Aplikasi yang terpilih sebagai pemenang pertama ini terinspirasi oleh Profesor Kosuke Heki dari Jepang yang menemukan cara memprediksi gempa lewat analisa TEC.

Duduk di peringkat kedua, SpaceTrek adalah aplikasi mobile yang memberikan notifikasi pada penggunanya apabila sebuah peristiwa antariksa akan terjadi di wilayah sekitar.

Dua aplikasi tersebut kini sedang bersaing melawan para pemenang dari negara-negara lain mengumpulkan voting sebanyak-banyaknya dari audiens global di situs spaceappschallenge.org. Mekanisme voting dijalankan melalui Twitter

Tertarik memberi dukungan? Laman OpenTEC yang berisikan video deskripsi aplikasi tersebut serta opsi untuk memberi suara bisa dtemukan di tautan ini. Adapun laman SpaceTrek bisa ditemukan di sini.

Nantinya, dari tanggal 13-17 Mei, dari ke-20 aplikasi teratas (lima dari masing- masing kategori) akan dipilih pemenang utama dari tiap kategori.

Pemenang akhir akan diumumkan tanggal 22 Mei mendatang di situs spaceappschallenge.org dan blog open.NASA.

Kompetisi International Space Apps Challenge diselenggarakan untuk kedua kalinya di Indonesia tahun ini. Total terdapat 125 peserta yang mendaftar untuk mengikuti penjurian tingkat nasional yang diadakan di Jakarta, Bandung, dan Surabaya.

 
Sumber:KOMPAS.com
 
 
Ayo Dukung Indonesia di Kompetisi Luar Angkasa

Berkendara dengan mobil sewaan memang cukup nyaman, tetapi tingkat kenyamanan Anda juga masih bisa ditingkatkan dengan menyewa supir dari pihak sewa mobil jogja murah. Setiap perusahaan sewa mobil murah pasti bisa menyediakan supir yang berkompeten bila Anda ingin menyewa mobil 1 paket bersamaan dengan si supir. Sehingga Anda tidak hanya mendapatkan mobil yang dapat mempermudah transportasi Anda tetapi juga Anda bisa menghemat tenaga karena si supirlah yang akan mengemudikan mobil yang Anda sewa.

Penggunaan jasa supir sewa mobil murah juga sangat berguna bagi Anda yang tidak memiliki keahlian menyupir sama sekali atau bagi Anda yang tidak mengetahui jalanan di kota yang Anda tuju. Sebagai sebuah asumsi, seorang supir yang profesional akan sangat mengerti karakter jalan yang harus dilalui dan akan dapat menentukan jalan tercepat untuk dapat mencapai tujuan yang Anda inginkan. Jika supir yang Anda sewa memiliki pengalaman yang sangat banyak, maka mereka juga bisa berfungsi sebagai tour guide gratisan. Keuntungan menggunakan supir yang ditawarkan sewa mobil murah adalah sebagai berikut..

Pertama, hemat tenaga karena Anda dapat beristirahat sepanjang jalan dan sampai di tempat tujuan dengan tenaga yang masih terisi penuh. Anda juga dapat segera melakukan berbagai macam aktivitas tanpa terganggu dengan rasa capai dalam perjalanan. Anda juga tidak akan merasa stress menghadapi pengendara lain yang biasanya seenak sendiri menggunakan jalanan umum. Keuntungan kedua adalah Anda dapat bebas dari tanggung jawab bila sewaktu-waktu mobil mengalami kerusakan di tengah jalan atau bila terjadi kecelakaan. Segala tipe kerusakan pada mobil yang Anda sewa dari pihak sewa mobil murah menjadi tanggung jawab si supir. Selanjutnya, perjalanan Anda akan menjadi lebih cepat karena supir yang Anda sewa telah hapal perjalanan yang harus dilewati serta jalur-jalur alternatif untuk menghindari kemacetan. Dan keuntungan terakhir adalah mereka bisa bertindak sebagai pemandu wisata gratis untuk menginformasikan Anda tentang tempat-tempat wisata yang harus Anda kunjungi atau penjelasan tentang adat daerah yang dikunjungi.

Menggunakan jasa supir yang ditawarkan pihak rental mobil murah memang menyenangkan, tetapi Anda juga harus mengusahakan supir yang Anda ajak adalah orang yang tidak hanya memiliki kemampuan yang mumpuni tetapi juga berkelakuan baik.

SEWA MOBIL JOGJA LEBIH MURAH DENGAN SUPIR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple

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

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

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

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

A lapsed seminarian, Mr. Chambers succeeded Saul Alinsky as leader of the social justice umbrella group Industrial Areas Foundation.

Edward Chambers, Early Leader in Community Organizing, Dies at 85

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard but Hopeful Home to ‘Lot of Freddies’

Hard but Hopeful Home to ‘Lot of Freddies’

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.

Audio

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

WASHINGTON — During a training course on defending against knife attacks, a young Salt Lake City police officer asked a question: “How close can somebody get to me before I’m justified in using deadly force?”

Dennis Tueller, the instructor in that class more than three decades ago, decided to find out. In the fall of 1982, he performed a rudimentary series of tests and concluded that an armed attacker who bolted toward an officer could clear 21 feet in the time it took most officers to draw, aim and fire their weapon.

The next spring, Mr. Tueller published his findings in SWAT magazine and transformed police training in the United States. The “21-foot rule” became dogma. It has been taught in police academies around the country, accepted by courts and cited by officers to justify countless shootings, including recent episodes involving a homeless woodcarver in Seattle and a schizophrenic woman in San Francisco.

Now, amid the largest national debate over policing since the 1991 beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, a small but vocal set of law enforcement officials are calling for a rethinking of the 21-foot rule and other axioms that have emphasized how to use force, not how to avoid it. Several big-city police departments are already re-examining when officers should chase people or draw their guns and when they should back away, wait or try to defuse the situation

Police Rethink Long Tradition on Using Force

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

Ms. Rendell was a prolific writer of intricately plotted mystery novels that combined psychological insight, social conscience and teeth-chattering terror.

Ruth Rendell, Novelist Who Thrilled and Educated, Dies at 85

The 6-foot-10 Phillips played alongside the 6-11 Rick Robey on the Wildcats team that won the 1978 N.C.A.A. men’s basketball title.

Mike Phillips, Half of Kentucky’s ‘Twin Towers’ of Basketball, Dies at 59

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
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