PAKET UMROH BULAN FEBRUARI MARET APRIL MEI 2018




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saco-indonesia.com, Ledakan keras telah terdengar tidak jauh dari RS Premier Bintaro Pondok Aren, Tangerang Selatan. Petugas sedang menuju lokasi kejadian.

Informasi yang telah dihimpun , Senin (27/1), ledakan telah terjadi sekitar pukul 23.45 WIB. Diduga ledakan tersebut telah berasal dari di Rest Burger and Grill.

Petugas RS Premier Bintaro saat dihubungi telah membenarkan informasi ini. Namun pria itu juga mengaku belum bisa mendapat informasi lebih lanjut.

"Katanya petasan biasa. Nanti langsung ke satpam saja ya," katanya.

Petugas Polsek Pondok Aren juga mengatakan, anggota sedang mengecek ke lokasi. Belum dapat dipastikan penyebab ledakan tersebut.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

TERJADI LEDAKAN DI DEKAT RUMAH SAKIT PREMIER BINTARO

Bekasi, Saco-Indonesia.com - Kemajuan teknologi saat ini seakan tidak dapat dipisahkan dari kehidupan Anda. Selama 24 jam dalam sehari Anda pun seakan tidak dapat berpisah dari alat komunikasi Anda. Anda melakukan berbagai macam hal sambil mengirim pesan atau menelpon. Tentu saja hal ini dapat menimbulkan bahaya dan mengganggu kesehatan.

Seperti dilansir dari nydailynews.com, mengirim pesan atau SMS-an sambil berjalan dapat mengganggu kemampuan seseorang untuk berjalan mengikuti garis lurus dan menjaga kecepatannya dalam berjalan.

Penelitian yang dilakukan oleh para peneliti di University of Queensland, Australia ini menemukan bahwa ketika seseorang berjalan sambil mengirim pesan atau asyik dengan gadget mereka, maka gerakan jalan kaki mereka jadi tidak terarah dan kecepatan mereka dalam berjalan kaki pun juga terganggu.

"Saat Anda sedang berjalan kaki namun asyik dengan alat komunikasi Anda, maka konsentrasi Anda menjadi terpecah. Keseimbangan dan kemampuan Anda untuk berjalan akan terganggu. Akibatnya keselamatan Anda pun terancam," jelas Siobhan Schabrun, salah seorang peneliti.

Jadi, bijaklah dalam menggunakan alat komunikasi dan gadget Anda. Jangan sampai kesehatan dan keselamatan Anda terganggu akibat benda ini.

Sumber : merdeka.com

Editor : Maulana Lee

Jalan kaki sambil SMS berbahaya

Ibadah haji merupakan salah satu rukun Islam yang lima dan diwajibkan bagi orang yang mampu. Ibadah ini dikaitkan dengan kemampuan karena haji merupakan sebuah perjalanan ibadah yang butuh pengorbanan besar berupa kemampuan materi dan kekuatan fisik. Bila sebuah ibadah dikaitkan langsung dengan kemampuan, berarti menunjukkan kesempurnaan hikmah Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala dalam meletakkan ibadah tersebut. Orang yang beriman akan menerima ketentuan ibadah tersebut tanpa berat hati. Karena mereka mengetahui bahwa tidak ada satupun bentuk syariat yang diletakkan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala melainkan maslahatnya kembali bagi hamba. Tidak terkait sedikitpun dengan kebutuhan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala terhadap mereka. Di sisi lain, dikaitkannya ibadah haji ini dengan kemampuan hamba menunjukkan kasih sayang Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala yang tinggi terhadap mereka. Semuanya ini telah Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala tegaskan di dalam firman-Nya:

لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا

“Allah tidak membebani seseorang melainkan menurut kesanggupannya.” (Al-Baqarah: 286)

مَا يُرِيْدُ اللهُ لِيَجْعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ حَرَجٍ

“Allah tidak menginginkan bagi kalian sesuatu yang memberatkan kalian.” (Al-Ma`idah: 6)

يُرِيْدُ اللهُ بِكُمُ الْيُسْرَ وَلاَ يُرِيْدُ بِكُمُ الْعُسْرَ

“Allah menginginkan kemudahan buat kalian dan tidak menginginkan kesulitan.” (Al-Baqarah: 185)

وَمَا جَعَلَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الدِّيْنِ مِنْ حَرَجٍ

“Dan Allah tidak menjadikan atas kalian dalam agama ini kesukaran.” (Al-Hajj: 78)
Diriwayatkan dari Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu 'anhu, dia berkata:

خَطَبَنَا رَسُوْلُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ: أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ فَرَضَ اللهُ عَلَيْكُمُ الْحَجَّ فَحُجُّوا. فَقَالَ رَجُلٌ: أَكُلَّ عَامٍ يَا رَسُوْلَ اللهِ؟ فَسَكَتَ حَتَّى قَالَهَا ثَلاَثًا، فَقَالَ رَسُوْلُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: لَوْ قُلْتُ نَعَمْ لَوَجَبَتْ، وَلَمَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ. ثُمَّ قَالَ: ذَرُوْنِي مَا تَرَكْتُكُمْ فَإِنَّمَا هَلَكَ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَكُمْ بِكَثْرَةِ سُؤَالِهِمْ وَاخْتِلاَفِهِمْ عَلَى أَنْبِيَائِهِمْ فَإِذَا أَمَرْتُكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ فَأْتُوا مِنْهُ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ وَإِذَا نَهَيْتُكُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ فَدَعُوْهُ

Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam berkhutbah di hadapan kami, beliau berkata: “Wahai sekalian manusia, sungguh Allah telah mewajibkan bagi kalian haji maka berhajilah kalian!” Seseorang berkata: “Apakah setiap tahun, ya Rasulullah?” Beliau terdiam sehingga orang tersebut mengulangi ucapannya tiga kali. Lalu Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam bersabda: “Kalau aku katakan ya, niscaya akan wajib bagi kalian dan kalian tidak akan sanggup.” Kemudian beliau berkata: “Biarkanlah apa yang aku tinggalkan kepada kalian. Sesungguhnya orang sebelum kalian telah binasa karena mereka banyak bertanya yang tidak diperlukan dan menyelisihi nabi-nabi mereka. Jika aku memerintahkan sesuatu kepada kalian maka lakukanlah sesuai dengan kesanggupan kalian. Dan bila aku melarang kalian dari sesuatu maka tinggalkanlah.”1)

Diriwayatkan pula dari Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu 'anhu bahwa Nabi Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam bersabda:

إِنَّ الدِّيْنَ يُسْرٌ وَلَنْ يُشَادَّ الدِّيْنَ أَحَدٌ إِلاَّ غَلَبَهُ فَسَدِّدُوا وَقَارِبُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا وَاسْتَعِيْنُوا بِالْغَدْوَةِ وَالرَّوْحَةِ وَشَيْءٍ مِنَ الدُّلْجَةِ

“Sesungguhnya agama ini mudah dan tidak ada seorangpun yang memberatkan diri padanya melainkan dia tidak akan sanggup. Berusahalah untuk tepat, mendekatlah, dan bergembiralah. Dan gunakanwaktu pagi dan petang serta sebagian dari waktu malam.”2)

Ibnul Munayyir berkata: “Di dalam hadits ini terdapat salah satu tanda kenabian. Dan kita telah menyaksikan, juga telah disaksikan pula oleh orang-orang sebelum kita, bahwa setiap orang yang berdalam-dalam menyelami agama akan tidak sanggup. Dan bukan berarti tidak boleh mencari yang lebih sempurna dalam ibadah, karena ini termasuk perkara yang terpuji. Yang dilarang adalah berlebih-lebihan yang akan menyebabkan kebosanan, atau berlebih-lebihan dalam menjalankan amalan sunnah sehingga meninggalkan yang lebih utama, atau mengeluarkan kewajiban dari waktunya, seperti seseorang yang semalam suntuk untuk qiyamul lail sehingga dia terlalaikan dari Shalat Subuh secara berjamaah atau sampai keluar dari waktu yang dipilih atau sampai terbit matahari yang akhirnya keluar dari waktu yang diwajibkan.” (Lihat Fathul Bari, 1/118)

Sikap Terpuji Orang yang Beriman
Orang berimanlah yang paling bergembira dengan semua bentuk ibadah yang diwajibkan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. Merekalah yang memiliki kesiapan untuk menjalankannya. Mereka juga memiliki keberanian untuk menghadapi segala kemungkinan yang akan terjadi dalam ketaatan kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. Mereka tetap tegar dan bersemangat, sekalipun anjuran Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala dan Rasul-Nya itu dianggap kecil dan sepele oleh kebanyakan orang. Sikap inilah yang telah digambarkan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala di dalam firman-Nya:

إِنَّمَا كَانَ قَوْلَ الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ إِذَا دُعُوا إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ أَنْ يَقُوْلُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا

“Sesungguhnya ucapan orang-orang yang beriman bila mereka diseru kepada Allah dan Rasul-Nya untuk menghukumi di antara mereka, mereka mengatakan: ‘Kami mendengar dan kami taat’.” (An-Nur: 51)

وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤْمِنٍ وَلاَ مُؤْمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى اللهُ وَرَسُوْلُهُ أَمْرًا أَنْ يَكُوْنَ لَهُمُ الْخِيَرَةُ مِنْ أَمْرِهِمْ

“Dan tidaklah patut bagi laki-laki yang mukmin dan tidak (pula) bagi perempuan yang mukmin, apabila Allah dan Rasul-Nya telah menetapkan suatu ketetapan, akan ada bagi mereka pilihan (yang lain) tentang urusan mereka.” (Al-Ahzab: 36)

فَلاَ وَرَبِّكَ لاَ يُؤْمِنُوْنَ حَتَّى يُحَكِّمُوْكَ فِيْمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لاَ يَجِدُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيْمًا

“Maka demi Rabbmu, mereka tidak akan beriman sehingga mereka menjadikanmu sebagai hakim dalam apa yang mereka perselisihkan, kemudian mereka tidak mendapatkan rasa berat pada diri-diri mereka (untuk menerima) apa yang kamu putuskan dan mereka menerima dengan sebenar-benarnya.” (An-Nisa`: 65)

Bingkisan Berharga bagi para Hujjaj (Jamaah Haji)

Salah satu perintah syariat adalah menunaikan ibadah haji. Pelaksanaan ibadah ini memiliki amalan-amalan yang berbeda dengan ibadah-ibadah lainnya. Amalan yang sangat membutuhkan keikhlasan niat yang tinggi, kejujuran iman, ketabahan jiwa dan ketundukan kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala yang sempurna, kekuatan material dan spiritual. Hal ini terbukti dari awal perintah memakai pakaian ihram sampai akhir pelaksanaan ibadah tersebut.

Ada beberapa bingkisan berharga untuk saudaraku yang hendak menunaikan ibadah haji.
Pertama, Memperbaiki niat dan menjaga keikhlasan dalam pelaksanaan ibadah haji.
Keikhlasan adalah sebuah amalan hati yang sangat erat hubungannya dengan kemurniaan aqidah dan tauhid seseorang. Ketauhidan yang benar akan membuahkan keikhlasan yang murni dan hakiki. Keikhlasan yang murni merupakan perwujudan ketulusan persaksian hamba terhadap kalimat Laa ilaha illallah, tidak ada sesembahan yang benar melainkan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.

Seseorang harus membangun semua ibadahnya di atas aqidah yang benar. Karena aqidah yang benar merupakan penentu diterimanya amalan seseorang. Berdasarkan hal inilah, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala menjadikan aqidah dan tauhid sebagai rukun Islam pertama melalui lisan Rasul-Nya. Dalam hadits Ibnu ‘Umar radhiyallahu 'anhuma, Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam bersabda:

بُنِيَ اْلإِسْلاَمُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لاَ إِلهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُوْلُ اللهِ وَإِقَامِ الصَّلاَةِ وَإِيْتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ وَالْحَجِّ وَصَوْمِ رَمَضَانَ

“Islam itu dibangun di atas lima dasar yaitu mempersaksikan bahwa tidak ada sesembahan yang benar melainkan Allah dan Muhammad adalah utusan-Nya, mendirikan shalat, menunaikan zakat, haji dan puasa pada bulan Ramadhan.”3
Jibril berkata dalam hadits ‘Umar radhiyallahu 'anhu:

يَا مُحَمَّدُ، أَخْبِرْنِي عَنِ اْلإِسْلاَمِ. فَقَالَ رَسُوْلُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: اْلإِسْلاَمُ أَنْ تَشْهَدَ أَنْ لاَ إِلهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُوْلُ اللهِ -صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ- وَتُقِيْمَ الصَّلاَةَ وَتُؤْتِيَ الزَّكَاةَ وَتَصُوْمَ رَمَضَانَ وَتَحُجَّ الْبَيْتَ إِنِ اسْتَطَعْتَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيْلاً

“Wahai Muhammad, beritahukan kepadaku tentang Islam!” Beliau menjawab: “Engkau mempersaksikan bahwa tidak ada sesembahan yang benar melainkan Allah dan bahwa Muhammad adalah utusan Allah, mendirikan shalat, menunaikan zakat, puasa dan haji ke Baitullah bila engkau mampu menempuh perjalanan ke sana.”4
Bila aqidah seseorang menyelisihi aqidah yang diajarkan oleh Al-Qur`an dan As-Sunnah, tentu akan merusak niatnya. Atau niatnya akan tercampuri dengan niatan yang lain. Bahkan tidak menutup kemungkinan, dia berangkat menunaikan ibadah haji dibarengi dengan niat-niat yang mengandung kesyirikan kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, seperti niat meminta kepada Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam di makam beliau, atau di sisi kuburan-kuburan yang menurut penilaian banyak pihak bahwa tempat tersebut berbarakah dan keramat. Atau berniat meminta keberkahan hidup, kekayaan, naik pangkat, laris dalam berniaga, lulus dalam ujian, meminta harta benda, dan segala yang berbau keuntungan duniawi, kepada selain Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.

Membangun ibadah haji di atas kemurnian aqidah akan berbuah nilai positif di dunia setelah melakukan ibadah tersebut, dan di akhirat karena mendapatkan haji mabrur yang diterima. Berbeda dengan orang yang membangun ibadah hajinya di atas kerusakan aqidah, seperti:

a. Aqidah Sufiyyah yang pada ujungnya adalah kufur kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, sebagaimana ucapan seorang pentolan Sufiyyah, Ibnu ‘Arabi:
Ar-Rabb adalah hamba dan hamba adalah Rabb
Aduhai kalau demikian siapa yang akan melaksanakan beban (syariat)
Dalam kesempatan lain dia mengucapkan:
Tiadalah anjing dan babi melainkan tuhan kita
b. Aqidah Syi’ah dengan berbagai sempalannya yang mengaku memuliakan ahlu bait Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, padahal mereka jauh dari hal itu dan justru mencaci maki para shahabat beliau.
c. Aqidah Jahmiyyah yang mengingkari nama dan sifat-sifat Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.
d. Aqidah Mu’tazilah yang menuhankan akal dan mengingkari sifat Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.
e. Aqidah Asy’ariyyah yang menafikan sebahagian sifat-sifat Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.
dan berbagai bentuk aqidah rusak lainnya.

Niat merupakan asas pertama dan utama diterimanya amal. Sehingga bila niat telah rusak maka akan merusak yang lain. Yang paling berbahaya sebagai perusak niat adalah riya` dan sum’ah, yaitu memperdengarkan amalan-amalan atau perjalanan yang penuh kenangan dan peristiwa aneh dengan tujuan mendapatkan pujian. Betapa banyak orang yang tidak mendapatkan haji yang mabrur karena memiliki niat yang rusak. Misalnya ingin menjadi orang terhormat karena bergelar haji di depan namanya, disanjung, dipuji, disebut pak haji, dan sebagainya.
Kewajiban mengikhlaskan niat ini telah dijelaskan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala dan Rasul-Nya:

وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُوا اللهَ مُخْلِصِيْنَ لَهُ الدِّيْنَ

“Dan tidaklah mereka diperintahkan melainkan agar mereka beribadah kepada Allah dengan mengikhlaskan baginya agama.” (Al-Bayyinah: 5)

إِنَّمَا اْلأَعْمَالُ بِالنِّيَّةِ وَإِنَّمَا لاِمْرِئٍ مَا نَوَى فَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى اللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ وَمَنْ كَانَتْ هِجْرَتُهُ لِدُنْيَا يُصِيْبُهَا أَوِ امْرَأَةٍ يَتَزَوَّجُهَا فَهِجْرَتُهُ إِلَى مَا هَاجَرَ إِلَيْهِ

“Sesungguhnya amalan itu sah dengan niat. Dan setiap orang akan mendapatkan apa yang dia niatkan. Maka barangsiapa yang hijrahnya kepada Allah dan Rasul-Nya, maka dia telah hijrah kepada Allah dan Rasul-Nya. Dan barangsiapa yang hijrah untuk dunia yang ingin diperoleh atau wanita yang ingin dinikahinya maka dia telah berhijrah kepada apa yang dia telah niatkan.”5
Setiap amalan tergantung niatnya. Dan niat tersebut kembali kepada keikhlasan, yaitu niat yang satu untuk Dzat yang satu, yaitu Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. (Fathul Bari, 1/14)
Hadits di atas menjelaskan tentang kedudukan niat sebagai landasan diterimanya amal seseorang. Oleh karena itu, banyak komentar para ulama tentang kedudukan hadits niat ini. Contohnya Al-Imam Asy-Syafi’i mengatakan: “Hadits ini masuk dalam 70 bab dalam bidang ilmu.”

Abu Abdillah (Al-Imam Ahmad) mengatakan: “Tidak ada hadits Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam yang lebih padat, lebih kaya, dan lebih banyak faedahnya daripada hadits ini (yakni hadits tentang niat).”
Ibnu Mahdi mengatakan: “Hadits ini masuk pada 30 bab dalam bidang ilmu.”
Beliau rahimahullah juga mengatakan: “Sepantasnya hadits ini diletakkan dalam setiap bab ilmu.” (Fathul Bari, 1/13)

شَرَعَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الدِّيْنِ مَا وَصَّى بِهِ نُوْحًا

“Allah telah mensyariatkan bagi kalian agama yang telah Dia wasiatkan kepada Nuh.” (Asy-Syura: 13)
Abul ‘Aliyah rahimahullah berkata: “Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala mewasiatkan kepada mereka agar ikhlas dalam beribadah kepada-Nya.” (Fathul Bari, 1/13)
Ibnu Rajab menjelaskan: “Setiap amalan yang tidak diniatkan untuk Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala maka amalan tersebut adalah batil, tidak memiliki buah di dunia dan di akhirat.” (Jami’ Al-’Ulum Wal Hikam hal. 11)

Kedua, Mencontoh Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam dalam setiap pelaksanaan ibadah haji
Mencontoh Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam dalam pelaksanaan ibadah haji merupakan syarat kedua diterimanya amalan haji seseorang setelah syarat ikhlas. Mulai awal pelaksanaan haji sampai akhirnya, tidak diperbolehkan mengada-adakan sesuatu sedikitpun. Bila ada amalan yang tidak sesuai dengan tuntunan Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam, niscaya tidak akan diterima oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. Hal ini berdasarkan hadits Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam:

مَنْ أَحْدَثَ فِي أَمْرِنَا هَذَا مَا لَيْسَ مِنْهُ فَهُوَ رَدٌّ -وَفِي رِوَايَةٍ لِمُسْلِمٍ- مَنْ عَمِلَ عَمَلاً لَيْسَ عَلَيْهِ أَمْرُنَا فَهُوَ رَدٌّ

“Barangsiapa yang mengada-ada dalam urusan kami yang tidak ada ajarannya dari kami maka amalan tersebut tertolak.”
Dalam riwayat Muslim disebutkan: “Barangsiapa yang melakukan amalan yang tidak ada tuntunannya dari kami maka amalan tersebut tertolak.”6
Sekecil dan seringan apapun, amalan ibadah haji tersebut harus sesuai dengan tuntunan Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam. Dalam hal ini, segenap kaum muslimin tidak boleh berpedoman dengan pengajaran dan bimbingan orang tua dahulu, atau guru-guru kita, namun harus berpedoman dengan dalil-dalil.

Ibnu Rajab rahimahullah menjelaskan: “Semua amalan yang dilakukan harus di bawah ketentuan hukum-hukum syariat. Hukum syariat menjadi hakim terhadap semua amalan, baik dalam hal perintah maupun larangan. Sehingga barangsiapa yang amalannya berjalan di bawah ketentuan syariat dan sesuai dengannya maka diterima. Dan bila keluar dari hukum syariat maka amalan tersebut tertolak.” (Jami’ Al-’Ulum Wal Hikam hal. 83)

Haji Mabrur Diraih dengan Kedua Syarat di Atas
Dengan kedua syarat di atas, seseorang akan bisa meraih keutamaan haji mabrur yaitu haji yang diterima di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, menurut salah satu pendapat ulama. Tanda diterimanya ibadah haji adalah dia pulang dalam keadaan lebih baik dari sebelumnya dan tidak kembali kepada perbuatan maksiat. Ada yang berpendapat bahwa yang dimaksud adalah haji yang tidak dijangkiti penyakit riya`. Dan ada pula yang berpendapat maksudnya yaitu haji yang tidak diiringi kemaksiatan setelahnya.
Imam An-Nawawi rahimahullah menguatkan pendapat ini. Dan yang paling masyhur adalah pendapat bahwa haji mabrur adalah haji yang tidak dicampuri dengan kemaksiatan. (Syarh Muslim, 5/119)
Para hujjaj sangat mengidamkan keutamaan ini. Namun di antara mereka ada yang tidak memerhatikan kiat yang akan mengantarkan dirinya untuk mendapatkannya. Bila seseorang tidak membangun ibadah hajinya di atas kedua landasan di atas, maka dia tidak akan mendapatkannya. Hal itu merupakan sesuatu yang pasti berdasarkan dalil-dalil di atas. Tentang haji mabrur, telah disebutkan oleh Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam dalam banyak sabdanya. Di antaranya:
Diriwayatkan dari Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu 'anhu, dia berkata:

أَنَّ رَسُوْلَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ سُئِلَ: أَيُّ الْعَمَلِ أَفْضَلُ؟ فَقَالَ: إِيْمَانٌ بِاللهِ وَرَسُوْلِهِ. قِيْلَ: ثُمَّ مَاذَا؟ قَالَ: الْجِهَادُ فِي سَبِيْلِ اللهِ. قِيْلَ: ثُمَّ مَاذَا؟ قَالَ: حَجٌّ مَبْرُوْرٌ

Bahwasanya Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam ditanya tentang amalan yang paling utama lalu beliau menjawab: “Iman kepada Allah dan Rasul-Nya.” Ditanyakan kepada beliau: “Kemudian apa?” Beliau berkata: “Berjihad di jalan Allah.” Ditanyakan lagi kepada beliau: “Kemudian apa?” Beliau berkata: “Haji yang mabrur.”7
Diriwayatkan dari ‘Aisyah Ummul Mukminin radhiyallahu 'anha, ia berkata:

يَا رَسُوْلَ اللهِ، نَرَى الْجِهَادَ أَفْضَلَ الْعَمَلِ، أَفَلاَ نُجَاهِدُ؟ قَالَ: لاَ، لَكِنَّ أَفْضَلَ الْجِهَادِ حَجٌّ مَبْرُوْرٌ

“Ya Rasulullah, kami berpendapat bahwa jihad adalah amalan yang paling utama. Tidakkah kami ikut berjihad?” Beliau berkata: “Tidak. Akan tetapi jihad yang paling utama (bagi wanita) adalah haji mabrur.”
Dalam riwayat Al-Imam An-Nasa`i disebutkan dengan lafadz:

قُلْتُ يَا رَسُوْلَ اللهِ، أَلاَ نَخْرُجُ فَنُجَاهِدَ مَعَكَ فَإِنِّي لاَ أَرَى عَمَلاً فِي الْقُرْآنِ أَفْضَلَ مِنَ الْجِهَادِ. قَالَ: لاَ، وَلَكِنَّ أَحْسَنَ الْجِهَادِ وَأَجْمَلَهُ حَجُّ الْبَيْتِ حَجٌّ مَبْرُوْرٌ

Aku berkata: “Ya Rasulullah, tidakkah kami keluar ikut berjihad bersamamu karena aku tidak melihat di dalam Al-Qur`an ada amalan yang paling utama daripada jihad?” Beliau bersabda: “Tidak. Akan tetapi sebaik-baik jihad dan yang paling indah adalah haji ke Baitullah, yaitu haji yang mabrur.” (Dishahihkan Al-Albani dalam Shahih An-Nasa`i no. 2628)
Diriwayatkan dari Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu 'anhu, bahwa Rasululah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam bersabda:

الْعُمْرَةُ إِلَى الْعُمْرَةِ كَفَّارَةٌ لِمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَالْحَجُّ الْمَبْرُورُ لَيْسَ لَهُ جَزَاءٌ إِلاَّ الْجَنَّةُ

“Umrah yang satu ke umrah berikutnya merupakan penghapus dosa di antara keduanya, dan haji yang mabrur tidak ada balasannya melainkan surga.”8
Demikianlah beberapa dalil yang menunjukkan keutamaan haji yang mabrur dan tidak ada balasan bagi haji yang mabrur melainkan surga. Al-Imam An-Nawawi menjelaskan: “Pelaku haji tersebut tidak hanya terhapus dosa-dosanya, bahkan dia mesti masuk ke dalam surga.” (Syarh Muslim, 5/119)
Demikianlah kedudukan dua syarat diterimanya setiap amalan hamba, yaitu ikhlas dan mencontoh Rasulullah Shallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam. Sehingga yang dituntut dari seorang hamba dalam ibadahnya adalah bagaimana dia memperbaiki ibadahnya, bukan hanya bagaimana memperbanyaknya. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala berfirman:

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً

“Allah yang telah menciptakan mati dan hidup untuk menguji kalian siapa yang paling baik amalannya.” (Al-Mulk: 2)
Ibnu Katsir menjelaskan: “Makna ayat ini adalah Dialah yang telah menjadikan makhluk dari tidak ada menjadi ada, untuk menguji mereka siapa yang paling baik amalnya.” Muhammad bin ‘Ajlan berkata: “Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala tidak mengatakan yang paling banyak amalannya.” (Tafsir Ibnu Katsir, 4/414)

Ketiga, Iman yang benar kepada Allah
Beriman kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala merupakan salah satu rukun iman yang enam dan merupakan intisari keimanan terhadap rukun iman yang lain. Bila keimanan seseorang kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala tidak benar, maka akan menjadi barometer kepincangan imannya terhadap rukun iman yang lain.

Keimanan kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala mencakup banyak perkara, di antaranya:

1. Meyakini bahwa Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala adalah Dzat yang berhak untuk disembah, dan segala bentuk penyembahan serta pengagungan terhadap selain-Nya adalah batil.

ذلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنَّ مَا يَدْعُوْنَ مِنْ دُوْنِهِ هُوَ الْبَاطِلُ وَأَنَّ اللهَ هُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيْرُ

“Demikianlah bahwa Allah adalah Al-Haq (untuk disembah) dan apa yang mereka sembah selainnya adalah batil dan Allah Maha Kaya dan Maha Besar.” (Al-Hajj: 62)
Pengagungan terhadap selain Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala banyak bentuknya. Di antaranya mengagungkan kuburan-kuburan tertentu, orang-orang tertentu, tempat-tempat yang dikeramatkan, pohon-pohon, batu-batu, jimat-jimat, jin-jin, dan sebagainya. Semuanya akan merusak keimanan seseorang kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala dan akan mengarah kepada tercabutnya keimanan dari diri mereka.


2. Mengimani segala apa yang diwajibkan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala kepada hamba-hamba-Nya berupa pelaksanaan rukun Islam yang lima secara lahiriah dan kewajiban lainnya yang telah dibebankan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala kepada setiap hamba. Di antara lima rukun Islam, yang paling besar dan paling utama adalah persaksian terhadap dua kalimat syahadat. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala berfirman:

فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لاَ إِلهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ

“Maka ketahuilah bahwa tidak ada sesembahan yang benar melainkan Allah.” (Muhammad: 19)
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala berfirman pula:

شَهِدَ اللهُ أَنَّهُ لاَ إِلهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ وَالْمَلاَئِكَةُ وَأُولُو الْعِلْمِ قَائِمًا بِالْقِسْطِ لاَ إِلهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْعَزِيْزُ الْحَكِيْمُ

“Dan Allah telah bersaksi bahwa tidak ada sesembahan yang benar melainkan Dia dan para malaikat serta orang-orang yang berilmu ikut mempersaksikan dengan penuh keadilan bahwa tidak ada sesembahan yang benar melainkan Allah dan Dia Maha Mulia dan Maha Bijaksana.” (Ali ‘Imran: 18)
3. Mengimani bahwa Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala yang menciptakan dan mengatur segala urusan alam ini dan memantau mereka dengan ilmu serta kebijaksanaan. Dia yang memiliki dunia dan akhirat. Tidak ada pencipta selain-Nya dan tidak ada yang sanggup mengatur urusan makhluk ini kecuali Dia. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala telah mengutus para nabi dan menurunkan kitab-kitab untuk kemaslahatan hamba dan untuk menyeru mereka kepada jalan menuju keberhasilan dan keselamatan hidup di dunia dan akhirat.
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala berfirman:

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ اللَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لاَ تَسْجُدُوا لِلشَّمْسِ وَلاَ لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُوا لِلّهِ الَّذِي خَلَقَهُنَّ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُوْنَ

“Dan termasuk tanda-tanda kebesaran Allah adalah adanya malam dan siang, matahari dan bulan. (Oleh karena itu) janganlah kalian sujud kepada matahari dan bulan, namun sujudlah kalian kepada Allah yang telah menciptakannya jika kalian hanya beribadah kepada-Nya.” (Fushshilat: 37)
Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala berfirman:

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَاْلأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ يَطْلُبُهُ حَثِيْثًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُوْمَ مُسَخَّرَاتٍ بِأَمْرِهِ أَلاَ لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَاْلأَمْرُ تَبَارَكَ اللهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِيْنَ

“Sesungguhnya Allah telah menciptakan langit-langit dan bumi dalam enam hari kemudian Dia beristiwa` di atas ‘Arsy. Allah menutup siang dengan malam yang terjadi dengan cepat (dan Dialah yang telah menciptakan) matahari, bulan, dan bintang-bintang yang semuanya tunduk di bawah perintah-Nya, ketahuilah hak Allah untuk mencipta dan memerintah, dan Maha suci Allah Rabb semesta alam.” (Al-A’raf: 54)

4. Mengimani nama-nama dan sifat-sifat Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala yang baik dan tinggi, yang dijelaskan dalam Al-Kitab dan As-Sunnah, tanpa memalingkan dan menyelewengkan maknanya sedikitpun dari apa yang dimaukan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala dan Rasul-Nya, serta tanpa menyerupakan-Nya dengan sifat-sifat makhluk.

وَلِلّهِ اْلأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى فَادْعُوْهُ بِهَا وَذَرُوا الَّذِيْنَ يُلْحِدُوْنَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُوْنَ

“Dan Allah memiliki nama-nama yang baik maka berdoalah kalian dengannya dan biarkanlah orang-orang yang menyeleweng dari nama-nama Allah dan mereka pasti akan dibalas atas apa yang telah mereka perbuat.” (Al-A’raf: 180)

وَلَهُ الْمَثَلُ اْلأَعْلَى فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَاْلأَرْضِ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيْزُ الْحَكِيْمُ

“Dan bagi Allah perumpamaan yang tinggi di langit-langit dan di bumi, dan Dia Maha Mulia dan Maha Bijaksana.” (Ar-Rum: 27)

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيْعُ الْبَصِيْرُ

“Dan tidak ada sesuatupun yang serupa dengan Allah dan Dia Maha Mendengar lagi Maha Melihat.” (Asy-Syura: 11)
Larangan berbicara tentang Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala tanpa ilmu telah diperingatkan oleh-Nya di dalam firman-Nya:

وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولَئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْئُوْلاً

“Dan janganlah kamu mengatakan apa yang kamu tidak memiliki ilmu padanya. Sesungguhnya pendengaran, penglihatan, dan hati, semuanya akan dimintai pertanggungjawaban.” (Al-Isra`: 36)

قُلْ إِنَّمَا حَرَّمَ رَبِّيَ الْفَوَاحِشَ مَا ظَهَرَ مِنْهَا وَمَا بَطَنَ وَاْلإِثْمَ وَالْبَغْيَ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ وَأَنْ تُشْرِكُوا بِاللهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَأَنْ تَقُوْلُوا عَلَى اللهِ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُوْنَ

“Katakan: ‘Sesungguhnya Rabbku telah mengharamkan kekejian yang nampak maupun yang tidak nampak, mengharamkan dosa, perbuatan dzalim tanpa alasan yang benar dan mengharamkan kalian menyekutu-kan Allah dengan sesuatu yang tidak pernah Allah turunkan keterangan tentangnya, dan mengharamkan berkata tentang Allah tanpa dasar ilmu.” (Al-A’raf: 33)

Demikianlah beberapa kiat untuk memperbaiki keimanan kita kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala, agar semua amal yang kita kerjakan dibangun di atas keimanan kepada-Nya. Bila ibadah haji seseorang dibangun di atas keimanan kepada-Nya tentu semua niatan akan diarahkan kepada-Nya. Dia tentunya tidak akan keluar dari tuntunan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala dan Rasul-Nya dalam pelaksanaan haji tersebut, sehingga bisa mendapatkan haji mabrur di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala. Demikianlah buah keimanan kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta'ala.
Wallahu a‘lam.

1 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari no. 6744 dan Al-Imam Muslim no. 2380
2 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari no. 38
3 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari no. 7 dan Al-Imam Muslim no. 19, 20, 21, 22.
4 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Muslim no. 9
5 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari no. 1 dan Al-Imam Muslim no. 3530
6 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari no. 2499 dan Al-Muslim no. 3242
7 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Bukhari no. 25
8 Diriwayatkan oleh Al-Imam Al-Buhari no. 1650 dan Al-Imam Muslim no. 2403

Baca Artikel Lainnya : 50 PELAJARAN PENTING DARI HAJI

 

PERBEKALAN UNTUK JAMAAH HAJI

Mantan Ketua Umum Partai Demokrat, Anas Urbaningrum, hari ini telah kembali diperiksa sebagai tersangka dalam kasus dugaan gratifikasi proyek Hambalang dan proyek-proyek lainnya. Ketua Umum Perhimpunan Pergerakan Indonesia (PPI) itu selalu berkelit ketika ditanya soal penyitaan beberapa harta yang diduga terkait dengan tindak pidana pencucian uang disangkakan kepadanya.

Anas hadir untuk menjalani pemeriksaan pukul 10.00 WIB. Dia nampak membawa sebuah tas selempang dan ditemani oleh salah satu anggota tim penasihat hukumnya, Firman Wijaya.

Suami Athiyyah Laila itu selalu berkelit ketika ditanyakan soal penyitaan hartanya. Tetapi dia seketika membantah ketika disinggung ihwal apakah betul Direktur PT Dutasari Citra Laras, Machfud Suroso, yang telah memberikan dia beberapa tanah, yang saat ini disita oleh KPK.

"Ah siapa bilang, enak saja. Gitu saja ya. Saya mau Jumat berkah dulu ya," kata Anas kepada awak media, di Gedung KPK, Jakarta, Jumat (14/3).

Anas juga berkilah soal penyitaan tanah dilakukan KPK. Dia malah mengatakan tidak tahu kalau tanah itu atas nama mertuanya, KH Attabik Ali.

"O iya? Sudah ya? Saya tidak tahu. Aset siapa itu? Oh katanya ya," ujar Anas.

Bantah diberi Machfud Suroso tanah, Anas ngaku mau Jumat berkah

Ketika kau marah dan cemburu
Kau kelihatan begitu cantik
Walau kadang mengesalkan
Kau selalu bertanya dan penuh curiga
Ku tahu kau takut kehilanganku

Begitupun aku, maafkan yang
Selalu kasar marah padamu
Meski tak lagi ada kata
Cinta terucap, sekedar basa-basi
Tapi hatiku masih milikmu, milikmu

Cemburu tanda cinta, marah tandanya sayang
Kalau curiga itu karena ku takut kehilangan
Kalau dekat bertengkar, kalau jauh ku rindu
Jadi serba salah, buatku dilema
Tapi aku selalu aishiteru

Mengapa kau marah tanpa alasan yang jelas
Aku tak mengerti, angkuh dan egois
Acuh tak acuh padaku seakan tak peduli
Padahal kau butuh perhatianku

Begitupun aku, maafkan yang
Selalu kasar marah padamu
Meski tak lagi ada kata
Cinta terucap, sekedar basa-basi
Tapi hatiku masih milikmu, milikmu

Cemburu tanda cinta, marah tandanya sayang
Kalau curiga itu karena ku takut kehilangan
Kalau dekat bertengkar, kalau jauh ku rindu
Jadi serba salah, buatku dilema
Tapi aku selalu aishiteru

[japanese]

Cemburu tanda cinta, marah tandanya sayang
Kalau curiga itu karena ku takut kehilangan
Kalau dekat bertengkar, kalau jauh ku rindu
Jadi serba salah, buatku dilema
Tapi aku selalu ai-aishiteru, selalu ai- aishiteru


http://musiklib.org/Zivilia-Aishiteru_3-Lirik_Lagu.htm


http://musiklib.org/Zivilia- Aishiteru_3-Lirik_Lagu.htm


http://musiklib.org/Zivilia-Aishiteru_3-Lirik_Lagu.htm

Aishiteru 3-Zivilia

The magical quality Mr. Lesnie created in shooting the “Babe” films caught the eye of the director Peter Jackson, who chose him to film the fantasy epic.

Andrew Lesnie, Cinematographer of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ Dies at 59

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

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

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

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

Continue reading the main story Video
Play Video|1:17

Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues

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Mr. Lechleider helped invent DSL technology, which enabled phone companies to offer high-speed web access over their infrastructure of copper wires.

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Photo
 
Many bodies prepared for cremation last week in Kathmandu were of young men from Gongabu, a common stopover for Nepali migrant workers headed overseas. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple

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

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

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

Continue reading the main story
 

Document: The Formaldehyde Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading the main story

Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring

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

Typical

laminate

flooring

CLEAR FINISH LAYER

Often made of melamine resin

PATTERN LAYER

Paper printed to resemble wood,

or a thin wood veneer

GLUE

Layers may be bound using

formaldehyde-based glues

CORE LAYER

Fiberboard or other

composite, formed using

formaldehyde-based adhesives

BASE LAYER

Moisture-resistant vapor barrier

What is formaldehyde?

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

WHERE IT IS COMMONLY FOUND

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS

Pressed-wood and composite wood products

Wallpaper and paints

Spray foam insulation used in construction

Commercial wood floor finishes

Crease-resistant fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Vitter’s staff was pleased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Uphill Battle to Better Regulate Formaldehyde

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