PAKET UMROH BULAN FEBRUARI MARET APRIL MEI 2018





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jual bunga papan murah di jakarta melayani pengiriman seluruh indonesia dan kirim ke luar negri lebih dari 100 negara dengan biaya murah TOKO BUNGA PAPAN MURAH

saco-indonesia.com, Pemerintah Provinsi (Pemprov) DKI Jakarta akan mendapat 10 armada bus Transjakarta bantuan dari Mayapada Group. Pembelian 10 bus ini diperkirakan akan telah menghabiskan dana lebih kurang Rp 12 miliar.

"Kami mau bertemu dulu dengan Pak Basuki, karena kami juga tidak tahu spesifikasi busnya (Transjakarta)," kata Ketua Mayapada Group, Tahir, di Balai Kota DKI Jakarta, Jumat (24/1).

Bantuan ini juga baru pertama kali mereka lakukan. "Gubernur yang sebelumnya (Fauzi Bowo) saya tidak bantu, hanya zaman Pak Jokowi saja," katanya.

Selain telah memberikan bantuan 10 bus Transjakarta, menurut Tahir, pihaknya juga akan berniat untuk membantu korban banjir di DKI. Bantuan tersebut telah dikumpul dari enam perusahaan, Mayapada Group, PT Intiland Development, PT Hanson International, PT Saligading Bersama, Modern Group dan PT Sioengs Group.

"Bantuan juga berupa uang sejumlah Rp 6 miliar untuk banjir," tandasnya.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

ARMADA TRANSJAKARTA AKAN BERTAMBAH LAGI

saco-indonesia.com, Menantang duel tetangga, seorang jagoan kolot alias jagoan tua, tewas dengan luka bacokan, setelah sempat memutuskan lengan lawannya itu.

Damiri yang berusia 60 tahun , warga Dusun Dua, Desa Bojong, Kecamatan Sekampung Udik, Kabupaten Lampung Timur, tewas dengan tubuh penuh luka bacokan

Sebelumnya, sang jagoan telah mendatangi tetangganya Anom yang berusia 60 tahun , lalu menantangnya berkelahi dengan menggunakan parang.

Warga yang menyaksikan ketakutan setelah melihat tangan kiri Anom putus terkena sabetan golok Damiri . Namun tanpa disangka Anom yang dengan sisa tangan satu yang dimiliki malah balik melakukan sabetan setelah melihat kesempatan membacok leher lawannya sehingga sang jagoan tak ayal tersungkur tewas di tempat dengan penuh luka bacokan.

Menurut Hasanudin, tokoh masyarakat Desa Bojong, perkelahian antar tetangga itu bermula dari Damiri yang berteriak-teriak di depan rumah Anom menantang Anom sekitar pukul 07. 00 WIB.pagi.

Anom pun keluar dari rumah membawa golok. “Warga tidak berani melerai karena Damiri di desa mereka dikenal sebagai jagoan dan cenderung pemarah. Warga hanya bisa menonton saat mereka semua jatuh dengan badan penuh bacokan,” kata Hasanudin

Kasat Reskrim Polres Lampung Timur,  Iptu Zaldi Kurniawan juga mengatakan korban perkelahian antar tetangga itu satu tewas lainnya luka parah tangan kanannya putus dan kini telah menjalani perawatan di Rumah Sakit Umum Daerah Abdoel Moeluk, Bandarlampung.

“Saat ini kami juga masih memeriksa saksi-saksi untuk dapat mengungkap motif perkelahian maut tersebut,” ujar Kasat Reskrim.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

JAGOAN TUA TEWAS DI TANGAN TETANGGA

TOKYO, Saco-Indonesia.com — Dari hasil penelitian Credit Suisse dalam laporannya, Global Wealth Databook 2013, yang terbit pada akhir Oktober 2013 menunjukkan bahwa Indonesia di peringkat ke-24 dunia untuk negara dengan jumlah orang kaya paling banyak. Jumlah orang kaya terbanyak berada di Amerika Serikat, lalu Jepang, Italia, Perancis, Inggris, Jerman, China, Kanada, Australia, dan Spanyol.

Dari laporan tersebut, terdapat 22 orang superkaya Indonesia yang memiliki harta di atas 1 miliar dollar AS atau sekitar Rp 12 triliun (kurs Rp 12.000 per dollar AS). Sayangnya, Credit Suisse tidak mengungkapkan siapa saja 22 orang terkaya Indonesia tersebut.

Global Wealth Databook 2013 membagi dua kategori orang kaya, yaitu yang di atas 100.000 dollar AS dan yang di atas 1 juta dollar AS. Warga Indonesia yang memiliki kekayaan minimal 100.000 dollar AS atau lebih mencapai 2,18 juta orang (0,6 persen). Adapun yang di atas 1 juta dollar AS sebanyak 123.000 orang (0,4 persen).

Jumlah orang kaya Indonesia yang memiliki kekayaan minimal 100.000 dollar AS melebihi jumlah orang kaya Singapura, yang hanya 1,81 juta orang. Namun untuk yang memiliki kekayaan di atas 1 juta dollar AS, Singapura lebih banyak dari Indonesia, yaitu 174.000 orang. Secara peringkat, Indonesia berada di peringkat ke-24, sedangkan Singapura ke-23. Artinya, secara perorangan, warga Singapura lebih kaya daripada orang Indonesia.

Apabila dirinci lebih detail lagi, kategori di atas 1 juta dollar AS terdiri dari perorangan yang memiliki kekayaan 1 juta-5 juta dollar AS, 5 juta-10 juta dollar AS, 10 juta-50 juta dollar AS, 50 juta-100 juta dollar AS, 100 juta-500 juta dollar AS, 500 juta-1 miliar dollar AS, dan di atas 1 miliar dollar AS.

Adapun jumlah orang Indonesia yang memiliki kekayaan antara 1 juta-5 juta dollar AS berjumlah 106.739 orang, 5 juta-10 juta dollar AS berjumlah 9.579 orang, 10 juta-50 juta dollar AS berjumlah 6.032 orang, 50 juta-100 juta dollar AS berjumlah 541 orang, 100 juta-500 juta dollar AS berjumlah 341 orang, 500 juta-1 miliar dollar AS berjumlah 31 orang, dan di atas 1 miliar dollar AS sebanyak 22 orang.

Lembaga ini juga mengungkapkan, saat ini 80 persen kekayaan Indonesia masih banyak dalam bentuk fisik, seperti properti, peternakan, dan bangunan kantor, ketimbang kekayaan saham dan produk finansial. Namun lama-kelamaan, hal ini akan berubah. Kepemilikan bentuk produk finansial akan semakin banyak, seperti dituliskan dalam laporan tersebut.

Data kekayaan orang Indonesia dalam bentuk produk finansial per orang rata-rata hanya 1.948 dollar AS (15,7 persen). Adapun kepemilikan non-finansial 10.444 dollar AS (84,3 persen) dan utang 553 dollar AS per orang. Sementara itu, kekayaan kotor (gross wealth) rata-rata per orang sebesar 12.393 dollar AS.

Tahun 2000, jumlah kepemilikan produk non-finansial seperti properti dan sebagainya jauh lebih banyak lagi, yaitu 92,3 persen. Adapun kepemilikan produk finansial hanya 7,7 persen.

Dengan perkembangan perekonomian yang semakin baik di Indonesia, lembaga keuangan tersebut menempatkan kualitas data Indonesia pada kategori Cukup (Fair), dengan pendapatan per kapita sebesar 6.104 dollar AS. Sementara itu, pendapatan per kapita Amerika Serikat pada 2013 sebesar 68.673 dollar AS, sedangkan Jepang 57.422 dollar AS. (Koresponden Tribunnews.com, Richard Susilo, dari Tokyo, Jepang)

Sejumlah 22 Orang Indonesia yang Punya Kekayaan di Atas Rp 12 Triliun

Bekasi, Saco-Indonesia.com,- Kemungkinan besar Partai Demokrat akan menjadi partai politik pertama yang merasakan “hukuman langsung dari rakyat,” akibat dari begitu banyaknya para petingginya yang terlibat kasus korupsi kelas paus, baik yang sudah masuk penjara, dalam status tersangka (dan ditahan KPK), maupun yang semakin terindikasi kuat terlibat di berbagai kasus korupsi.

Hukuman dari rakyat itu berupa nanti tidak lagi memilih partai itu dalam Pemilu 2014. Indikasi-indikasinya semakin menguat di saat Pemilu Legislatif 2014 itu kian dekat (9 April 2014). Indikasi-indikasi itu berupa semakin merosotnya elektabilitas partai berlambang Mercy itu dari periode ke periode survei-survei yang dilakukan beberapa lembaga survei.

 

Salah satunya yang terbaru adalah hasil survei yang diumumkan oleh Lingkaran Survei Indonesia  (LSI) pada Minggu, 2 Februari 2014, bahwa pada survei Januari 2014 elektabilitas Demokrat hanya tersisa 4,7 persen. Sedikit lagi jatuh di bawah ambang batas parlemen (parliamentary threshold) yang ditetapkan oleh UU No. 8 Tahun 2012 tentang Pemilu, yakni 3,5 persen. Artinya, jika pada Pemilu Legislatif 2014 nanti perolehan suara Demokrat berada di bawah angka 3,5 persen, praktis partai ini tinggal namanya saja, alias tersingkir dari parlemen. Tidak akan ada satu pun anggota DPR yang berasal dari partai politik yang sangat dicintai oleh “pemilikinya”, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY). DPR 2014-2019 bakal steril dari yang namanya Partai Demokrat.

“Rezim Partai Demokrat diprediksi akan runtuh pada Pemilu 2014. Konvensi pemilihan calon presiden yang digelar partai itu belum mampu menaikkan elketabilitas,” tulis Harian Kompas, Senin, 3 Februari 2014, ketika memberitakan hasil survei LSI itu.

Apabila suara yang diperoleh parpol ini kelak tidak mencapai ambang batas parlemen itu, maka sia-sia pula konvensi calon presiden mereka itu. Karena dengan sendirinya, mereka tak punya hak untuk mengajukan calon presidennya.

LSI yang terus melakukan survei berkala itu mencatat hasil surveinya terhadap Partai Demokrat sejak Pemilu 2009 sampai sekarang. Pada saat Pemilu 2009, Demokrat keluar sebagai pemenangnya dengan perolehan suara 20,85 persen. Januari 2011 elektabilitasnya masih tinggi (20,5 persen). Seiring dengan mulai terbongkarnya kasus korupsi yang “dipelopori” oleh Bendahara Umum DPP Partai Demokrat ketika itu, Muhammad Nazaruddin, rakyat mulai kehilangan kepercayaannya, hasil survei Oktober 2011 elektabiltas partai ini merosot menjadi 16,5 persen suara. Januari 2012 (13,7 persen), Maret 2013 (11,7 persen), Oktober 2013 (9,8 persen), dan Januari 2014 menuju “lampu merah” tanda bahaya dengan elektabilitas hanya tersisa 4,7 persen suara!

Peneliti LSI Adjie Alfaraby menjelaskan anjloknya elektabilitas Partai Demokrat disebabkan keroposnya  struktural, kultur, dan ideologi partai. Struktur ideologi hancur saat (mantan) petinggi partai itu, seperti Anas Urbaningrum, M Nazaruddin, Andi Mallarangeng, dan Angelina Sondakh, tersangkut kasus korupsi. Kultur yang hanya bergantung pada ketokohan Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono juga melemahkan Demokrat (Harian Kompas, Senin, 03/02/14).

Analisis Adjie itu sangat benar. Di kala begitu banyaknya petinggi Demokrat yang tersangkut kasus korupsi, partai ini masih terlalu bergantung kepada SBY. Padahal SBY sendiri adalah sosok yang lemah. Lemah dalam memimpinnya partainya, dan sangat lemah sebagai Presiden untuk memimpin Republik ini.

Kepimpinan (leadership) SBY sebagai Presiden sangat lemah, terbukti dari sikapnya yang peragu, tidak tegas, dan tidak konsisten dan tidak konsekuen dalam mengabil keputusan utnuk mengatasi berbagai permasalahan krusial bangsa ini. Pidato-pidato dan pernyataannnya yang indah-indah hampir selalu tidak sesuai dengan prakteknya.

Bayangkan saja, katanya Demokrat sangat anti korupsi (ingat iklan Pemilu mereka di tahun 2009 dengan tagline “Katakan Tidak Pada Korupsi”) dan pernyataan-pernyataan bernada heroik SBY tentang pemerintahannya yang selalu siap berperang melawan korupsi, dia akan selalu berada di garis paling depan dalam perang melawan korupsi, dalam kenyataannya justru di masa pemerintahannya kali ini tumbuh dengan sangat suburnya praktek-praktek korupsi yang terjadi di hampir semua instansi, mulai dari pusat sampai ke daerah-daerah. Di Pusat, justru para petinggi Demokrat menjadi “mayoritas” dalam praktek-praktek korupsi itu.

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Cover Majalah Tempo

Muhammad Nazaruddin dan Angelina Sondakh yang sudah dipenjarakan KPK karena terbukti korupsi, dan Andi Mallarangeng serta Anas Urbaningrum yang sudah ditetapkan sebagai tersangka sudah mampu menghancurkan elektabilitas Demokrat sampai tersisa 4,7 persen suara menurut hasil survei LSI. Padahal masih berpotensi kuat akan menyusul lagi beberapa petinggi partai itu yang diduga terlibat kasus korupsi lainnya, sementara itu Pemilu tinggal dua bulan lagi.

Beberapa petinggi Partai Demokrat yang berpotensi menambah semakin banyaknya daftar tersangka korupsi oleh KPK adalah Sutan Bathoegana. Jhonny Allen Marbun, dan Tri Yulianto. Sementara itu nama Sekretaris Jenderal Partai Demokrat Edhie Baskoro (Ibas) juga kian santer disebut-sebut oleh saksi dan tersangka korupsi proyek Hambalang sebagai juga ikut terlibat.

Sutan Bathoegana, Jhonny Allen Marbun, dan Tri Yulianto, ketiganya dari Komisi VII (Komisi Energi) DPR mewakili Partai Demokrat, diduga terlibat dalam kasus suap (mantan) Kepala SKK Migas Rudi Rubiandini, yang ditangkap KPK pada 14 Agustus 2013 lalu. Dalam kesaksiannya Rudi Rubiandini mengungkapkan keterlibatan nama-nama tersebut di samping beberapa nama lainnya, seperti Wakil Ketua Komisi Energi DPR Zainudin Amali dari Fraksi Golkar.

Bahkan dari penelusuran  dan penyidikan kasus tersebut mengarah juga kepada Menteri Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral Jero Wacik, yang juga adalah petinggi Demokrat (Sekretaris Majelis Tinggi). Karena diragukan dia tidak tahu-menahu tentang adanya praktek suap di SKK Migas itu.

Nama-nama yang disebutkan di atas itu diduga terlibat dalam kasus suap (mantan) Kepala SKK Migas Rudi Rubiandini itu berdasarkan pengakuan Rudi Rubiandini di persidangan Tipikor dan rekaman penyadapan percakapan yang dimiliki KPK.

Rudi mengaku pernah menyerahkan uang sebesar 200 ribu dollar AS langsung kepada Sutan Bathoegana untuk tunjangan Hari Raya (Lebaran 2013) anggota Komisi Energi DPR. Penyerahan uang THR itu atas permintaan dari Sutan kepada Rudi, mengatasnamakan Komisi yang dipimpinnya itu. Status Sutan sampai saat ini masih sebagai  saksi kasus Rudi. Dia sudah bolak-nalik dipanggil KPK untuk statusnya tersebut. Yang terakhir, rumah mewahnya di Bogor dan ruang kerjanya di gedung DPR sudah digeledah penyidik KPK.

Komisi Energi DPR juga dikatakan pernah menagih fee sebesar 200.000 dollar AS kepada Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Manusia atas “jasa” Komisi itu meloloskan APBN 2013 Perubahan untuk Kementerian itu, melalui Sekretaris Jenderal Kementrian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral Waryono Karno, yang kini sudah dijadikan tersangka oleh KPK.

Atas tagihan Komisi Energi DPR itu, Waryono menghubungi Rudi Rubiandini, supaya SKK Migas ikut urunan membayar fee tersebut. Rudi kemudian menelepon Direktur Utama Pertamina Karen Agustiawan untuk ikut urunan juga, tetapi ditolak Karen, dengan alasan Pertamina sudah membayar fee itu langsung kepada Komisi itu. Rudi mengancam, kalau Karen menolak, dia akan melaporkannya ke Menteri (Jero wacik). KPK mempunyai rekaman percakapan antara Rudi dengan Karen tentang ini. Karen membantah pernyataannya itu, dengan alasan dia berkata begitu, supaya tidak ditagih terus oleh Rudi. Status Karen masih sebagai saksi.

Ada pula tagihan “utang warisan” yang disampaikan oleh Jhonny Allen Marbun kepada Rudi dengan jumlah yang jauh lebih besar, yakni  1 juta dollar AS. Menurut Jhonny sebagaimana diungkapkan oleh Rudi, sebelum dibubarkan Mahkamah Konstitusi dan diganti dengan SKK Migas, BP Migas yang ketika itu dikepalai oleh Raden Priyono telah berjanji untuk membayar fee kepada Komisi Energi DPR sebesar jumlah 1 juta dollar itu. “Utang warisan” kini harus dibayar oleh SKK Migas. “Utang warisan” itu kemudian ditawari dan disepakati menjadi separohnya, yaitu 500 juta dollar AS, dan boleh dicicil. Ketika cicilan itu belum dibayar lunas, Rudi Rubiandini keburu ditangkap KPK.

Dari penelusuran dugaan praktek korupsi antara SKK Migas dengan partner mereka di DPR, Komisi VII bidang Energi itu  diharapkan juga sampai ke Menteri Jero Wacik. Sebab, seperti yang ditulis Majalah Tempo, sulit membayangkan Jero tak tahu-menahu praktek kotor di SKK Migas itu. Posisinya amat sentral karena dia menjadi ketua komisi pengawas satuan kerja itu. Dia juga atasan langsung mantan sekretaris jenderal kementerian ini, Waryono Karno.

Bayangkan saja, apa jadinya, jika dalam pengembangan kasus ini kemudian, KPK berhasil menemukan minimal dua bukti permulaan untuk menetapakan para petinggi Partai Demokrat itu: Sutan Bathoegana, Tri Yulianto, Jhonny Allen Marbuin, dan bahkan Jero Wacik sebagai tersangkat (dan ditahan) di saat menjelang Pemilu ini!

Tanpa penetapan mereka sebagai tersangka sekalipun, dengan status mereka saat ini saja, (diduga kuat terlibat) sudah cukup merupakan pukulan maut bagi Partai Demokrat. Apalagi jika fakta megerikan bagi Demokrat itu menjadi kenyataan, yakni KPK menetapkan nama-nama itu sebagai tersangka. Itu akan menjadi pukulan maha maut bagi Demokrat.

Tidak perlu semua dari mereka, cukup satu nama saja, misalnya, Sutan saja, sudah lebih dari cukup untuk membuat kiamat Partai Demokrat di Pemilu 2014 ini. Besar kemungkinan elektabilitasnya langsung berada di bawah ambang batas parlemen, tidak mencapai 3,5 persen!

Majalah Tempo (edisi 3-9 Februari 2014) menulis juga tentang penampilan Sutan pasca digeledah rumahnya oleh KPK, sikapnya yang biasanya kocak, dengan tawa ceriahnya, dan “terkenal” dengan candaannya “ngeri-ngeri sedap” kini seolah lenyap dari diri Sutan. Dia kini lebih terlihat murung dan kurus.

Jika itu benar-benar terjadi, maka Partai Demokrat akan menjadi parpol pertama yang merasakan betapa dahsyatnya hukuman dari rakyat terhadap parpol yang terjerat begitu banyak kasus korupsi. ***

Sumber :kompas.com

Editor : Maulana Lee

Parpol Pertama yang Bakal Merasakan Dahsyatnya Hukuman dari Rakyat? Adalah Partai Demokrat

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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.

Photo
 
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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A skeptical Mr. Vasilakopoulos predicted tensions would worsen.

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

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

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

Baltimore Residents Away From Turmoil Consider Their Role

As governor, Mr. Walker alienated Republicans and his fellow Democrats, particularly the Democratic powerhouse Richard J. Daley, the mayor of Chicago.

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

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

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

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

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Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

Obama Speaks of a ‘Sense of Unfairness’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisement Politics Obama Finds a Bolder Voice on Race Issues

A former member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Mr. Smedvig helped found the wide-ranging Empire Brass quintet.

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Mr. Tepper was not a musical child and had no formal training, but he grew up to write both lyrics and tunes, trading off duties with the other member of the team, Roy C. Bennett.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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BEIJING (AP) — The head of Taiwan's Nationalists reaffirmed the party's support for eventual unification with the mainland when he met Monday with Chinese President Xi Jinping as part of continuing rapprochement between the former bitter enemies.

Nationalist Party Chairman Eric Chu, a likely presidential candidate next year, also affirmed Taiwan's desire to join the proposed Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank during the meeting in Beijing. China claims Taiwan as its own territory and doesn't want the island to join using a name that might imply it is an independent country.

Chu's comments during his meeting with Xi were carried live on Hong Kong-based broadcaster Phoenix Television.

The Nationalists were driven to Taiwan by Mao Zedong's Communists during the Chinese civil war in 1949, leading to decades of hostility between the sides. Chu, who took over as party leader in January, is the third Nationalist chairman to visit the mainland and the first since 2009.

Relations between the communist-ruled mainland and the self-governing democratic island of Taiwan began to warm in the 1990s, partly out of their common opposition to Taiwan's formal independence from China, a position advocated by the island's Democratic Progressive Party.

Despite increasingly close economic ties, the prospect of political unification has grown increasingly unpopular on Taiwan, especially with younger voters. Opposition to the Nationalists' pro-China policies was seen as a driver behind heavy local electoral defeats for the party last year that led to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou resigning as party chairman.

Taiwan party leader affirms eventual reunion with China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple
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