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Dampak Positif dan Negatif Air Conditioner

Air Conditioner / AC , yang juga merupakan alat yang berguna untuk pendingin ruangan. Terkadang bagi kita segala hal yang sangat sepele tentu sering diabaikan oleh sebagaian orang, akan tetapi jika tidak ditelaah dengan baik akan dapat mengganggu keseharian kita. Berikut Sparepart AC akan dapat memberikan info tentang Dampak Positif dan Negatifnya AC.

Dampak Positifnya :

    AC bisa digunakan untuk mendinginkan serta menyejukkan ruangan
    Bebas penyakit (karena memang disaring dengan filter)
    Mengubah pola tidur, umumnya dapat membuat ngantuk (cepat tidurnya)
    Menambah nafsu makan (udara dingin akan mempengaruhi organ pencernaan manusia)

Dampak Negatifnya :

    Menyebabkan Global Warming / pemanasan global (Freon menyebabkan berlubangnya lapisan ozon, jika berlubang, maka suhu & cuaca menjadi kacau)
    Tagihan listrik naik karena AC akan memakan listrik sebesar 50% dalam penggunaannya baik di rumah dan juga di kantor.
    Pemakai AC juga akan mengalami kerugian antara lain, kulit dan rambut akan menjadi kering karena penggunaan AC / Sparepart AC yang terlalu sering

Pemecahan masalah :

    Untuk pencegahan dampak negative poin 1, ada baiknya sebelum membeli AC yang bahan freonnya menggunakan hidrokarbon, sehingga mengurangi efek global warming
    Untuk pencegahan dampak negative poin 2, ada baiknya sebelum membeli AC  sebaiknya tentukan kapasitas AC (PK), seringkali para konsumen membeli AC dengan (PK) yang tinggi dengan dalil untuk dapat membuat suhu menjadi sangat sejuk, tentu tidak efisien serta boros energi, sehingga tagihan naik terus, pilihlah antara 600 BTU/jam/m2. Jika sudah ada lebih baik atur suhu AC yang paling optimal (tidak lebih dari 25 derajat celcius) dan lebih bagus lagi menggunakan 3-5 derajat celcius lebih rendah dari suhu ruangan. Ingat! setiap pemakaian temperatur 1 derajat celcius dapat menurunkan konsumsi energi sebesar 3-5% (BPPT).
    Untuk pencegahan dampak negative poin 3, ada baiknya dengan menggunakan metoder timmer, saat hendak tidur sebaikanya AC (Air Conditioner) di set otomatis mati sekitar 1-2 jam setelah anda terlelap. Meski AC mati namun suhu ruangan akan tetap sejuk untuk beberapa saat.

 

DAMPAK POSITIF DAN NEGATIFNYA DARI PENGGUNAAN SPAREPART AC

saco-indoneswia.com, Performa buruk Manchester United musim ini ternyata tidak dapat membuat Tim Howard sedikit pun juga meragukan kemampuan tim yang juga pernah ia bela tersebut.

Howard juga sempat menghabiskan karirnya selama empat tahun di Old Trafford sebelum ia akhirnya telah memutuskan untuk pindah ke Everton. Kiper asal Amerika Serikat itu telah menyebut setan merah musim ini masih belum dapat membuktikan apapun. Tim asuhan David Moyes itu ia sebut masih telah memiliki banyak potensi yang belum dapat terungkap.

"Saya juga merasa bahwa apa yang kita pikirkan sekarang (tentang United) tidak akan terjadi pada bulan Mei nanti (akhir kompetisi Premier League) karena mereka sudah jelas merupakan juara bertahan dan mereka masih harus banyak memberikan bukti pada berbagai pihak," tutur Howard pada Sky Sports.

"Saya juga masih mengharap mereka untuk dapat terus menekan tim menuju arah yang benar, jadi kita lihat saja apa yang terjadi. Saya juga harap kami bisa terus menjauh dari mereka di klasemen, namun mereka jelas jauh lebih baik dari ini," pungkas sang kiper.

Manchester United saat ini telah terdampar di peringkat tujuh klasemen sementara Premier League.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

EGGAN HAKIMI UNITED

saco-indonesia.com, Seorang pencuri sepeda motor telah bonyok dikeroyok oleh massa di Stasiun Pengisian Bahan Bakar Umum, Jalan Chairil Anwar, Margahayu, Bekasi Timur, Kota Bekasi, siang tadi. Sementara, seorang pelaku lain telah berhasil meloloskan diri dengan membawa sepeda motor korban.

Pelaku yang teridentifikasi bernama, Rahman, telah berhasil ditangkap oleh warga ketika mencuri sepeda motor jenis Honda B 3575 FRC milik Hariyanto yang berusia (45) tahun ketika ditinggal ke kamar kecil di SPBU tersebut.

"Yang mengambil sepeda motor kabur pakai motor korban, sedangkan yang mengantar telah berhasil ditangkap," kata saksi, Abdullah M Surjaya yang berusia (30) tahun di lokasi, Jumat (14/02).

Dia juga mengatakan, penangkapan itu bermula ketika korban berteriak maling. Pelaku yang mengambil langsung melarikan diri. Sementara, sorang pelaku lain yang hendak melarikan diri dengan menggunakan sepeda motor Yamaha Vixion BE 3266 FE telah berhasil dicegat oleh warga.

"Senjata apinya dibuang ke Kalimalang," katanya.

Saat digeledah lanjut dia, telah ditemukan sepaket narkoba jenis ganja di dalam dompet pelaku. Selain itu, juga telah ditemukan dua unit telepon selular jenis BlackBerry. Pasca ditangkap, pelaku lalu diserahkan ke polisi.


Editor : Dian Sukmawati

MALING MOTOR BUANG SENPI KE KALIMALANG

Banyak tradisi berkembang di masyarakat yang mengiringi orang yang hendak menunaikan ibadah haji. Sebagai ibadah yang membutuhkan pengorbanan besar, seyogyanya kita jangan sampai melakukan amalan yang bisa merusak ibadah haji ini. Yang pasti, ibadah haji harus dilakukan di atas niat yang tulus yaitu untuk mengharap balasan dari Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata dan dijalankan di atas tuntunan Rasulullah Shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.

Rambu-rambu Penting dalam Beribadah
Manusia adalah satu-satunya makhluk Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala yang menyatakan diri siap memikul “amanat berat” yang tidak dimampui oleh makhluk-makhluk besar seperti langit, bumi, dan gunung-gunung. Padahal makhluk yang bernama manusia ini berjati diri zhalum (amat dzalim) dan jahul (amat bodoh). Amanat itu adalah menjalankan segala apa yang Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala perintahkan dan menjauhi segala apa yang Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala haramkan (beribadah kepada-Nya). Sebagaimana dalam firman-Nya:

إِِنَّا عَرَضْنَا اْلأََمَانَةَ عَلَى السَّمَاوَاتِ وَاْلأَرْضِ وَالْجِبَالِ فَأَبَيْنَ أَنْ يَحْمِلْنَهَا وَأَشْفَقْنَ مِنْهَا وَحَمَلَهَا اْلإِنْسَانُ إِنَّهُ كَانَ ظَلُوْمًا جَهُوْلاً

“Sesungguhnya Kami telah tawarkan amanat kepada langit, bumi, dan gunung-gunung, maka semuanya enggan untuk memikul amanat itu karena khawatir akan mengkhianatinya, dan dipikullah amanat itu oleh manusia. Sesungguhnya manusia itu amat dzalim dan amat bodoh.” (Al-Ahzab: 72)

Asy-Syaikh Abdurrahman bin Nashir As-Sa’di rahimahullah berkata:
“Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala mengangkat permasalahan amanat yang Dia amanatkan kepada para mukallafiin. Yaitu amanat menjalankan segala yang diperintahkan dan menjauhi segala yang diharamkan, baik dalam keadaan tampak maupun tidak. Dia tawarkan amanat itu kepada makhluk-makhluk besar; langit, bumi dan gunung-gunung sebagai tawaran pilihan bukan keharusan, ‘Bila engkau menjalankan dan melaksanakannya niscaya bagimu pahala, dan bila tidak, niscaya kamu akan dihukum’. Maka makhluk-makhluk itu pun enggan untuk memikulnya karena khawatir akan mengkhianatinya, bukan karena menentang Rabb mereka dan bukan pula karena tidak butuh akan pahala-Nya. Kemudian Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala menawarkannya kepada manusia, maka ia pun siap menerima amanat itu dan memikulnya dengan segala kedzaliman dan kebodohan yang melekat pada dirinya. Maka amanat berat itu pun akhirnya berada di pundaknya.” (Taisirul Karimir Rahman, hal. 620)

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala Yang Maha Pengasih lagi Maha Penyayang, Yang Maha Kuasa lagi Maha Bijaksana, tidaklah membiarkan manusia mengarungi kehidupannya dengan memikul amanat berat tanpa bimbingan Ilahi. Maka Dia pun mengutus para Rasul sebagai pembimbing mereka dan menurunkan Kitab Suci agar berpegang teguh dengannya serta mengambil petunjuk darinya. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman:

لَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا رُسُلَنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ وَأَنْزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ اْلكِتَابَ وَالْمِيْزَانَ لِيَقُوْمَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ

“Sungguh Kami telah mengutus Rasul-rasul Kami dengan membawa bukti-bukti yang nyata, dan Kami turunkan bersama mereka Kitab Suci dan neraca (keadilan) supaya manusia dapat melaksanakan keadilan.” (Al-Hadid: 25)

Maka dari itu, jalan untuk beribadah kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala amatlah jelas dan terang, termasuk ibadah haji. Karena semuanya telah tercakup dalam Al-Qur`an dan Sunnah Nabi shallallah ‘alaihi wa sallam. Adapun rambu-rambu penting dalam beribadah yang dikandung Al-Qur`an dan Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam tersebut, semuanya bermuara pada dua perkara penting:

1. Mengikhlaskan ibadah hanya untuk Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata.
2. Mengikuti tuntunan dan jejak Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.

Dua perkara tersebut merupakan pangkal kesuksesan dalam kehidupan di dunia dan juga di akhirat.
Al-Imam Ibnul Qayyim rahimahullahu berkata:
“Barangsiapa yang memerhatikan kondisi alam ini, niscaya ia akan mengetahui bahwasanya sebab dari semua kebaikan yang ada di muka bumi ini adalah beribadah hanya kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata (tauhidullah) dan taat kepada Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Sedangkan sebab dari kerusakan, fitnah, bala`, paceklik, dan kekalahan dari musuh adalah menyelisihi Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam dan menyeru kepada selain jalan Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan Rasul-Nya.” (Bada`i’ul Fawa`id, 3/17)

Bahkan keduanya merupakan barometer, apakah sebuah ibadah yang dilakukan seseorang diterima di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala ataukah ditolak.

Asy-Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih Al-‘Utsaimin berkata:
“Sebuah ibadah tidak bisa untuk bertaqarrub kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, bahkan tidak diterima oleh-Nya kecuali dengan dua syarat:

1. Ikhlas karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, dengan mempersembahkan ibadah tersebut semata-mata mengharap wajah Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan kebahagian di negeri akhirat, tanpa ada niatan mengharap pujian dan sanjungan manusia.
2. Mengikuti (tuntunan) Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam dalam beribadah, baik dalam hal ucapan atau pun perbuatan.

Mengikuti (tuntunan) Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam tidaklah mungkin terealisasi dengan baik kecuali dengan mengetahui Sunnah (ajaran) Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Oleh karena itu, siapapun yang berkeinginan untuk mengikuti Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam maka dia harus mempelajari Sunnah (ajaran) Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam tersebut dari para ulama yang mumpuni. Bisa dengan berkoresponden ataupun dengan berkomunikasi secara langsung. Dan merupakan kewajiban bagi para ulama, sang pewaris Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, untuk menerapkan (terlebih dahulu, pen.) Sunnah beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam dalam ibadah, akhlak, dan muamalah mereka. Kemudian berupaya untuk menyampaikan Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam tersebut kepada umat agar kehidupan mereka terwarnai dengan warisan beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam baik dalam bentuk ilmu, amal perbuatan, dan dakwah. Sehingga mereka termasuk orang-orang sukses yang beriman kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala, beramal shalih, dan saling berwasiat dengan kebenaran dan kesabaran.” (Al-Manhaj Limuridil ‘Umrah wal Hajj)

Asy-Syaikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab rahimahullahu berkata:
“Jika kebahagiaan umat terdahulu dan yang akan datang dikarenakan mengikuti jejak para Rasul, maka dapatlah diketahui bahwa orang yang paling berbahagia adalah yang paling berilmu tentang ajaran para Rasul dan paling mengikutinya. Maka dari itu, orang yang paling mengerti tentang sabda para Rasul dan amalan-amalannya serta benar-benar mengikutinya, mereka itulah sesungguhnya orang yang paling berbahagia di setiap masa dan tempat. Dan merekalah golongan yang selamat dalam setiap agama (yang dibawa para Rasul tersebut, pen.). Dan dari umat ini adalah Ahlus Sunnah wal Hadits.” (Ad-Durar As-Saniyyah, juz 2, hal. 21)

Al-Imam Malik rahimahullahu berkata:
“Barangsiapa mengada-adakan perkara baru dalam agama (bid’ah) yang dia pandang itu adalah baik, sungguh ia telah menuduh bahwa Nabi Muhammad shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam telah berkhianat terhadap risalah (yang beliau emban). Karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman (artinya): “Pada hari ini telah Kusempurnakan agama bagi kalian, dan Aku telah lengkapkan nikmat-Ku atas kalian dan Aku ridha Islam sebagai agama kalian.” Atas dasar ini, segala perkara yang pada waktu itu (yakni di masa Nabi/para shahabat) bukan bagian dari agama, maka pada hari ini pula perkara itu bukan termasuk agama.” (Al-I’tisham, 1/49)

Ibadah Haji dan Keutamaannya
Para pembaca yang mulia, di antara sekian bentuk ketaatan (ibadah) yang paling utama dan sarana bertaqarrub kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala yang termulia adalah ibadah haji. Bahkan ia termasuk ibadah yang Allah  wajibkan, dan termasuk salah satu dari rukun Islam. Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam bersabda:

بُنِيَ اْلإِسْلاَمُ عَلَى خَمْسٍ: شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لاّ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللهُ وَأَنَّ مُحَمَّدًا رَسُوْلُ اللهِ، وَإِقَامِ الصَّلاَةِ، وَإِيْتَاءِ الزَّكَاةِ، وَصِيَامِ رَمَضَانَ، وَحَجِّ الْبَيْتِ

“Agama Islam dibangun di atas lima perkara; bersyahadat bahwasanya tidak ada yang berhak diibadahi kecuali Allah dan Nabi Muhammad itu utusan Allah, mendirikan shalat, menunaikan zakat, shaum di bulan Ramadhan, dan berhaji ke Baitullah.” (HR. Al-Bukhari no. 8 dan Muslim no. 16, dari shahabat Abdullah bin Umar radhiyallahu ‘anhuma)

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala menyeru para hamba-Nya untuk berhaji melalui lisan Nabiyullah Ibrahim ‘alaihissalam, agar para hamba dapat menyaksikan segala yang bermanfaat bagi kebaikan hidup dunia dan akhirat mereka. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman:

وَأَذِّنْ فِي النَّاسِ بِالْحَجِّ يَأْتُوْكَ رِجَالاً وَعَلَىكُلِّ ضَامِرٍ يَأْتِيْنَ مِنْ كُلِّ فَجٍّ عَمِيْقٍ لِِيَشْهَدُوا مَنَافِعَ لَهُمْ

“Dan umumkanlah kepada manusia untuk berhaji, niscaya mereka akan mendatangimu dengan berjalan kaki atau mengendarai unta kurus dari segala penjuru yang jauh untuk menyaksikan segala yang bermanfaat bagi mereka.” (Al-Hajj: 27-28)

Sebagaimana pula Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala telah mengingatkan orang-orang yang mampu berhaji agar mereka mempersembahkan ibadah hajinya hanya untuk-Nya semata. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman:

وَلِلَّهِ عَلَى النَّاسِ حِجُّ البَيْتِ مَنِ اسْتَطَاعَ إِلَيْهِ سَبِيْلاً وَمَنْ كَفَرَ فَإِنَّ اللهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِيْنَ

“Dan hanya karena Allahlah haji ke Baitullah itu diwajibkan bagi manusia yang mampu mengadakan perjalanan ke sana. Barangsiapa yang kafir maka sesungguhnya Allah tidak butuh terhadap seluruh alam semesta.” (Ali ‘Imran: 97)

Junjungan kita Nabi besar Muhammad shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam juga mendorong umatnya untuk menunaikan ibadah yang mulia ini. Sebagaimana sabda beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إِنَّ اللهَ كَتَبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْحَجَّ. فَقَامَ اْلأَقْرَعُ بْنُ حَابِسٍ فَقَالَ: أَفِي كُلِّ عَامٍ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ؟ قَالَ: لَوْ قُلْتُهَا لَوَجَبَتْ، وَلَوْ وُجِبَتْ لَمْ تَعْمَلُوا بِهَا وَلَمْ تَسْتَطِيْعُوا أَنْ تَعْمَلُوا بِهَا، الْحَجُّ مَرَّةً، فَمَنْ زَادَ فَتَطَوَّعَ

“Wahai sekalian manusia, sesungguhnya Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala telah mewajibkan kepada kalian ibadah haji!” Maka berdirilah Al-Aqra’ bin Habis seraya mengatakan: “Apakah haji itu wajib ditunaikan setiap tahun, ya Rasulullah?” Maka beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam pun menjawab: “Kalau aku katakan; ya, niscaya akan menjadi kewajiban setiap tahun. Dan bila diwajibkan setiap tahun, niscaya kalian tidak akan menunaikannya, bahkan tidak akan mampu untuk menunaikannya. Kewajiban haji itu hanya sekali (seumur hidup). Barangsiapa menunaikannya lebih dari sekali, maka dia telah bertathawwu’ (melakukan perbuatan sunnah).” (HR. Abu Dawud, An-Nasa`i, Ad-Darimi, Ad-Daraquthni, Al-Hakim dan Ahmad, dari shahabat Abdullah bin Abbas radhiyallahu ‘anhuma. Lihat Irwa`ul Ghalil, karya Asy-Syaikh Al-Albani juz 4 hal. 149-150)

Bahkan beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam menjelaskan akan pahalanya yang besar, ganjarannya yang banyak dan sebagai penebus bagi segala dosa. Sebagaimana sabda beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam:

مَنْ حَجَّ لِلَّهِ فَلَمْ يَرْفُثْ وَلَمْ يَفْسُقْ رَجَعَ كَيَوْمٍ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ

“Barangsiapa berhaji karena Allah lalu tidak berbuat keji dan kefasikan (dalam hajinya tersebut), niscaya dia pulang dari ibadah tersebut seperti di hari ketika dilahirkan oleh ibunya (bersih dari dosa).” (HR Al-Bukhari dalam Shahih-nya no. 1521 dan Muslim no. 1350, dari shahabat Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

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

“Antara satu umrah dengan umrah berikutnya merupakan penebus dosa-dosa yang ada di antara keduanya, dan haji mabrur itu tidak ada balasan baginya kecuali Al-Jannah.” (HR Muslim no. 1349, dari shahabat Abu Hurairah radhiyallahu ‘anhu)

Kewajiban Menunaikan Ibadah Haji dengan penuh Keikhlasan

Syaikhul Islam Ibnu Taimiyyah berkata:

“Setiap jamaah haji berkewajiban untuk memurnikan niat hajinya karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan untuk bertaqarrub kepada-Nya semata. Sebagaimana pula harus berhati-hati dari tujuan duniawi, berbangga diri, mengejar gelar/sebutan (pak haji/bu haji, pen.), ingin dilihat orang atau mencari pamor. Karena semua itu dapat membatalkan amalan (haji anda, pen.) dan menjadikannya tidak diterima di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.” (Lihat Taudhihul Ahkam, juz 4 hal. 3-4)

Hal senada disampaikan Asy-Syaikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz rahimahullah. Beliau berkata:
“Merupakan suatu kewajiban atas seorang yang berhaji untuk meniatkan haji dan umrahnya karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan mengharapkan kebahagiaan di negeri akhirat serta meniatkannya untuk bertaqarrub kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dengan segala perkataan dan perbuatan yang diharapkan dapat mendatangkan ridha-Nya di tempat-tempat yang mulia tersebut. Dan hendaknya selalu waspada dari tujuan duniawi, riya` (ingin dilihat orang), mencari pamor, dan untuk gagah-gagahan semata. Karena ini merupakan sejelek-jelek niatan dan termasuk sebab tertolaknya suatu amalan.” (At-Tahqiq wal Idhah Lil-Katsir Min Masa`ilil Hajji wal ‘Umrah, hal.12)

Kewajiban Menunaikan Ibadah Haji sesuai Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam
Perjalanan suci menuju Baitullah membutuhkan bekal yang cukup. Di samping bekal harta, ilmu pun merupakan bekal yang mutlak dibutuhkan. Dengan ilmu lah, seseorang menjadi terbimbing dalam melakukan ibadah hajinya dan sesuai dengan Sunnah (tuntunan) Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Lebih dari itu, akan terhindar dari berbagai macam bid’ah dan kesalahan, sehingga hajinya pun sebagai haji mabrur yang tiada balasan baginya kecuali Al-Jannah.

Dalam momentum hajjatul wada’ (haji terakhir), Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam pernah menyampaikan pesan khusus kepada umatnya, agar mereka menunaikan ibadah haji sesuai dengan tuntunan manasik beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Beliau shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam bersabda:

خُذُوا عَنِّي مَنَاسِكَكُمْ

“Ambillah dariku tuntunan manasik haji kalian.” (HR. Muslim no. 1297)

Para shahabat pun sangat memerhatikan pesan beliau ini. Tak heran, jika banyak didapati berbagai riwayat tentang manasik haji yang mereka jalani bersama Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Demikian pula para ulama, tidak sedikit dari mereka yang menyusun kitab-kitab tentang manasik haji baik yang detail atau pun yang sederhana. Semua itu menggambarkan kepada kita bahwasanya para pendahulu umat ini telah mempersembahkan untuk kita ilmu tentang manasik haji, agar kita dapat berhaji sesuai dengan Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.

Maka dari itu, di antara nasehat yang selalu disampaikan para ulama kita kepada calon jamaah haji adalah; hendaknya mereka serius untuk mempelajari dan mendalami ilmu (tuntunan) manasik haji sebelum menunaikannya, dengan satu harapan agar ibadah haji yang ditunaikannya benar-benar sempurna dan diterima di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.

Asy-Syaikh Muhammad Nashiruddin Al-Albani berkata:
“Kami nasehatkan kepada calon jamaah haji, agar belajar terlebih dahulu tentang manasik haji yang dituntunkan di dalam Al-Qur`an dan Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam sebelum menunaikan ibadah hajinya. Sehingga amalan haji yang ditunaikannya itu benar-benar sempurna dan diterima di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.” (Hajjatun Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, hal. 10)

Asy-Syaikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz berkata:
“Sudah seharusnya bagi seseorang yang hendak berhaji untuk mempelajari dan mendalami segala yang disyariatkan tentang haji dan umrahnya. Dan hendaknya dia juga menanyakan hal-hal yang belum dipahaminya (kepada seorang yang berilmu, pen.) agar ibadah haji yang ditunaikannya benar-benar di atas bashirah (ilmu).” (At-Tahqiq wal Idhah, hal. 13)

Fenomena Taqlid dan Mengikuti Tradisi dalam Berhaji
Para pembaca yang mulia, bila kita memerhatikan sekian kesalahan yang terjadi pada kebanyakan jamaah haji, maka penyebabnya bermuara pada dua faktor:
1. Faktor dari dalam
2. Faktor dari luar

Faktor dari dalam adalah penyebab yang berasal dari diri jamaah haji itu sendiri. Hal ini terjadi manakala seorang jamaah haji mengabaikan bekal ilmu yang hakikatnya merupakan bekal utama yang harus dia persiapkan. Tentunya, ketika bekal ilmu tidak dimiliki maka manasik hajinya pun jauh dari manasik haji Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Dia akan lebih cenderung mengikuti manasik haji yang dilakukan oleh mayoritas orang (tradisi) di sekitarnya. Padahal apa yang dilakukan oleh mayoritas orang itu belum tentu sesuai dengan tuntunan manasik Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Permasalahan pun semakin runyam manakala di antara jamaah haji itu ada yang berkeyakinan bahwasanya mengikuti manasik haji/ tradisi yang biasa dilakukan mayoritas orang itu merupakan jaminan kebenaran.

Asy-Syaikh Shalih bin Fauzan Al-Fauzan berkata:
“Di antara masalah (yang terjadi di masa, pen.) jahiliyyah adalah bahwasanya mereka mengukur suatu kebenaran dengan jumlah mayoritas, dan menilai suatu kesalahan dengan jumlah minoritas. Sehingga sesuatu yang diikuti oleh kebanyakan orang berarti benar, sedangkan yang diikuti oleh segelintir orang berarti salah. Inilah patokan yang ada pada diri mereka dalam menilai yang benar dan yang salah. Padahal patokan ini keliru, karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman:

وَإِنْ تُطِعْ أَكْثَرَ مَنْ فِي اْلأَرْضِ يُضِلُّوْكَ عَنْ سَبِيْلِ اللهِ إِنْ يَتَّبِعُوْنَ إِلاَّ الظَّنَّ وَإِنْ هُم إِلاَّ يَخْرُصُوْنَ

“Dan jika kamu menuruti mayoritas orang-orang yang ada di muka bumi ini, niscaya mereka akan menyesatkanmu dari jalan Allah. Mereka tidak lain hanyalah mengikuti persangkaan belaka, dan mereka tidak lain hanyalah berdusta (terhadap Allah).” (Al-An’am: 116)

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala juga berfirman:

وَلكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لاَ يَعْلَمُوْنَ

“Tetapi mayoritas manusia tidak mengetahui.” (Al-A’raf: 187)

وَمَا وَجَدْنَا لأَكْثَرِهِمْ مِنْ عَهْدٍ وَإِنْ وَجَدْنَا أَكْثَرَهُمْ لَفَاسِقُوْنَ

“Dan Kami tidak mendapati mayoritas mereka memenuhi janji. Sesungguhnya Kami mendapati mayoritas mereka orang-orang yang fasik.” (Al-A’raf: 102)

Dan lain sebagainya.” (Syarh Masa`il Al-Jahiliyyah, hal. 60)

Asy-Syaikh Sulaiman bin Abdullah Alusy-Syaikh berkata
: “Dalam hadits ini1 terdapat bantahan terhadap orang yang berdalih dengan hukum mayoritas, dan beranggapan bahwa kebenaran itu selalu bersama mereka. Tidaklah demikian adanya. Bahkan yang semestinya adalah mengikuti Al-Qur`an dan As-Sunnah bersama siapa saja dan di mana saja.” (Taisir Al-‘Azizil Hamid, hal.106).

Asy-Syaikh Abdurrahman bin Hasan Alusy-Syaikh berkata:
“Hendaknya seorang muslim berhati-hati agar tidak tertipu dengan jumlah mayoritas, karena telah banyak orang-orang yang tertipu (dengannya). Termasuk orang-orang yang mengaku berilmu sekalipun. Mereka berkeyakinan di dalam beragama sebagaimana yang diyakini oleh orang-orang bodoh lagi sesat (mengikuti mayoritas manusia, pen.) dan tidak mau melihat kepada apa yang dikatakan oleh Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala dan Rasul-Nya.” (Qurratu ‘Uyunil Muwahhidin, dinukil dari ta’liq kitab Fathul Majid, hal. 83, no. 1)

Para pembaca, dengan demikian “budaya” ngikut tradisi atau ngikut mayoritas orang dalam beribadah kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala (termasuk dalam menunaikan ibadah haji), tidak bisa dibenarkan dalam syariat Islam. Oleh karena itu, sudah saatnya bagi umat Islam untuk berupaya meniti jejak Rasulullah shallallhu ‘alaihi wa sallam dalam segala amal ibadahnya, agar apa yang dipersembahkan kepada Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala tersebut tidak sia-sia bahkan tercatat sebagai amalan shalih.

Adapun faktor penyebab dari luar adalah adanya orang-orang yang mudah berfatwa tentang urusan agama (termasuk masalah haji) tanpa ilmu.

Asy-Syaikh Muhammad bin Shalih Al-‘Utsaimin rahimahullah berkata:
“Sebagian kaum muslimin –semoga Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala memberikan hidayah dan taufiq-Nya kepada mereka– melakukan banyak perkara ibadah tanpa berasaskan Kitabullah dan Sunnah Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Terlebih dalam masalah haji, yang seringkali penyebabnya adalah adanya orang-orang yang mudah berfatwa tanpa ilmu, serta saling berlomba untuk mengeluarkan fatwa demi meraih pujian dan popularitas. Sehingga terjadilah kesesatan dan penyesatan (terhadap umat).” –Hingga perkataan beliau–: “Kebanyakan kesalahan yang terjadi pada jamaah haji berpangkal dari sini (yakni; fatwa tanpa ilmu) dan saling meniru di antara mereka (orang-orang awam) tanpa ada kejelasan dalilnya.” (Akh-tha`un Yartakibuha Ba’dhul Hujjaj)

Maka dari itu, kami serukan kepada segenap jamaah haji untuk benar-benar selektif dalam memilih guru pembimbing haji. Carilah guru pembimbing yang berilmu dan berpegang teguh dengan Kitabullah dan Sunnah Rasulullah shallallhu ‘alaihi wa sallam, agar haji yang anda lakukan tergolong haji mabrur.

Sebagaimana pula kami serukan kepada segenap jamaah haji agar menjauhi sikap taqlid buta dalam beribadah, termasuk ketika berhaji. Baik taqlid buta terhadap tradisi, ormas, partai, atau pun tokoh/panutan/ustadz/kyai, dsb. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala mencela sikap taqlid buta dalam beberapa ayat-Nya dan menjelaskan kepada kita bahwasanya sikap taqlid buta itu merupakan kebiasaan kaum musyrikin2 ketika dakwah para nabi sampai kepada mereka. Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala berfirman:

أَمْ آتَيْنَاهُمْ كِتَابًا مِنْ قَبْلِهِ فَهُمْ بِهِ مُسْتَمْسِكُوْنَ. بَلْ قَالُوا إِنَّا وَجَدْنَا آبَاءَنَا عَلَى أُمَّةٍ وَإِنَّا عَلَى آثَارِهِمْ مُهْتَدُونَ

“Apakah seandainya telah kami datangkan kepada mereka sebuah kitab (hujjah) sebelum munculnya kesyirikan yang mereka lakukan, kemudian mereka mau berpegang dengannya? Ternyata justru mereka berkata: “Sesungguhnya kami telah mendapati nenek moyang kami di atas sebuah prinsip (aqidah yang mereka yakini), maka kami adalah orang-orang yang mendapat petunjuk dengan mengikuti jejak pendahulu kami.” (Az-Zukhruf: 21-22)

Para imam yang empat sendiri, tidak menganjurkan murid-muridnya dan segenap kaum muslimin untuk taqlid buta kepada mereka. Bahkan mereka berpesan agar umat ini kembali kepada Kitabullah dan Sunnah Rasul-Nya yang shahih. Berikut ini kami bawakan beberapa nukilan dari perkataan mereka yang terdapat dalam kitab Shifat Shalat Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam karya Asy-Syaikh Al-Albani (hal. 46-53):

    Al-Imam Abu Hanifah rahimahullah mengatakan:

“Tidak halal bagi siapa pun mengambil pendapat kami tanpa mengetahui dari mana dasar hujjah yang kami ambil.” Dalam riwayat lainnya, beliau mengatakan: “Haram bagi siapa pun yang tidak mengetahui dalil yang saya pakai, untuk berfatwa dengan pendapat saya. Karena sesungguhnya kami adalah manusia, pendapat yang sekarang kami ucapkan, mungkin besok kami rujuk darinya (kami tinggalkan pendapat tersebut).”

    Al-Imam Malik rahimahullah mengatakan:

“Saya hanyalah manusia biasa yang mungkin salah dan mungkin benar. Maka telitilah pendapatku, apabila sesuai dengan Al-Qur`an dan As-Sunnah maka ambillah. Dan apabila tidak sesuai dengan keduanya maka tinggalkanlah.”

    Al-Imam Asy-Syafi’i rahimahullah mengatakan:

“Semua permasalahan yang sudah disebutkan dalam hadits Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam yang shahih dan berbeda dengan pendapat saya, maka saya rujuk dari pendapat tersebut baik ketika saya masih hidup atau pun meninggal dunia.”

    Al-Imam Ahmad rahimahullah mengatakan:

“Janganlah kalian taqlid kepadaku dan jangan pula taqlid kepada Malik, Asy-Syafi’i, Al-Auza’i, atau (Sufyan) Ats-Tsauri. Akan tetapi ambillah (dalil) dari mana mereka mengambil.”

Penutup

Para pembaca yang mulia, setelah kita lalui beberapa bahasan di atas maka dapatlah disimpulkan:

    Sebuah ibadah akan diterima di sisi Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala manakala terpenuhi dua syarat; ikhlas hanya karena Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata, dan sesuai dengan tuntunan Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam.
    Ibadah haji merupakan jenis ketaatan yang utama dan salah satu bentuk taqarrub yang termulia. Karena itu haruslah dipersembahkan untuk Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala semata, tanpa diiringi niatan duniawi, mencari nama, gelar, pamor, dan lain sebagainya.
    Perjalanan ke tanah suci sangat membutuhkan bekal ilmu. Karena dengan ilmulah, seseorang akan terbimbing dalam melakukan ibadah hajinya sesuai dengan tuntunan Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Lebih dari itu, akan terhindar dari berbagai macam bid’ah dan kesalahan sehingga hajinya pun sebagai haji mabrur yang tiada balasan baginya kecuali Al-Jannah.
    Seseorang yang akan menunaikan ibadah haji hendaknya mencari guru pembimbing yang berilmu lagi berpegang-teguh dengan Kitabullah dan Sunnah Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, agar haji yang ditunaikannya benar-benar di atas ilmu dan bashirah.
    Sikap ikut-ikutan dalam beribadah (termasuk ketika berhaji) merupakan perbuatan tercela. Demikian pula sikap taqlid buta terhadap tradisi, ormas, partai, atau pun tokoh/panutan/ustadz/kyai dan lain sebagainya.
    Para imam yang empat; Abu Hanifah, Malik, Asy-Syafi’i dan Ahmad telah bersepakat agar umat Islam kembali/merujuk kepada Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam yang shahih di dalam menjalankan agamanya. Sebagaimana pula mereka telah bersepakat agar umat Islam meninggalkan pendapat mereka manakala tidak sesuai dengan Sunnah Nabi shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam yang shahih. Mudah-mudahan hidayah dan taufiq Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala selalu mengiringi kita semua, amin.

Wallahul Muwaffiq wal Hadi ila aqwamit thariq.
1. Yakni sabda Rasulullah shallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam:

عُرِضَتْ عَلَيَّ اْلأُمَمُ، فَرَأَيْتُ النَّبِيَّ وَمَعَهُ الرَّهْطُ، وَالنَّبِيَّ وَمعَهُ الرَّجُلُ وَالرَّجُلاَنِ، وَالنَّبِيَّ وَلَيْسَ مَعَهُ أَحَدٌ ....

“Telah ditampakkan kepadaku umat-umat, maka aku melihat seorang nabi bersamanya kurang dari 10 orang, seorang nabi bersamanya satu atau dua orang, dan seorang nabi tidak ada seorang pun yang bersamanya….” (HR. Al-Bukhari no. 5705, 5752, dan Muslim no. 220, dari hadits Abdullah bin ‘Abbas radhiyallahu ‘anhuma)
2.  Perlu diingat, bukan berarti orang yang bertaqlid itu dihukumi sebagai musyrik.

Baca Artikel Lainnya : ALASAN TIDAK MELAKUKAN UMRAH BERULANG KALI SAAT BERADA DI MEKKAH

MENUNAIKAN HAJI, ANTARA SUNNAH ATAU TRADISI LINGKUNGAN

Ceruk peluang bisnis bagi industri sewa mobil melaju pesat seiring dengan pertumbuhan ekonomi yang semakin meningkat di Indonesia dan telah membuat banyak perusahaan bertumbuh besar. Alat transportasi pun juga semakin dibutuhkan untuk dapat memudahkan mobilisasi demi kepentingan bisnis. "Sekarang memang banyak jasa sewa mobil yang berdiri atau tumbuh karena kebutuhan perusahaan semakin banyak. Baik itu transportasi karyawan hingga transportasi untuk mengangkut hasil tambang," Prodjo Sunarjanto, Presiden Direktur PT Adi Sarana Armada (ASSA), salah satu perusahaan sewa mobil perusahaan terbesar di Indonesia.

Dia juga mengakui sebelum ini industri sewa mobil untuk perusahaan memang sudah banyak pemainnya, tetapi dengan pertumbuhan ekonomi seperti ini telah membuat bisnis semakin menggiurkan. Oleh karena itu dia berharap ekonomi Indonesia bisa terus meningkat atau setidaknya terjaga agar ritme industri sewa mobil bisa terus bertahan. "Kalau pertumbuhan ekonomi jelek atau anjlok kayak waktu tahun 1998, ya kacau. Perusahaan pada bangkrut, tingkat sewa juga menurun drastis," ungkapnya.

Pendorong lainnya adalah persentase Return on Equity (ROE) atau rasio tingkat pengembalian atas modal yang tinggi yang mengindikasikan apakah perusahaan dikelola dengan baik dan efisien. Semakin tinggi persentase artinya semakin efisien sebuah perusahaan dikelola. "Perusahaan kami tahun ini akan menargetkan ROE mencapai 18%," harapnya. Dia juga menambahkan, model bisnis sewa mobil memang padat modal sehingga modal yang dibutuhkan tinggi.

 
Industri Sewa Mobil Didukung Perbankan

 
Cara manajemen dan skema keuangan pun telah menjadi penting untuk dapat menghasilkan keuntungan. "Banyak perusahaan yang salah menerapkan hal ini karena tidak menyadari industri ini telah memiliki skema yang berbeda, jadi banyak perusahaan yang tidak berkembang atau malah bisa tutup. Salah satu skema yang biasa terjadi adalah kompetisi dengan harga murah, tidak memperhitungkan banyak hal hingga akhirnya kekurangan dana untuk berkembang," tambahnya. Oleh karena itu, ASSA memutuskan tidak akan main banting-bantingan harga.

Risiko yang tersebar juga menjadi andalan industri rental mobil untuk terus melaju pertumbuhannya. Prodjo juga menjelaskan, banyak bank yang berminat untuk memberikan pinjaman karena kemungkinan gagal bayar sangat kecil. Alasannya, industri rental mobil merupakan bisnis padat modal berupa mobil atau kendaraan lainnya. Modal ini pun bisa dicairkan dengan cara menjual sesuai dengan kebutuhan yang diperlukan.

"Kita kan bisnis padat modal, banyak mobil yang kita miliki yang harganya minimal Rp 150 juta. Kalau ada utang atau apa-apa yang butuh uang kita tinggal jual. Apalagi kalau ekonomi sedang anjlok berarti harga mobil dan kurs dolar meningkat, artinya harga jual mobil bekas juga meningkat. Pengalaman saya waktu tahun 1998, harga mobil Rp 30 juta bisa dijual Rp 100 juta," jelasnya. Hal ini membuat risiko perusahaan tersebar sehingga cenderung lebih aman. "Oleh karena itu, bank juga selalu siap meminjamkan uangnya karena senang dengan bisnis model industri rental mobil," tegasnya.

 

INDUSTRI SEWA MOBIL MELAJU CEPAT, UNTUNG PUN DIRAIH

Hockey is not exactly known as a city game, but played on roller skates, it once held sway as the sport of choice in many New York neighborhoods.

“City kids had no rinks, no ice, but they would do anything to play hockey,” said Edward Moffett, former director of the Long Island City Y.M.C.A. Roller Hockey League, in Queens, whose games were played in city playgrounds going back to the 1940s.

From the 1960s through the 1980s, the league had more than 60 teams, he said. Players included the Mullen brothers of Hell’s Kitchen and Dan Dorion of Astoria, Queens, who would later play on ice for the National Hockey League.

One street legend from the heyday of New York roller hockey was Craig Allen, who lived in the Woodside Houses projects and became one of the city’s hardest hitters and top scorers.

“Craig was a warrior, one of the best roller hockey players in the city in the ’70s,” said Dave Garmendia, 60, a retired New York police officer who grew up playing with Mr. Allen. “His teammates loved him and his opponents feared him.”

Young Craig took up hockey on the streets of Queens in the 1960s, playing pickup games between sewer covers, wearing steel-wheeled skates clamped onto school shoes and using a roll of electrical tape as the puck.

His skill and ferocity drew attention, Mr. Garmendia said, but so did his skin color. He was black, in a sport made up almost entirely by white players.

“Roller hockey was a white kid’s game, plain and simple, but Craig broke the color barrier,” Mr. Garmendia said. “We used to say Craig did more for race relations than the N.A.A.C.P.”

Mr. Allen went on to coach and referee roller hockey in New York before moving several years ago to South Carolina. But he continued to organize an annual alumni game at Dutch Kills Playground in Long Island City, the same site that held the local championship games.

The reunion this year was on Saturday, but Mr. Allen never made it. On April 26, just before boarding the bus to New York, he died of an asthma attack at age 61.

Word of his death spread rapidly among hundreds of his old hockey colleagues who resolved to continue with the event, now renamed the Craig Allen Memorial Roller Hockey Reunion.

The turnout on Saturday was the largest ever, with players pulling on their old equipment, choosing sides and taking once again to the rink of cracked blacktop with faded lines and circles. They wore no helmets, although one player wore a fedora.

Another, Vinnie Juliano, 77, of Long Island City, wore his hearing aids, along with his 50-year-old taped-up quads, or four-wheeled skates with a leather boot. Many players here never converted to in-line skates, and neither did Mr. Allen, whose photograph appeared on a poster hanging behind the players’ bench.

“I’m seeing people walking by wondering why all these rusty, grizzly old guys are here playing hockey,” one player, Tommy Dominguez, said. “We’re here for Craig, and let me tell you, these old guys still play hard.”

Everyone seemed to have a Craig Allen story, from his earliest teams at Public School 151 to the Bryant Rangers, the Woodside Wings, the Woodside Blues and more.

Mr. Allen, who became a yellow-cab driver, was always recruiting new talent. He gained the nickname Cabby for his habit of stopping at playgrounds all over the city to scout players.

Teams were organized around neighborhoods and churches, and often sponsored by local bars. Mr. Allen, for one, played for bars, including Garry Owen’s and on the Fiddler’s Green Jokers team in Inwood, Manhattan.

Play was tough and fights were frequent.

“We were basically street gangs on skates,” said Steve Rogg, 56, a mail clerk who grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, and who on Saturday wore his Riedell Classic quads from 1972. “If another team caught up with you the night before a game, they tossed you a beating so you couldn’t play the next day.”

Mr. Garmendia said Mr. Allen’s skin color provoked many fights.

“When we’d go to some ignorant neighborhoods, a lot of players would use slurs,” Mr. Garmendia said, recalling a game in Ozone Park, Queens, where local fans parked motorcycles in a lineup next to the blacktop and taunted Mr. Allen. Mr. Garmendia said he checked a player into the motorcycles, “and the bikes went down like dominoes, which started a serious brawl.”

A group of fans at a game in Brooklyn once stuck a pole through the rink fence as Mr. Allen skated by and broke his jaw, Mr. Garmendia said, adding that carloads of reinforcements soon arrived to defend Mr. Allen.

And at another racially incited brawl, the police responded with six patrol cars and a helicopter.

Before play began on Saturday, the players gathered at center rink to honor Mr. Allen. Billy Barnwell, 59, of Woodside, recalled once how an all-white, all-star squad snubbed Mr. Allen by playing him third string. He scored seven goals in the first game and made first string immediately.

“He’d always hear racial stuff before the game, and I’d ask him, ‘How do you put up with that?’” Mr. Barnwell recalled. “Craig would say, ‘We’ll take care of it,’ and by the end of the game, he’d win guys over. They’d say, ‘This guy’s good.’”

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Alger, who served five terms from Texas, led Republican women in a confrontation with Lyndon B. Johnson that may have cost Richard M. Nixon the 1960 presidential election.

Bruce Alger, 96, Dies; Led ‘Mink Coat’ Protest Against Lyndon Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Scandal in New York and New Jersey, but No Shame

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

The live music at the Vice Media party on Friday shook the room. Shane Smith, Vice’s chief executive, was standing near the stage — with a drink in his hand, pants sagging, tattoos showing — watching the rapper-cum-chef Action Bronson make pizzas.

The event was an after-party, a happy-hour bacchanal for the hundreds of guests who had come for Vice’s annual presentation to advertisers and agencies that afternoon, part of the annual frenzy for ad dollars called the Digital Content NewFronts. Mr. Smith had spoken there for all of five minutes before running a slam-bang highlight reel of the company’s shows that had titles like “Weediquette” and “Gaycation.”

In the last year, Vice has secured $500 million in financing and signed deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars with established media companies like HBO that are eager to engage the young viewers Vice attracts. Vice said it was now worth at least $4 billion, with nearly $1 billion in projected revenue for 2015. It is a long way from Vice’s humble start as a free magazine in 1994.

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At the Vice after-party, the rapper Action Bronson, a host of a Vice show, made a pizza. Credit Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times

But even as cash flows freely in Vice’s direction, the company is trying to keep its brash, insurgent image. At the party on Friday, it plied guests with beers and cocktails. Its apparently unrehearsed presentation to advertisers was peppered with expletives. At one point, the director Spike Jonze, a longtime Vice collaborator, asked on stage if Mr. Smith had been drinking.

“My assistant tried to cut me off,” Mr. Smith replied. “I’m on buzz control.”

Now, Vice is on the verge of getting its own cable channel, which would give the company a traditional outlet for its slate of non-news programming. If all goes as planned, A&E Networks, the television group owned by Hearst and Disney, will turn over its History Channel spinoff, H2, to Vice.

The deal’s announcement was expected last week, but not all of A&E’s distribution partners — the cable and satellite TV companies that carry the network’s channels — have signed off on the change, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were private.

A cable channel would be a further step in a transformation for Vice, from bad-boy digital upstart to mainstream media company.

Keen for the core audience of young men who come to Vice, media giants like 21st Century Fox, Time Warner and Disney all showed interest in the company last year. Vice ultimately secured $500 million in financing from A&E Networks and Technology Crossover Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has invested in Facebook and Netflix.

Those investments valued Vice at more than $2.5 billion. (In 2013, Fox bought a 5 percent stake for $70 million.)

Then in March, HBO announced that it had signed a multiyear deal to broadcast a daily half-hour Vice newscast. Vice already produces a weekly newsmagazine show, called “Vice,” for the network. That show will extend its run through 2018, with an increase to 35 episodes a year, from 14.

Michael Lombardo, HBO’s president for programming, said when the deal was announced that it was “certainly one of our biggest investments with hours on the air.”

Vice, based in Brooklyn, also recently signed a multiyear $100 million deal with Rogers Communications, a Canadian media conglomerate, to produce original content for TV, smartphone and desktop viewers.

Vice’s finances are private, but according to an internal document reviewed by The New York Times and verified by a person familiar with the company’s financials, the company is on track to make about $915 million in revenue this year.

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Vice showed a highlight reel of its TV series at the NewFronts last week in New York. Credit Jesse Dittmar for The New York Times

It brought in $545 million in a strong first quarter, which included portions of the new HBO deal and the Rogers deal, according to the document. More of its revenue now comes from these types of content partnerships, compared with the branded content deals that made up much of its revenue a year ago, the company said.

Mr. Smith said the company was worth at least $4 billion. If the valuation gets much higher, he said he would consider taking the company public.

“I don’t care about money; we have plenty of money,” Mr. Smith, who is Vice’s biggest shareholder, said in an interview after the presentation on Friday. “I care about strategic deals.”

In the United States, Vice Media had 35.2 million unique visitors across its sites in March, according to comScore.

The third season of Vice’s weekly HBO show has averaged 1.8 million viewers per episode, including reruns, through April 12, according to Brad Adgate, the director of research at Horizon Media. (Vice said the show attracted three million weekly viewers when repeat broadcasts, online and on-demand viewings were included.)

For years, Mr. Smith has criticized traditional TV, calling it slow and unable to draw younger viewers. But if all the deals Vice has struck are to work out, Mr. Smith may have to play more by the rules of traditional media. James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and a member of Vice’s board, was at the company’s presentation on Friday, as were other top media executives.

“They know they need people like me to help them, but they can’t get out of their own way,” Mr. Smith said in the interview Friday. “My only real frustration is we’re used to being incredibly dynamic, and they’re not incredibly dynamic.”

With its own television channel in the United States, Vice would have something it has long coveted even as traditional media companies are looking beyond TV. Last year, Vice’s deal with Time Warner failed in part because the two companies could not agree on how much control Vice would have over a 24-hour television network.

Vice said it intended to fill its new channel with non-news programming. The company plans to have sports shows, fashion shows, food shows and the “Gaycation” travel show with the actress Ellen Page. It is also in talks with Kanye West about a show.

It remains to be seen whether Vice’s audience will watch a traditional cable channel. Still, Vice has effectively presold all of the ad spots to two of the biggest advertising agencies for the first three years, Mr. Smith said.

In the meantime, Mr. Smith is enjoying Vice’s newfound role as a potential savior of traditional media companies.

“I’m a C.E.O. of a content company,” Mr. Smith said before he caught a flight to Las Vegas for the boxing match on Saturday between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. “If it stops being fun, then why are you doing it?”

As Vice Moves More to TV, It Tries to Keep Brash Voice

Ms. Pryor, who served more than two decades in the State Department, was the author of well-regarded biographies of the founder of the American Red Cross and the Confederate commander.

Elizabeth Brown Pryor, Biographer of Clara Barton and Robert E. Lee, Dies at 64

Ms. von Furstenberg made her debut in the movies and on the Broadway stage in the early 1950s as a teenager and later reinvented herself as a television actress, writer and philanthropist.

Betsy von Furstenberg, Baroness and Versatile Actress, Dies at 83

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

Ms. Crough played the youngest daughter on the hit ’70s sitcom starring David Cassidy and Shirley Jones.

Suzanne Crough, Actress in ‘The Partridge Family,’ Dies at 52

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

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

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

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Document: The Formaldehyde Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
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

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