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Hak asuh atas anak

saco-indonesia.com, Sepasang suami istri tengah menghadiri sidang perceraiannya. Dalam sidang akan memutuskan siapa yang mendapat hak asuh atas anak.

Sambil berteriak histeris dan melompat – lompat si istri berkata :
“Yang Mulia, Saya yang mengandung, melahirkan bayi itu ke dunia dengan kesakitan dan kesabaran saya!! ”
“Anak itu harus menjadi hak asuh Saya!!”

Hakim lalu berkata kepada pihak suami:
“Apa pembelaan anda terhadap tuntutan istri Anda”

Si Suami diam sebentar, dengan nada datar ia berkata :
“Yang mulia… Jika saya memasukkan KOIN ke mesin minuman Coca- Cola, mesinnya BERGOYANG SEBENTAR, dan minumannya keluar, Menurut Pak Hakim … Minumannya milik saya atau mesinnya?”


Iya juga ya??????
Hak asuh atas anak

Saco-Indonesia.com - Akar tumbuhan ini sangat banyak manfaatnya dia adalah kunyit adalah salah satu jenis rempah-rempah yang familiar digunakan dalam banyak masakan di Indonesia. Sejak berabad-abad lalu kunyit dikenal sebagai salah satu tanaman obat yang populer untuk mengobati dan mencegah berbagai macam penyakit. Hal ini disebabkan karena adanya kandungan kurkumin di dalam kunyit.

Berikut adalah manfaat menyehatkan dari kunyit yang harus Anda ketahui seperti dilansir dari magforwomen.com.

Meningkatkan kekebalan tubuh
Kurkumin yang ada di dalam kunyit adalah salah satu zat anti oksidan yang kuat. Zat ini mampu mencegah radikal bebas yang mengganggu sistem DNA.

Menurunkan kolesterol
selain kaya akan zat anti oksidan, kunyit juga efektif untuk menurunkan LDL atau kolesterol buruk dalam darah

Meningkatkan kesehatan jantung
Kandungan berbagai macam vitamin dan mineral seperti potasium dan zat besi di dalam kunit diperlukan untuk membangun sel darah merah. Sedangkan kalium di dalamnya mampu untuk mengontrol tekanan darah dan denyut jantung.

Menyehatkan pencernaan
Sekali lagi, kandungan kurkumin di dalam kunyit baik untuk membunuh bakteri jahat di dalam perut sehingga mampu menyehatkan pencernaan Anda.

Mampu digunakan untuk mengencerkan darah
Kunyit memiliki sifat pengencer darah. Oleh karena itu bagi Anda yang sedang merencanakan untuk melakukan operasi, sebaiknya Anda menghindari mengonsumsi kunyit

Mengobati asma
Satu sendok bubuk kunyit yang dicampur dengan segelas susu hangat efektif untuk mengobati asma, flu, pilek, dan batuk.

Kunyit adalah tanaman obat yang cukup populer di Indonesia. Hal ini membuktikan bahwa kesehatan pun dapat ditingkatkan dengan terus mengonsumsi tanaman obat nan alami.

Editor : Maulana Lee

Sumber : Merdeka.com

Ada Enam Manfaat menyehatkan dari kunyit yang tidak diketahui

Saco-Indonesia.com, Tak ada yang lebih indah daripada kehidupan yang penuh dengan kesyukuran. Rasanya semua orang menginginkannya. Berbagai usaha pun dilakukan, mulai dari yang kecil berupa membina hati, kemudian hal yang gampang dan ringan dengan ucapan atau yang berat dan besar dengan tindakan – tindakan nyata. Sayangnya, tak banyak orang yang pada akhirnya dapat merasakan predikat indah itu. Kesyukuran timbul tenggelam di dalam samudera kehidupan ini. Silih berganti. Sebab jumlah nikmat yang tak terhitung dan sifat lupa dan lalai manusia akan nikmat itu sendiri. Alhasil, hidup berlimpah dengan rasa syukur menjadi barang yang sulit ditemukan. Tak jarang, malah terlupakan.
Hal ini diperkuat dengan garis Allah di dalam Kitabnya, dimana Allah menyebutkan bahwa kategori orang yang bisa bersyukur itu sedikit. Dan sedikit sekali dari hamba- hamba-Ku yang bersyukur”. (QS Saba’:13) Konsekuensi dari hukum ini diantaranya adalah susahnya mencari keteladanan dalam bersyukur. Di Quran misalnya hanya beberapa hamba yang tertulis sebagai ahli syukur, Nabi Nuh misalnya seperti yang tertulis di dalam surat al-Israa ayat 3, innahu kaana ‘abdan syakuuron - sesungguhnya dia adalah hamba (Allah) yang banyak bersyukur.

Kemudian Nabi Daud dan keluarganya, yang disebutkan di dalam surat Saba ayat 13, i’maluu aalaa daawuuda syukron - bekerjalah wahai keluarga Daud untuk bersyukur (kepada Allah). Berkenaan dengan masalah syukur ini Nabi Dawud pernah bertanya kepada Allah. “Bagaimana aku mampu bersyukur kepadaMu ya Allah, sedangkan bersyukur itupun nikmat dari Engkau? Allah pun menjawab, “Sekarang engkau telah bersyukur kepadaKu, karena engkau mengakui nikmat itu berasal dari-Ku”.

Berkaitan dengan masalah ini Rasulullah SAW pun menegaskan dengan sabdanya; “Shalat yang paling dicintai oleh Allah adalah shalat nabi Daud; ia tidur setengah malam, kemudian bangun sepertiganya dan tidur seperenam malam. Puasa yang paling dicintai oleh Allah juga adalah puasa Daud; ia puasa sehari, kemudian ia berbuka di hari berikutnya, dan begitu seterusnya”.(Rowahu al-Bukhari, Muslim)

Juga Rasulullah SAW menjelaskan dengan sabdanya; “Tidaklah seseorang itu makan makanan yang lebih baik kecuali dari hasil kerja tangannya sendiri. Karena sesungguhnya Nabi Daud as senantiasa makan dari hasil kerja tangannya sendiri.” (Rowahu al-Bukhari)

Di dalam jalur riwayat lain, Ibnu Abi Hatim meriwayatkan dari Tsabit Al-Bunani bahwa Nabi Daud membagi waktu shalat kepada istri, anak dan seluruh keluarganya sehingga tidak ada sedikit waktupun, baik siang maupun malam, kecuali ada salah seorang dari mereka sedang menjalankan shalat.

Tampilnya keluarga Nabi Dawud sebagai teladan dalam bersyukur memang tepat dan contoh yang diberikan juga gamblang. Bersyukur tidak hanya dengan hati, perkataan dan tindakan sebagaimana yang dicontohkan Keluarga Nabi Daud. Lebih dari itu bersyukur adalah dalam rangka mencari kecintaan - keridhoan dari Allah. 

Demikian juga apa yang telah dilakukan oleh Rasulullah SAW dalam masalah ini. Ketika turun Surat Fath ayat 1 yang menetapkan pengampunan kepada Rasulullah SAW atas dosa yang terdahulu dan yang akan datang, kesungguhan Rasulullah SAW dalam bersyukur semakin menjadi. Shalat malamnya membuat kedua kaki beliau bengkak – bengkak, sehingga Aisyah pun berkata, “Kenapa engkau berbuat seperti ini? Bukankah Allah telah menjamin untuk mengampuni segala dosa-dosamu baik yang awal maupun yang akhir?” Rasulullah menjawab, “Afalam akuunu abdan syakuron - Tidakkah aku menjadi hamba yang bersyukur”. (Rowahu Al-Bukhari).

Dari tiga teladan di atas, kita perlu menelusuri lebih lanjut jalan menjadi ahli bersyukur. Walaupun tertulis sedikit kita berharap dan berusaha menjadi bagian yang sedikit itu.  Sebagai inspirasi cerita berikut layak dicermati. Suatu saat Umar bin Khaththab pernah mendengar seseorang berdo’a, “Ya Allah, jadikanlah aku termasuk golongan yang sedikit”. Mendengar itu, Umar terkejut dan bertanya, “Kenapa engkau berdoa demikian?” Sahabat itu menjawab, “Karena saya mendengar Allah berfirman, “Dan sedikit sekali dari hamba-hambaKu yang bersyukur”, makanya aku memohon agar aku termasuk yang sedikit tersebut.”

Ada hal – hal yang bisa dilakukan untuk menumbuhkan benih – benih kesyukuran agar terpatri di dalam hati. Yang pertama adalah benih hati “tidak merasa memiliki, tidak merasa dimiliki kecuali yakin segalanya milik Allah SWT.” Allah berfirman; “Dan sungguh akan Kami berikan cobaan kepada kalian, dengan sedikit ketakutan, kelaparan, kekurangan harta, jiwa dan buah-buahan. Dan berikanlah berita gembira kepada orang-orang yang sabar. (yaitu) orang-orang yang apabila ditimpa musibah, mereka mengucapkan: "Inna lillaahi wa innaa ilaihi raaji'uun" (QS al Baqoroh 155 – 156).

Sebab makin kita merasa memiliki sesuatu akan semakin takut kehilangan. Dan takut kehilangan adalah suatu bentuk kesengsaraan. Tapi kalau kita yakin semuanya milik Allah, maka ketika diambil oleh Allah tidak layak kita merasa kehilangan. Karena kita hanya tertitipi. Dalam kondisi seperti ini layak direnungi kaidah tukang parkir. Setiap hari di area parkir berjajar mobil mewah dari Mercy, BMW, Toyota, Mazda dan mobil bagus lainnya. Walau dari pagi sampai petang mobil – mobil itu di bawah tanggung jawab si tukang parkir, tetapi apakah dia bisa marah, sedih, ketika mobil – mobil tersebut diambil pemiliknya kala sore hari? Tentu tidak. Bahkan dramawan WS Rendra menulis dengan apik, hakikat harta sebagai titipan seperti dalam puisinya Makna Sebuah Titipan.

Sering kali aku berkata, ketika orang memuji milikku,
bahwa sesungguhnya ini hanya titipan
Bahwa mobilku hanya titipan Nya, bahwa rumahku hanya titipan Nya,
bahwa hartaku hanya titipan Nya
Tetapi, mengapa aku tidak pernah bertanya, mengapa Dia menitipkan padaku?
Untuk apa Dia menitipkan ini padaku?

Dan kalau bukan milikku, apa yang harus kulakukan untuk milik Nya ini?
Adakah aku memiliki hak atas sesuatu yg bukan milikku?
Mengapa hatiku justru terasa berat, ketika titipan itu diminta kembali oleh Nya?

Ketika diminta kembali, kusebut itu sebagai musibah,
kusebut itu sebagai ujian, kusebut itu sebagai petaka,
kusebut dengan panggilan apa saja yang melukiskan bahwa itu adalah derita

Ketika aku berdoa, kuminta titipan yang cocok dengan hawa nafsuku,
aku ingin lebih banyak harta, lebih banyak mobil, lebih banyak rumah,
lebih banyak popularitas, dan kutolak sakit, kutolak kemiskinan.

Seolah semua “derita” adalah hukuman bagiku
Seolah keadilan dan kasih Nya harus berjalan seperti matematika:
“aku rajin beribadah, maka selayaknyalah derita menjauh dariku,
dan nikmat dunia kerap menghampiriku

Kuperlakukan Dia seolah mitra dagang, dan bukan kekasih
Kuminta Dia membalas “perlakuan baikku” dan
menolak keputusan Nya yang tak sesuai keinginanku,

Gusti, padahal tiap hari kuucapkan, hidup dan matiku hanyalah untuk beribadah…
“Ketika langit dan bumi bersatu, bencana dan keberuntungan sama saja”

Rahasia benih kedua menjadi ahli syukur adalah “selalu memuji Allah dalam segala kondisi. " Kenapa? Allah berfirman; “Dan jika kamu menghitung-hitung nikmat Allah, niscaya kamu tak dapat menentukan jumlahnya. Sesungguhnya Allah benar-benar Maha Pengampun lagi Maha Penyayang.”  (QS An-nahl 18). Karena kalau dibandingkan antara nikmat dengan musibah tidak akan ada apa-apanya. Musibah yang datang tidak sebanding dengan samudera nikmat yang tiada bertepi.

Ini seperti cerita seorang petani miskin yang kehilangan kuda satu-satunya. Orang-orang di desanya amat prihatin terhadap kejadian itu, namun ia hanya istirja dan mengatakan, alhamdulillah, cuma kuda yang hilang. Bukan lainnya. Seminggu kemudian kuda tersebut kembali ke rumahnya sambil membawa serombongan kuda liar. Petani itu mendadak menjadi orang kaya. Orang-orang di desanya berduyun-duyun mengucapkan selamat kepadanya, namun ia hanya berkata, alhamdulillah.

Tak lama kemudian petani ini kembali mendapat musibah. Anaknya yang berusaha menjinakkan seekor kuda liar terjatuh sehingga patah kakinya. Orang-orang desa merasa amat prihatin, tapi sang petani hanya mengatakan, alhamdulillah cuma patah kakinya. Ternyata seminggu kemudian tentara masuk ke desa itu untuk mencari para pemuda untuk wajib militer. Semua pemuda diboyong keluar desa kecuali anak sang petani karena kakinya patah. Melihat hal itu si petani hanya berkata singkat, alhamdulillah. Allah telah mengatur segalanya.

Apa yang harus membuat kita menderita? Adalah menderita karena kita tamak kepada yang belum ada dan tidak mensyukuri apa yang ada sekarang.

Benih ketiga untuk menjadi ahli syukur adalah “manfaatkan nikmat yang ada  untuk mendekatkan diri kepada Allah SWT”. Allah berfirman; “Hai orang-orang yang beriman, makanlah di antara rezki yang baik-baik yang Kami berikan kepada kalian dan bersyukurlah kalian kepada Allah, jika benar-benar hanya kepada-Nya kalian menyembah.”  (QS Al-Baqoroh 172)

Alkisah ada tiga pengendara kuda masuk ke dalam hutan belantara, kemudian dia tertidur. Saat terjaga dilihat kudanya telah hilang beserta semua perbekalannya.  Betapa kagetnya mereka, karena alamat tidak bisa meneruskan perjalanan. Pada saat yang sama dalam keadaan kaget tersebut, ternyata seorang raja yang bijaksana melihatnya dan mengirimkan kuda yang baru lengkap dengan perbekalan untuk perjalanan mereka.  Ketika dikirimkan reaksi ketiga pengendara yang hilang kudanya itu berbeda-beda.

Pengendara pertama si-A kaget dan berkomentar; "Wah ini kuda yang hebat sekali, bagus ototnya, lengkap perbekalannya dan banyak pula!” Dia sibuk dengan kuda dan perbekalannya tanpa bertanya kuda siapakah ini? Pengendara kedua Si-B, gembira dengan kuda yang ada dan berkomentar; "Wah ini kuda yang hebat, dan saya benar – benar membutuhkannya. Terima kasih, terima kasih.” Begitulah si-B bersyukur dan berterima kasih kepada yang memberi. Sikap pengendara ke tiga, si-C beda lagi. Ia berkata; "Lho ini bukan kuda saya, ini kuda milik siapa?” Yang ditanya menjawab; " Ini kuda milik raja."
Si-C bertanya kembali; "Kenapa raja memberikan kuda ini ?” Dijawab; "Sebab raja mengirim kuda agar engkau mudah bertemu dengan sang raja". Dengan bersuka cita si-C menjawab; “Terima kasih atas semuanya, sehingga saya bisa sampai ke sang raja.”
Dia gembira bukan karena bagusnya kuda, dia gembira karena kuda dapat memudahkan dia dekat dengan sang raja.

Begitulah, si-A adalah gambaran manusia yang kalau mendapatkan mobil, motor, rumah, dan  kedudukan sibuk dengan semua itu, tanpa sadar bahwa itu semua adalah titipan. Yang B mungkin adalah model orang kebanyakan yang ketika senang mengucap Alhamdulillah.  Tetapi ahli syukur yang asli adalah yang ketiga yang kalau punya sesuatu dia berpikir bahwa inilah kendaraan yang dapat menjadi pendekat kepada Allah SWT. Ketika mempunyai uang dia mengucap alhamdulillah, uang inilah pendekat saya kepada Allah. Ia tidak berat untuk membayar zakat, dia ringan untuk bersadaqah, karena itulah jalan mendekatkan diri kepadaNya.

Benih syukur yang keempat adalah “berterima kasih kepada yang telah menjadi jalan perantara nikmat.” Seorang anak disebut ahli syukur kalau dia tahu balas budi kepada ibu dan bapaknya. Benar orang tua kita tidak seideal yang kita harapkan, tetapi masalah kita bukan bagaimana sikap orang tua kepada kita, tetapi sikap kita kepada orang tua. Sama halnya dengan nikmat lainnya, kadang datangnya melalui perantara, maka yang terpenting adalah bagaimana kita bisa bersikap yang baik kepadanya.

Diriwayatkan dari Usamah bin Zaid r.a. dia berkata, “Rasululloh SAW bersabda; ’Barangsiapa diberi suatu kebaikan, lalu dia berkata kepada pemberinya – Jazaakallohu khairo/Semoga Allah membalas kebaikan (yang lebih baik) kepadamu – maka dia telah sampai (sempurna) di dalam memuji.”(Rowahu at-Tirmidzi, dia berkata hadist hasan ghorib)

Dari al-Asy’ats bin Qois r.a. dia berkata, “Rasululoh SAW bersabda tidak bersyukur kepada Allah orang yang tidak bersyukur (berterima kasih) kepada manusia.” (Rowahu Ahmad)

Dari Abu Huroiroh r.a, dari Nabi SAW beliau bersabda,”Tidak bersyukur kepada Allah orang yang tidak bersyukur kepada manusia.” (Rowahu Abu Dawud dan at- Tirmidzi dia berkata hadist shohih)
Sebagai pelengkap benih – benih di atas, tentunya adalah memperbanyak doa untuk menyirami benih – benih itu. Berdoa untuk menjadi hamba yang penuh kesyukuran, sebagaimana yang diajarkan oleh Rasulullah SAW kepada sahabat Muadz bin Jabal.  Hadist itu diriwayatkan oleh Sunan Abu Dawud (Kitabu Sholah) dan Sunan Nasa’i (Kitabu as-Sahwi), juga terdapat dalam Musnad Ahmad, yang dishohihkan oleh Ibnu Hibban dan al-Hakim. Dari Muadz bin Jabal r.a. sesungguhnya Rasulullah SAW memegang tangannya Muadz dan berkata; ”Ya Muadz, Demi Allah sesungguhnya aku benar-benar mencintaimu, Demi Allah sesungguhnya aku benar-benar mencintaimu.” Seterusnya Beliau berkata, ”Aku wasiat kepadamu hai Muadz, jangan meninggalkan sungguh engkau di dalam setiap habis sholat untuk berdoa - Allohumma a’innaa ’alaa dzikrika, wasyukrika wahusni ’ibadatik - Ya Allah tolonglah kami untuk senantiasa berdzikir kepadaMu, bersyukur kepadaMu dan beribadah kepadaMu dengan baik”.
Setelah menjadi orang iman, tantangan berikutnya yang menghadang adalah berpacu untuk menjadi orang yang berkelimpahan kesyukuran. Walaupun kesempatannya kecil, kita masih punya peluang meraihnya bukan? Nah, sebagai parameter penutup bisa dirujuk cerita tentang seorang pengembala yang ditanya oleh tuannya. “Bagaimana cuaca hari ini?” “Hari ini cuacanya sangat menyenangkan”, jawabnya. ‘Apakah kamu tidak melihat bahwa dari pagi mendung dan tak tampak matahari? ” “Betul tuan, tetapi kehidupan ini telah mengajarkan kepada saya bahwa banyak keinginan yang tidak saya dapatkan, oleh karena itu saya mulai mensyukuri apa saja yang saya dapatkan.”

Lalu, dimanakah kita sekarang?

Oleh :Ustadz.Faizunal Abdillah
Sumber:LDII

Editor:Liwon Maulana(galipat)

BERSYUKUR

Tujuh tahun menjadi Tenaga Kerja Indonesia (TKI) di Korea di Korea, benar-benar tidak disia-siakan oleh Mugiyanto, yang umurnya sudah tidak terbilang muda.

Bapak satu anak yang tinggal di Dusun Silowan, Kelurahan Pager Sari, Kecamatan Bergas, Kabupaten Semarang, Jawa Tengah ini merasa cukup mengais modal dengan tiga tahun menjadi buruh bimbel (1997-2000), dan empat tahun menjadi buruh tekstil (2005-2009). Setelah itu, ia menekuni bisnis pembuatan batako, paving, bis beton, kolong selokan, dan lain-lain.

Sekitar tujuh tahun menjadi TKI merupakan waktu yang sangat singkat sekali dalam mencari modal. Oleh karena itu, ia tidak membuang-buang waktu yang relatif singkat tersebut untuk bekerja dan menabung.

Mengapa ia tidak membuang-buang waktu? Sebab, Mugiyanto setelah mendarat di tanah Air akan menjalani usaha sendiri.

Mugiyanto menjelaskan, untuk melakoni bisnisnya tersebut modal yang dibutuhkan mencapai ratusan juta. Modal tersebut dikucurkannya untuk membeli tanah tempat produksi dan gudang sederhana sebesar Rp90 juta. Untuk peralatan dan mesin cetak batako, bis beton, dibutuhkan modal sebesar Rp45 juta. Membeli dua unit truk kecil untuk mengantar produk pesanan dan operasional diperlukan uang sebesar Rp100 juta. Nah, itu belum terhitung bahan-bahan, seperti pasir, semen, dan sirtu.

Jadi, dalam membuka usahanya, ia menyiapkan modal kurang lebih sebesar Rp225 juta. "Semua uang saya peroleh dari menabung selama menjadi TKI di Korea," ujarnya.

Kini, usahanya berjalan maju. Mugoyanto mengaku dirinya mampu meraup untung sebesar Rp5 juta hingga Rp 7 juta per bulannya. (*DI)
'Mugiyanto, Mantan TKI yang Sukses Jadi Pengusaha Batako ':

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PEMBUATAN BATAKO, DENGAN MESIN BATAKO

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yang sangat berbahaya bagi penyanyi ialah sakit tenggorokan. Lantunan suara nan merdu otomatis juga jadi kurang sedap didengar bila tenggorokan terkapar. Coba sembuhkan penyakit ini lewat sejumlah cara ini. Cairan Menjaga agar tubuh tidak dehidrasi saat sedang tidak fit juga sangat penting. Minumlah cukup cairan yang banyak. Indikasi tubuh tidak dapatgadehidrasi adalah ketika warna urine kuning muda atau bening. Cairan yang telah mencukup menjaga membran lembab hingga membuat tubuh kita sanggup untuk melawan penyebab sakit. Cairan yang paling baik, tentunya air putih. Air Garam Terkadang pengobatan ala rumahan telah menjadi obat yang dibutuhkan untuk sakit tenggorokan akibat virus. Salah satunya adalah berkumur dengan larutan air garam. Larutan ini juga dipercaya dapat mengurangi pembengkakan dan memberi rasa nyaman bagi tenggorokan. Berkumurlah dengan larutan satu gelas air yang telah diberi setengah sendok teh garam. Larutan air gram membantu menghilangkah bakteri penyebab iritasi tenggorokan. Sup Ayam Ini dia ramuan kuno bagi demam, flu, termasuk sakit tenggorokan. Sodium atau garam yang terkandung dalam kaldu di sup ayam telah memiliki fungsi anti-inflamasi, telah membuat tubuh mudah merasa enak. Menyantap semangkuk sup ayam juga memudahkan proses makan kala sakit. Tenggorokan yang susah menelan akan lebih mudah menerima makanan yang lembut dan hangat. Nutrisi dari sayuran dalam sup juga dapat membantu menutrisi tubuh. Istirahat Solusi yang satu ini tidak selalu memberi dampak instan bagi tubuh. Menurut situs health.com, beristirahat yang cukup namun telah menjadi solusi terbaik bagi tubuh. Sakit tenggorokan umumnya disebabkan oleh virus demam. Dan, tidak ada yang bisa dilakukan untuk melawannya selain dengan memberikan kesempatan pada tubuh untuk membangun proses pertahanan hingga akhirnya sanggup melawan penyakit.

SAKIT TENGGOROKAN

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. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Mazel tov,” his father replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is,” his father agreed.

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

Public perceptions of race relations in America have grown substantially more negative in the aftermath of the death of a young black man who was injured while in police custody in Baltimore and the subsequent unrest, far eclipsing the sentiment recorded in the wake of turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., last summer.

Americans are also increasingly likely to say that the police are more apt to use deadly force against a black person, the latest New York Times/CBS News poll finds.

The poll findings highlight the challenges for local leaders and police officials in trying to maintain order while sustaining faith in the criminal justice system in a racially polarized nation.

Sixty-one percent of Americans now say race relations in this country are generally bad. That figure is up sharply from 44 percent after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed in Ferguson in August, and 43 percent in December. In a CBS News poll just two months ago, 38 percent said race relations were generally bad. Current views are by far the worst of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The negative sentiment is echoed by broad majorities of blacks and whites alike, a stark change from earlier this year, when 58 percent of blacks thought race relations were bad, but just 35 percent of whites agreed. In August, 48 percent of blacks and 41 percent of whites said they felt that way.

Looking ahead, 44 percent of Americans think race relations are worsening, up from 36 percent in December. Forty-one percent of blacks and 46 percent of whites think so. Pessimism among whites has increased 10 points since December.

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Do you think race relations in the United States are generally good or generally bad?
60
40
20
0
White
Black
May '14
May '15
Generally bad
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Do you think race relations in the United States are getting better, getting worse or staying about the same?
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Staying the same
Getting better
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All adults
Whites
Blacks
44%
37
17
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The poll finds that profound racial divisions in views of how the police use deadly force remain. Blacks are more than twice as likely to say police in most communities are more apt to use deadly force against a black person — 79 percent of blacks say so compared with 37 percent of whites. A slim majority of whites say race is not a factor in a police officer’s decision to use deadly force.

Overall, 44 percent of Americans say deadly force is more likely to be used against a black person, up from 37 percent in August and 40 percent in December.

Blacks also remain far more likely than whites to say they feel mostly anxious about the police in their community. Forty-two percent say so, while 51 percent feel mostly safe. Among whites, 8 in 10 feel mostly safe.

One proposal to address the matter — having on-duty police officers wear body cameras — receives overwhelming support. More than 9 in 10 whites and blacks alike favor it.

Continue reading the main story
How would you describe your feelings about the police in your community? Would you say they make you feel mostly safe or mostly anxious?
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Mostly anxious
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
75%
21
3
81
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3
51
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7
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In general, do you think the police in most communities are more likely to use deadly force against a black person, or more likely to use it against a white person, or don’t you think race affects police use of deadly force?
Police more likely to use deadly force against a black person
Police more likely to use deadly force against a white person
Race DOES NOT affect police use of deadly force
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All adults
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Blacks
44%
37%
79%
2%
2%
1%
46%
53%
16%
9%
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4%
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Do you favor or oppose on-duty police officers wearing video cameras that would record events and actions as they occur?
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All adults
Whites
Blacks
92%
93%
93%
6%
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2%
2%

Asked specifically about the situation in Baltimore, most Americans expressed at least some confidence that the investigation by local authorities would be conducted fairly. But while nearly two-thirds of whites think so, fewer than half of blacks agree. Still, more blacks are confident now than were in August regarding the investigation in Ferguson. On Friday, six members of the police force involved in the arrest of Mr. Gray were charged with serious offenses, including manslaughter. The poll was conducted Thursday through Sunday; results from before charges were announced are similar to those from after.

Reaction to the recent turmoil in Baltimore, however, is similar among blacks and whites. Most Americans, 61 percent, say the unrest after Mr. Gray’s death was not justified. That includes 64 percent of whites and 57 percent of blacks.

Continue reading the main story
As you may know, a Baltimore man, Freddie Gray, recently died after being in the custody of the Baltimore police. How much confidence do you have that the investigation by local authorities into this matter will be conducted fairly?
A lot
Some
Not much
None at all
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
29%
31
22
14
5
31
33
20
11
5
20
26
30
22
In general, do you think the unrest in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray was justified, or do you think the unrest was not justified?
Justified
Not justified
Don't know/No answer
All adults
Whites
Blacks
28%
61
11
26
64
11
37
57
6

Negative View of U.S. Race Relations Grows, Poll Finds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is intentional, Republican operatives said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Lechleider, a Father of the DSL Internet Technology, Dies at 82

Mr. Napoleon was a self-taught musician whose career began in earnest with the orchestra led by Chico Marx of the Marx Brothers.

Marty Napoleon, 93, Dies; Jazz Pianist Played With Louis Armstrong

Though Robin and Joan Rolfs owned two rare talking dolls manufactured by Thomas Edison’s phonograph company in 1890, they did not dare play the wax cylinder records tucked inside each one.

The Rolfses, longtime collectors of Edison phonographs, knew that if they turned the cranks on the dolls’ backs, the steel phonograph needle might damage or destroy the grooves of the hollow, ring-shaped cylinder. And so for years, the dolls sat side by side inside a display cabinet, bearers of a message from the dawn of sound recording that nobody could hear.

In 1890, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The recordings inside, which featured snippets of nursery rhymes, wore out quickly.

Yet sound historians say the cylinders were the first entertainment records ever made, and the young girls hired to recite the rhymes were the world’s first recording artists.

Year after year, the Rolfses asked experts if there might be a safe way to play the recordings. Then a government laboratory developed a method to play fragile records without touching them.

Audio

The technique relies on a microscope to create images of the grooves in exquisite detail. A computer approximates — with great accuracy — the sounds that would have been created by a needle moving through those grooves.

In 2014, the technology was made available for the first time outside the laboratory.

“The fear all along is that we don’t want to damage these records. We don’t want to put a stylus on them,” said Jerry Fabris, the curator of the Thomas Edison Historical Park in West Orange, N.J. “Now we have the technology to play them safely.”

Last month, the Historical Park posted online three never-before-heard Edison doll recordings, including the two from the Rolfses’ collection. “There are probably more out there, and we’re hoping people will now get them digitized,” Mr. Fabris said.

The technology, which is known as Irene (Image, Reconstruct, Erase Noise, Etc.), was developed by the particle physicist Carl Haber and the engineer Earl Cornell at Lawrence Berkeley. Irene extracts sound from cylinder and disk records. It can also reconstruct audio from recordings so badly damaged they were deemed unplayable.

“We are now hearing sounds from history that I did not expect to hear in my lifetime,” Mr. Fabris said.

The Rolfses said they were not sure what to expect in August when they carefully packed their two Edison doll cylinders, still attached to their motors, and drove from their home in Hortonville, Wis., to the National Document Conservation Center in Andover, Mass. The center had recently acquired Irene technology.

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Cylinders carry sound in a spiral groove cut by a phonograph recording needle that vibrates up and down, creating a surface made of tiny hills and valleys. In the Irene set-up, a microscope perched above the shaft takes thousands of high-resolution images of small sections of the grooves.

Stitched together, the images provide a topographic map of the cylinder’s surface, charting changes in depth as small as one five-hundredth the thickness of a human hair. Pitch, volume and timbre are all encoded in the hills and valleys and the speed at which the record is played.

At the conservation center, the preservation specialist Mason Vander Lugt attached one of the cylinders to the end of a rotating shaft. Huddled around a computer screen, the Rolfses first saw the wiggly waveform generated by Irene. Then came the digital audio. The words were at first indistinct, but as Mr. Lugt filtered out more of the noise, the rhyme became clearer.

“That was the Eureka moment,” Mr. Rolfs said.

In 1890, a girl in Edison’s laboratory had recited:

There was a little girl,

And she had a little curl

Audio

Right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

She was very, very good.

But when she was bad, she was horrid.

Recently, the conservation center turned up another surprise.

In 2010, the Woody Guthrie Foundation received 18 oversize phonograph disks from an anonymous donor. No one knew if any of the dirt-stained recordings featured Guthrie, but Tiffany Colannino, then the foundation’s archivist, had stored them unplayed until she heard about Irene.

Last fall, the center extracted audio from one of the records, labeled “Jam Session 9” and emailed the digital file to Ms. Colannino.

“I was just sitting in my dining room, and the next thing I know, I’m hearing Woody,” she said. In between solo performances of “Ladies Auxiliary,” “Jesus Christ,” and “Dead or Alive,” Guthrie tells jokes, offers some back story, and makes the audience laugh. “It is quintessential Guthrie,” Ms. Colannino said.

The Rolfses’ dolls are back in the display cabinet in Wisconsin. But with audio stored on several computers, they now have a permanent voice.

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

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

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

Ms. Meadows was the older sister of Audrey Meadows, who played Alice Kramden on “The Honeymooners.”

Jayne Meadows, Actress and Steve Allen’s Wife and Co-Star, Dies at 95

“It was really nice to play with other women and not have this underlying tone of being at each other’s throats.”

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
From T Magazine: Street Lit’s Power Couple

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