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1. Lintasan Sejarah Minang Kabau Untuk menelusuri kapan gerangan nenek moyang orang Minangkabau itu datang ke Minangkabau, rasanya perlu dibicarakan mengenai peninggalan lama seperti megalit yang terdapat di Kabupaten Lima Puluh Kota dan tempat-tempat lain di Minangkabau yang telah berusia ribuan tahun. Di Kabupaten Lima Puluh Kota peninggalan megalit ini terdapat di Nagari Durian Tinggi, Guguk, Tiakar, Suliki Gunung Emas, Harau, Kapur IX, Pangkalan, Koto Baru, Mahat, Koto Gadan, Ranah, Sopan Gadang, Koto Tinggi, Ampang Gadang. Seperti umumnya kebudayaan megalit lainnya berawal dari zaman batu tua dan berkembang sampai ke zaman perunggu. Kebudayaan megalit merupakan cabang kebudayaan Dongsong. Megalit seperti yang terdapat disana juga tersebar ke arah timur, juga terdapat di Nagari Aur Duri di Riau. Semenanjung Melayu, Birma dan Yunan. Jalan kebudayaan yang ditempuh oleh kebudayaan Dongsong. Dengan perkataan lain dapat dikatakan bahwa kebudayaan megalit di Kabupaten Lima Puluh Kota sezaman dengan kebudayaan Dongsong dan didukung oleh suku bangsa yang sama pula. Menurut para ahli bahwa pendukung kebudayaan Dongsong adalah bangsa Austronesia yang dahulu bermukim di daerah Yunan, Cina Selatan. Mereka datang ke Nusantara dalam dua gelombang. Gelombang pertama pada Zaman Batu Baru (Neolitikum) yang diperkirakan pada tahun 2000 sebelum masehi. Gelombang kedua datang kira-kira pada tahun 500 SM, dan mereka inilah yang diperkirakan menjadi nenek moyang bangsa Indonesia sekarang. Bangsa Austronesia yang datang pada gelombang pertama ke nusantara ini disebut oleh para ahli dengan bangsa Proto Melayu (Melayu Tua), yang sekarang berkembang menjadi suku bangsa Barak, Toraja, Dayak, Nias, Mentawai dan lain-lain. Mereka yang datang pada gelombang kedua disebut Deutero Melayu (Melayu Muda) yang berkembang menjadi suku bangsa Minangkabau, Jawa, Makasar, Bugis dan lain-lain. Dari keterangan tersebut di atas dapat disimpulkan bahwa nenek moyang orang Minangkabau adalah bangsa melayu muda dengan kebudayaan megalit yang mulai tersebar di Minangkabau kira-kira tahun 500 SM sampai abad pertama sebelum masehi yang dikatakan oleh Dr. Bernet Bronson. Jika pendapat ini kita hubungkan dengan apa yang diceritakan oleh Tambo mengenai asal-usul orang Minangkabau kemungkinan cerita Tambo itu ada juga kebenarannya. Menurut sejarah Iskandar Zulkarnain Yang Agung menjadi raja Macedonia antara tahun 336-323 s.m. Dia seorang raja yang sangat besar dalam sejarah dunia. Sejarahnya merupakan sejarah yang penuh dengan penaklukan daerah timur dan barat yang tiada taranya. Dia berkeinginan untuk menggabungkan kebudayaan barat dengan kebudayaan timur. Tokoh Iskandar Zulkarnai dalam Tambo Minangkabau secara historis tidak dapat diterima kebenarannya, karena dia memang tidak pernah sampai ke Minangkabau. Di samping di dalam sejarah Melayu, Hikayat Aceh dan Bustanul Salatin Tokoh Iskandar Zulkarnain ini juga disebut-sebut, tetapi secara historis tetap saja merupakan seorang tokoh legendaris. Sebaliknya tokoh Maharajo Dirajo yang dikatakan oleh Tambo sebagai salah seorang anak Iskandar Zulkarnain, kemungkinan merupakan salah seorang Panglima Iskandar Zulkarnain yang ditugaskan menguasai pulau emas (Sumatera), termasuk di dalamnya daerah Minangkabau. Dialah yang kemudian menurunkan para penguasa di Minangkabau, jika kita tafsirkan apa yang dikatakan Tambo berikutnya. Sayangnya Tambo tidak pernah menyebutkan tentang kapan peristiwa itu terjadi selain ”pada masa dahulunya” yang mempunyai banyak sekali penafsirannya. Tambo juga mengatakan bahwa nenek moyang orang Minangkabau dari puncak gunung merapi. Hal ini tidak dapat diartikan seperti yang dikatakan itu, tetapi seperti kebiasaan orang Minangkabau sendiri harus dicari tafsirannya, karena orang Minangkabau selalu mengatakan sesuatu melalui kata-kata kiasan, ”tidak tembak langsung”. Tafsirannya kira-kira sebagai berikut: Sewaktu Maharajo Dirajo sedang berlayar menuju pulau emas dalam mengemban tugas yang diberikan oleh Iskandar Zulkarnain, pada suatu saat dia melihat daratan yang sangat kecil karena masih sangat jauh. Setelah sampai ke daratan tersebut ternyata sebuah gunung, yaitu gunung merapi yang sangat besar. Tetapi oleh pewaris Tambo kemudian gunung Merapi sangat kecil yang mula-mula kelihatan itulah yang dikatakan sebagai tanah asal orang Minangkabau. Selanjutnya cerita Tambo yang demikian, juga masih ada sampai sekarang pada zaman kita ini. Ada baiknya kita kutip apa yang dikatakan Tambo itu sebagai yang dikatakan oleh Sang Guno Dirajo: ”…Dek lamo bakalamoan, nampaklah gosong dari lauik, yang sagadang talua itiak, sadang dilamun-lamun ombak…” (sesudah lama berlayar akhirnya kelihatanlah pulau yang sangat kecil kira-kira sebesar telur itik yang kelihatan hanya timbul tenggelam sesuai denga turun naiknya ombak). Selanjutnya dikatakan:”…Dek lamo - bakalamoan aia lauik basentak turun, nan gosong lah basentak naiak, kok dareklah sarupo paco, namun kaba nan bak kian, lorong kapado niniak kito, lah mendarek maso itu, iyo dipuncak gunuang marapi…” (karena sudah lama berlayar dan pasang sudah mulai surut, gosong yang kecil tadi makin besar, daratan yang kelihatan itu tak obahnya seperti perca, maka dinamakanlah daratan itu dengan pulau perca yang akhirnya didarati oleh nenek moyang kita yang mendarat kira-kira di gunung merapi). Peristiwa inilah yang digambarkan oleh mamangan adat Minangkabau berbunyi “dari mano titiak palito, dari telong nan barapi, dari mano asal niniak kito, dari puncah gunuang marapi” (dari mana titik pelita dari telong yang berapi, dari mana datang nenek kita, dari puncak gunung merapi). Mamangan adat ini sampai sekarang masih dipercaya oleh sebagian besar masyarakat Minangkabau.. Bagi kita yang menarik dari cerita Tambo ini bukanlah mengenai arti kata-katanya melainkan adalah cerita itu memberikan indikasi kepada kita tentang nenek moyang orang Minangkabau asalnya datang dari laut, (dengan berlayar) yang waktunya sangat lama. Kedatangan nenek moyang inilah yang dapat disamakan dengan masuknya nenek moyang orang Minangkabau. Dengan demikian masuknya nenek moyang orang Minangkabau dapat diperkirakan waktu kedatangannya: yaitu antara abad kelima sebelum masehi dengan abad pertama sebelum masehi, sesuai dengan umur kebudayaan megalit itu sendiri. Kembali kepada permasalahan pokok pada bagian ini, maka menurut Soekomo, tradisi Megalit pada mulanya merupakan batu yang dipergunakan sebagai lambang untuk memperingati seorang kepala suku. Sesudah kepala suku itu meninggal, akhirnya peringatan itu berubah menjadi penghormatan yang lambat laun menjadi tanda pemujaan kepada arwah nenek moyang. Bagaimana dengan megalit yang terdapat di Minangkabau? Barangkali fungsi pemujaan terhadap arwah nenek moyang masih tetap berlanjut, seperti Menhir lainnya di Indonesia. Tetapi jika kita hubungkan Menhir itu dengan kehidupan orang Minangkabau yang berkaitan dengan Medan Nan Bapaneh, yaitu tempat duduk bermusyawarah dalam masyarakat Minangkabau sudah mulai berkembang pada zaman pra sejarah, khususnya di zaman berkembangnya tradisi menhir di Minangkabau dan keadaan ini sudah berlangsung semenjak sebelum abad masehi. Dari peninggalan menhir dan keterangan-keterangan yang diberikan oleh pemuka masyarakat sekarang di tempat-tempat menhir itu terdapat seperti di Sungai Belantik, Andieng, Kubang Tungkek, Tiakat, Padang Japang, Limbanang, Talang Anau, Padang Kandih, Balubus, Koto Tangah, Simalanggang, Taeh Baruh, Talago, Ampang Gadang seperti yang dikatakan oleh Yuwono Sudibyo, sebagai berikut: ”Bahwa ketika sekelompok nenek moyang telah menemukan tempat bermukim, yang pertama-tama ditetapkan atau dicari adalah suatu lokasi yang dinamakan gelanggang. Di gelanggang ini dilakukan upacara, yaitu semacam upacara selamatan untuk menghormati kepala suku atau pemimpin rombongan yang telah membawa mereka ke suatu tempat bermukim. Sebagai tanda upacara didirikanlah Batu Tagak yang kemudian kita kenal sebagai menhir. Batu Tagak ini kemudian berubah fungsi, sebahagian menjadi tanda penghormatan kepada arwah nenek moyang dan sebahagian tempat bermusyawarah yang kemudian kita kenal dengan nama Medan nan Bapaneh”. Karena sudah ada kehidupan bermusyawarah, sudah barang tentu pula masyarakat sudah hidup menetap dengan berburu dan pertanian sebagai mata pencaharian yang utama. Hal ini sesuai pula dengan kehidupan para pendukung kebudayaan Dongsong yang sudah menetap. Jika sekiranya peninggalan-peninggalan pra sejarah Minangkabau sudah diteliti dengan digali lebih lanjut, barangkali akan ditemui peninggalan-peninggalan yang mendukung kehidupan berburu dan bertani tersebut. Diwaktu itu sudah dapat diperkirakan bahwa antara Adat Nan Sabana Adat sudah hidup di tengah-tengah masyarakat Minangkabau, mengingat akan ajaran adat Minangkabau itu sendiri, yaitu Alam Takambang jadikan guru. Sedangkan Adat Nan Sabana Adat berisi tentang hukum-hukum alam yang tidak berubah dari dahulu sampai sekarang seperti dikatakan: Adat api mambaka, adat aia mamabasahi, adat tajam malukoi, adat runciang mancucuak dan sebagainya (Adat api membakar, adat air membasahi, adat tajam melukai, adat runcing mencucuk). Demikian juga dengan Adat Nan Diadatkan sudah ada waktu itu, yaitu sebagai hukum yang berlaku dalam masyarakat. Barangkali di zaman inilah berlakunya apa yang dikenal dengan hukum adat yang bersifat zalim dan tidak boleh dibantah yaitu hukum adat yang bernama “Simumbang Jatuah” (simumbang jatuh), mumbang kalau jatuh tidak dapat dikembalikan ke tempatnya lagi. Selanjutnya juga ada hukum yang bernama “si gamak-gamak”, yaitu suatu aturan yang tidak dipikirkan masak-masak. Disamping itu juga terdapat hukum yang dinamakan “Si lamo-lamo” yaitu siapa kuat siapa di atas persis seperti hukum rimba. Barangkali hukum yang dinamakan “Hukum Tariak Baleh” juga berlaku di zaman ini. Hukum Tariak Baleh hampir sama dengan hukum Kisas dalam agama Islam, misalnya orang yang membunuh harus di hukum bunuh pula. Keempat macam hukum adat itu memang sesuai dengan zamannya dimana belum terlalu banyak pertimbangan terhadap suatu yang dihadapi dalam kehidupan. Sampai kapan berlakunya hukum ini mungkin berlangsung sampai masuknya agama Islam pertama ke Minangkabau kira-kira abad ketujuh. Zaman Purba Minangkabau berakhir dengan masuknya Islam ke Minangkabau, yaitu kira-kira abad ketujuh, dimana buat pertama kali di Sumatra Barat sudah didapati kelompok masyarakat Arab tahun 674. Kelompok masyarakat Arab ini sudah menganut agama Islam, bagaimanapun rendahnya pendidikan waktu itu, tentu sudah pandai tulis baca, karena ajaran Islam harus diperoleh dari Qur’an dan Hadist Nabi yang semuanya sudah dituliskan dalam bahasa Arab. Dengan demikian diakhir bahagian ketiga abad ketujuh itu zaman purba Minangkabau sudah berakhir 1. Zaman Mula Sejarah Minangkabau Yang dimaksud dengan zaman mula sejarah Minangkabau ialah zaman yang meliputi kurun waktu antara abad pertama Masehi dengan abad ketujuh. Dalam masa tersebut masa pra Sejarah masih berlanjut, tetapi masa itu dilengkapi dengan adanya berita-berita tertulis tertua mengenai Minangkabau seperti istilah San-Fo Tsi dari berita Cina yang dapat dibaca sebagai Tambesi yang terdapat di Jambi. Di daerah Indonesia lainnya juga sudah terdapat berita atau tulisan seperti kerajaan Mulawarman di Kutai Kalimantan dan Tarumanegara di Jawa Barat. Namun dari berita-berita itu belum banyak yang dapat kita ambil sebagai bahan untuk menyusun sebuah ceritera sejarah, karena memang masih sangat sedikit sekali dan masing-masingnya seakan-akan berdiri sendiri tanpa ada hubungan sama sekali. Untuk zaman ini Soekomono memberikan nama zaman Proto Sejarah Indonesia, yaitu peralihan dari zaman Prasejarah ke zaman sejarah. Berita dai Tambo dan ceritera rakyat Minangkabau hanya mengemukakan secara semu mengenai hal ini, yaitu hanya menyebutkan tentang kehidupan orang Minangkabau zaman dahulu. Dalam hal ini Tambo mengemukakan sebagai berikut: ”…tak kalo maso dahulu…”…(Diwaktu zaman dahulu),. ”…dari tahun musim baganti, dek zaman tuka – batuka, dek lamo maso nan talampau, tahun jo musim nan balansuang…” (Karena tahun musim berganti, karena zaman bertukar-tukar, karena masa yang telah lewat, tahun dengan musim yang berlangsung),”… Antah barapo kalamonyo…”(entah berapa lamanya), dari ungkapan waktu yang demikian memang sulit sekali menentukan kapan terjadinya. Pengertian zaman dahulu itu saja sudah mengandung banyak kemungkinan tafsiran dan sangat relatif. Barangkali kehidupan zaman mula sejarah Minangkabau ini hampir sama dengan kehidupan pada zaman Pra sejarahnya, hanya saja di akhir zaman mula sejarah ini agama Islam sudah masuk ke Minangkabau dan sudah ada berita-berita dari Cina. Dapat dikatakan, bahwa cerita sejarah untuk zaman mula sejarah Minangkabau ini sangat sedikit sekali, bahkan dapat dikatakan merupakan zaman yang paling gelap dalam sejarah Minangkabau. Demikian gelapnya untuk menghubungkan zaman Pra Sejarah dengan zaman sejarahnya kita tidak mempunyai sumber sama sekali, bukan lagi kabur, tetapi sudah gelap gulita.SEJARAH MINANGKABAU

Badan Penanggulangan Bencana Daerah (BPBD) Kabupaten Purbalingga, Jawa Tengah, telah mengimbau warga yang bermukim di lereng Gunung Slamet tetap tenang meskipun status aktivitas vulkanik gunung itu naik menjadi waspada.

"Teman-teman SAR (Search and Rescue) yang juga merupakan mitra kami, telah menyampaikan kepada masyarakat untuk tetap tenang," kata Kepala Pelaksana Harian BPBD Purbalingga Priyo Satmoko di Purbalingga, Selasa pagi (11/3). Demikian dikutip antara.

Pihaknya telah berkoordinasi dengan Dinas Kebudayaan, Pariwisata, Pemuda, dan Olahraga Purbalingga untuk menutup sementara jalur pendakian ke puncak Gunung Slamet melalui Pos Bambangan di Desa Kutabawa.

Disinggung mengenai 21 pendaki yang telah melakukan pendakian ke puncak Gunung Slamet sejak Senin (10/3) kemarin pagi, kata dia, seluruhnya telah turun dalam kondisi selamat.

"Berdasarkan informasi yang telah kami terima, saat para pendaki itu berada di atas, mereka telah mendengar suara dentuman. Oleh karena itu, mereka segera kembali turun dengan dibantu teman-teman SAR," katanya.

Dia juga mengatakan para pendaki itu tiba di Pos Bambangan pada Senin (10/3) kemarin malam.

Pada kesempatan sebelumnya, Kepala Bidang Pariwisata Disbudparpora Purbalingga Prayitno juga mengatakan berdasarkan data pos pendakian Gunung Slamet di Dukuh Bambangan (Pos Bambangan) telah tercatat 21 pendaki yang berangkat ke puncak Gunung Slamet pada Senin (10/3) kemarin pagi.

"Petugas di Pos Bambangan juga sudah mencoba untuk dapat menghubungi melalui nomor telepon seluler yang dicatatkan di pos sebelum naik. Kami telah meminta mereka untuk turun kembali," katanya di Purbalingga, Senin (10/3) kemarin malam.

Selain itu, kata dia, ada sembilan pendaki dari Pekalongan yang hendak melakukan pendakian pada Senin (10/3) kemarin sore.

Akan tetapi, pihaknya juga telah melarang sembilan pendaki asal Pekalongan itu melakukan pendakian ke puncak Gunung Slamet.

Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG) Badan Geologi meningkatkan status aktivitas vulkanik Gunung Slamet, Jawa Tengah, dari Normal (level I) menjadi Waspada (level II).

Kepala Badan Geologi Surono melalui siaran pers yang diterima Antara, di Purbalingga, Senin (10/3) malam mengatakan Gunung Slamet yang berada di antara Kabupaten Purbalingga, Banyumas, Brebes, Tegal, dan Pemalang mengalami peningkatan kegempaan.

"Dengan adanya peningkatan kegempaan tersebut, maka sejak Senin (10/3) pukul 21.00 WIB, status Gunung Slamet ditingkatkan dari Normal (level I) menjadi Waspada (level II)," katanya.

Pihaknya merekomendasikan masyarakat atau wisatawan tidak beraktivitas dalam radius dua kilometer dari kawah Gunung Slamet.

Pendaki Slamet dengar dentuman, langsung disuruh turun

Semakin banyaknya perusahaan yang menawarkan jasa sewa rental mobil, terkadang membuat kita bingung juga untuk menentukan pilihan, dari penawaran harga sewa mobil yang sangat murah hingga mahal, Sebab, bisa saja berbagai masalah akan datang jika kita memilih rental mobil yang tidak tepat.

Misalnya saja mobil tidak ‘sehat’, serta tidak ada asuransi, layanannya kurang bagus dan lain sebagainya. Karena siapapun orangnya pasti tidak menginginkan menemukan masalah dalam perjalanan mudik menjelang lebaran tiba.

Oleh karena itu, diperlukan tips dan trik untuk mendapatkan mobil  rental sesuai dengan apa yang di inginkan, ini harus anda lakukan agar perjalanan mudik Anda bisa berjalan nyaman, aman dan selamat sampai di tempat tujuan.

Berikut tips dan trik untuk mendapatkan mobil sewaan yang baik;

    Pilihlah jasa penyewaan mobil yang memiliki nama bagus dan reputasi baik. Untuk hal ini Anda bisa mencari referensi dari berbagai media baik lewat surat kabar atau internet.
    Setelah mendapatkan penyewaan mobil yang tepat, dan memilih mobil yang diinginkan, tanyakan juga apa saja persyaratannya dan Pastikan juga bisakah mobil dibawa sendiri atau dengan sopir, harga dan fasilitasnya apa saja. Sebaiknya Anda juga bisa meminta lampiran mengenai hal tersebut baik via fax atau lewat email. Hal itu, agar Anda bisa mendapatkan bukti otentik sehingga pihak rental tidak bisa mengelak ketika tidak bisa memberikan fasilitas yang tertera dalam lampiran tersebut.
    Pada saat mobil datang atau disewa, perhatikan kondisi mobil dan juga kelengkapan surat-surat, peralatan kunci, ban ganti dan lainnya. Hal ini sangat penting agar perjalanan Anda tidak terganggu atau mengalami masalah.
    Sebaiknya memilih jasa sewa mobil yang memiliki asuransi, baik untuk mobil atau pun peminjamnya. Jika diasuransikan, maka perjalanan Anda juga akan menjadi lebih nyaman karena akan di cover oleh asuransi.
    Jangan lupa untuk meminta kartu nama atau nomor jasa sewa mobil agar mudah dihubungi sewaktu diperlukan, misalnya mogok atau keadaaan lainnya.

Demikianlah beberapa tips dan point  – point tertentu sebelum anda menyewa mobil untuk keperluan anda, dan bisa menjadi pertimbangan anda nanti nya jika anda akan menyewa mobil.

TIPS AMAN SEBELUM ANDA SEWA MOBIL

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
Seperti kata beliau Salman Al-Farisi dalam Muqoddimah kitab Ad-Darimiy • عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ رَبِيعَةَ قَالَ قَالَ سَلْمَانُ : لاَ يَزَالُ النَّاسُ بِخَيْرٍ مَا بَقِىَ الأَوَّلُ حَتَّى يَتَعَلَّمَ الآخِرُ، فَإِذَا هَلَكَ الأَوَّلُ قَبْلَ أَنْ يَتَعَلَّمَ الآخِرُ هَلَكَ النَّاسُ * رواه الدارمي فى المقدمة Artinya : Manusia senantiasa dalam kebaikan selama Generasi muda belajar kepada generasi tua, jika Gnerasi tua habis sebelum generasi muda belajar pada generasi tua maka rusaklah ( kebaikan ) Manusia.MELESTARIKAN KEBAIKAN

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

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

The 2015 Met Gala has only officially begun, but there's a clear leader in the race for best couple, no small feat at an event that threatens to sap Hollywood of every celebrity it has for the duration of an East Coast evening.

That would be Marc Jacobs and his surprise guest (who, by some miracle, remained under wraps until their red carpet debut), Cher.

“This has been a dream of mine for a very, very long time,” Mr. Jacobs said.

It is Cher's first appearance at the Met Gala since 1997, when she arrived on the arm of Donatella Versace.

– MATTHEW SCHNEIER

Cher and Marc Jacobs

Since a white police officer, Darren Wilson fatally shot unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in a confrontation last August in Ferguson, Mo., there have been many other cases in which the police have shot and killed suspects, some of them unarmed. Mr. Brown's death set off protests throughout the country, pushing law enforcement into the spotlight and sparking a public debate on police tactics. Here is a selection of police shootings that have been reported by news organizations since Mr. Brown's death. In some cases, investigations are continuing.

Photo
 
 
The apartment complex northeast of Atlanta where Anthony Hill, 27, was fatally shot by a DeKalb County police officer. Credit Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal Constitution

Chamblee, Ga.
Fatal Police Shootings: Accounts Since Ferguson

Fullmer, who reigned when fight clubs abounded and Friday night fights were a television staple, was known for his title bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio.

Gene Fullmer, a Brawling Middleweight Champion, 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.

Photo
 
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.”

Photo
 
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
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

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

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

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

Continue reading the main story
 

Document: The Formaldehyde Fight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading the main story

Formaldehyde in Laminate Flooring

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

Typical

laminate

flooring

CLEAR FINISH LAYER

Often made of melamine resin

PATTERN LAYER

Paper printed to resemble wood,

or a thin wood veneer

GLUE

Layers may be bound using

formaldehyde-based glues

CORE LAYER

Fiberboard or other

composite, formed using

formaldehyde-based adhesives

BASE LAYER

Moisture-resistant vapor barrier

What is formaldehyde?

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

WHERE IT IS COMMONLY FOUND

POTENTIAL HEALTH RISKS

Pressed-wood and composite wood products

Wallpaper and paints

Spray foam insulation used in construction

Commercial wood floor finishes

Crease-resistant fabrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senator Vitter’s staff was pleased.

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

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

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

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

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

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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

WASHINGTON — The former deputy director of the C.I.A. asserts in a forthcoming book that Republicans, in their eagerness to politicize the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, repeatedly distorted the agency’s analysis of events. But he also argues that the C.I.A. should get out of the business of providing “talking points” for administration officials in national security events that quickly become partisan, as happened after the Benghazi attack in 2012.

The official, Michael J. Morell, dismisses the allegation that the United States military and C.I.A. officers “were ordered to stand down and not come to the rescue of their comrades,” and he says there is “no evidence” to support the charge that “there was a conspiracy between C.I.A. and the White House to spin the Benghazi story in a way that would protect the political interests of the president and Secretary Clinton,” referring to the secretary of state at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But he also concludes that the White House itself embellished some of the talking points provided by the Central Intelligence Agency and had blocked him from sending an internal study of agency conclusions to Congress.

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Michael J. Morell Credit Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“I finally did so without asking,” just before leaving government, he writes, and after the White House released internal emails to a committee investigating the State Department’s handling of the issue.

A lengthy congressional investigation remains underway, one that many Republicans hope to use against Mrs. Clinton in the 2016 election cycle.

In parts of the book, “The Great War of Our Time” (Twelve), Mr. Morell praises his C.I.A. colleagues for many successes in stopping terrorist attacks, but he is surprisingly critical of other C.I.A. failings — and those of the National Security Agency.

Soon after Mr. Morell retired in 2013 after 33 years in the agency, President Obama appointed him to a commission reviewing the actions of the National Security Agency after the disclosures of Edward J. Snowden, a former intelligence contractor who released classified documents about the government’s eavesdropping abilities. Mr. Morell writes that he was surprised by what he found.

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“You would have thought that of all the government entities on the planet, the one least vulnerable to such grand theft would have been the N.S.A.,” he writes. “But it turned out that the N.S.A. had left itself vulnerable.”

He concludes that most Wall Street firms had better cybersecurity than the N.S.A. had when Mr. Snowden swept information from its systems in 2013. While he said he found himself “chagrined by how well the N.S.A. was doing” compared with the C.I.A. in stepping up its collection of data on intelligence targets, he also sensed that the N.S.A., which specializes in electronic spying, was operating without considering the implications of its methods.

“The N.S.A. had largely been collecting information because it could, not necessarily in all cases because it should,” he says.

The book is to be released next week.

Mr. Morell was a career analyst who rose through the ranks of the agency, and he ended up in the No. 2 post. He served as President George W. Bush’s personal intelligence briefer in the first months of his presidency — in those days, he could often be spotted at the Starbucks in Waco, Tex., catching up on his reading — and was with him in the schoolhouse in Florida on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Bush presidency changed in an instant.

Mr. Morell twice took over as acting C.I.A. director, first when Leon E. Panetta was appointed secretary of defense and then when retired Gen. David H. Petraeus resigned over an extramarital affair with his biographer, a relationship that included his handing her classified notes of his time as America’s best-known military commander.

Mr. Morell says he first learned of the affair from Mr. Petraeus only the night before he resigned, and just as the Benghazi events were turning into a political firestorm. While praising Mr. Petraeus, who had told his deputy “I am very lucky” to run the C.I.A., Mr. Morell writes that “the organization did not feel the same way about him.” The former general “created the impression through the tone of his voice and his body language that he did not want people to disagree with him (which was not true in my own interaction with him),” he says.

But it is his account of the Benghazi attacks — and how the C.I.A. was drawn into the debate over whether the Obama White House deliberately distorted its account of the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens — that is bound to attract attention, at least partly because of its relevance to the coming presidential election. The initial assessments that the C.I.A. gave to the White House said demonstrations had preceded the attack. By the time analysts reversed their opinion, Susan E. Rice, now the national security adviser, had made a series of statements on Sunday talk shows describing the initial assessment. The controversy and other comments Ms. Rice made derailed Mr. Obama’s plan to appoint her as secretary of state.

The experience prompted Mr. Morell to write that the C.I.A. should stay out of the business of preparing talking points — especially on issues that are being seized upon for “political purposes.” He is critical of the State Department for not beefing up security in Libya for its diplomats, as the C.I.A., he said, did for its employees.

But he concludes that the assault in which the ambassador was killed took place “with little or no advance planning” and “was not well organized.” He says the attackers “did not appear to be looking for Americans to harm. They appeared intent on looting and conducting some vandalism,” setting fires that killed Mr. Stevens and a security official, Sean Smith.

Mr. Morell paints a picture of an agency that was struggling, largely unsuccessfully, to understand dynamics in the Middle East and North Africa when the Arab Spring broke out in late 2011 in Tunisia. The agency’s analysts failed to see the forces of revolution coming — and then failed again, he writes, when they told Mr. Obama that the uprisings would undercut Al Qaeda by showing there was a democratic pathway to change.

“There is no good explanation for our not being able to see the pressures growing to dangerous levels across the region,” he writes. The agency had again relied too heavily “on a handful of strong leaders in the countries of concern to help us understand what was going on in the Arab street,” he says, and those leaders themselves were clueless.

Moreover, an agency that has always overvalued secretly gathered intelligence and undervalued “open source” material “was not doing enough to mine the wealth of information available through social media,” he writes. “We thought and told policy makers that this outburst of popular revolt would damage Al Qaeda by undermining the group’s narrative,” he writes.

Instead, weak governments in Egypt, and the absence of governance from Libya to Yemen, were “a boon to Islamic extremists across both the Middle East and North Africa.”

Mr. Morell is gentle about most of the politicians he dealt with — he expresses admiration for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, though he accuses former Vice President Dick Cheney of deliberately implying a connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq that the C.I.A. had concluded probably did not exist. But when it comes to the events leading up to the Bush administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq, he is critical of his own agency.

Mr. Morell concludes that the Bush White House did not have to twist intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s alleged effort to rekindle the country’s work on weapons of mass destruction.

“The view that hard-liners in the Bush administration forced the intelligence community into its position on W.M.D. is just flat wrong,” he writes. “No one pushed. The analysts were already there and they had been there for years, long before Bush came to office.”

Ex-C.I.A. Official Rebuts Republican Claims on Benghazi Attack in ‘The Great War of Our Time’

ate in February, Dr. Ben Carson, the celebrated pediatric neurosurgeon turned political insurrectionist, was trying to check off another box on his presidential-campaign to-do list: hiring a press secretary. The lead prospect, a public-relations specialist named Deana Bass, had come to meet him at the dimly lit Capitol Hill office of Carson’s confidant and business manager, Armstrong Williams. Carson sat back and scrutinized her from behind a small granite table, as life-size cardboard cutouts of more conventional politicians — President Obama, with a tight smile, and Senator John McCain, glowering — loomed behind each of his shoulders. (The mock $3 bill someone had left on a table in Williams’s waiting room undercut any notion that this was a bipartisan zone; it featured Obama wearing a turban.)

Bass seemed momentarily speechless, and not just because no one had warned her that a New York Times reporter would be sitting in on her job interview. Though she knew Williams — a jack-of-all-trades entrepreneur who owns several television stations and a public-affairs business and who hosts a daily talk-radio show — through Washington’s small circle of black conservatives, the two hadn’t spoken in years until he called her two days earlier. He had been struggling to come up with the perfect national spokesperson, he told her. Then, at the gym, her name popped into his head; Williams was fairly certain she was the one. Sitting across from a likely candidate for president, Bass was adjusting to the idea that her life might be about to take a sudden chaotic turn.

“It’s like getting the most random call on a Monday that you simply do not see coming,” she said. “Oftentimes, that is how the Lord works.”

Continue reading the main story

His life in brain surgery
has prepared him for the
presidency, he maintains,
better than lives in
politics have for his rivals.

Carson concurred: “It’s always how he works in my life.” Carson is soft-spoken and often talks with his eyes half closed, frequently punctuating his sentences with a small laugh, even if the humor of his statement is not readily apparent. Bass told Carson that she had been a Republican staff member on Capitol Hill then worked for the Republican National Committee. In 2007 she started a Christian public-relations firm with her sister. She enjoyed working on the Hill, she said, but the pay wasn’t as high as the hours were long. “We figured that we worked like slaves for other people, and we wanted to work for ourselves.”

Carson stopped her. “You know you can’t mention that word, right?” Carson waited a beat, then laughed, and Williams and Bass joined in. He was getting to the point; he needed a professional who could help him check his penchant for creating uncontrolled controversy just by talking.

The Ben Carson movement began in 2013, when Carson, a neurosurgeon, whose operating-room prowess and up-from-poverty back story had made him the subject of a television movie and a regular on the inspirational-speaking circuit, was invited to address the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington. With Barack Obama sitting just two seats away, Carson warned that “moral decay” and “fiscal irresponsibility” could destroy America just as it did ancient Rome. He proposed a substitute for Obamacare — Health Savings Accounts, which, he said, would end any talk of “death panels” — and a flat-tax based on the concept of tithing. His address, combined with the president’s stony reaction, was a smash with Republican activists. Speaking and interview requests flooded in. Carson, then 61, announced his planned retirement a few weeks later, freeing his calendar to accept just about all of them. In the months that followed, his rhetoric became increasingly strident. The claim that drew the most attention, perhaps, was that Obamacare was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”

Bass’s own use of the word prompted Carson to ask her what she thought about that incident. She considered for a moment.

“If you want to reach people and have them even understand what you’re saying, there is a way to do it, without that hyperbole, that might be. . . . ” She paused. “I just think it’s important not to shut people off before they —”

Carson jumped in. “That doesn’t allow them to hear what you’re saying?”

Bass nodded.

Likening Obamacare to slavery — and slavery was incomparably worse, Carson said — had its political advantages for a candidacy like his. It was the kind of statement that stoked the angriest of the Republican voters: conservative stalwarts who can’t hear enough bad things about Obama. This, in turn, led to more talk-radio and Fox News appearances, more book sales, more donations to the super PAC started in his name, more support in the polls. (The day before the meeting, one poll of Republican voters showed Carson statistically tied for first place with Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.)

Rhetorical excess was good for business, but Carson now wants to be seen as more than a novelty candidate. He has come to learn that such extreme analogies, while true to his views, aren’t especially presidential. They alienate more moderate voters and, perhaps even more damaging, reinforce the impression that he is not “serious” — that he is another Herman Cain, the black former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive who rose to the top of the early presidential polls in 2011 but then bowed out before the Iowa caucuses, largely because of leaked allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied but from which he never recovered. Cain lingers as a cautionary tale for the party as much as for a right-leaning candidate like Carson. The fact that Cain, with his folksy sayings (“shucky ducky”) and misnomers (“Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan”), reached the top of the national polls — much less that he was eventually followed there by the likes of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who all topped one or another poll in the 2012 primary season — wound up being a considerable embarrassment for the eventual nominee, Mitt Romney, and for the longtime party regulars who were trying to fast-track his way to the nomination.

Carson liked Bass and, without directly saying so, made it clear the job was hers for the taking. Carson’s campaign chairman, Terry Giles — a white lawyer whose clients have included the comedian Richard Pryor and the stepson of the model Anna Nicole Smith and who helped reconcile the business interests of the descendants of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — had assembled a mostly white campaign team, including many from the 2012 Gingrich effort, and Carson wanted a person of color to speak for him. Bass said she would have to mull it over, pray about it. Carson nodded approvingly. “Pray about it,” he said. “See what you think.”

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Williams knew the party was intent on protecting the eventual 2016 nominee from the same embarrassment Romney suffered. Already, suspiciously tough articles about Carson were showing up in conservative magazines and on right-wing websites. “They’re protecting these establishment candidates,” Williams said. “This is coming from within the house. This is family.” At the very least, he wanted to make sure that Carson didn’t do their work for them. (Carson would commit another unforced error a week later, when he told CNN that homosexuality was clearly a choice, because a lot of people go in prison straight and “when they come out, they’re gay”; he later apologized.)

“We need somebody to protect him, sometimes, from himself,” he told Bass — laughing, but only half kidding.

A candidacy like Carson’s presents a new kind of problem to the establishment wing of the G.O.P., which, at least since 1980, has selected its presidential nominees with a routine efficiency that Democrats could only envy. The establishment candidate has usually been a current or former governor or senator, blandly Protestant, hailing from the moderate, big-business wing of the party (or at least friendly with it) and almost always a second-, third- or fourth-time national contender — someone who had waited “his turn.” These candidates would tack predictably to the right during the primaries to satisfy the evangelicals, deficit hawks, libertarian leaners and other inconvenient but vital constituents who made up the “base” of the party. In return, the base would, after a brief flirtation with some fantasy candidate like Steve Forbes or Pat Buchanan, “hold their noses” and deliver their votes come November. This bargain was always tenuous, of course, and when some of the furthest-right activists turned against George W. Bush, citing (among other apostasies) his expansion of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, it began to fall apart. After Barack Obama defeated McCain in 2008, the party’s once dependable base started to reconsider the wisdom of holding their noses at all.

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Republican candidates at a pre-straw-poll debate, held at Iowa State University in 2011. Credit Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This insurgent attitude was helped along by changes in the nomination rules. In 2010, the Republican National Committee, hoping to capture the excitement of the coast-to-coast Democratic primary competition between Obama and Hillary Clinton, introduced new voting rules that required many of the early voting states to award some delegates to losing candidates, based on their shares of the vote. The proportional voting rules would encourage struggling candidates to stay in the primaries even after successive losses, as Clinton did, because they might be able to pull together enough delegates to take the nomination in a convention-floor fight or at least use them to bargain for a prime speaking slot or cabinet post.

This shift in incentives did not go unnoticed by potential 2012 candidates, nor did changes in election law that allowed billionaire donors to form super PACs in support of pet candidacies. At the same time, increasingly widespread broadband Internet access allowed candidates to reach supporters directly with video and email appeals and supporters to send money with the tap of a smartphone, making it easier than ever for individual candidates to ignore the wishes of the party.

Into this newly chaotic Republican landscape strode Mitt Romney. There could be no doubt that it was his turn, and yet his journey to the nomination was interrupted by one against-the-odds challenger after another — Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul; always Ron Paul. It was easy to dismiss the 2012 primaries as a meaningless circus, but the onslaught did much more than tarnish the overall Republican brand. It also forced Romney to spend money he could have used against Obama and defend his right flank with embarrassing pandering that shadowed him through the general election. It was while trying to block a surge from Gingrich, for instance, that Romney told a debate audience that he was for the “self-deportation” of undocumented immigrants.

At the 2012 convention in Tampa, a group of longtime party hands, including Romney’s lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, gathered to discuss how to prevent a repeat of what had become known inside and outside the party as the “clown show.” Their aim was not just to protect the party but also to protect a potential President Romney from a primary challenge in 2016. They forced through new rules that would give future presumptive nominees more control over delegates in the event of a convention fight. They did away with the mandatory proportional delegate awards that encouraged long-shot candidacies. And, in a noticeably targeted effort, they raised the threshold that candidates needed to meet to enter their names into nomination, just as Ron Paul’s supporters were working to reach it. When John A. Boehner gaveled the rules in on a voice vote — a vote that many listeners heard as a tie, if not an outright loss — the hall erupted and a line of Ron Paul supporters walked off the floor in protest, along with many Tea Party members.

At a party meeting last winter, Reince Priebus, who as party chairman is charged with maintaining the support of all his constituencies, did restore some proportional primary and caucus voting, but only in states that held voting within a shortened two-week window. And he also condensed the nominating schedule to four and a half months from six months, and, for the first time required candidates to participate in a shortened debate schedule, determined by the party, not by the whims of the networks. (The panel that recommended those changes included names closely identified with the establishment — the former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, the Mississippi committeeman Haley Barbour and, notably, Jeb Bush’s closest adviser, Sally Bradshaw.)

Grass-roots activists have complained that the condensed schedule robs nonestablishment candidates — “movement candidates” like Carson — of the extra time they need to build momentum, money and organizations. But Priebus, who says the nomination could be close to settled by April, said it helped all the party’s constituencies when the nominee was decided quickly. “We don’t need a six-month slice-and-dice festival,” Priebus said when we spoke in mid-March. “While I can’t always control everyone’s mouth, I can control how long we can kill each other.”

All the rules changes were built to sidestep the problems of 2012. But the 2016 field is shaping up to be vastly different and far larger. A new Republican hints that he or she is considering a run seemingly every week. There are moderates like Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and former Gov. George Pataki of New York; no-compromise conservatives like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania; business-wingers like the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina; one-of-a-kinds like Donald Trump — some 20 in all, a dozen or so who seem fairly serious about it. That opens the possibility of multiple candidates vying for all the major Republican constituencies, some of them possibly goaded along by super-PAC-funding billionaires, all of them trading wins and collecting delegates well into spring.

Giles says his candidate can capitalize on all that chaos. Rivals may laugh, but Giles argues that if Carson can make a respectable showing in Iowa, then win in South Carolina — or at least come in second should a home-state senator, Lindsey Graham, run — and come in second behind Bush or Senator Marco Rubio in their home state of Florida, he could be positioned to make a real run. But that would depend on avoiding pitfalls like Carson’s ill-considered comments on homosexuality. Rather than capitalizing on the chaos, Carson may only contribute to it.

Ben Carson is, in many ways, the ideal Republican presidential candidate. With a not-too-selective reading of his life story, conservative voters can — and do — see in him an inspiring, up-from-nowhere African-American who shares their beliefs, a right-wing answer to Barack Obama. Before he was born, his parents moved to Detroit from rural Tennessee as part of the second great migration. His father, Robert Solomon Carson, worked at a Cadillac factory. His mother, Sonya — who herself had grown up as one of 24 children and left school at third grade — cleaned houses. When Carson was 8, Sonya discovered that Robert was keeping a second family. She moved, with her two sons, into a rundown group house. It was in a part of town that Carson described to me as crawling with “big rats and roaches and all kinds of horrible things.” Sonya worked several jobs at a time and made up the shortfall with food stamps. (Carson has called for paring back the social safety net but not doing away with it.)

Carson recounts this story in his best-selling 1990 memoir, “Gifted Hands,” which also became the basis for a 2009 movie on TNT, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as Carson. Raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, Carson realized that he wanted to become a physician during a church sermon about a missionary doctor who, while serving overseas, was almost attacked by thieves but found safety by putting his faith in God. When Carson, then 8, told his mother his new dream, “She said, ‘Absolutely, you could do it, you could do anything,’ ” he told me. Forced by his mother to read two extra books a week, he made it to Yale, then to medical school at the University of Michigan, where he decided to specialize in neurosurgery. He was selected for residency at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, where he was named director of pediatric neurosurgery at 33, becoming the youngest person, and the first black person, to hold the title. He drew national attention by conducting a succession of operations that had never been performed successfully, most famously planning and managing the first separation of conjoined twins connected through major blood vessels in the brain.

Carson, a two-time Jimmy Carter voter, traces his conservative political awakening to a patient he met during the Reagan years. During a routine obstetrics rotation, he found himself treating an unwed pregnant teenager who had run away from her well-to-do parents. When Carson asked her how she was getting by, she informed him she was on public assistance; this led him to ponder the fact that the government was paying for the result of what he did not view as a “wise decision.” The incident, he says, fed his growing sense that the welfare system too often saps motivation and rewards irresponsible behavior. (When we spoke, he suggested that the government should cut off assistance to would-be unwed mothers, but only after warning them that it would do so within a certain amount of time, say five years. “I bet you’d see a dramatic decrease in unwed motherhood.”)

Carson’s friends at Hopkins say they do not remember him being particularly outspoken about his conservatism. He devoted most of his public engagement to urging poor kids in bad neighborhoods to use “these fancy brains God gave us,” through weekly school visits, student hospital tours and, ultimately, a multimillion-dollar scholarship program. “His issues were always medical care for the poor, education for the poor, equal opportunity — helping the less fortunate and really inspiring them as an example,” a mentor who named him to the chief pediatrics-neurosurgery post at Hopkins, Dr. Donlin Long, told me.

Even when Carson got the chance, in 1997, to speak in front of President Bill Clinton, at the national prayer breakfast, he mostly discussed the lack of role models for black children who were not sports stars or rappers. (There was possibly an oblique reference to Clinton’s sex scandals, when he told the audience that, if they are always honest, they won’t have to worry later about “skeletons in the closet.”)

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Ben Carson at CPAC on Feb. 26 in Oxon Hill, Md. Credit Dolly Faibyshev for The New York Times

In 2011, Carson’s politics took a strident turn, mirroring that of many in his party during the Obama years. “America the Beautiful,” his sixth book, which he wrote with Candy Carson, his wife of 39 years, included a get-tough-on-illegal-immigration message and offered anti-establishment praise for the Tea Party. It suggested that blacks who voted for Obama only because he was black were themselves practicing a form of racism. (Earlier this year he admitted to Buzzfeed that portions of the book were lifted directly from several sources without proper attribution.) His prayer-breakfast performance in 2013, and the extremity of his remarks in the months afterward (Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery; the United States is “very much like Nazi Germany”; allowing same-sex marriage could lead to allowing bestiality), left some of his old friends bewildered. Students at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine protested his planned convocation address there in 2013, and he eventually backed out. When I asked Carson about the view at Hopkins that he had changed, he said his themes are still the same: “hard work, self-reliance, helping other people.” If he had become more overtly political, he said, it was only because the Obama years had led him to believe that “we’re really moving in a direction that is very, very destructive.”

None of this went unnoticed by campaign professionals. In August 2013, John Philip Sousa IV and Vernon Robinson, each of whom professes to be a virtual stranger to Carson, and who had previously been active in the anti-illegal-immigration movement, started the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee. Sousa was just coming off a campaign to defend the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Joe Arpaio, from a recall effort, and he told me that he found Carson’s lack of political experience refreshing. “We have 500 guys and gals with probably a collective 5,000 years experience, and look at the mess we’re in,” he said.

Many others in the party feel the same way. Carson’s PAC finished 2014 with more than $13 million in donations, more than Ready for Hillary. Much of its money has gone toward further fund-raising, but Sousa — the great-grandson of the famous composer — points out that their effort has already built far more than just a war chest, organizing leaders in all 99 of Iowa’s counties. Regardless, Carson credits the fund-raising success of Sousa and Robinson with persuading him to enter the race.

Very early the morning after the job interview, Carson was in a black S.U.V., heading from Washington to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Oxon Hill, Md., where he was to give the opening candidate speech of the Conservative Political Action Conference. The event, which functions as an early tryout for Republican presidential contenders, tends to skew rightward in its audience, drawing many of the same sorts of people who shouted at Boehner in Tampa. As such, it tends to favor anti-establishment candidates, but the news leading up to this year’s event was that Jeb Bush hoped to make inroads there.

It was still dark when we set out, and I joked with Carson about the hour, telling him he’d better get used to it. He retorted that his career in pediatric brain surgery made him no stranger to early mornings. This is a big theme of Carson’s presidential pitch: that neither the rigors of the campaign nor those of the White House can faze a man who held children’s lives in his hands. His life in brain surgery has prepared him for the presidency, he maintains, better than lives in politics have for his rivals. At the very least, he says, it conditioned him against getting too worked up about any problem that isn’t life threatening. “I mean, it’s grueling, but interestingly enough, I don’t feel the pressure,” he said.

At the convention hall, we were quickly surrounded by admirers. Two women were already waiting to meet him — white, middle-aged volunteers for Carson’s super PAC, who had traveled from South Carolina. One of them, Chris Horne, was holding a dog-eared and taped Bible. A founding member of the Charleston Tea Party who went on to work for Gingrich’s successful South Carolina primary campaign in 2012, Horne lamented over the attacks that Carson was sure to face. “You served us, you served the Lord, just don’t let them steal that from you,” she said. Her friend told him, “You’ve got God behind you!” Such religious evocations trailed Carson constantly while I walked the CPAC floor with him. Evangelicals are impressed not only with his devotion to their politics but also with his career path; as one of them told me, what’s more pro-life than saving babies?

During our ride to the conference, Carson told me his speech was not looking to “feed the beast.” When his appointed time came, he kept his remarks as tame as promised. “Real compassion” meant “using our intellect” to help people “climb out of dependency and realize the American dream,” he said. The national debt is going to “destroy us,” Obamacare was about “redistribution and control,” but Republicans better come forward with their own alternative before they repeal it, he said.

Because his speech was first, and it started several minutes early, the auditorium was slow to fill. Still, the first day saw a crush of people seeking autographs and pictures as he roamed the hall. The Draft Carson committee’s 150 volunteers swarmed the auditorium, collecting emails and handing out “Run Ben Run” stickers. After a quick interview with Sean Hannity, the conservative-radio and Fox News host — his second in two days — Carson was off to Tampa.

In the hours that followed his talk, the hall offered a view in miniature of what the next 12 to 14 months might hold for the party. Chris Christie, sitting across from the tough-minded talk-radio host Laura Ingraham, boasted about his multiple vetoes of Planned Parenthood funding, his refusal to raise income taxes and his belief that “sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up.” Cruz, an audience favorite, warning his fellow Republicans against falling for a “squishy moderate,” declared, “Take all 125,000 I.R.S. agents and put ’em on our Southern border!” Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, surging in polls, boasted that if he could face down the 100,000 union supporters who protested his legislation limiting collective bargaining for public employees, he could certainly handle ISIS. The next day, the traditional CPAC favorite Rand Paul spoke, packing the hall with his supporters who chanted “President Paul.” He warned, counter to the overall hawkish tenor of the event, that “we should not succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow become successful abroad.” But he also vowed to end foreign aid to countries whose citizens are seen burning American flags. “Not one penny more to these haters of America.”

Perhaps the defining moment came near the end of the conference, when Jeb Bush spoke. In a neat trick of political gamesmanship — and a show of establishment muscle — his team had bused in an ample cheering section for the dozens of cameras on hand for his appearance. But a small contingent of Tea Party activists and Rand Paul supporters staged a walk out. When Bush began a question-and-answer session, they turned and left the auditorium to chant “U.S.A., U.S.A.” in the hallway, led by a man in colonial garb waving a huge “Don’t Tread on Me” banner. Plenty of other detractors stayed in the hall and peppered Bush’s remarks with booing as he stood by positions unpopular with the conservative grass roots: support for the Common Core standards and an immigration overhaul that provides a “path to legal status” for undocumented immigrants. Bush took it all in good humor, but finally seemed to give up.

“For those who made an ‘oo’ sound — is that what it was? — I’m marking you down as neutral,” he said. “And I want to be your second choice.”

Bush strategists told me they would not repeat Romney’s mistakes. Of course they would love to glide to an early nomination, they said, but they are prepared for a long contest and won’t be wasting any energy bending under pressure from a Paul or a Cruz or a Carson.

No one doubts that the pressure will increase, though. Despite the best wishes of the party’s leaders, GOP primary voters have given little indication that they will narrow the field quickly.

Before I left, I spotted Newt Gingrich, himself a fleeting presidential front-runner during those strange primary days of 2012. I asked him whether he thought all the party maneuvering — all the attempts to change the rules and fast-track the process — would preclude someone from presenting the sort of outside primary challenge he had carried out in the last election.

“No,” he told me, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Look at where Ben Carson is right now.”

Jim Rutenberg is the chief political correspondent for the magazine. His most recent feature was about Megyn Kelly.

Ben Carson Says He’ll Seek 2016 G.O.P. Nomination

Late in April, after Native American actors walked off in disgust from the set of Adam Sandler’s latest film, a western sendup that its distributor, Netflix, has defended as being equally offensive to all, a glow of pride spread through several Native American communities.

Tantoo Cardinal, a Canadian indigenous actress who played Black Shawl in “Dances With Wolves,” recalled thinking to herself, “It’s come.” Larry Sellers, who starred as Cloud Dancing in the 1990s television show “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” thought, “It’s about time.” Jesse Wente, who is Ojibwe and directs film programming at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, found himself encouraged and surprised. There are so few film roles for indigenous actors, he said, that walking off the set of a major production showed real mettle.

But what didn’t surprise Mr. Wente was the content of the script. According to the actors who walked off the set, the film, titled “The Ridiculous Six,” included a Native American woman who passes out and is revived after white men douse her with alcohol, and another woman squatting to urinate while lighting a peace pipe. “There’s enough history at this point to have set some expectations around these sort of Hollywood depictions,” Mr. Wente said.

The walkout prompted a rhetorical “What do you expect from an Adam Sandler film?,” and a Netflix spokesman said that in the movie, blacks, Mexicans and whites were lampooned as well. But Native American actors and critics said a broader issue was at stake. While mainstream portrayals of native peoples have, Mr. Wente said, become “incrementally better” over the decades, he and others say, they remain far from accurate and reflect a lack of opportunities for Native American performers. What’s more, as Native Americans hunger for representation on screen, critics say the absence of three-dimensional portrayals has very real off-screen consequences.

“Our people are still healing from historical trauma,” said Loren Anthony, one of the actors who walked out. “Our youth are still trying to figure out who they are, where they fit in this society. Kids are killing themselves. They’re not proud of who they are.” They also don’t, he added, see themselves on prime time television or the big screen. Netflix noted while about five people walked off the “The Ridiculous Six” set, 100 or so Native American actors and extras stayed.

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But in interviews, nearly a dozen Native American actors and film industry experts said that Mr. Sandler’s humor perpetuated decades-old negative stereotypes. Mr. Anthony said such depictions helped feed the despondency many Native Americans feel, with deadly results: Native Americans have the highest suicide rate out of all the country’s ethnicities.

The on-screen problem is twofold, Mr. Anthony and others said: There’s a paucity of roles for Native Americans — according to the Screen Actors Guild in 2008 they accounted for 0.3 percent of all on-screen parts (those figures have yet to be updated), compared to about 2 percent of the general population — and Native American actors are often perceived in a narrow way.

In his Peabody Award-winning documentary “Reel Injun,” the Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond explored Hollywood depictions of Native Americans over the years, and found they fell into a few stereotypical categories: the Noble Savage, the Drunk Indian, the Mystic, the Indian Princess, the backward tribal people futilely fighting John Wayne and manifest destiny. While the 1990 film “Dances With Wolves” won praise for depicting Native Americans as fully fleshed out human beings, not all indigenous people embraced it. It was still told, critics said, from the colonialists’ point of view. In an interview, John Trudell, a Santee Sioux writer, actor (“Thunderheart”) and the former chairman of the American Indian Movement, described the film as “a story of two white people.”

“God bless ‘Dances with Wolves,’ ” Michael Horse, who played Deputy Hawk in “Twin Peaks,” said sarcastically. “Even ‘Avatar.’ Someone’s got to come save the tribal people.”

Dan Spilo, a partner at Industry Entertainment who represents Adam Beach, one of today’s most prominent Native American actors, said while typecasting dogs many minorities, it is especially intractable when it comes to Native Americans. Casting directors, he said, rarely cast them as police officers, doctors or lawyers. “There’s the belief that the Native American character should be on reservations or riding a horse,” he said.

“We don’t see ourselves,” Mr. Horse said. “We’re still an antiquated culture to them, and to the rest of the world.”

Ms. Cardinal said she was once turned down for the role of the wife of a child-abusing cop because the filmmakers felt that casting her would somehow be “too political.”

Another sore point is the long run of white actors playing American Indians, among them Burt Lancaster, Rock Hudson, Audrey Hepburn and, more recently, Johnny Depp, whose depiction of Tonto in the 2013 film “Lone Ranger,” was viewed as racist by detractors. There are, of course, exceptions. The former A&E series “Longmire,” which, as it happens, will now be on Netflix, was roundly praised for its depiction of life on a Northern Cheyenne reservation, with Lou Diamond Phillips, who is of Cherokee descent, playing a Northern Cheyenne man.

Others also point to the success of Mr. Beach, who played a Mohawk detective in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and landed a starring role in the forthcoming D C Comics picture “Suicide Squad.” Mr. Beach said he had come across insulting scripts backed by people who don’t see anything wrong with them.

“I’d rather starve than do something that is offensive to my ancestral roots,” Mr. Beach said. “But I think there will always be attempts to drawn on the weakness of native people’s struggles. The savage Indian will always be the savage Indian. The white man will always be smarter and more cunning. The cavalry will always win.”

The solution, Mr. Wente, Mr. Trudell and others said, lies in getting more stories written by and starring Native Americans. But Mr. Wente noted that while independent indigenous film has blossomed in the last two decades, mainstream depictions have yet to catch up. “You have to stop expecting for Hollywood to correct it, because there seems to be no ability or desire to correct it,” Mr. Wente said.

There have been calls to boycott Netflix but, writing for Indian Country Today Media Network, which first broke news of the walk off, the filmmaker Brian Young noted that the distributor also offered a number of films by or about Native Americans.

The furor around “The Ridiculous Six” may drive more people to see it. Then one of the questions that Mr. Trudell, echoing others, had about the film will be answered: “Who the hell laughs at this stuff?”

Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias

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

Pronovost, who played for the Red Wings, was not a prolific scorer, but he was a consummate team player with bruising checks and fearless bursts up the ice that could puncture a defense.

Marcel Pronovost, 84, Dies; Hall of Famer Shared in Five N.H.L. Titles

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

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

Mr. Mankiewicz, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for “I Want to Live!,” also wrote episodes of television shows such as “Star Trek” and “Marcus Welby, M.D.”

Don Mankiewicz, Screenwriter in a Family Film Tradition, Dies at 93
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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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