Mistaken email prompts man to attend stranger’s bachelor party in Vermont

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — An email about a bachelor party sent to the wrong person has led to an Arizona man taking a trip to a Vermont ski resort to attend the party of someone he doesn’t know this weekend.

William Novak of Phoenix got the email on Jan. 7 about the ski weekend for Angelo. He didn’t know the person but the party with its over-the-top invitation sounded like a good time so he emailed back as a joke to say he was in. Novak, 35, about the same age as the others invited, expected to get no response or one recognizing his humor. Instead, the party-goers from New Jersey and New York agreed that Novak should join the fun.

“When they wrote back and they were like ‘if you’re serious, we’re serious, get here’ I was blown away. I just started cracking up laughing. I was like ‘oh my gosh, these guy seem insane,’” he said.

Likewise, Angelo Onello’s brother, who sent the email, appreciated his humor.

“It started as a joke and ended up being probably a good mistake,” said Devin Onello, who said he and Novak have hit it off ever since.

Novak, a father of a 10-month-old who with his wife has spent much of their savings on renovating their old house, had a hard time rationalizing spending $750 on airfare, ski rentals and lift passes so he started a GoFundMe page with the heading, “Help me go the bachelor party of a stranger.” By the time he and his family had eaten dinner that day, his trip was funded.

He’s only skied once — at age 14 on a church trip — but said he’s up for the adventure.

The party organizers say the weekend will be tough on his liver. Novak told them he’s not much of a drinker, which they said was OK because he could be the designated driver. He offered to bring his Nintendo switch to play but they said Angelo is not much of a video game player. As a spoof he also offered to bring Soduko puzzles, which they took him up on.

Others have also offered to pitch in, with one company offering Hawaiian shirts for the occasion, a Vermont bar providing locally made beer, and a tattoo artist offering to make matching tattoos, which Novak says he declined.

When Novak learned that Angelo and his fiance are expecting a baby, a woman in Mesa, Arizona, where Novak works, made a baby blanket. His neighborhood in Phoenix is also sending a gift bag of locally made items.

Novak plans to fly into Boston and rent a car and drive to Okemo on Friday. He’s changed his route so he can pick up the beer in Brattleboro on the way.

“I’m just the sort of person who tries to be open to things,” he said.

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  • Thousands more migrant children separated under Trump than previously known | US news

    The Trump administration may have separated thousands of migrant children from their parents at the border for up to a year before family separation was a publicly known practice, according to a stunning government review of the health department’s role in family separation.

    A report by the health department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) published on Thursday said officials at the health department estimated “thousands of separated children” were put in health department care before a court order in June 2018 ordered the reunification of 2,600 other children.

    “The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,” the report said.

    This report shows that not only did the US government probably separate thousands more children from their parents than previously thought, but it was separating families well before the policy was made public in April 2018.

    In the summer of 2017, one year before the general public knew mass family separations were taking place, officials at the health department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) observed a steep increase in the number of children referred to ORR care who had been separated from their parents or guardians by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to the report.

    Usually, children put in health department care have traveled to the border without a parent or guardian. The health department then works to place them in the home of a sponsor, usually a relative or someone close to their family. If a sponsor cannot be found, children are put in foster care.

    Occasionally, children would be separated from the adult who they traveled with but, the OIG report said: “Historically, these separations were rare and occurred because of circumstances such as the parent’s medical emergency or a determination that the parent was a threat to the child’s safety.”

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    In response to the unusual increase in children whom the government separated from their families, officials began informally tracking separations using an Excel spreadsheet that was later processed into a database. This process was not formalized.

    This informal tracking revealed that in 2016, of all the children in ORR care, 0.3% had been separated from a parent or guardian. By August 2017, the proportion of separated children had risen to 3.6%, according to the report.

    “Thousands of children may have been separated during an influx that began in 2017, before the accounting required by the court, and HHS has faced challenges in identifying separated children,” the report said.

    It was not until April 2018, however, that the Trump administration publicly announced it was changing the law to make more family separations possible.

    That month, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced the “zero-tolerance” policy that would allow parents to be held in immigration detention while children were put in health department custody. Advocacy groups had been warning for months that family separations were already taking place, but widespread public outcry against the practice did not emerge until after Sessions announced the policy.

    Facing significant public pressure, the Trump administration on 20 June ended the family separation policy it had created.

    A week later, a federal judge ordered 2,600 children to be reunited with their parents in response to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

    Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and lead attorney on the family separation case, said the civil rights group would return to court in response to the OIG report.

    “This policy was a cruel disaster from the start,” Gelernt said. “This report reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents.”

    There had not been a centralized system in place to identify, track or connect separated families, according to the report, but the government had to create a process to identify quickly and reunite families in compliance with the court order.

    In the OIG report, the health department said in the five months following the order, it was still identifying children who should have been considered separated but were not being clearly tracked in government systems. So far, 2,737 separated children have been identified.

    Those children are separate from the new estimate included in Thursday’s report, which said: “The Court did not require HHS to determine the number, identity, or status of an estimated thousands of children whom DHS separated during an influx that began in 2017.”

    The health department’s Administration of Children and Families (ACF), which oversaw care of separated children, emphasized its role in family separation was the care of children, not in enforcement of separations.

    Lynn Johnson, assistant secretary for ACF, wrote in a letter included with the report that the agency has also introduced new processes to track separated children.

    Despite the OIG’s findings, warnings from child advocates and public outcry, the Trump administration has not ruled out bringing family separation back in a different form.

    In November, Trump’s nominee to run US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), Ronald Vitiello, declined to rule out the possibility that the US could again separate families at the border. And the Trump administration has reportedly weighed family separation alternatives including a “binary choice” plan that would give parents the option to separate voluntarily or be detained together for years.

    Nancy Pelosi asks Trump to reschedule State of the Union amid shutdown

    Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Nicholas Fandos

    New York Times News Service,

    3:10 PM

    WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi, citing security constraints from the partial government shutdown, asked President Donald Trump on Wednesday to scrap his Jan. 29 State of the Union address, and a bipartisan group of senators called on him to reopen the government while they negotiated a compromise on border security.

    “Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to Congress on January 29,” Pelosi said in a letter to Trump on Wednesday. She suggested he forgo the annual presidential ritual of addressing a joint session of Congress in a televised speech during prime time and submit a written message instead.

    While she couched her request in logistical concerns, Pelosi’s proposal served as a reminder to Trump that, with Democrats in control of the House, she has the power to frustrate his agenda and upend his plans amid a prolonged stalemate over his demands for a wall on the southwestern border. It intensified the pressure on the president as a group of centrist House Democrats and Republicans were heading to the White House for talks with Trump in the Situation Room aimed at resolving the impasse.

    A separate group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate were circulating a letter calling on Trump to drop his demand that wall funding accompany any bill to end the shutdown, urging him to agree to sign a three-week stopgap government funding measure to allow time to forge a “broad bipartisan agreement” on border security spending.

    “We commit to working to advance legislation that can pass the Senate with substantial bipartisan support,” said the letter, which is being spearheaded by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Coons, D-Del. “During those three weeks, we will make our best efforts following regular order in the appropriate committees and mark up bipartisan legislation relating to your request.”

    The letter has support from several other Republican senators including Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine and Rob Portman of Ohio, as well as centrist Democrats including Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, according to several officials familiar with it who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the effort. But the idea is identical to one the president has ruled out both publicly and privately, saying he would not reopen the government without first securing funding for the wall.

    Behind closed doors last week, Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, made it clear to senators that the idea could not work because they feared that once the government was reopened, the White House would lose control of the legislative process of hammering out a border security compromise and end up with a product that the president could not support.

    Still, a growing number of senators in both parties argue that if they demonstrate that there is enough support in the Senate to force consideration of such a plan, Trump might reconsider.

    “If we can show a critical mass of folks that think we should reopen the government and then allow us the regular process to work, where a group of folks would come forward with ideas, I think we’ve got to do something,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said Tuesday. “No one is going to negotiate while the government’s shut.”

    Neither the White House nor the Secret Service had an immediate comment on Pelosi’s letter. But Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican, said on Twitter that her decision “makes clear what we already know: Democrats are only interested in obstructing @realDonaldTrump, not governing.”

    With the leadership of all three branches of government gathered in one place, the State of the Union is one of the highest-stakes events for federal law enforcement each year, requiring weeks of preparation. The Secret Service, the lead agency coordinating security for it, is among the agencies affected by the shutdown.

    “Both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now — with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs,” Pelosi wrote.

    But rescheduling would have other benefits, too.

    With Democrats and Trump at an impasse over his demands for funding for a wall along the southern border, the speech would give Trump a nationally televised bully pulpit to hammer away at Pelosi and her party.

    “What are Democrats afraid of Americans hearing?” Scalise said in a posting, branding Pelosi #ShutdownNancy. “That 17,000+ criminals were caught last year at the border? 90% of heroin in the US comes across the southern border? Illegal border crossings dropped 90%+ in areas w/ a wall?”

    The Constitution says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” But what is now a speech to a joint session of Congress in the Capitol has taken different forms over the years, including in writing for much of the 19th century. The House speaker typically arranges the address by invitation, though its date is the subject of mutual agreement with the White House.

    In her letter, Pelosi said there was no precedent for holding a State of the Union address during a government shutdown.

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    Unscheduled absences double as unpaid workers report ‘they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations’.

    The US Department of Agriculture will call furloughed employees back to work on Thursday, reopening 980 agency offices that are responsible for processing farm loans and tax documents, Reuters reports.

    In a statement released today, the agency announced that roughly 2,500 FSA employees are being asked to work without pay for the next three workdays.

    Representative Andy Harris, who was seen walking through the halls with far-right troll Chuck C. Johnson, has now released a statement saying the congressman was “unaware of [Johnson’s] previous associations”and was meeting to discuss genetic sequencing. “Of course I disavow and condemn white supremacy and anti-semitism”.

    That is definitely Chuck Johnson. And that means a day after allegedly condemning white supremacy & Steve King on the House floor, some Republicans are walking into the House with…. a Holocaust-denying white supremacist. Fucking amazing. https://t.co/JIG3sHkIBS

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    A CNN analyst called out a black Fox News contributor for white privilege

    CNN legal analyst Areva Martin thought she was talking to a white man Tuesday while appearing as a guest on David Webb’s SiriusXM radio show.

    When Webb, a Fox Nation host and frequent Fox News contributor, said he considered his qualifications more important than his skin color when applying to media jobs, Martin accused him of exercising white privilege.

    But there was a problem with that sentiment, as Webb quickly pointed out:

    “Areva, I hate to break it to you, but you should’ve been better prepped,” he responded. “I’m black.”

    The exchange was posted to Twitter by Webb on Tuesday afternoon. He is heard in the interview saying, “I’ve chosen to cross different parts of the media world, done the work so that I’m qualified to be in each one; I never considered my color the issue; I considered my qualifications the issue.”

    Martin responds: “Well, David, that’s a whole other long conversation about white privilege, the things that you have the privilege of doing, that people of color don’t have the privilege of.”

    “How do I have the privilege of white privilege?” Webb asks.

    “David, by virtue of being a white male you have white privilege. This whole long conversation, I don’t have time to get into -”

    Webb then interrupts her to let her know he’s a black man, causing Martin to take a pause.

    “You see, you went to white privilege; this is the falsehood in this,” Webb replies. “You went immediately with an assumption. Your people, obviously, or you didn’t look.

    Martin apologizes repeatedly for her false accusation, adding that “her people” gave her the wrong information.

    “You’re talking to a black man … who started out in rock radio in Boston, who crossed the paths into hip-hop, rebuilding one of the greatest black stations in America and went on to work at Fox News where I’m told apparently blacks aren’t supposed to work, but yet, you come with this assumption and you go to white privilege,” Webb says. “That’s actually insulting.”

    Martin has not publicly acknowledged the incident. A spokeswoman for Martin declined to comment.

    After the interview, Webb made light of Martin’s gaffe by posting photos of himself with white men, writing on Twitter: “Just two guys showing their #WhitePrivelege.”

    The exchange became a popular topic on Fox News, where Tucker Carlson discussed it Tuesday night, shortly before Webb appeared on’The Ingraham Angle.” The next morning, he was back on Fox to discuss the incident with “Fox and Friends,” telling the hosts that white privilege is a “false narrative.”

    “There is no such thing as white privilege,” Webb said. “There’s earned privilege in life, that you work for. There are those who may have a form of privilege that they exert … in the form of influence.”

    If a conservative analyst had made the same mistake as Martin, there would be calls for that person to be fired, Webb said.He said he has invited Martin back to his show to “have a longer conversation about white privilege.”

    “Our skin’s an organ – it doesn’t think or formulate ideas, it just says: This is a result of your parentage,” he said.

    “She got caught,” he said of Martin, but added: “I have no reason to diss her.”

    In addition to his roles with SiriusXM and Fox Nation, Webb is also a contributor to Fox News, the Hill and Breitbart News, according to his website.

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  • ‘You didn’t get fired’: Christie offers new evidence Trump avoids confrontation | US news

    One day in early 2017, Chris Christie was in his kitchen in New Jersey, eating dinner with his wife Mary Pat. The phone rang. It was the president.

    According to Christie, Donald Trump tried, not for the first time, to persuade the governor to become his labor secretary. Then talk turned to Christie’s firing as Trump’s transition chairman in November 2016.

    “Chris,” Trump said, “you didn’t get fired. You got made part of a larger team.”

    Christie gives his side of the conversation in his new book, Let Me Finish, a copy of which was obtained by the Guardian two weeks before publication. He says he bristled at Trump’s claim, then rebuked the president.

    “I’m a big boy who understands how the way this business works,” he said. “But please, sir, don’t ever, ever tell me again that I wasn’t fired.”

    Christie was fired, by then senior aide Steve Bannon in his office at Trump Tower. Christie depicts the scene in withering detail, saying Bannon blamed the move on Jared Kushner, “the kid”, Trump’s son-in law and adviser who is portrayed as the chief villain of the piece, driven by a decade-old family feud.

    But the remark Christie reports Trump making brought back to attention a frequently observed feature of the billionaire’s presidency: the man whose TV catchphrase, “You’re fired!”, did much to propel him to power does not like firing people himself.

    Famously, Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson and chief of staff Reince Priebus by tweet, the same medium by which he announced the “retirement” of Jim Mattis, attempting to steal the thunder of the defense secretary’s resignation.

    James Comey, director of the FBI, was fired by letter. Jeff Sessions, the man who got the job Christie really wanted, attorney general, was hounded by tweet for months until he gave in and resigned. After very public power struggles with Kushner, Ivanka Trump and others, Bannon reached an exit agreement with chief of staff John Kelly, whose own departure turned into a drawn-out soap opera which has not yet ended with the appointment of a permanent replacement.

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    In her own book, the former reality TV star and presidential aide Omarosa Manigault Newman reported being fired by Kelly. She then released a taped phone call in which Trump said “nobody even told me about it” and added: “You know they run a big operation, but I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that. Goddamn it. I don’t love you leaving at all.”

    Though Christie uses his book to describe his close relationship with Trump and to continually praise his leadership, the president he depicts seems in thrall to powerful family members who make the big decisions.

    On the day of the firing of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, Christie says, he visited Trump in his office at Trump Tower to be told: “They fired Corey, you know. I don’t know if it’s the right thing or not.”

    Christie then writes that he and Trump watched the fired aide stay loyal in a TV interview. The candidate approved and suggested he and Christie should call him.

    “Didn’t we just fire him?” Christie asked. Lewandowski then called him and blamed Kushner for his downfall.

    Christie writes that the departure of Lewandowski’s successor, Paul Manafort, was also engineered by Kushner, in part due to a plagiarism scandal over Melania Trump’s speech to the Republican convention.

    The theme of Christie’s book is that if he had not been fired, the transition would have set Trump up for success. He cites the departures of health secretary Tom Price, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and others as evidence for his claim.

    Regarding Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn, Christie portrays protracted debates about the fate of each man, and in each case writes that Kushner’s instincts, which won out over his, proved wrong.

    Christie approves of the firing of Flynn, calling him a “slow-motion car crash” whose appointment was an indictment of the Christie-less transition. He also mocks Trump and Kushner’s belief that the move would stop all talk of improper links to Moscow.

    “This Russia thing is all over now,” he quotes Trump as saying over lunch with Kushner at the White House in February 2017, “because I fired Flynn.”

    “I started to laugh,” Christie writes.

    James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in June 2017.



    James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill in June 2017. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    Of Comey, Christie says “there were lots of reasons” to fire the FBI director. “But when it was done and how it was done was abysmal and caused unnecessary grief for the president.”

    Trump’s chief of Oval Office operations, Keith Schiller – another no longer by Trump’s side – was sent to FBI headquarters in Washington to deliver the necessary letter. Comey, it turned out, was delivering a speech in Los Angeles. He learned his fate from TV.

    Christie writes that he agrees – a rare occurrence – with Bannon, who has called the firing, which led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, the worst mistake in modern political history.

    Describing his beef with Kushner, meanwhile, Christie cites a TV classic. Trump’s son-in-law, he says, regularly sought to undermine the governor’s work by calling it “‘a Jersey operation’, as if the Trump transition team were a wholly owned subsidiary of The Sopranos.”

    Despite his reluctance to personally confront those he wished to get gone, Trump seems to have liked the reference to the seminal series about a ruthless mob boss unafraid to shoot, garrotte or dismember those with whom he wished to dispense.

    “One day when I was speaking with Donald,” Christie writes, he used Jared’s exact phrase. ‘It’s a Jersey operation,’ Donald said to me.”

    “I flinched at that,” he writes.

    Filing: OxyContin maker forecast ‘blizzard of prescriptions’

    ALANNA DURKIN RICHER and GEOFF MULVIHILL

    AP,

    updated at 5:34 PM

    BOSTON (AP) — A member of the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma told people at the prescription opioid painkiller’s launch party in the 1990s that it would be ‘‘followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition,’’ according to court documents filed Tuesday.

    The details were made public in a case brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey that accuses Purdue Pharma, its executives and members of the Sackler family of deceiving patients and doctors about the risks of opioids and pushing prescribers to keep patients on the drug longer. The documents provide information about former Purdue Pharma President Richard Sackler’s role in overseeing sales of OxyContin that hasn’t been public before.

    The drug and the closely held Connecticut company that sells it are at the center of a lawsuit in Massachusetts and hundreds of others across the country in which government entities are trying to find the drug industry responsible for an opioid crisis that killed 72,000 Americans in 2017. The Massachusetts litigation is separate from some 1,500 federal lawsuits filed by governments being overseen by a judge in Cleveland.

    But the company documents at the heart of the Massachusetts allegations are also part of the evidence exchanged in those cases. While the Massachusetts filing describes their contents, the documents themselves have not been made public, at the company’s request.

    According to the filing, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, told the audience at the launch party to imagine a series of natural disasters: an earthquake, volcanic eruption, hurricane and blizzard.

    ‘‘The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white,’’ he said, according to the documents.

    ‘‘Over the next twenty years, the Sacklers made Richard’s boast come true,’’ lawyers in the attorney general’s office wrote. ‘‘They created a manmade disaster. Their blizzard of dangerous prescriptions buried children and parents and grandparents across Massachusetts, and the burials continue,’’ they wrote.

    The complaint says the Sackler family, which includes major donors to museums including the Smithsonian Institution, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Tate Modern in London, was long aware its drug was dangerous and addictive but pushed more sales anyway.

    A memo among family members in 2008 warned of a ‘‘dangerous concentration of risk’’ for the family, the complaint says. Years earlier, Richard Sackler wrote in an email that the company would have to ‘‘hammer on the abusers in every way possible,’’ describing them as ‘‘the culprits and the problem.’’

    Purdue Pharma accused the attorney general’s office of cherry-picking from millions of emails and documents to create ‘‘biased and inaccurate characterizations’’ of the company and its executives. The company said in a statement said it will ‘‘aggressively defend against these misleading allegations.’’

    The company also stresses that its drug is approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors; that it accounts for a small portion of opioids sold in the U.S.; and that illicit drugs including heroin and street fentanyl are causing most overdose deaths.

    Messages seeking comment were left with a spokeswoman for the Sackler family.

    Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company’s executives in a complaint. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau, Richard Sackler and other members of the Sackler family.

    A suit filed by the New York County of Suffolk also names members of the family. A lawyer who filed that suit, Paul Hanly, said he expects the family to be named in further suits.

    Last year, Purdue halted efforts to market OxyContin to doctors.

    ___

    Mulvihill reported from New Jersey.

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