A San Antonio woman was in “complete shock” when she discovered a year after her wedding that a “killer clown” had photobombed her wedding photos — and she has her husband to thank for the prank.
Vincent Alexander desperately wanted a clown at his wedding, but his then-fiancee Manda wasn’t as enthused.
“Originally, I had wanted a clown just for the cocktail hour during the reception, just to be twisting balloons and doing little jokes. Manda was not really for that,” Vincent Alexander, 39, told ABC News with a laugh.
Still, Manda Alexander, 40, did eventually tell her husband that she’d be OK with a clown at the reception, “but I can tell she didn’t want it,” her husband added.
So he nixed that idea, and after brainstorming with a friend decided that he’d get a clown to simply pose in their wedding photos unbeknownst to his future bride.
The only problem was, he couldn’t find a clown who’d do the prank.
“I started looking around San Antonio [where I live] for all clowns, but they would not do this picture,” Vincent Alexander recalled. “I don’t think they wanted to tarnish their reputations because they are performers.”
Instead, the groom’s younger brother, Matthew, donned the costume. And on March 25, 2017, when the Alexanders were taking their first photos as husband and wife inside San Antonio’s Witte Museum, Matthew Alexander posed scarily in the background.
“I really didn’t think he was going to do it,” photographer Megan Bowling, who took the now-viral snap, told ABC News. “The day of the wedding, I finally see him and he comes up to me and says, ‘So my brother has the clown suit over there with the knife.’ And I said to myself, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really happening.'”
Vincent Alexander kept the funny photo a secret until his one-year anniversary, which was last Sunday.
“It’s the ‘paper anniversary’ so having the photo printed and framed, I thought that’d be a great gift,” Vincent Alexander said.
Manda Alexander told ABC news she was in “complete shock” when she opened the gift, which she found hilarious.
“When I first opened the gift, I was opening it from right to left so all I saw was Vince and I in this beautiful frame,” she recalled, “and then I saw the clown.”
Manda Alexander continued, “I burst out laughing. I was in shock. I first thought it was photoshopped because I didn’t know how he could’ve done that without me knowing the day of the wedding and then he started explaining it was his brother.”
She said the gift perfectly “explains exactly who my husband is.”
“We’re very playful,” she added. “The only reason why we’re funny is because my husband is funny.”
But journalists worry that Alibaba, which has become one of the most highly valued companies in the world in part by maintaining good ties with the Chinese government, is abandoning The Post’s history of scrappy reporting to please Beijing.
“By explicitly stating that its aim is to tell a positive story of China and running questionable stories, management undermines the very attributes that make the S.C.M.P. useful in the first place,” said Yuen Chan, a journalist and senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
As businesses and governments around the world look for ways to skirt the traditional news media, The Post has become a test case for how a new owner can co-opt an established brand to promote certain viewpoints. Alibaba executives say they want to present a “fair and balanced” alternative to foreign media, a mission statement that echoes Fox News.
Gary Liu, a Harvard-educated technology entrepreneur who is the Post’s chief executive, said the newspaper could offer a more nuanced portrait of China than Western news outlets, with a staff of 350 journalists in Asia, including about 40 in the mainland.
“We are not here, certainly, to promote the views and wishes of Beijing,” said Mr. Liu, who was previously chief executive of Digg, a news aggregation site in New York.
But a culture of self-censorship at the newspaper predates its purchase by Alibaba, said Wang Feng, who served as The Post’s online editor from 2012 to 2015. He said top editors routinely rewrote, played down or withheld critical stories for fear of offending influential Chinese officials or business executives.
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“It was often done in a very hush-hush manner,” said Mr. Wang, now the editor of the Chinese-language website of The Financial Times. “You could see that people were not exactly free to speak their minds.”
That timidity has persisted under Alibaba, according to more than a dozen Post journalists who, speaking on condition of anonymity, described how the paper shies away from investigative reporting on Communist Party leaders and contentious subjects such as human rights.
Last year, The Post retracted a business column that suggested an investor in Hong Kong had ties to a trusted adviser to President Xi Jinping and had used his connections to amass wealth. The editors said the column made “insinuations beyond the facts.”
Its author, Shirley Yam, a well-respected financial commentator, resigned. In a statement, Ms. Yam defended her column, saying that editors had vetted the piece extensively before its publication.
Some critics said the more notable change under Alibaba may be The Post’s ramped-up production of articles that present China in a friendly light.
In February, Post journalists said, the Ministry of Public Security pushed the paper’s top editors to send a reporter to interview Gui Minhai, a political critic and Swedish citizen whom the Chinese police had snatched from a train.
Mr. Gui was then quoted saying he had broken Chinese law and did not want help from the outside world. In its coverage, The Post said that the interview with Mr. Gui was “government-arranged.”
“The Post risks being a vehicle in Beijing’s overall propaganda machinery,” said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a former Post journalist.
Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, has all but eliminated critical reporting in the mainland, placed new pressure on Hong Kong media and ordered a vast expansion of China’s publicity machine, with state broadcasters merged into a single entity called the “Voice of China” to strengthen China’s international messaging.
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Chow Chung-yan, who oversees coverage of China and Hong Kong, denied The Post yields to pressure from Beijing.
“We are independent and free,” he said. “We don’t have people calling into our newsroom asking what we will publish.”
The Post’s editor in chief, Tammy Tam, a former Hong Kong television broadcaster, declined to be interviewed. “We believe in reporting freely, fearlessly and in accordance with the highest editorial standards,” she said in a statement.
The Post’s leaders say that Alibaba executives, who have offices a few floors above the newsroom, are not involved in editorial decisions. But Mr. Tsai, the co-founder who spoke at the celebration last month, maintains a close connection, offering occasional feedback on coverage and new products.
There has been at least one noticeable change since the sale: an outpouring of coverage of Alibaba and its leader, Jack Ma, one of China’s richest men. Articles mentioning Alibaba reached an average of about 3.5 per day last year online and in print, roughly double the number in 2016, according to an archival search.
Alibaba appears to be willing to lose money on The Post, which is not profitable, according to newsroom leaders. Mr. Tsai has said The Post, with a circulation of about 101,000 and more than 10 million monthly active users on its website, may not become a self-sustaining business for at least five more years.
Traffic to The Post’s website has roughly tripled over the past year, the company said. Alibaba made access free when it took over.
But Alibaba has abandoned ambitions of expanding the audience for the Post’s journalism in the mainland, where its website is blocked. Even with its pro-China mission, articles in The Post still touch on topics that are off limits to mainland readers, like the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
While many of its approximately 850 articles a week appear tailored for a Hong Kong or Asian audience, The Post has gone on a hiring spree of journalists from outlets like BBC and The New York Times to help bring an international tone to its coverage.
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To cater to young people and readers in the United States, now its largest market, the Post this month launched Inkstone, an app and newsletter that offers a conversational take on China, and Abacus, a multimedia site focused on technology. The new products also help blunt criticism that The Post is a propaganda tool.
“Diss the national anthem? That’s up to three years in the slammer,” read one recent headline on an Inkstone article about penalties for mocking the Chinese national anthem in Hong Kong.
The Post’s success may hinge on persuading overseas readers that it delivers reliable journalism about China. But on the front lines, reporters are grappling with perceptions that the paper is another Chinese state news media outlet.
Tom Grundy, editor of the Hong Kong Free Press, a rival news site, said The Post was home to talented reporters. But he said Alibaba’s ownership of the paper and recent editorial missteps risked tarnishing high-quality work.
“No matter how good their output,” he said, “there will always be distrust.”
Robert Delaney, a New York-based correspondent for The Post, said he had difficulty lining up interviews with American politicians and other sources because they assumed he worked for a news outlet controlled by the Communist Party.
Now Mr. Delaney, a former China correspondent for Bloomberg News, makes a point of clarifying.
“Within the first minute, I just want to let them know, ‘Just so you know, we’re not a mainland Chinese newspaper, even though we have China in our name,’” he said. “That gets kind of awkward.”
On Saturday morning, Ms. Yousafzai flew in a government helicopter from the capital, Islamabad, to the Swat Valley accompanied by her parents, two brothers and Marriyum Aurangzeb, the Pakistani state minister for information. They briefly visited the rental house in Mingora where the family once lived and were warmly welcomed by the new residents. Ms. Yousafzai was in tears when she entered the house.
“So much joy seeing my family home, visiting friends and putting my feet on this soil again,” she said in a Twitter post along with a photo of her family standing in the garden of their old home. She also posted pictures of the scenic Swat Valley taken from the helicopter as it approached Mingora.
Urooj, a former schoolmate and neighbor who would only give her first name, said meeting Ms. Yousafzai left her friends with mixed emotions. “It was a moment of joy and sadness both,” she said, “because she came for a visit but was leaving as well.”
Ms. Yousafzai also visited a local hotel and a college near Mingora. “My first visit to Swat Valley after five and a half years since the attack,” she wrote in the visitors’ book at the school, where she made a brief speech. “I have felt so happy. I am proud of my land and culture.”
Swat was once a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, who ruled by terror, public hangings and suicide attacks on security forces. The militants and their leader, Mullah Fazlullah, were driven out after a fierce military campaign in 2009, and the valley has since returned to a more normal life.
But the security situation is still far from ideal, local residents say. The military maintains a large presence in the region and local residents have been protesting in recent months against the cumbersome security checks and barriers. The secrecy surrounding the visit was a testament to the lingering dangers in Swat. There was a heavy security presence in Mingora as the Yousafzais met with friends and family members, and a military helicopter hovered overhead.
But for the residents and Ms. Yousafzai, the fact that the Taliban are no longer visible and schools remain open were enough assurance that peace had returned to the region.
During her visit, Ms. Yousafzai praised the Pakistani Army for forcing the Taliban out of Swat and giving her medical treatment.
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Although she has gained worldwide acclaim and recognition, Ms. Yousafzai is still viewed by many in Pakistan’s conservative society in a critical light, and some portray her as a Western stooge. On Friday in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore and in several other cities, an association of private schools observed “I Am Not Malala Day,” with schoolchildren and teachers holding placards opposing her.
Ms. Yousafzai brushed off the criticism and said she could not understand why people had turned against her when she merely wanted girls to get an education, have careers and enjoy a better life. She says she plans to return to live in Pakistan after completing her education in Britain and will continue to advocate for girls’ education and women’s empowerment.
Ms. Yousafzai plans to return to the Britain on Monday.
Christine Shawcroft has resigned from Labour’s NEC following calls by members to suspend her amid the party’s anti-Semitism row.
Thirty-nine Labour MPs and peers wrote to Jeremy Corbyn on Friday calling for the leader to suspend Shawcroft after she defended a candidate who posted a Holocaust denial article.
Shawcroft, a leading Corbyn ally, quit her role as chair of Labour’s disputes panel on Thursday after admitting she was “wrong and misguided” to have sent an email calling for a Peterborough council candidate to have his suspension lifted.
On Saturday, she again apologised for the email and announced her decision to stand down as the National Executive Council’s chair of the disputes panel.
Shawcroft wrote that she sent the email regarding the Peterborough council candidate “before being aware of the full information about this case and I had not been shown the image of his abhorrent Facebook post.
“Had I seen this image, I would not have requested that the decision to suspend him be re-considered. I am deeply sorry for having done so.”
Her admission came as Mr Corbyn insisted he is not anti-Semitic after he said there had been 300 cases of anti-Semitism referred within Labour since he became leader in 2015.
Earlier on Saturday, Labour peer Lord Sugar took down a tweet showing Jeremy Corbyn in a car next to Hitler after it sparked a Twitter row.
The Labour leader has been embroiled in a row over anti-Semitism within the Labour party after a Facebook comment surfaced in which he had appeared to defend a mural depicting a group of Jewish financiers and white businessmen playing a Monopoly-style game on a board balanced on the backs of people.
Shawcroft wrote: “This week we have seen a clear expression of the pain and hurt that has been caused to Jewish members of our party and the wider Jewish community by anti-Semitic abuse and language, and by the reality of antisemitism being denied and downplayed by others.
“In light of this, I have decided to stand down as Chair of the Disputes Panel to ensure my wrong and misguided questions on this case do not cause doubt or anxiety about our processes.
“We must eliminate anti-Semitism from our Party and wider society. To do this we must make sure our processes are as robust as possible and have the faith and confidence of our members.”
It’s difficult to imagine the circumstances in which a man could hack a two-year-old’s face with a machete or what would drive him to do it.
But Rochelle’s extreme youth didn’t spare her from the anger and rage of the militia who stormed her village in Ituri Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo last month.
Her face has a deep scar stretching across it, just missing her left eye and there is a wound on the top of her skull where her attacker had another go with his machete.
How she survived is a testament to the bravery of her father, Richard Mynei, who is standing protectively behind her as we meet them.
He had already seen his wife hacked to death in the village of Che where they lived.
It was pitch-dark and the family – like everyone in the village – had been asleep when the attackers stormed their community.
In the mayhem and panic which followed, the men started slashing at his youngest child.
Richard intervened, fighting with the militia as they swung their machetes around, hacking at his head and his neck, slashing his lower back.
His eldest daughter Mave began running but two of the men managed to outrun the 11-year-old, chopping at the back of her head and neck and slicing her collar bone.
“They cut me like someone who was trying to kill a goat,” she tells us. “Then the second one came and just roughly cut my hand.
“These people are bad they just wanted to kill me.”
She holds her left hand tenderly.
The limb below the elbow has gone.
The stump she has been left with is still a mass of stitches covered in purple medication to stop infection.
The only child left uninjured is four-year-old Francine who appears to be the mother figure for her little sister.
She lifts the toddler up onto her hip as Rochelle begins crying.
The Mynei family are joined by nearly ten thousand people who have fled fighting and are now living in a squalid camp in Bunia.
They live in a rickety shelter built with thin bamboo reeds and covered with plastic, part of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s growing number of internally displaced people scattered across the country.
DRC now has more 4.5 million who have fled their homes from fighting – the largest number on the African continent.
The terrified people talk about their homes being destroyed or set on fire.
They talk repeatedly of gangs of militia storming their communities armed with machetes, guns and arrows, driving them away.
The government line is that it is an old ethnic conflict between the Hema and Lendu tribes, but most suspect it is stoked by an unpopular and autocratic government led by President Joseph Kabila, who has exceeded his mandate and is now under growing international pressure to step down and hold elections.
The DRC authorities are getting increasingly impatient with the negative murmurings from outside the country about the worsening situation and the growing humanitarian crisis.
There have been angry outbursts from several ministers about how the international community is exaggerating the statistics to besmirch the name of the DRC.
The DRC government has already said it will be shunning an aid donor conference scheduled for 13 April, during which attempts are going to be made to raise millions in aid to help DRC’s starving.
For the Mynei family, the politics is beyond them.
They – like the estimated 13 million other people in need of help – are just trying to survive and Richard’s face is the picture of stunned misery.
Remarkably though, he still regards himself as lucky.
“I feel so bad,” he says, “But praise God, all my three daughters survived.”
President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on Amazon, suggesting the online retail giant is ripping off the US Postal Service.
The US Post Office would lose $1.50 (£1.07) “on average for each package it delivers for Amazon”, he tweeted, but supporters of Amazon dispute this.
Mr Trump also said the Washington Post newspaper was a “lobbyist” for Amazon.
Amazon owner Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which publishes stories unpalatable to the president.
Like most mainstream media, the Post has reported on stories including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into links between the Trump election campaign and Russia, as well has his alleged relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels.
Saturday’s edition details how three different legal teams are scrutinising the Trump Organization’s accounts.
Mr Trump’s attacks on Amazon have seen its share price fall in recent days, amid concern that he might push for its power to be curbed by anti-trust laws.
The president tweeted that the US Post Office was losing “billions of dollars” in its contract with Amazon.
“If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.’ This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” he continued, quoting the New York Times.
Amazon has not commented.
But supporters of Amazon point out that the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the industry, has found that the US Postal Service makes a profit from its contract with the company.
This in turn helps subsidise the costs of letter delivery, which avoids the need for price rises.
It is unprecedented for a sitting president to single out one company for such vicious attacks, says the BBC’s Business Correspondent, Joe Lynam.
Friends of Mr Trump in the commercial property sector have also been urging him to protect them from digital retail giants as they see shopping malls closing and rents falling, our correspondent adds.
Would-be rescuers attempting to pull out people who had fallen into the sea had to then be saved by passersby.
A man fell from the slipway at Dundas Street in Redcar at about 16:00 BST on Good Friday and was battered by large waves close to the sea wall.
A man he was with attempted to rescue him but also got into difficulty. A man and a woman who attempted to rescue the pair then also ended up in the sea.
Members of the public were able to get all four to safety by forming a chain.
Redcar RNLI said it was only through “good fortune” they were all saved and urged against copycat behaviour.
Spokesman Dave Cocks said: “This was a sequence of events which could so easily have led to multiple deaths.
“The sea at Redcar is very rough as a result of the combined effects of strong winds and a particularly high tide, and the situation ended up with four adults in trouble in the sea, all needing rescue.
“It is only through good fortune that all four were rescued alive.
“If you see someone in trouble, alert the lifeguards… do not enter the water yourself.”
All four were taken to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough for treatment.
LONDON — Hundreds of people lined the streets of the British city of Cambridge on Saturday, breaking into applause as the hearse carrying the remains of the famed scientist Stephen Hawking arrived at a local church for a private funeral for 500 invited guests.
Dr. Hawking died on March 14 at age 76 after capturing popular imagination with his writings about space and time.
His book “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes,” published in 1988, has sold more than 10 million copies and inspired a documentary film by Errol Morris. His own story was the basis of an award-winning 2014 feature film, “The Theory of Everything.”
The actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the 2014 biographical drama, gave a reading from Ecclesiastes during the service at St. Mary the Great Church. There was also a reading by Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, and eulogies by one of Hawking’s children and a former student.
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The service was officiated by the Rev. Cally Hammond, the dean of Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University, where Dr. Hawking was a fellow for 52 years.
Flags were lowered to half-mast in many parts of Cambridge to pay tribute to him.
Dr. Hawking, who suffered from motor neuron disease, was known for his groundbreaking research into black holes and other phenomena.
Even as he gradually lost control of his muscles, he traveled the globe to scientific meetings, visiting every continent, including Antarctica; wrote best-selling books about his work; married twice; fathered three children; and was not above appearing on “The Simpsons,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or “The Big Bang Theory.”