On Thursday, former Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audiotape of him dismissing upcoming presidential elections as a "fraud" and foregone win for military leader Field Marshal Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi. Shafik, a former general and runner-up in the 2012 presidential race, "had not planned on making his opinion quite so public," deadpans David D. Kirkpatrick at The New York Times. "But these days in Egypt, conversations are often not as private as they seem."
In confirming his private comments, Shafik didn't exactly endorse them: "My confidence that the armed forces will ensure a transparent democratic and electoral process is complete and unquestionable." He also insisted: "I say in public what I say in private." Well, here's what he said in private, according to Al Jazeera:
I know very well they will fix all the ballot boxes. I have taken myself out of this loop because the election is going to be a farce.... Of course whether other candidates withdraw will depend on the nomination of Sisi. I said if he's going to run in the presidential election I will not run but I will get my papers ready (and) if he is going to run I will not submit them.... They will fix everything for him… this is going to be a comedy show. [Al Jazeera]
The comments are especially unusual because "Shafik comes from the same military elite as Field Marshal Sisi," Kirkpatrick notes. "Questioning the field marshal's candidacy is almost heretical in the pro-military and anti-Islamist circles both officers represent." Plenty in Egypt agree with Shafik's cynical assessment of Egyptian democracy. If Shafik hadn't taken himself out of the running, it would be interesting to know if his comments would hurt him or help his presidential candidacy.
If you're looking for a brief recap of why people are getting worked up over Indiana's new "Religious Freedom Restoration" law, preferably with some jokes thrown in, Seth Meyers has you covered. On Monday night's Late Night, Meyers explained the controversial law, why people think it will lead to anti-gay discrimination, how it differs from similar federal and state laws, and why Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) is an ineffective spokesman for the bill he signed last week. Or, you could just watch for the jokes. —Peter Weber
Justin Bieber threw some pretty good barbs of his own at his Comedy Central roast, which aired Monday night, but after sitting through an hour of mercilessness mockery, Bieber took the stage and apologized for being a jackass. "Let's get serious for a moment," he said, noting that nothing prepared him for being a teen mega-star. "There's been moments I'm really proud of and a lot of moments I look back and I’m pretty disappointed with myself for, but the things I've done don't really define who I am." Bieber sort of undercuts his perceived sincerity by licking his lips repeatedly, but his apology earns him a hearty round of applause — which he follows up with a Selena Gomez joke. You can watch some of the night's jokes at Comedy Central, and Bieber's coming-of-age speech below. —Peter Weber
"I bet you're wondering why I'm here tonight," Martha Stewart said in the middle of her bit during Comedy Central's roast of Justin Bieber. But by that point, nobody was wondering. Stewart had everyone in the audience — as well as roastmaster Kevin Hart and the other objects of her barbs on stage — gasping with laughter and shock. Her best joke — no, not the one about making pot brownies with Snoop Dogg — involves both Hart and Bieber, and you can watch it below. Warning, Stewart gets a little salty at times, so probably NSFW. —Peter Weber
"I haven't done this since I was about 11," Helen Mirren tells Jimmy Fallon when he offers her a helium balloon to inhale from on Monday night's Tonight Show. "Welcome to The Tonight Show," Fallon responds. And so it begins, your chance to hear a proper British accent — not The Queen proper, but proper enough — say "spotted dick," among other delightful things, on television. —Peter Weber
On Monday, the White House announced that President Obama will co-host a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya in July, his first trip to his father's homeland as president. It will be Obama's "fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa and the most of any sitting U.S. president," note National Security Council staffers Grant Harris and Shannon Green, comparing the Kenya visit to "President Kennedy's historic visit to Ireland in 1963."
At The New York Times, Peter Baker plays up the silly number of Americans who say they believe that Obama himself was born in Kenya, rather than Hawaii. But he also adds the substantive diplomatic problem that Kenya's president has been under a legal and ethical cloud since ethnic violence after disputed 2007 elections left more than 1,200 dead and 600,000 displaced.
"Now, the case against the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been dropped, and the perennial talk about Mr. Obama's birth has faded in the United State," Baker concludes. "So Mr. Obama seems to have concluded that a Kenya trip is acceptable at home and abroad." Obama has visited Kenya twice before, as a young man — a visit chronicled in his 1995 memoir Dreams From My Father — and again as a U.S. senator in 2006.
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy on Monday signed an executive order barring state-funded travel to Indiana over the The Hoosier State's controversial new religious freedom law.
"When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can't sit idly by," Malloy wrote on Twitter. "We are sending a message that discrimination won't be tolerated."
Seattle and San Francisco have enacted similar bans in response to the law, which critics fear would allow people and businesses to cite religious beliefs to discriminate against gays. While the federal government and nearly 20 other states have similar religious freedom laws, Indiana's goes further by saying people and businesses cannot be "substantially burdened" in the exercise of their religion by the state or other individuals; other such laws specify protection only against state encroachment on religious freedom.
With three Golden Globes, four Emmys, and a Best Actress Oscar under belt, you might think Dame Helen Mirren has reached the pinnacle of her acting career. But in a recent interview with Yahoo! Movies, Mirren set her aims even higher: the eighth installment of the so-dumb-it's-great blockbuster franchise Fast & Furious.
"My great ambition is to be in a Fast & Furious movie," said Mirren. "I so want to be a mad driver in a Fast & Furious movie. My claim to fame is I always do my own driving — I was on Top Gear, and I did [my lap] in a very good time. I keep putting it out there, and they never ask me. I'll be in Fast & Furious 8."
"I love Vin Diesel," Mirren added — hinting, we hope, at the tantalizing possibility of a May-December romance between The Queen and The Bald Guy Who Drives Fast Cars in Fast & Furious 8.