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. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, after a 15-0 vote from the Los Angeles City Council, the U.S. Olympic Committee has its official nominee to host the 2024 Olympics. Boston dropped out of the running in July, amid lack of public support and cost concerns. On Tuesday, L.A. officials said that most of the needed venues are either already built or would be anyways, and that the City of Angels can host the games at no cost to taxpayers, as it has before, in 1932 and 1984. "We're the only city on Earth that has hosted two profitable Olympics," said City Council member Paul Kerkorian.
Then things got a little bit feisty. "There's a little sadness today," said City Council member Bob Blumenfield, "and I think that sadness is being felt in Paris and in Rome, because their prospects for getting these Olympics just went down substantially, because L.A. is now in the mix and they're looking in their rear-view mirrors and they're seeing us there, and we're going to be unstoppable." Along with Paris and Rome, other 2024 contenders include Budapest and Hamburg. Watch the L.A. spirit on display below. Peter Weber
A recent study from Texas A&M University found that traffic got worse in 95 of America's 100 biggest cities between 2013 and 2014, thanks to the improving economy, and that the average U.S. commuter spends 42 hours a year stuck in traffic. If that seems like a lot — and it does — remember, that's the average; things are much worse in the Top 5 worst cities. In this video, The Wall Street Journal walks you through those five metro areas, three of which are in California, leading up to the worst U.S. city for traffic, Washington, D.C. Commuters in the D.C. area spend 82 hours a year in traffic, at an average annual cost of $1,834 per driver.
"Gridlock in the capital," deadpans narrator Catey Hill. "You don't say." You can watch her report below. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Kim Davis, the county clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, continued to refuse to issue same-sex (or opposite-sex) marriage licenses, despite losing at the U.S. Supreme Court, citing "God's authority." On Tuesday night's Last Word, host Alex Wagner asked columnist and gay-rights advocate Dan Savage if he thinks Davis is trying to become a "martyr."
"I think Kim Davis is waiting to cash in," Savage replied. She will probably lose her job and maybe spend a small amount of time in jail, he said, "and then she will have written for her a ghostwritten book, she will go on the right-wing lecture circuit, and she'll never have to do an honest day's work ever again in her life. This is about somebody hypocritically cashing in." Why "hypocritically"? Savage notes that Davis is justifying her refusal to do her job by arguing it violates "a central teaching of scripture, and of Jesus himself, regarding marriage," when Davis herself has been married four times. You can watch Savage's argument, and some thoughts on the split this is causing in the Republican Party, below. Peter Weber
Trevor Noah signs on as host of The Daily Show on Sept. 28, and Comedy Central's newest ad campaign for its flagship topical comedy show seems aimed at reassuring viewers that Noah isn't going to crash Jon Stewart's car. And their main way of doing that is by mocking the Daily Show correspondents. In one new spot, Jessica Williams, Hasan Minhaj, and Jordan Klepper try to show off their affinity with Noah's native South Africa, only to be reassured that "nothing's going to change" (and that we've apparently all been pronouncing "zebra" wrong). In a second ad, Noah talks straight to the viewers to let them know he and his "Best F#@king News Team" will still cover the 2016 election (and try to sell them jewelry).
Perhaps the best new teaser features Williams and John Hodgman, who vie for Noah's attention with gifts and painful personal sacrifices. Here's hoping Hodgman plays a bigger role in the rebooted show. You can watch him mutilate his upper lip (not really) in the video below. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, a federal judge in San Francisco granted class action status to a lawsuit by three Uber drivers who argue that they are more employees than independent contractors, as Uber contends. The class includes up to 160,000 Uber drivers in California, as long as they have not waived their right to class-action arbitration. Uber says that leaves a small number of potential plaintiffs, while the lawyer representing the drivers says it will include many thousands, and many more if the class action is widened to include all U.S. Uber drivers.
Class action suits generally give plaintiffs more leverage, and if the case ultimately goes against Uber, the car-service startup could be forced to pay for its drivers' Social Security, workers comp, unemployment and health insurance, and automotive maintenance costs. That would upend Uber's entire business model and possibly affect other companies based on the "sharing economy." Uber says it will appeal Judge Edward Chen's ruling, while plaintiff lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan tells The Wall Street Journal that she and her clients "will seek reimbursement for expenses, as well as tips that were not distributed to Uber drivers, around the country." Peter Weber
Anthony Sadler, one of the three Americans awarded France's top civilian honor for stopping a heavily armed man from shooting up a train from Amsterdam, was on The Tonight Show on Tuesday to tell what happened. It's a pretty amazing story, and Sadler told Jimmy Fallon he could recount it all day. One of the details really struck Fallon, however: "We were having so much fun in Amsterdam, we almost stayed," Sadler said, explaining why he and his two friends were very nearly not on the train.
Get it? They had been in Amsterdam? They were asleep on the train? If not Fallon sort of beat the inference to death, singing reggae in case the ganja vibe wasn't clear enough. He went on with the innuendo for so long that Sadler's laughter started to get a little polite. You can watch Sadler's heroic tale, and Fallon's attempts to... lighten the mood? below. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said they will support the Iran nuclear deal, putting the White House just one vote short of the 34 senators needed to sustain his veto of the Senate's probable disapproval resolution. Coons had expressed strong reservations about the deal as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but said in a speech early Tuesday that while it "is not the agreement I had hoped for," it is the best realistic option to constrain Iran.
The deal also got the endorsement of two prominent House Democrats on Tuesday, Rep. Adam Smith (Wash.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), who has close ties to pro-Israel advocacy groups. Congress will open debate on the binding disapproval resolution next week, but if another senator goes on record as being in favor of the deal, the next hurdle for the White House will be getting 41 senators to support a filibuster, sparing President Obama a veto entirely. Peter Weber