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ON THE GROUND IN LIBYA: A local official involved in the manhunt for the militants that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his fellow diplomats tells the Wall Street Journal that four people have been arrested in connection with Tuesday's deadly attack in Benghazi. "There is a group now that is under our custody, but there is [also] a group we're following to know who's connected to them, and they are monitoring their phone calls," the unnamed official told the paper.
UNREST CONTINUES TO SPREAD: The AP on the situation in Sana: "Chanting 'death to America,' hundreds of protesters ... stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen’s capital and burned the American flag on Thursday.... Protesters smashed windows as they breached the embassy perimeter and reached the compound grounds, although they did not enter the main building housing the offices. Angry young men brought down the U.S. flag in the courtyard, burned it and replaced it with a black banner bearing Islam’s declaration of faith—'There is no God but Allah.'"
VISUAL LEARNERS ALERT: Check out Slate's interactive timeline to see how the violent demonstrations spread.
WHERE SHOULD WE BE MOST WORRIED ABOUT? Somewhat lost in the reporting on today's spreading protests and Tuesday's death of four American diplomats is the unrest in Egypt, where the anti-American demonstrations that are sweeping the region actually began. It is in Cairo, and not Benghazi or Sana, where the White House may face its most difficult political and diplomatic challenges. "On the one hand, you didn’t have Americans getting killed, but this was the fourth time an embassy was assaulted in Cairo with the Egyptian police doing precious little," Martin S. Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, told the New York Times.
Happy Thursday and welcome back to the Slatest PM, where we apologize for the technical hiccups that added a day to our planned two-day hiatus to start the week. Follow the entire @slatest team and @JoshVoorhees on Twitter, or fill your host's inbox with whatever's on your mind at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT ABOUT THE FILM? It looks like the AP has solved the mystery of who was behind the anti-Islam film believed to have sparked this week's violent protests throughout the region. That man is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Coptic Christian with a criminal past who lives in California, according to the news wire's digging, which has been backed up by a federal law enforcement official.
ABOUT THAT RECORD: The AP reports that Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 to bank fraud charges. The Daily Beast, however, appears to have found a more TV show-worthy criminal past: "According to a source close to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was arrested by the L.A. Country Sheriff's Department on March 27, 1997 and charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on Nov. 3, 1997 to one year in county jail and three years probation."
BUT WAS IT REALLY THE FILM THAT STARTED THIS ALL? New Yorker contributor Hisham Matar has his doubts: "Was it really religious outrage that made a few young men lose their heads and commit murder? Have any of the men who attacked the consulate actually seen the film? I do not know one Libyan who has, despite being in close contact with friends and relatives in Benghazi. And the attack was not preceded by vocal outrage toward the film. Libyan Internet sites and Facebook pages were not suddenly busy with chatter about it."
HILLARY WEIGHS IN: "The U.S. government has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and messages," Clinton said. "But there is no justification—none at all—for responding to this video with violence."
BACK TO SCHOOL: Chicago Tribune: "The two sides in the Chicago teachers strike remained optimistic about a deal as they resumed contract talks today, but it appeared the earliest classes could resume would be Monday."
BOND BUYING: NYT: "The Federal Reserve launched a new campaign to stimulate the economy Thursday that it said would continue until its help was no longer needed or its efforts became counterproductive, opening a fresh chapter in its five-year-old response to the financial crisis."
NYC SODA BAN: The New York City Board of Health signed off this morning on a first-of-its-kind ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters, and street vendors. But have no fear, NYC soda lovers: there's still plenty of ways around the new drink rules, including a giant loophole that means that you won't exactly have to go on an epic quest for your next sugary fix when out and about on the city's streets. (Spoiler alert: You definitely can't call it a Big Gulp ban.)
FUZZY AND FIZZY: Slate's Daniel Engber takes a look at the contested science behind Bloomberg's ban on over-sized sodas.
CHECKING THE WIRES—
AP: "As its last major act before leaving Washington for the fall campaign, the House is voting to put the government on autopilot for six months. The temporary spending bill is needed to avert a government shutdown when the current budget year expires Sept. 30. At issue are the day-to-day operating budgets of Cabinet agencies that are funded annually by Congress through 12 appropriations bills."
Reuters: "The Mars rover Curiosity was due to wrap up an exhaustive, weeks-long instrument check on Thursday, clearing the way for its first lengthy drive to determine whether the Red Planet has ever been hospitable to life, NASA officials said."
WHAT YOUR HOST IS READING AFTER HE HITS SEND: Engber's awesome three-part series "The Mouse Trap: How One Rodent Rules the Lab." It was published in Slate last November, and today was named a winner of a 2012 Communication Award.
We'll see you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe here or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.