Prosecution Up First: CNN: "'A teenager is dead through no fault of his own, dead because a man made assumptions and acted on them, unfortunately, because his assumptions are wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on the earth,' prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said as he opened his argument. 'He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed certain things, that Trayvon Martin was up to no good. And that's what led to his death,' de la Rionda said. If things go as planned, the six-member jury could have the case as soon as Friday." Defense is expected to give its closing tomorrow.
Manslaughter Now on the Table: New York Times: "The judge in the George Zimmerman trial agreed on Thursday to instruct jurors to consider a lesser charge of manslaughter against Mr. Zimmerman in addition to the second-degree murder charge he is facing. ... For Mr. Zimmerman to be convicted of second-degree murder, the jury must determine that he acted with spite, malice or ill will without regard for human life in the shooting death last year of Trayvon Martin. Manslaughter has a lower threshold for prosecutors to prove and is defined in Florida as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice — including the result of an accident or other act in which the person does not have the mental state to commit a murder."
Instant Analysis: Given the growing consensus among court watchers that the state hasn't done enough to prove Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder, this morning's decision was a win for the prosecution because it raises the possibility that a skeptical jury could still send Zimmerman to prison for a significant stretch of time. (A second-degree murder charge comes with the possibility of life. The manslaughter charge, meanwhile, brings with it a maximum penalty of 30 years.)
It’s Thursday. Welcome to the Slatest PM, where we’re rounding up the day’s top stories and making our weekend plans. Follow me, your afternoon news guide, on Twitter at @s_brodez and the whole team at @slatest.
Student Loan Deal Close: NBC News: “A bipartisan group of senators is closing in on a deal to lower interest rates on student loans after they doubled on July 1. Eight senators -- including Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin and Tom Harkin, who have been reluctant to accept compromise proposals -- are hammering out a deal that would permanently tie student loan rates to interest rates on Treasury notes. That would lower rates in the short term, but could mean that rates rise above 6.8 percent in the future. The compromise would put a cap on how high the rates could go -- 8.25 percent for undergraduate loans and 9.25 percent for graduate students.”
Food Stamps Out of Farm Bill: Washington Post: "Republicans have dropped funding for food stamps from a new version of the Farm Bill expected to be voted on Thursday, earning a strong rebuke from the White House and congressional Democrats who plan to oppose the measure. It is unclear whether sufficient Republican support exists for the new bill that is scheduled for a vote by early afternoon Thursday. Two key conservative groups that hold sway over dozens of House Republicans said they were opposed to the bill, because it fails to slash the federal deficit."
Egypt to Get U.S. Jets: Guardian: “US officials have agreed to donate four fighter jets to Egypt's army, in the latest indication of international support for the country's interim government despite growing internal unease at the new regime's management of the power transition. America's donation of the F-16s suggests the Obama administration is coming to terms with the downfall of the former president Mohamed Morsi, after initially displaying an ambiguous attitude to the military's role in the Islamist's ouster. The US gives annual aid worth $1.3bn (£860m) to the Egyptian army. There were concerns in Egypt that this support might be discontinued in the aftermath of Morsi's departure.”
The Slatest: Did Egypt's "Deep State" Set Up Morsi to Fail?
White House vs. Senate on Judges: Reuters: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday said he will schedule votes next week on a number of President Barack Obama's embattled executive-branch nominees, setting up a showdown with Republicans over rules used to block confirmations. Unless Republicans permit them all to be confirmed, Reid, a Nevada Democrat, may move to strip Republicans of their ability to block nominees with procedural hurdles known as filibusters, Democratic aides said. Senate rules require 67 votes to change its rules, including those regarding filibusters. But under a procedural power play known as ‘the nuclear option,’ Reid could do it with just 51. His Democrats control the Senate, 54-46.”
Microsoft Worked Closely With NSA: Guardian: "Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian. The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month."
Snowden Escape Unlikely: McClatchy News: “Beginning a third week holed up in a Moscow airport’s transit zone, Edward Snowden finds himself far enough away to evade U.S. authorities, but also too far from any of the sympathetic nations willing to shelter him. Aviation experts say that even if Snowden accepts the tentative offers of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia to give him shelter, it’s virtually impossible to chart a flight plan to those nations that doesn’t include traveling over or refueling in a U.S.-friendly country that could demand inspection of the plane – and detain him.”
Hackers Tell Feds to Scram: Reuters: “The annual Def Con hacking convention has asked the federal government to stay away this year for the first time in its 21-year history, saying Edward Snowden's revelations have made some in the community uncomfortable about having feds there. ‘It would be best for everyone involved if the Feds call a 'time-out' and not attend Def Con this year,’ Def Con founder Jeff Moss said in an announcement posted Wednesday night on the convention's website.”
A Few More Quick Hits from Slate:
- The Slatest: Pa. Attorney General Wants No Part of Defending "Wholly Unconstitutional" Gay-Marriage Ban
- XX Factor: Sex Education Makes Kids "Hot And Bothered," Claims Texas Representative
- BrowBeat: Where Do I Start With This American Life?
- Weigel: On Immigration, Republicans Want to "Separate the Salt from the Sugar
- MoneyBox: I Was Wrong Before. This Is The Best Drug Store In The World.
That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until next time, tell your friends to subscribe, or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.