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Top of the News

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The latest headlines.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Thank you for listening to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We are on digital, FM, Sirius Satellite Radio, and online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Alison Stewart.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

And I'm Rachel Martin. Coming up, remembering Virginia Tech one year later. It's been exactly one year since that massacre happened. We'll visit with a student.

STEWART: But first, let's get some news headlines.

BILL WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: The U.S. Supreme Court takes on a controversial death penalty case today. The court looks at whether child rape can be punished by death. Here's NPR's Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG: In 1977 the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied for the crime of raping an adult woman. The decision was widely viewed as applying to all non-homicide rapes, and nobody's been executed for the crime of rape since then. Strictly speaking, though, the 1977 ruling left open the question of capital punishment for the rape of a child.

Enter Louisiana, which has now enacted a law allowing the death penalty for anyone convicted of raping a child under the age of 13. The state's supreme court upheld the law declaring openly that with two new Bush appointees on the Supreme Court there may now be a majority of justices willing to uphold a law that punishes child rape with execution. Today, the high court will hear arguments on that question.

MARTIN: NPR's Nina Totenberg reporting. Rescue workers are looking through the wreckage of a fiery plane crash in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At least 21 people died on the ground, but searchers think that number will rise as they scramble through rubble. The plane went down Tuesday, bursting into flames after it careened off the runway.

All the passengers appear to have survived, though with numerous injuries. The crash is under investigation. It may have been caused by the combination of a wet runway along with engine and tire failure.

Hundreds of Indonesians in the country's east have evacuated. They fled a powerful volcanic eruption that sent ash and smoke two and a half miles into the sky. The volcano erupted early this morning. Indonesia is vulnerable to eruptions because it's in the so-called "Ring of Fire," a series of fault lines in the Pacific.

Here in the U.S., Colorado is in a state of emergency as wildfires are tearing through the southeastern part of the state. The flames killed three and torched thousands of acres. Residents evacuated. Much of the state is under a hire fire danger warning, but firefighters are hoping a storm in the forecast will help douse the flames. A smaller fire west of Denver burnt 1,000 acres.

And six million pounds. That's how much trash is on the world's beaches on an average day. Environmental watchdog group Ocean Conservancy got the number by scouring beaches in 76 counties, including 45 U.S. states. That's the news, and it's always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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