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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

RACHEL MARTIN: In Iraq, the nation's prime minister is giving militants three days to lay down their weapons, as we said. We'll have more on that coming up later in the show. Meanwhile, a massive chunk of ice in Antarctica has collapsed, and scientists say an ice shelf about seven times the size of Manhattan is now hanging by a thread.

Satellite images show the disintegration of a 160-square-mile chunk in western Antarctica, which starting breaking apart on February 28th. The ice is part of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, which has been there for about 1,500 years. And while the break off won't impact sea levels, scientists say it does raise concerns about climate change and global warming.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a question that's plagued trial courts across the country. If a person is sane enough to stand trial, is he mentally competent to represent himself? Here's NPR's Nina Totenberg.

NINA TOTENBERG: In 1975, the Supreme Court ruled the Constitution guarantees the defendant the right to refuse the assistance of counsel, and instead, to represent himself at trial. In a case before the Supreme Court today, Indiana, backed by 19 states and the federal government, argues that a defendant's right to represent himself is not absolute, because the government has a compelling state interest in insuring that criminal trials not only are fair, but are seen to be fair.

Indiana argues that the condition of some mentally ill defendants may severely affect their ability to perform the basic skills necessary to defend themselves. And if a defendant can't do that, the trial can be perceived as a farce. But defense lawyers counter that once a defendant is found competent to stand trial, the state cannot deprive him of the choice he makes to defend himself.

MARTIN: NPR's Nina Totenberg reporting. Arkansas residents are still grappling with the threat of massive flooding in their state. Yesterday, volunteers armed with sandbags held back water springing up from under a levee as the White River continued its highest surge in more than 25 years. Heavy rains last week caused major river overflows, inundating north and central parts of Arkansas, driving people from their homes and businesses. Almost half the state has been declared a disaster area. Teams of state and federal officials are on the ground assessing the extent of the damage.

And the first bill of rights for airline passengers has been grounded. A federal appeals court has struck down the New York law that promised food, water, and fresh air to travelers stuck on planes. Here's NPR's Robert Smith.

ROBERT SMITH: The law was passed in New York state after thousands of people were stranded at JFK Airport on Valentine's Day 2007. The travelers complained about being stuck in JetBlue planes for up to ten hours without food and water and with toilets overflowing. The New York passengers' bill of rights would have made that a crime, billing airlines up 1,000 dollars per traveler. But it was challenged by the industry.

They claimed that if every state could put different regulations on airlines, then air travel between states could become unwieldy. The Second District Court of Appeals agreed. In the ruling, the judges called the goals of the law "laudable," but said only the federal government has the authority to do this kind of regulation. Congress and a dozen other states are considering similar laws.

MARTIN: That's the news. It's always online at npr.org

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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