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Top of the News

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Hey, welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. We're on digital, FM, Sirius Satellite, and online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Rachel Martin.

ALISON STEWART, host:

And I'm Alison Stewart. Coming up, a writer who is the real deal. Richard Price on his new critically acclaimed novel, "Lush Life." But first, let's get some news headlines.

BILL WOLFF: This is NPR.

MARTIN: Thanks, Alison. 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 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. More than 30 people are dead, but searchers say that number will rise as they look through the rubble. The plane went down Tuesday, bursting into flames after it careened off the runway. Most of the passengers survived, though with numerous injuries. They included an American missionary and her two children.

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

Here in the U.S., Colorado is in a state of emergency as wildfires are tearing through the southeastern part of that state. The flames killed at least three and torched thousands of acres. Residents have evacuated. Much of the state is under a high-fire-danger warning. But, firefighters are helping a storm system will help douse the flames. A smaller fire west of Denver has burned a thousand acres.

And President Bush lays out a new strategy on climate change in the Rose Garden today. He's expected to set new goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as lay out some broad principles for Congress. This falls short of a senate bill that would require mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. The Republican and Democratic presidential candidates support mandatory limits. That's the news and it's always online at npr.org.

WOLFF: This is NPR.

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