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News Wrap: At Least 2 Killed, 100 Hurt by Possible Tornadoes in Alabama

January 23, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: At least two people were killed and 100 hurt when possible tornadoes struck before dawn in Alabama today. They were part of a violent weather system crossing the country.

As daylight broke, the roar of chain saws filled the air around Birmingham, Ala. Entire homes had been flattened, roofs peeled off others, and trees snapped in half.

WOMAN: I ran to the laundry room, got the rest of my family. We were in the laundry room when it actually hit. And we could hear and feel the walls vibrating. And then we heard a loud, like, crash. And that was the tree that landed on our roof.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The skies lit up overnight when the worst of the weather rolled across Alabama, Arkansas and Missouri. There were reports of at least five tornadoes that touched down.

MAN: Heard a big old bang. And that was a storage shed in the back that busted up against the trailer there a little bit, but it didn’t hurt me none.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The bad weather pushed east today, and the huge system stretched all the way from the Great Lakes to the Deep South, where the heaviest storms were hitting. They left a trail of power outages, with thousands in the dark in Arkansas alone.

A U.S. Marine pleaded guilty today to dereliction of duty in the killings of two dozen Iraqis in 2005. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich agreed to a plea deal that dropped manslaughter and other charges. He will spend a maximum of three months in a military prison. In all, eight Marines were charged in the killings at the Iraqi town of Haditha. The other seven had already been acquitted or had the charges dropped.

A prayer service in Nigeria today marked the killing of at least 185 people in suicide car bombings last Friday. The attacks hit police stations and immigration offices in Kano, the African nation’s second largest city. A radical Islamist sect, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility. The group killed more than 500 people last year, but has already killed 260 in January alone.

A former CIA officer has been indicted on charges of leaking classified secrets to a New York Times reporter in 2002. The Justice Department says John Kiriakou was responsible for how the public learned that Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al-Qaida financier, was water-boarded 83 times. This is the sixth criminal leak case filed by the DOJ. If convicted, Kiriakou could face decades in prison and a million-dollar fine.

The European Union will impose strict new sanctions on oil shipments from Iran in a bid to slow that country’s nuclear program. The decision today brought new Iranian threats against the Strait of Hormuz entrance to the Persian Gulf.

We have a report from John Irvine of Independent Television News.

JOHN IRVINE: Overnight, a U.S. aircraft carrier passed through the strait in defiance of an Iranian threat to respond with full force if the Americans replaced her sister ship, which left the Gulf last month.

The Abraham Lincoln was escorted in by a French vessel and the Royal Navy’s HMS Argyll, a flotilla of three navies amounting to a pointed gesture to Iran just hours before the E.U. decision to place an embargo on Iranian oil.

WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: It is absolutely right to do this, in view of Iran’s continued breach of U.N. Security Council resolutions and refusal to come to meaningful negotiations on the nuclear program.

JOHN IRVINE: In response, a senior Iranian politician said they would definitely close the Strait of Hormuz if oil exports were disrupted.

The strait isn’t just a vital artery for the global economy. It’s the jugular. But it’s an exposed one. At its narrowest point, the Strait of Hormuz is roughly 30 miles across, but the actual sea lanes through the strait in and out of the Persian Gulf are only two miles across.

The Iranians have gone to war in the Gulf before. The tanker wars of the ’80s saw more than 500 commercial vessels damaged, as the Iran-Iraq conflict spilled over into this vital waterway.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The full effect of the European embargo on Iran’s oil will not be felt until July. Similar U.S. sanctions could take effect at the same time.

Egypt’s new freely elected parliament has opened its inaugural session. Islamist parties hold an overwhelming majority in the powerful lower house that convened today. The chamber’s main priority is to draft a new constitution.

Abortion opponents staged an annual rally in Washington today, marking the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Thousands of people gathered in a chill rain on the National Mall, denouncing the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. From there, they made the march to the court building.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, is in intensive care in Chicago after suffering a stroke over the weekend. He had surgery last night to relieve swelling on the brain. Doctors said he may suffer loss of movement in his left arm and some facial paralysis. Kirk is 52 years old. He was elected in 2010.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords met today with constituents who were present when she was shot in the head a year ago. A gunman killed six people that day and wounded Giffords and 12 others. On Sunday, the Tucson Democrat announced she would resign in order to focus on her recovery.

She spoke in an online video.

REP. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, D-Ariz.: I’m getting better. Every day, my spirit is high. I will return, and we will work together for Arizona and this great country.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Giffords plans to submit her formal resignation this week. And she will appear at tomorrow’s State of the Union address. The governor of Arizona must now call a special election to replace her.

The Penn State community was in mourning today after former football coach Joe Paterno died Sunday of lung cancer. Supporters flocked to the coaching legend’s statue on campus. They left candles, flowers, and signs that honored his legacy of 46 years at the school. Paterno was 85. He had been fired last November amid a child molesting scandal involving his former top assistant. The funeral service and burial will be Wednesday.

On Wall Street, stocks had a mostly flat day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 11 points to close at 12,708. The Nasdaq fell two points to close at 2,784.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.