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News Wrap: Will Election Fraud Findings Lead to Afghan Constitutional Crisis?

June 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: Afghanistan faces a possible constitutional crisis after a special court ruled today that 62 members of Parliament were elected by fraud. The tribunal threw out the results in a quarter of last year’s parliamentary races. President Hamid Karzai created the court after rivals made major gains in the elections. Parliament serves as the only check on Karzai’s authority.

Four bombs exploded across Baghdad today, killing at least 40 Iraqis and wounding more than 80. The attacks targeted Shiite sections of the capital. An American civilian was killed in a separate bombing. The U.S. State Department said he was working for the Agency for International Development.

The Obama administration has announced plans to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Other countries will contribute a like amount to make up for lost production in Libya. The U.S. release amounts to less than two days worth of domestic oil consumption. The announcement sent the price of oil tumbling more than $4 in New York trading to $91 a barrel.

On Wall Street, stocks were down sharply for much of the day, as oil stocks sank and claims for jobless benefits rose. A late rally cut the losses. In the end, the Dow industrial average shed 59 points to close at 12,050. The Nasdaq gained 17 points to close at 2,686.

Authorities in Minot, N.D., expanded a flood evacuation order today. They said a forced release from a dam upstream on the Souris River could push water levels two to three feet higher than initially feared.

The new evacuation order came as work crews who piled up earthen levees on Wednesday bulldozed more dirt to fend off the surging river. Sirens had sounded when the water began pouring in yesterday, and up to 10,000 people, a quarter of the town, were forced to flee then.

MAN: I am scared out of my mind. If this house is ruined, I – it doesn’t sound like the landlord is going to fix it. There’s no housing in Minot. I have no idea what my family is going to do.

MAN: You know, you’re losing your house, your life, so, just kind of nervous, kind of scared. But we will get through it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now, with even more people being forced out with whatever they can carry, there’s a critical need for shelter, possibly for weeks.

The flooding is the result of a massive late-season snowmelt in Canada. The Souris is expected to peak Sunday or Monday, beating the record set in 1881 by seven to eight feet.

A possible tornado hit the home of the Kentucky Derby overnight. Several stables were smashed at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Workers and trainers pulled the horses to safety under stormy skies. Fire trucks raced to the scene, but there were no injuries to people or animals. Racing could resume tomorrow.

Generic drugmakers cannot be sued over side effects if they use the same warnings as brand-name medicines. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down that decision today 5-4. Generics make up 75 percent of prescription drug sales in the U.S.

The high court struck down Vermont’s ban on pharmacies selling prescription records to data-mining firms. The court ruled it violates the right to commercial free speech.

In Syria today, hundreds of government troops massed at a town near the Turkish border in a drive to hunt down dissidents. Soldiers could be seen patrolling the area in armored personnel carriers. Meanwhile, the Red Crescent reported another 600 Syrians crossed into Turkey to escape the Syrian military action.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.