In our news wrap Thursday, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo said that among the “innumerable atrocities” committed by the Assad regime, the U.S. has concluded that Syrian government forces used chlorine as a chemical weapon during a battle with insurgents in May. Also, the death toll from a severe lung illness tied to vaping has risen to 12 people in the U.S., while the number of cases is now above 800.
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In the day's other news: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Syrian government forces used chlorine as a chemical weapon back in May.
He said the attack happened during a battle with insurgents in Idlib province. Pompeo spoke to reporters along the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
The Assad regime is responsible for innumerable atrocities, some of which rise to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Today, I am announcing that the United States has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on May 19 in an attack at Latakia province, Syria.
Pompeo also said the U.S. will provide $4.5 million in additional aid to investigate other suspected chemical weapons attacks.
The death toll from a severe lung illness tied to vaping has now risen to 12 people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported the number of confirmed and probable cases surged to 805. Now, that is a 52 percent increase over the 530 illnesses reported just last week.
A new Pentagon report has found the suicide rate among members of the military rose significantly last year. The suicides increased from 18.5 per 100,000 service members in 2013 to 24.8 in 2018. Most were enlisted men under the age of 30.
The State Department unveiled a proposal today that would cut the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. to a record low; 18,000 refugees would be allowed to resettle in the U.S. in fiscal year 2020. The current cap is set at 30,000. President Trump's final decision was still require consultation with Congress.
The Senate today overwhelmingly approved a temporary government funding bill to avoid a shutdown. It will fund the federal government through November 21. That gives lawmakers more time to negotiate money for more controversial items, like President Trump's border wall. The bill now heads to the president's desk, where he's expected to sign it into law.
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog announced today that Iran has committed another breach of its 2015 nuclear deal commitments. It reported that Tehran is enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges and plans to install more of those machines than previously announced.
Iran has maintained that its uranium enrichment is solely for civilian purposes.
At a press conference in New York, President Hassan Rouhani insisted his country has been transparent.
President Hassan Rouhani (through translator):
The supervision and the inspections of the International Atomic Energy Agency have not been limited or decreased.
The IAEA in the same fashion since the beginning of the nuclear deal in 2015 was supervising and inspecting and carrying forward its activities in the same fashion as in Iran today.
Today's revelation comes as Iran is grappling with U.S. sanctions imposed after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement last year.
The leading challenger in Afghanistan's upcoming presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, is accusing the incumbent of election fraud days before voters head to the polls. He lost to current President Ashraf Ghani five years ago in an election that was largely dismissed as flawed.
Abdullah told the Associated Press he's worried about Ghani abusing his power.
Abdullah Abdullah (through translator):
Massively fraudulent elections will have an impact, will have serious consequences.
And that is why it might be too idealistic calling on everybody to act responsibly, because it is not only the number of votes. It will have an impact on the mentality of the people, on the views of the people of the democratic process.
There was no immediate response from President Ghani.
Meanwhile, the Taliban renewed its threats today to attack polling stations during Saturday's election.
Back in this country, the gap between the nation's rich and poor grew last year. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that income inequality reached its highest level in 50 years. It attributed the expansion to an increase in median household incomes. But that income rise wasn't distributed evenly across the country.
Stocks fell on Wall Street today over uncertainty about the impeachment inquiry and new data showing a slowdown in U.S. economic growth. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 79 points to close at 26891. The Nasdaq fell more than 46 points, and the S&P 500 slipped seven.
And a passing to note. Former French President Jacques Chirac died today in Paris. He was a fixture in French politics for decades, serving 18 years as the mayor of Paris and two terms as prime minister. Chirac became president in 1995, remained in office until 2007. He was the first French leader to acknowledge his country's role in the Holocaust, and he vehemently opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Jacques Chirac was 86 years old.