News Briefs – October 11, 2019

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U.S., Philippine, Japan forces hold disaster-response drills

More than 2,000 U.S. and Philippine military personnel, along with a small contingent of Japanese forces, have begun an annual combat exercise aimed at responding rapidly to crises and natural disasters, underscoring their commitment to keep the region “free and open.”
The 10-day drills, which include amphibious assault and live-fire exercises, opened Oct. 9 at Subic Freeport northwest of Manila. They will also include humanitarian work in six northern Philippine provinces.
China has often branded military exercises involving the U.S. and its allies, especially in or near the disputed South China Sea, as a threat to its security interests. U.S. and Philippine officials say the exercises aim to address terrorism and humanitarian concerns. AP
 

Bipartisan Senate bill could block military sales to Turkey

A sponsor of an emerging bipartisan Senate bill that would punish Turkey for its invasion of northern Syria says the measure could immediately block U.S. arms sales to Turkey.
Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland tells The Associated Press that he and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are also discussing penalizing other countries that sell weapons to Turkey. He says it could also apply sanctions of some senior Turkish officials.
Van Hollen says the sanctions would be lifted when Turkey withdraws its forces.
Turkey launched air and ground assaults into northern Syria against Kurdish forces Oct. 9 after President Donald Trump pulled U.S. troops from the area.
Graham is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. AP
 

Bill creating coin honoring Christa McAuliffe signed

President Donald Trump has signed into law a bill that will create a commemorative coin to honor Christa McAuliffe, the Concord High School teacher who died in the space shuttle Challenger disaster 33 years ago.
The bill calls for the creation of a $1 coin to raise money for the FIRST Robotics program. Lawmakers say the coin honors McAuliffe and reaffirms Congress’ commitment to invest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.
McAuliffe would have been NASA’s first designated teacher in space. She and six crewmates were killed when the Challenger broke apart shortly after takeoff on Jan. 28, 1986.
Trump signed the bill Oct. 9. AP