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. China improving air drop ability after quake setbacks: state media

A military funeral with full honours is held for the five crew members of the helicopter that crashed on May 31 during a mission to evacuate 13 people injured in the May 12 earthquake, in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province on June 13, 2008. The Mi-171 transport helicopter was found just northwest of the town of Yingxiu in mountainous Sichuan province, along with the bodies of 17 people on board. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) June 19, 2008
The Chinese military has begun drills to improve its ability to parachute into disaster areas after its troops struggled during last month's earthquake, state media reported.

The training, the first of its kind in China, began Wednesday and involved eight large aircraft delivering soldiers, vehicles, radar and other equipment, the Xinhua news agency said.

The People's Liberation Army has made improving its long-range airborne response a priority after the May 12 earthquake in southwest Sichuan province left most of its troops stranded by rock and mud slides, the report said.

Only 15 of 100 paratroopers reached their targets when they tried to parachute into the mountainous region 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) above sea level, the report said.

Bad weather and the unusual height made the jump more difficult, the report said.

Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission, said having strategic long-range airborne ability was key for any army. "We should follow up," he told Xinhua, referring to the army's performance last month.

Improving its long-range military ability would enable Beijing to offer help for disasters occurring elsewhere in Asia.

China watched from the sidelines during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami while US forces were applauded for their operations to get aid to victims.

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Commentary: Oversight overkill
Washington (UPI) Jun 19, 2008
It's the world's greatest deliberative body, but it's in bad need of another overhaul. Pity the poor secretary for Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. His department reports to 86 congressional oversight committees and subcommittees, down only two committees since myriad appeals were made to give DHS officials more time making the nation more secure and less time preparing testimony for committee hearings. Over the past year, Chertoff and his senior colleagues have testified 224 times, or four times a week. Department heads have hired former congressional staffers whose full-time job is to gather information to help them prepare their testimony.

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