Underground priest detained
Police in Hebei Province have detained an underground Roman Catholic bishop who previously spent some 20 years in prison, a US-based Catholic group said on Friday. Bishop Jia Zhiguo was detained at a church in his home diocese of Zhengding on Wednesday, the Cardinal Kung Foundation said. Jia, 69, is the bishop of Zhengding's underground Catholic church and was ordained in 1980. He has spent some 20 years in Chinese prisons and was arrested four times last year, the group said. He takes care of some 100 disabled orphans at his home in Zhengding, it said.
`Runaway' truck kills 28
At least 28 people died and 19 were injured after a container truck collided head-on with a bus in Fujian Province, Xinhua reported yesterday. The truck hit the bus on an expressway between Fujian's main cities of Fuzou and Xiamen on Thursday afternoon, the official news agency said. Twenty-four of the 45 people on board the bus died instantly, with four others dying on the way to hospital. The agency described the truck as a "runaway" vehicle but gave no details. It said the cause of the accident was under investigation.
Howard defends aid
Prime Minister John Howard defended Friday his decision to bypass the United Nations by negotiating a generous tsunami-relief package with Indonesia, saying it would be more effective. Australia has pledged A$1.06 billion (US$810 million) in aid -- the bulk of which will go to Indonesia over five years -- making it the biggest single donor in the international response to the Dec. 26 tragedy. Howard said the bilateral deal had the advantage of avoiding UN administrative costs and only Canberra and Jakarta would decide how the money was spent. "I'm not trying to sidestep anybody; I'm just trying to make sure that this huge amount of Australian assistance is delivered in the most effective way," Howard told Australia's Sky television in Jakarta. "I'm sure that the Australian taxpayer, who's after all providing the money, would want it that way."
Pirates slay fishermen
Five fishermen were killed by suspected pirates off a southern Philippine city, police and local officials said yesterday. Police Chief Inspector Jones Tubig said an eight-year-old boy survived the attack on Thursday off Zamboanga City, 875km south of Manila, and told authorities about the incident. "The boy identified the five victims, one of whom was his father," Tubig said. Alibon Asakil, a village councillor, said unidentified gunmen fired at the victims while they were fishing aboard three boats. The boy was left floating on a piece of styrofoam, he said.
■ United Kingdom
Aid plan for Africa mooted
Finance minister Gordon Brown launched the UK's campaign for a Marshall plan for Africa on Thursday when he called on the international community to harness the "passion of compassion" generated by the Asian tsunami disaster to make this year a breakthrough year for the world's poorest continent. Unveiling the British government's three-pronged plan for greater debt relief, more generous aid and better trade access, Brown said the global response to the tsunami disaster was an expression of the public's demand for action to tackle poverty.
Hippo befriends tortoise
A 120-year-old giant tortoise living in a Kenyan sanctuary has become inseparable from a baby hippo rescued by game wardens, officials said yesterday. The year-old hippo calf christened Owen was rescued last month, suffering from dehydration after being separated from his herd in a river that drains into the Indian Ocean. "When we released Owen into the enclosure, he lumbered to the tortoise which has a dark gray color similar to grown up hippos," Sabine Baer, rehabilitation and ecosys-tems manager at the park, said. She said the hippo's chances of survival in another herd were very slim, predicting that a dominant male would have killed him.