- - Sunday, December 4, 2011

GERMANY

45,000 evacuated amid defusing of WWII bomb

BERLIN — Nearly half of the 107,000 residents of Germany’s western city of Koblenz had to leave their homes Sunday as experts prepared to defuse a 1.8 ton World War II-era bomb discovered in the Rhine River.

It’s one of Germany’s biggest bomb-related evacuations since the war ended, and some 2,500 police officers, firefighters and paramedics were on duty across the city to secure the operation.

Authorities set up shelters in parts of Koblenz farther away from the bomb site, and shuttle buses were on hand in the morning to carry residents to safety.

The evacuation of some 45,000 residents living within a radius of about 1.2 miles from the bomb site was finished by early Sunday afternoon, the city said on its website.

The British bomb, which was defused, could have caused massive damage if it had exploded.

SLOVENIA

Conservatives expected to win election

LJUBLJANA — Conservatives were expected to take back power in Sunday elections in Slovenia, where they will have to tackle the country’s mounting debt, unemployment and a looming recession.

The parliamentary vote is Slovenia’s first snap election since becoming independent from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. It was called in September after the center-left government was toppled due to economic uncertainty and allegations of corruption.

By mid-afternoon, turnout reached nearly 49 percent - somewhat higher than the same period in 2008, when the overall turnout was 63 percent, election officials said.

Slovenia has been hit hard by the European debt crisis, with public debt swollen to 44 percent of GDP and unemployment at about 12 percent.

Opinion polls have predicted the Slovenian Democratic Party of former Prime Minister Janez Jansa will win a third of the votes in the country of 2 million. But he may have to seek support from smaller parties to form the majority in the 90-member parliament.

UNITED KINGDOM

2 giant pandas land in Scotland

LONDON — Two giant pandas from China landed Sunday in Scotland, where they will become the first pandas to live in Britain in nearly two decades.

The 8-year-old pair, named Tian Tian and Yang Guang - or Sweetie and Sunshine - were welcomed by bagpipe players and a host of dignitaries as they touched down at Edinburgh Airport on a specially chartered Boeing 777 flight called the “Panda Express.”

The pandas, from the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, are to stay for 10 years at Edinburgh Zoo, where officials hope they will give birth to cubs.

The female, Tian Tian, has had twin cubs in the past, but not with Yang Guang. The male panda previously has fathered cubs as well.

The Scottish government has said the loan of the pandas symbolizes a “growing friendship” between Scotland and China.

Zoo officials have spent the past five years securing the loan of the animals, which are expected to boost Scottish tourism.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland will pay more than $935,000 a year to China for the loan of Sweetie and Sunshine, not including the expense of imported bamboo.

Britain’s last giant panda, Ming Ming, lived in the London Zoo until 1994, when she was returned to China.

SPAIN

Opus Dei told to delete ex-member’s data

MADRID — The conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei must remove the personal details of a former devotee from its records because she asked it to do so when she left, Spain’s Supreme Court said.

The court upheld a prior ruling by the National Court that had ordered the removal of the woman’s name, joining and leaving dates from the Vatican-supported movement’s database.

The ruling, released late Saturday, said storing the details “ceased being necessary for the purposes which had originally justified their keeping because she decided to stop belonging to Opus Dei.”

Opus Dei had based its appeal on a 1979 accord between Spain and the Holy See that it claimed guarantees the inviolability of its archives.

The court said the former adherent’s constitutional rights prevailed over agreements in the accord.

It said Spain’s Constitution provides citizens “the fundamental right to protect personal data and guaranteed a person’s right to control or dispose of such data.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports