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March 27, 2013 at 11:45 PM
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Developer takes down part of Berlin Wall

BERLIN, March 27 (UPI) -- A German property developer removed sections of a historic stretch of the Berlin Wall Wednesday amid protests and heavy police presence, officials say.

Some 250 police officers were on scene as four segments of the "East Side Gallery" were removed to allow access to an area where apartment buildings will be constructed, the BBC reported.

About 72 feet of the wall will be removed, but replaced once construction is complete, said Maik Uwe Hinkel, the investor in the building project.

Angry protests stopped an attempt on March 1 to dismantle sections of the gallery, the longest intact piece of the wall at that once divided East and West Germany.

Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit had met with the developer and district authorities that control the wall in an attempt to find alternatives, but those talks failed Tuesday night.

Once seen as an eyesore, the section of the Berlin Wall became a tourist attraction in the 1990s when international artists painted it with sometimes irreverent images. It is now seen by those who oppose the area's gentrification as a memorial to Berlin's divided past.

Half of Gang of Eight senators at border

NOGALES, Ariz., March 27 (UPI) -- Half of the Gang of Eight U.S. senators working on immigration reform visited Arizona for a first-hand look Wednesday at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Arizona's two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain, hosted Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., KNXV-TV, Phoenix, reported. The four visited Nogales, in the Tucson sector, one of the border's major recent hot spots.

U.S. Border Patrol has reported more arrests and drug seizures in the Tucson sector than in any of the nine others. Experts say that is partly because of higher security elsewhere on the border.

A bipartisan group of eight senators working on immigration may unveil a plan next month that would provide the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants a means to become documented and, eventually, U.S. citizens. McCain told a town hall meeting Monday the senators haven't achieved consensus on all issues.

"I don't know if we can achieve agreement or not," he said. "We have been working, literally, night and day. We may not succeed."

N.J. poll: Sandy didn't change vacations

HAMDEN, Conn., March 27 (UPI) -- Most New Jersey voters asked say they aren't changing vacation plans because of Hurricane Sandy and say recovery efforts are going well, a poll indicated.

They also said they like how Gov. Chris Christie has led the storm recovery, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday indicated.

About 85 percent of voters surveyed said their plans about where to vacation hadn't changed because of damage to the Jersey Shore left by Sandy, and 74 percent said restoration efforts were going "very well" or "somewhat well," the poll said.

Similar numbers -- 85 percent to 10 percent -- approved of how Christie had handled the crisis.

State and local governments also got good marks for their involvement in post-Sandy efforts. Some 74 percent rated local governments as "excellent" or "good," while 70 percent ranked the state government as "excellent" or "good."

Other groups did not do near so well.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was ranked as "excellent" or "good" by 43 percent of those polled, with 47 percent saying the agency's performance was "not so good" or "poor."

Insurance companies got the worst marks. The poll indicated 56 percent of respondents ranked them as "not so good" or "poor," while 25 percent said the companies' did an "excellent" or "good" job.

About 69 percent, and 75 percent of shore-area residents, said they approved of building sand dunes and sea walls to protect ocean-side communities, even if some views would be blocked.

An overwhelming 73 percent said the government should buy flood-threatened properties to take them out of further development.

At least 16 drown as people celebrate Holi

NEW DELHI, March 27 (UPI) -- People across India celebrated Holi, a festival of colors marking the advent of spring, but the occasion also was marred by several drownings, authorities said.

At least 16 Holi revelers drowned even as millions across the country took part in the dazzling festival Wednesday in which people from all strata of society and religious persuasion take to the streets, hugging and dousing or painting one another with water or dry colors, singing and dancing and feasting on all kinds of food and sweets.

The Press Trust of India news agency, quoting authorities, reported seven youths drowned in the Ganges River in Kanpur in northern Uttar Pradesh state after celebrating Holi. Similarly, six teenagers drowned in southeastern coastal Andhra Pradesh state. Another three drowned in West Bengal state.

The drowning toll was expected to rise.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pranab Mukherjee, in their Holi messages, said the occasion is to celebrate oneness and harmony among people.

Mukherjee said Holi "is a harbinger of joy, hope and fulfillment for all." Singh said Holi is a celebration of "life and goodness and gives opportunity to strengthen the spirit of brotherhood."

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