Tijuana running out of cemetery space

TIJUANA, Mexico, Oct. 31 (UPI) — Officials in Tijuana, Mexico, say the city is fast running out of cemetery space as population and violence increase.

Yamil Lopez de Anda, the city’s chief of landscaping and cemeteries, said 2.5 acres will be added to a cemetery in the city’s east side, but that will only last two more years, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Sunday. He said the city wants to buy land to create a new cemetery but that plan is not solid.

The government of Baja California says the leading causes of death for the state are heart disease, diabetes and malignant tumors, but for those ages 15 to 29 it is violence, suicides and vehicle accidents. That age group represents the largest proportion of the state’s more than 3 million residents.

“In addition to the population growth, we have many violent deaths during the year,” said Lopez de Anda.

City figures show an average of six people a day are buried in municipal cemeteries, and between 2008 and 2010 there were 2,327 killings recorded. This year, 405 killings have been reported in Tijuana through Oct. 19.

Former prosecutor files suit over firing

DETROIT, Oct. 31 (UPI) — A former Michigan assistant attorney general has filed a lawsuit in connection with his firing and is seeking $75,000 in damages.

Former assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell alleges Detroit attorney Deborah Gordon used information she collected in previous cases to defame him, leading to him losing his job, the Detroit Free Press reported Monday.

“As my complaint makes clear, I have uncovered a significant amount of information during the past year that shows that Deborah Gordon has deliberately set out to destroy me by any means necessary,” Shirvell said in a news release.

The suit comes after litigation between Shirvell and Chris Armstrong, the former University of Michigan student body president who filed for a protection order in November 2010, alleging Shirvell was harassing him and stalking him. Shirvell — who was placed on paid sick leave during an investigation into his online campaign calling Armstrong a “radical homosexual activist”– told CNN at the time he had shot video outside Armstrong’s home and tracked his social networking activities, but maintained he did it on his own time and not in his capacity as a prosecutor.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said Shirvell was fired for actions he took on company time and for lying to investigators, not for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Armstrong and Gordon have asked the state bar to strip Shirvell’s law license.

“Shirvell has a history of trying desperately to smear people, so this is no surprise,” Gordon said. “His complaint is absurd and without any factual or legal basis.”

Imam released from Saudi custody

EDMONTON, Alberta, Oct. 31 (UPI) — A Canadian imam taken into custody after being attacked while on a pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia was freed, the Islamic Human Rights Commission said Monday.

Usama al-Atar, a 33-year-old Canadian citizen and University of Alberta post-doctoral fellow, allegedly was choked by a group of men affiliated with religious police Sunday and then arrested by police, the Edmonton Sun reported.

Witnesses say al-Atar, an Islamic leader from Edmonton, was taking part in a hajj pilgrimage with an international group of worshipers when he was confronted by a group of 10 to 15 men in Medina. The men chased and choked al-Atar in front of more than 200 people before he was arrested with no explanation.

“He virtually choked, we could see him go black and blue,” said witness Mohamed Hayward. “We’re absolutely still in shock.”

The Islamic Human Rights Commission said the imam was charged with assault.

Al-Atar is a well-known cleric who has several publications in the field of diabetes and caner research.

Cancer patient denied disability payment

OTTAWA, Oct. 31 (UPI) — A Canadian woman struggling with breast cancer says she was denied long-term disability payments, despite having disability insurance through her employer.

“I didn’t think I was going to have to fight cancer — and then fight with this insurance company,” Katie Evans said.

Evens, an administrator for several Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Ottawa, was diagnosed with breast cancer three months after her long-term disability policy through Blue Cross Medavie became effective in December, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported Monday.

“I didn’t have to answer a [health] questionnaire,” Evans said. “I filled in the form to confirm that I was covered for LTD and I signed it. Done.”

However, in September she asked her doctor about a lump in her breast.

“She said the words ‘you do not have cancer,'” said Evans.

Her employer’s insurance company said that because of the consultation, the lump was a “pre-existing condition” and said the woman did not qualify for long-term disability coverage.

“I was in disbelief. Like, what do you mean?” said Evans. “I am 26 and I just found out I have cancer and it’s a pre-existing condition? Nobody diagnosed me with cancer prior to March.

A Vancouver lawyer who works on cases against insurance companies told the CBC many employees pay into disability insurance plans and don’t realize how limited the coverage it.

“There are a lot of really nasty exclusions in these policies,” Scott Stanley said.

“People really need to be aware of what they are getting from their group plan. If they are not happy with it, they need to raise a stink, and talk to their administrators and their employers about it.”

Shoppers Drug Mart has decided to donate money to Evans.

“Our intention is to ensure that employees get the health coverage and support they need,” spokeswoman Tammy Smitham said.

Ships to carry armed guards off Somalia

LONDON, Oct. 31 (UPI) — To protect against pirate attacks, British merchant ships sailing near Somalia’s coast will be allowed to carry armed guards, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

“The fact that a bunch of pirates in Somalia are managing to hold to ransom the rest of the world and our trading system, I think, is a complete insult, and so the rest of the world needs to come together with much more vigor,” Cameron said on a BBC program.

The British broadcaster said 49 of the world’s 53 hijackings last year occurred off the coast of Somalia.

As many as 200 vessels under the British merchant navy flag regularly sail close to Somalia.

The Home Office said it hoped to begin accepting shipping company licensing requests within a month, Financial Times reported.

The Times said companies with British-registered ships have had to deal with complicated legal and financial implications of carrying armed guards and firing on suspected attackers.

Cameron called the hijacking and ransoming of ships around the Horn of Africa a “complete stain on our world.”

Officials stressed firearms should be used only in “exceptional circumstances” and those licensed to carry armed guards would face “stringent checks” to make sure weapons were being used properly.

Doctor gives Obama a clean bill of health

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) — President Obama is in excellent health and current on all his age-appropriate screening tests, his physician said Monday.

The president is “fit for duty” and is “staying healthy at 50+,” Dr. Jeffrey C. Kuhlman said.

For the record, Obama, at 50 years and 2 months, is tobacco-free, is physically active, eats a healthy diet, maintains a healthy weight and occasionally drinks alcohol in moderation, the physician’s report released by the White House said. The former cigarette smoker is 6-foot-1 and weighs 181 pounds.

Kuhlman said the purpose of the exam was to provide the public “with a candid medical assessment of the president’s ability to carry out the duties of his office now and for the duration of his tenure” and to give Obama “every opportunity to enjoy the benefits of good health now and for decades to come.”

The examination was performed last week, the White House said. Kuhlman recommended the president’s next physical take place in December 2012.

Hackers hit firms with ‘Poison Ivy’

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., Oct. 31 (UPI) — Unknown hackers, scoping out corporate secrets, used the malware “Poison Ivy” to reach into about 48 companies’ computers, experts said Monday.

Symantec researchers told Computerworld the hacking efforts, which they dubbed “Nitro,” targeted many chemical and defense firms between July and mid-September.

Poison Ivy was developed by a Chinese hacker and is easily obtained on the Internet.

“Nitro wasn’t at the level of sophistication of a Stuxnet,” senior Symantec researcher Jeff Wilhelm said. “But there are similarities with other advanced threats.”

The computer security software company said Poison Ivy was inserted on the computers of people who opened infected e-mails, some of which appeared to be meeting requests from known business partners and others announcing updates to anti-virus software or for Adobe Flash Player.

Opening the messages installed Poison Ivy on their machines.

The hackers then searched the compromised computers for confidential information and downloaded it elsewhere.

Twenty-nine of the firms whose computers were breached were in the chemical and advanced materials trade, Computerworld said. The remainder were in the defense and other industries.

A dozen of the companies are based in the United States, five in the United Kingdom and others were in Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan, the magazine said.

Symantec said it contacted an individual who owned one of the command-and-control servers who went by the name “Covert Grove.” Symantec said the server was located in China’s Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing.

“We were able to trace this back to this individual, which is unusual,” said Wilhelm. “But we just don’t know whether he is the sole hacker.

“It could have been corporate espionage, or it could be anything.”

El-Keib elected Libyan PM

TRIPOLI, Libya, Oct. 31 (UPI) — Abdurrahim el-Keib Monday won 26 votes to become the new prime minister for Libya’s transitional government, the National Transitional Council said.

El-Keib, who lived in the United States for more than 30 years, secured a bare majority of the 51 NTC votes, defeating a field that initially included 10 rivals.

El-Keib, who had been a member of the opposition under the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, lived in the United States beginning in 1975 and earned a doctorate degree from North Carolina State University in 1984, CNN reported.

CNN said it was unclear when he returned to Libya.

He will remain in office while a new constitution is written and until elections are held.

U.S. to maintain Persian Gulf presence

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 (UPI) — The United States will maintain a presence in the Persian Gulf region, the Pentagon said Monday.

The number of troops deployed to the region and where they will be based remains to be decided, said Navy Capt. John Kirby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for media operations.

“We’re still working through the decision process,” Kirby said. “There’s been no final decision made on any additional force presence anywhere.”

Obama this month announced all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Iraq at the end of the year. Some in diplomatic and military circles have expressed concern the withdrawal could leave the region more unstable.

Press Secretary George Little said formal plans have not been submitted to President Obama or Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Pentagon said in a release.

“Whatever decisions are made about force posture moving forward will be based upon our security commitments we have made and will continue to honor in that region,” Kirby said.

The United States has had troops in that part of the world since World War II, he said.

“Our goal is to promote stability and we expect to continue to have strong military-to-military relations with countries in the region including Iraq, to include Kuwait, to include others,” Little said.

Serbia asks for heritage site protection

PARIS, Oct. 31 (UPI) — Addressing UNESCO Monday, the Serbian foreign minister said Serbian Orthodox Church sites cannot belong to the Republic of Kosovo.

“In this organization, we are supposed to protect and nurture cultural identities, not be complicit in politicized attempts to carve up new ones,” said Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization general conference in Paris.

Jeremic said as a member of UNESCO, Serbia will increase its efforts to protect at-risk cultural sites worldwide, Tanjug reported.

“Everyone knows that Serbs and [ethnic] Albanians disagree about Kosovo’s final status. But I want to be very clear: UNESCO is not the forum for airing political disagreements, directly or through proxies,” Jeremic said.

Serbia is home to four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger, which Serbia is responsible for safeguarding, Jeremic said.