Japan's corpse hotels upset some of the neighbors

TOKYO Tucked away in a quiet residential street in Kawasaki city in Japan is a refurbished workshop with a plain silver exterior and black draped windows that residents describe as creepy.The business inside, Sousou, is one of Japan's latest so-called corpse hotels, a camouflaged morgue used to store some of Japan's mounting pile of bodies waiting for a spot in one of the nation's overworked crematoriums.“Crematories need to be built, but there isn’t any space to do so and that is creating funeral refugees," said Hisao Takegishi, who opened the business in 2014.At a daily rate of 9,000 yen ($82) family members can keep their deceased relative in one of Sousou's 10 rooms for up to four days until a crematorium can be found. Unlike other such morgues-in-disguise, which try to blend in by looking like hotels, Sousou doesn’t refrigerate corpses, relying on air conditioned rooms instead.As Japan ages its people are dying off at a faster pace. About 20,000 more people per year are expiring with the death rate expected to peak at about 1.7 million a year by around 2040, according government estimates. By then, barring any major influx of immigrants, Japan will have 20 million fewer people.Residents of Kawasaki are unhappy about living next to Sousou's hidden corpse refugees, with placards and flags dotting the neighborhood expressing outrage at the presence of the morgue. Yoko Masuzawa, 50, who, lives behind Sousou, demanded it put air ventilation grills above ground level, a request that she says it ignored. "It was built so close, less than a meter away in some places," she said. Sousou's customers, however, are grateful for a place to keep their deceased relatives. “I think it’s great that families and acquaintances can come and visit before she heads off to the crematorium,” said 69 year-old Hirokazu Hosaka, as her mother's body lay in a decorated coffin in Sousou.Takegishi, who used to help organize weddings, is looking to tap growing demand, with plans to bring corpse hotels to other cities. (Reporting by Teppei Kasai; writing by Tim Kelly)

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Hornets push Heat to the brink with Game Five win

(The Sports Xchange) - Courtney Lee did it again. From virtually the same spot on the floor and for the second game in a row, Lee grabbed a crucial long rebound off the offensive boards.This time, Lee went back up and drained a 3-pointer with 28.9 seconds left, leading the Charlotte Hornets to a 90-88 victory over the Miami Heat on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena.Lee also had a key block on Heat guard Dwyane Wade with 2.6 seconds left. But Lee's heroics started with his rebound."I guess his anticipation," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said when asked how the 6-5 Lee grabbed the biggest boards two games in a row. "He's a terrific athlete, and he has good timing."Thanks in large measure to Lee, the Hornets, who have won three straight games, have a 3-2 lead over Miami in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.Charlotte can end the best-of-seven series with a win at home on Friday.Miami, who have won 21 of their past 28 playoff series, still have a shot but the Heat will likely have to play better in the clutch to advance.The Heat led 88-87 in Wednesday's final minute. Hornets guard Kemba Walker missed a jumper, and that is when Lee swooped in. He not only grabbed the rebound, he also made the shot even though he was only 1-of-8 from the floor at the time.Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he noticed Lee was in "the deep corner" of the court when the key sequence began."(Wade) went to block out (Hornets center Cody Zeller)," Spoelstra said. "It was a long rebound, and those end up being pursuits. ... It was a tough bounce, a long bounce. Then it becomes a scramble. And we didn't scramble." Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lee made Charlotte's big play. After all, Lee is the only Hornets player with NBA Finals experience, having played for the 2009 Orlando Magic.After Lee's 3-pointer, Wade, who had a game-high 25 points, had a chance to tie the score when he drove the left baseline, drawing Zeller in front and Lee trailing. Lee got the block, but the Heat thought Wade was hacked."I thought I did," Wade said when asked if he got fouled. "But it wasn't called. It's pointless now. There's no reason for me to look at it."Spoelstra said he does not need replay, either. "I don't need to," Spoelstra said about any video. "He got fouled."There were seven lead changes in the game. Charlotte had a 14-0 run in the first quarter and a 15-3 surge in the second but still led just 49-47 at halftime.Miami surged to a 71-65 lead after three quarters. The Heat held Charlotte to 26.1-percent shooting in the quarter, outscoring the Hornets 24-16.Overall, the Heat won most of the hustle categories. They were plus-nine on rebounds, plus-seven on second-chance points, plus-nine on fast-break points and plus-14 on paint points.But here's where the Hornets prevailed: They made 12-of-24 on 3-pointers compared to 5-of-18 for Miami. The Hornets survived on a night in which Walker, who had been averaging 25 points in the series, was held to 14 on 4-of-18 shooting.Walker, though, was understandably upbeat as his team prevailed."We want to go home and win," he said. "That's our mindset right now."Wednesday's game was the first time in the series that the home team lost."It hurts losing at home," Spoelstra said. "But welcome to the playoffs. The playoffs just started. When a team beats somebody on the road, OK, now it gets real. As raw as this feels, we have 48 hours to regroup and get ready for a heck of a battle." (Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Lawyers file $220 million damage claim against EPA in Flint water crisis

Lawyers for residents of Flint, Michigan, have filed a $220.2 million damages claim alleging negligence on the part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contributed to dangerous lead levels in the city's water supply.In a statement issued on Tuesday, Michael Pitt said his firm Royal Oak, Michigan's Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, along with others, had filed an administrative complaint on Monday with the EPA alleging injuries to over 500 people. They said they would file a similar complaint next week covering 250 more Flint residents.Federal law requires that such complaints be filed as precursors to actual lawsuits against government agencies like the EPA.The complaint comes days after two Michigan state officials and a Flint employee were charged with criminal offenses in the crisis.Flint was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in April 2014 when it switched its source of water from Detroit's municipal system to the Flint River to save money. The river water was more corrosive than the Detroit system's and caused more lead to leach from its aging pipes. Lead can be toxic and children are especially vulnerable. The city switched back in October after blood tests found lead in some children.According to the complaint, the EPA should be held liable for acts and omissions of its employees, citing an email from agency water expert Miguel Del Toral to a regional chief in June 2015 that said it would border on criminal neglect not to warn Flint residents about widespread lead contamination.The complaint alleges past and future personal injury claims ranging from lead poisoning, rashes, hair loss, deprivation of quality of life, as well as economic losses and lost earnings. The EPA will review the complaint, an agency spokesman said."If the EPA had followed the advice of its own expert, many of the injuries to the people of Flint could have been avoided or minimized," Pitt said on Tuesday. Pitt's group has brought class actions in county, state and federal courts for Flint residents in addition to Monday's administrative complaint.Del Toral as early as February 2015 told the EPA it was questionable whether the state or city were using required corrosion controls on the Flint River water.One resident, Jan Burgess, reported in October 2014 a major violation to the EPA stemming from the water switchover, which was not investigated until earlier in April, the complaint said. (Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Anthony Lin and Marguerita Choy)

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Billionaire green donor launches U.S. millennial voter drive

WASHINGTON Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer's super PAC launched a $25 million youth voter drive on Monday in seven political battleground states to help elect candidates that champion climate change policies in November's general election. Steyer's NextGen Climate super PAC, a political group that raises funds to boost candidates with strong environmental platforms, said the campaign aims to boost turnout of millennials, who have become one of the largest potential voter groups.In the lead-up to the November general election, NextGen will deploy hundreds of organizers across over 200 colleges to register young voters and facilitate on-campus voting."We are determined that they will be a difference maker," Steyer told reporters on a conference call.The group is targeting seven battleground states where Steyer said millennial voters could "make up the difference in a tight race."Those states are Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Illinois and Colorado. Steyer has been the second largest individual political donor in 2016, having spent $13 million so far this year, according to OpenSecrets.org.NextGen said the number of registered millennials has nearly tripled since 2008 from 17.2 million to 50.3 million, making the demographic a key political force in 2016. Climate change and clean energy is an area where there is widespread millennial interest. NextGen cited a June 2015 poll that found that 73 percent of young voters want the United States to get 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.The group has not yet announced which candidates it will endorse in the presidential or congressional races but said it has challenged all candidates to say how they would achieve a goal of hitting a 50 percent clean energy target by 2030.He said the air and water impacts of fracking, a controversial drilling technique that has been responsible for a boom in U.S. oil and natural gas production over the past decade, shows the U.S. needs to make a faster transition away from fossil fuels. Steyer said NextGen will spend around $25 million on the months-long campaign and will launch several other initiatives later in the election cycle. Steyer's PAC in 2014 aimed to make climate change into a wedge issue in the 2014 midterm elections, spending over $70 million with mixed results. But with millennial voters turning out in record numbers in the 2016 primaries, Steyer sees a formula for success."We need to make sure to carry on that momentum until November," he said. (Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Chris Reese)

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Prince cremated; family, friends honor him at ceremony in Minnesota

CHANHASSEN, Minn. Prince's remains have been cremated and his family and friends attended a private ceremony on Saturday to pay their respects to the late pop superstar at the studio complex where he died in a suburb of Minneapolis, a Prince spokeswoman said.Among those seen entering the Paisley Park Studios complex, where Prince lived in Chanhassen, Minnesota, were his sister, Tyka Nelson, musician and former collaborator Sheila E., his former bass player Larry Graham and model Damaris Lewis.The service came two days after Prince, whose hits included "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry," was found dead in an elevator at the complex at age 57. His death shocked millions of fans around the world and prompted glowing tributes from fellow musicians and public figures, including President Barack Obama. "Prince was celebrated by a small group of his most beloved: family, friends and his musicians, in a private, beautiful ceremony to say a loving goodbye," Prince publicist Anna Meacham said in a statement.Meacham said Prince's remains have been cremated and their final resting place will remain private. Plans are under way for a musical celebration of Prince, with details to be announced later, she said. On Saturday, Graham stood at a gate of Paisley Park Studios and thanked some of the hundreds of fans gathered on the lawn outside to show their admiration of Prince, a seven-time Grammy winner whose music blended rock, funk, R&B, jazz and disco."Prince made us all better musicians and spiritually is the most important thing, but as musician he pushed us and he made us better and we listened deeply," Graham told the fans. Participants in the ceremony handed some fans outside gift boxes that contained items such as Prince-themed apparel and a compact disc of music.An autopsy on Prince was conducted on Friday and authorities are investigating his death.Police said on Friday no signs of suicide or obvious trauma were found in Prince's death. The local medical examiner's office said it could take weeks before autopsy and toxicology results reveal how the groundbreaking performer died. Prince had been on a U.S. tour as recently as last week.But he was briefly hospitalized a week ago, suffering from what his representative told celebrity news website TMZ was the flu, after his plane made an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois. (Reporting by Jane Ross, writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Andrew Hay)

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