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(ET) There is a rising concern about sustainable building materials as the world population continues to expand. One innovative solution has been the use of hempcrete; a mixture of limestone, sand, and hemp. It was discovered in a bridge abutment in France that dates back to the 6th century. Some in Europe have adopted the use of hempcrete since that rediscovery, and now the trend is starting to gain traction in North America.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings account for 38% of the CO2 emission in America. One huge benefit of using hempcrete is that the hemp will absorb CO2 and release oxygen during its growth, as well as absorbing more CO2 due to the limestone and slowly petrifying. Over decades, its widespread use could have a fairly significant impact.

The material itself is a bio-composite made of the inner core of hemp plants mixed with a lime-based binder. The hemp’s woody, inner core has a very high silica content that allows it to mesh well with the lime. The biggest drawback to using hempcrete is that the density is only 15% that of traditional concrete, and this means that the hempcrete must be used in combination with a frame of another material that can support the vertical load in the building construction.

Hempcrete has a very high measurement of fire resistance, or R value, when compared to other construction materials. Hempcrete has a R Value of 2.08 per inch of thickness compared to regular concrete which has around .08 per inch of thickness. There aren’t any other construction materials that have such a high R Value while costing so little to produce.
- See more at: http://commoditiefutures.com/hempcrete-the-future-of-construction/#sthash.owpWrFFp.dpuf

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‘Under the “smokescreen” of giving aid or charity, western governments and multinational corporations are pillaging states in sub-Sahara Africa with losses nearing $60 billion each year, according to research published on Tuesday by a coalition of 10 Africa and UK-based NGOs.

The report, Honest accounts? The true story of Africa’s billion dollar losses (pdf), finds that while an estimated $134 billion flows into the continent annually through a combination of loans, foreign investment and aid, African nations lose approximately $192 billion in profits made by foreign multinational companies, as well as through tax evasion and the costs of adapting to climate change.’

Read more: Behind ‘Smokescreen’ of Charity, Global Financial Elite Pillage African Nations $60bn Each Year

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10-Corporations-Control-What-We-Eat-300x187

From our fields to our forks, huge corporations have an overwhelming amount of power over our food supply every step of the way. Right now there are more than 313 million people living in the United States, and the job of feeding all of those people is almost entirely in the hands of just a few dozen monolithic companies. If you do not like how our food is produced or you don’t believe that it is healthy enough, it isn’t very hard to figure out who is to blame. These mammoth corporations are not in business to look out for the best interests of the American people. Rather, the purpose of these corporations is to maximize wealth for their shareholders. So the American people end up eating billions of pounds of extremely unhealthy food that is loaded with chemicals and additives each year, and we just keep getting sicker and sicker as a society. But these big corporations are raking in big profits, so they don’t really care.

If we did actually have a capitalist system in this country, we would have a high level of competition in the food industry.  But instead, the U.S. food industry has become increasingly concentrated with each passing year. Just consider the following numbers about the U.S. agricultural sector…

The U.S. agricultural sector suffers from abnormally high levels of concentration. Most economic sectors have concentration ratios around 40%, meaning that the top four firms in the industry control 40% of the market. If the concentration ratio is above 40%, experts believe competition can be threatened and market abuses are more likely to occur: the higher the number, the bigger the threat.

The concentration ratios in the agricultural sector are shocking.

-Four companies own 83.5% of the beef market.
-The top four firms own 66% of the hog industry.
-The top four firms control 58.5% of the broiler chicken industry.
-In the seed industry, four companies control 50% of the proprietary seed market and 43% of the commercial seed market worldwide.
-When it comes to genetically engineered (GE) crops, just one company, Monsanto, boasts control of over 85% of U.S. corn acreage and 91% of U.S. soybean acreage.

When so much power is concentrated in so few hands, it creates some tremendous dangers.

And many of these giant corporations (such as Monsanto) are extremely ruthless. Small farmers all over America are being wiped out and forced out of the business by the predatory business practices of these huge companies

Because farmers rely on both buyers and sellers for their business, concentrated markets squeeze them at both ends. Sellers with high market power can inflate the prices of machinery, seeds, fertilizers and other goods that farmers need for their farms, while powerful buyers, such as processors, suppress the prices farmers are paid. The razor-thin profit margins on which farmers are forced to operate often push them to “get big or get out”—expanding into mega-operations or exiting the business altogether.

Of course the control that big corporations have over our food supply does not end at the farms.

The distribution of our food is also very highly concentrated. The graphic shared below was created by Oxfam International, and it shows how just 10 gigantic corporations control almost everything that we buy at the grocery store…

10 Corporations Control What We Eat

And these food distributors are often not very good citizens either.

For example, it was recently reported that Nestle is running a massive bottled water operation on a drought-stricken Indian reservation in California

Among the windmills and creosote bushes of San Gorgonio Pass, a nondescript beige building stands flanked by water tanks. A sign at the entrance displays the logo of Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water, with water flowing from a snowy mountain. Semi-trucks rumble in and out through the gates, carrying load after load of bottled water.

The plant, located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California’s drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it’s right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.

Nestle doesn’t stop to ask whether it is right or wrong to bottle water in the middle of the worst drought in the recorded history of the state of California.

They have the legal right to do it and they are making large profits doing it, and so they are just going to keep on doing it.

Perhaps you are thinking that you can avoid all of these corporations by eating organic and by shopping at natural food stores.

Well, it isn’t necessarily that easy.

According to author Wenonah Hauter, the “health food industry” is also extremely concentrated

Over the past 20 years, Whole Foods Market has acquired its competition, including Wellspring Grocery, Bread of Life, Bread & Circus, Food for Thought, Fresh Fields, Wild Oats Markets and others. Today the chain dominates the market because it has no national competitor. Over the past five years its gross sales have increased by half (47 percent) to $11.7 billion, and its net profit quadrupled to $465.6 million. One of the ways it has achieved this profitability is by selling conventional foods under the false illusion that they are better than products sold at a regular grocery store. Consumers falsely conclude that these products have been screened and are better, and they are willing to pay a higher price.

The distribution of organic foods is also extremely concentrated. A little-known company, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) now controls the distribution of organic and natural products. Publically traded, the company has a contract with Whole Foods and it is the major source of these products for the remaining independent natural food stores. This relationship has resulted in increasingly high prices for these foods. Small manufacturers are dependent on contracts with UNFI to get their products to market and conversely, small retailers often have to pay a premium price for products because of their dependence on this major distributor. Over the past five years, UNFI’s net sales increased by more than half (55.6 percent) $5.2. billion. Its net profit margin increased by 88 percent to $91 million.

Everywhere you look, the corporations are in control.

And this is especially true when you look at big food retailers such as Wal-Mart.

Right now, grocery sales account for about half of all business at Wal-Mart, and approximately one out of every three dollars spent on groceries in the United States is spent at Wal-Mart.

That is absolutely astounding, and it obviously gives Wal-Mart an immense amount of power.

In fact, if you can believe it, Wal-Mart actually purchases a billion pounds of beef every single year.

So the next time someone asks you where the beef is, you can tell them that it is at Wal-Mart.

On the restaurant side, the ten largest fast food corporations account for 47 percent of all fast food sales, and the love affair that Americans have with fast food does not appear to be in danger of ending any time soon.

Personally, if you do not like how these corporate giants are behaving, you can always complain.

But you are just one person among 313 million, and most of these big corporations are not going to consider the ramblings of one person to be of any significance whatsoever.

Collectively, however, we have great power.  And the way that we are going to get these big corporations to change is by voting with our wallets.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans seem quite satisfied with the status quo. So the population as a whole is likely going to continue to get sicker, fatter and less healthy with each passing year, and the big food corporations are going to keep becoming even more powerful.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/big-corporations-have-an-overwhelming-amount-of-power-over-our-food-supply/5391615

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Israel-Tweets-Grants-Paying-Netenyahu

This article was published in August 2013, but it is even more relevant today, as the world witnesses more attacks on Gaza and an important propaganda operation from Israel.

In a campaign to improve its image abroad, the Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to hundreds of students at its seven universities in exchange for their making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences.

The students making the posts will not reveal online that they are funded by the Israeli government, according to correspondence about the plan revealed in the Haaretz newspaper.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, which will oversee the programme, confirmed its launch and wrote that its aim was to “strengthen Israeli public diplomacy and make it fit the changes in the means of information consumption”.

The government’s hand is to be invisible to the foreign audiences. Daniel Seaman, the official who has been planning the effort, wrote in a letter on 5 August to a body authorising government projects that “the idea requires not making the role of the state stand out and therefore it is necessary to adhere to great involvement of the students themselves, without political linkage or affiliation”.

According to the plan, students are to be organised into units at each university, with a chief co-ordinator who receives a full scholarship, three desk co-ordinators for language, graphics and research who receive lesser scholarships and students termed “activists” who will receive a “minimal scholarship”.

Mr Netanyahu’s aides said the main topics the units would address related to political and security issues, combating calls to boycott Israel and combating efforts to question Israel’s legitimacy. The officials said the students would stress Israeli democratic values, freedom of religion and pluralism.

But Alon Liel, the doveish former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, criticised the plan as “quite disgusting”. “University students should be educated to think freely. When you buy the mind of a student, he becomes a puppet of the Israeli government grant,” he said. “You can give a grant to do social work or teach but not to do propaganda on controversial issues for the government.”

http://www.globalresearch.ca/students-offered-grants-if-they-tweet-pro-israeli-propaganda/5391610

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‘Fairly brutal sexual conduct’ has become ‘reasonably normal in St Helenian life’, a startling charity report has claimed.

The Lucy Faithfull Foundation found puberty was widely regarded as a marker for young ‘girls’ availability’, rather than the age of consent on the British-owned island.

The Mail revealed yesterday how a shocking report which was never made public by the British government found St Helena was rife with child sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual exploitation.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2694892/Teenage-girls-traded-food-More-shocking-details-emerge-culture-sexual-abuse-children-British-overseas-territory-St-Helena.html

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An Israeli scientist and award-winning security expert has called the Iron Dome missile defence system “the biggest hoax the world has seen”, Addustour news website has reported.

According to Dr Motty Scheffer, “Today, there is no missile which can intercept other missiles or rocket-propelled grenades, and the Iron Dome is a light audio system which blocks Israeli public opinion and, of course, itself. In fact, all the explosions that we have seen in the atmosphere are self-destruction. The Iron Dome did not launch any rocket that could intercept at least one missile fired from Gaza.”

Sheffer added that the concept of open areas is a myth created to amplify the Iron Dome’s ability as a missile interceptor. He made an indirect accusation against the dome’s operating staff of misleading the public: “The missiles which were intercepted by the Iron Dome and did not reach the ground are hypothetical missiles produced and destroyed in the Dome’s computer control room; as of this moment, nobody has seen an intercepted missile fall to the ground.”

The scientist made his comments after the challenge raised by Hamas’s military wing, the Izzaddin Al-Qassam Brigades on Saturday, which fired J80 missiles at Tel Aviv and defied the Iron Dome and its experts to intercept them. The J80s have been fitted with a jamming system to get through Israel’s missile defences.

He claimed that the parts that we are shown on the ground belong to the Iron Dome itself. “The Iron Dome is a plot created by interest groups who are afraid of peace, including the security industry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/12772-israeli-expert-says-iron-dome-defence-is-a-hoax

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table01A Conservative Estimate of Total U.S. Aid To Israel: More Than $123 Billion

The current estimate by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs of cumulative total U.S. direct aid to Israel is $123.202 billion, updating the figure in our November 2008 issue. Because parts of U.S. aid to Israel are buried in the budgets of various U.S. agencies or in a form not easily quantified—such as the early disbursement of aid, giving Israel a direct benefit of interest income and the U.S. Treasury a corresponding loss—it is virtually impossible to arrive at an exact dollar amount.

Our latest estimate is a conservative, defensible accounting of U.S. direct aid to Israel. It does not include the indirect benefits to Israel resulting from U.S. aid, nor the substantial indirect or consequential cost to the U.S. as a result of its blind support for Israel. Most significantly, perhaps, it does not include the costs resulting from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq—hundreds of billions of dollars, thousands of U.S. and allied casualties, and untold tens of thousands of Iraqi killed and wounded—which is widely believed in the Arab world, and by many Americans as well, to have been undertaken for the benefit of Israel.

Among the real benefits to Israel that are not counted as a direct cost to the U.S. taxpayer is the provision allowing Israel to spend 26.3 percent of each year’s military aid in Israel rather than from American companies (no other recipient of U.S. military aid gets this benefit), which has resulted in an increasingly sophisticated Israeli defense industry. As a result, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), between 2001 and 2008 Israel was the seventh-largest arms exporter to the world, with total sales of $9.9 billion. Also in contrast with other countries receiving U.S. military aid, who must purchase through the Department of Defense (DOD), Israel deals directly with the U.S. companies, with no DOD review.

More@ http://www.wrmea.org/congress-and-us-aid-to-israel/494-congress-a-us-aid-to-israel/11203-u-s-aid-to-israel.html

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A Chicago company is under fire from a local union after employees complained they are being monitored and disciplined for using the bathroom more than just a few minutes a day.

According to theChicago Tribune, the Teamsters Local 743 union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board regarding the situation, claiming that workers are being penalized if their time in the bathroom exceeds 30 minutes a week, or six minutes a day.

The company under the microscope is Chicago-based WaterSaver Faucet Co. and its sister company Guardian Equipment Inc., both of which have placed limits on employees looking ti relieve themselves at work. In fact, Teamsters agent Nick Kreitman said the businesses have even “offered $1 per day for anyone who doesn’t go to the bathroom at all.”

Currently, union employees receive a daily 10-minute break, a 30-minute lunch period, a 15-minute break in the afternoon, and a 5-minute clean-up period at the end of the day. Speaking with the Tribune, WaterSaver Faucet owner Steven Kersten claims that despite allegations the company is being unreasonable, what he really objects to is employees using trips to the bathroom as if they were additional breaks – he also said frequent and lengthy trips cost the company 120 hours of productivity in May.

“Our point of view is that anyone can go to the washroom when they need to but what bothers us is extended periods of time and multiple trips that cause lost productivity,” he said.

The union and its members disagree, however, and have pointed to the fact that a tracking system has been installed in order to keep close watch on their movements. To enter the bathroom, workers need to swipe their ID cards, allowing the company to know just how long they spend inside the restroom. Workers are also complaining that 19 people have been given warnings for using up more than the allotted six minutes, which they say is simply not enough time for an entire day.

http://rt.com/usa/172784-chicago-employees-penalized-bathroom-use/

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Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is planning its biggest round of job cuts in five years, as the software maker looks to slim down and integrate Nokia Oyj’s handset unit, people with knowledge of the company’s plans said.

The reductions — which may be unveiled as soon as this week — will probably be in areas such as Nokia and divisions of Microsoft that overlap with that business, as well as marketing and engineering, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. The restructuring may end up being the biggest in Microsoft history, topping the 5,800 jobs cut in 2009, two of the people said. Some details are still being worked out, two of the people said.

The announcement would come one week after Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella issued his first company mission statement, calling for greater emphasis on mobile devices, cloud-computing and productivity software. In the July 10 memo, which also called for Microsoft to become more focused and efficient, Nadella, who took over from Steve Ballmer in February, said he would provide more specifics on implementation later this month.

While Microsoft has undergone smaller, intermittent job cuts in individual businesses — for example trimming a few hundred positions in advertising sales and marketing in 2012 and some marketing jobs across the company earlier that same year — the company has only undertaken a companywide restructuring impacting thousands of workers once before, in 2009 at the start of the recession. Over the course of that year, the company cut 5,800 jobs, or about 5 percent of its workforce at the time.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-07-15/microsoft-said-to-announce-job-cuts-as-soon-as-this-week.html

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The US and its allies have granted Israel a “blank check” to commit “a mass amount of violence against defenseless” Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, a journalist and international lawyer in Toronto said Monday.

“The United States is clearly not enforcing its own laws with regard to Israel’s attack on Gaza, and of course [the attacks] are an extreme violation of international law,” said Edward Corrigan.

“The Americans, the British, the Canadians, the Australians, a few other countries are giving Israel basically a blank check to do whatever it wants,” Corrigan told Press TV.

Some 190 Palestinians have so far been killed in the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since July 8. According to the United Nations, nearly 80 percent of the casualties in Gaza have been civilians.

People around the world have participated in protest rallies to condemn Israel’s deadly aggression.

Gaza has been blockaded since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in the standards of living, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and unrelenting poverty.

Washington provides $3.1 billion in military assistance to the Zionist regime annually. The US government is pressured to serve Israel’s interests due to the influence of the powerful Israel lobby in the United States.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2014/07/15/371360/us-granted-israel-blank-check/

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Air Force seeks bids for $550M next generation stealth bomber

14 Jul 2014 The U.S. Air Force’s super-secret next generation bomber, which one day could fly unmanned sorties, has moved a step closer to the production line with the Pentagon asking top defense contractors to submit proposals. Not much is known about the Long Range Strike-Bomber project, which has been run as a classified program since 2011. But the bat-winged stealth bombers would likely cost around $550 million each, and the Air Force hopes to contract for as many as 100. That would add up to as much as $55 billion — for a fleet of fighter planes the likes of which the world has never seen.

[But we can’t get a bridge repaired or a pothole filled, though, right?

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The Atlantic City casino industry implosion continues. Following the second, and final, bankruptcy of AC’s “state of the art” Revel Casino a month ago, as well as the shuttering of Atlantic Club hotel Casino and the Showboat hotel casino, the grim corporate reaper has come for one of the most prominent boardwalk casinos of all: Trump Plaza.

The casino which opened in 1984 as a JV between Donald Trump and Harrah’s AC, was for a long time the centerpiece of Donald Trump’s one-time Atlantic City empire, which however promptly escalated into a series of sequential bankruptcies, chipping away at Trump’s reputation and business model, as one after another of Trump’s properties sought Chapter 11 protection.

The final punch came in February 2013 when Trump Plaza was sold to a California company for $20 million – the cheapest ever transaction for an Atlantic City casino, and a fitting testament to the death of this one-time east coast gambling mecca. It was here, however, where a very bored Carl Icahn, once again spread his wrinkled activist wings when in April 2013, as senior lender for the mortgage, Icahn declined to approve the sale for the proposed price and the deal was put on hold.

Unfortunately for Icahn, this is one he may have let go, because as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, Trump Plaza has decided not to bother with continuing the sale process and will instead shutter permanently. “Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino will shut its doors for good in mid-September, according to state officials who were briefed Friday by lawyers for the casino.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-07-12/trump-plaza-close-september-atlantic-city-implosion-claims-fourth-casino

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US military studied how to influence Twitter users in Darpa-funded research

–Defense Department spent millions to research social network

s 08 Jul 2014 The activities of users of Twitter and other social media services were recorded and analysed as part of a major project funded by the US military, in a program that covers ground similar to Facebook’s controversial experiment into how to control emotions by manipulating news feeds. Research funded directly or indirectly by the US Department of Defense’s military research department, known as Darpa, has involved users of some of the internet’s largest destinations, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Kickstarter, for studies of social connections and how messages spread..

.Several of the DoD-funded studies went further than merely monitoring what users were communicating on their own, instead messaging unwitting participants in order to track and study how they responded.

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