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Weather Causes Havoc at Languedoc Harvest’s End

Nicolas Bergasse outside his Château Viranel winery in Saint-Chinian; some Languedoc vineyards were already flooded two weeks ago

© Château Viranel; Midi Libre/Amandine Amblard | Nicolas Bergasse outside his Château Viranel winery in Saint-Chinian; some Languedoc vineyards were already flooded two weeks ago

The elements show they still have a sting in the tail as storms lash the south of France.
By AFP with Wine-Searcher staff | Posted Wednesday,

Vineyards in parts of Languedoc were damaged and vast swathes of land left underwater after six months’ worth of rain fell in a day in the Hérault department on Monday.

The affected area has been declared a disaster zone by the Government after rail and road routes were destroyed and 1500 emergency workers were deployed after many areas had more than 100 millimeters (four inches) of rain in the space of an afternoon. Some areas received three times that amount.

The city of Montpellier and the surrounding area sustained “huge damage”, according to Jérôme Despuy, president of the chamber of agriculture for the Hérault department.

French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll announced that his ministry was proceeding with an evaluation of the situation. He has promised that “losses will be covered if the damage impacts on the 2015 harvest or following ones.”

The grape harvest began in August and Despey estimated that only around 15 percent remained to be picked, but the damage in the vineyards was severe. Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, he said: “To the east of Montpellier, the waters have invaded entire vineyard sections and it remains difficult to access the flooded parcels.”

Despey also said that the harvest had been interrupted to the west of the department when floods had hit the area around Lamalou-les-Bains and Aveyron on September 19. Five people died in the flooding there and “several thousand hectares were flooded and hundreds of hectares of vineyards, orchards and crops were impacted, giving important losses”, he said.

This is the last week of harvest and it was the upper areas of the Hérault, northwest of Montpellier, and areas to the south between Lunel and Lattes that suffered most.

In recognizing the seriousness of the situation regarding the flooding “adding to the numerous severe climatic incidents” that Languedoc-Roussillon had suffered, Le Foll issued a statement saying that he hoped farmers would be able to obtain tax relief in compensation. He also called on the banks to “take into account the unusual situation and to help those vignerons affected get through this difficult period.”

The Languedoc region has been hit repeatedly with rain and hailstorms this year, causing chaos in the agricultural sector.

Despey has asked for these reliefs to be granted before, but said the commission for agricultural disasters – who need to give their expert assessment – will not meet until December 17, which was “much too late to provide compensation for the damage incurred.”

The Hérault department is an important agricultural area, with a large vineyard area, as well as fruits, vegetables, livestock and crops.

The storm was last reported to be heading east towards Provence.

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Europol Report Connects Anonymous Digital Currencies to Dark Net Crime

Published on September 30, 2014 at 22:05 BST

europol dark web

Europol has issued a new report on Internet crime in which it outlined a number of scenarios involving bitcoin.

Called the Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment (iOCTA), the report examines the use of bitcoin on various dark web sites, by organised crime and individual actors, and calls digital currencies an ‘enabler’ for cryber-criminals and a challenge for law enforcement.

However, it made a clear distinction between bitcoin and digital currencies designed with true anonymity in mind, like darkcoin, warning:

“We feel it should concern everyone that the latest cyber currencies are intended to be truly anonymous and to facilitate anonymous transactions. We face a situation where law enforcement may be completely unable to trace even very large criminal transactions.”

The report is in line with Europol’s previous statements and reports on bitcoin. Speaking at a security conference in March, director Rob Wainwright said digital currencies are being used as “an instrument to facilitate crime,” particularly for money laundering.

Dark net, Tor and bitcoin

Europol finds several instances of digital currency use on child sexual exploitation dark net sites. The agency warned that the relative anonymity of dark net services – made possible by platforms like Tor – has led to a proliferation of various platforms selling and distributing child abuse material (CAM).

In addition to disturbing videos and images, some sites host open forums on evading law enforcement and perpetrating a range of perverse offenses involving children.

Europol notes that such content is usually not exchanged for commercial reasons and that a “good level of trust” is necessary of those wanting to purchase CAM.

The report warns:

“There are instances of CAM being exchanged via ‘Tor mail’ in exchange for bitcoins. Even though most offenders do not exchange CAM for commercial reasons, the valuable significance of the material associated to the anonymity of Tor and bitcoin creates the ideal setting to add a financial benefit to a traditional exchange.”

Europol found that traditional commercial sexual exploitation of children online (CSECO) has been lower in recent years, and the amount of commercially available CAM is small. However, SCECO hackers-for-hire are sometimes employed to hack servers and provide hosting for child abuse material. These hackers usually demand payment in bitcoin, but most of them were found to be fraudulent – they would simply take the money and run, without providing any CAM in exchange.

Why digital currencies attractive for criminals

Europol points out that decentralised digital currencies such as bitcoin and darkcoin use peer-to-peer networks with little in the way of control. The report notes that digital currencies are generally designed for legitimate use, but they are “heavily abused” by cybercriminals.

The report found that volatility is an issue even for criminals:

“Cybercriminals often favour centralised schemes which, being tied to tangible assets, are inherently more stable compared to cryptocurrencies whose price is often highly volatile due to high levels of speculation. Of the centralised schemes favoured by the criminal community WebMoney is still very popular, particularly for criminal-to-criminal payments, as is Perfect Money to a lesser extent.”

Bitcoin is gaining traction in cybercrime circles; Europol cites Silk Road as an example of a bitcoin-based illicit marketplace. The report also says that bitcoin is beginning to “feature heavily in police investigations,” particularly those dealing with ransomware and extortion.

Further, it finds that distrust in centralised schemes has been growing since the takedown of E-Gold in 2009 and the dismantling of Liberty Reserve in 2013. Criminals find cryptocurrencies attractive due to their distributed nature, which makes them resistant to law enforcement disruption and government control.

The iOCTA says that cryptocurrencies are not an ideal match for online crime for a number of reasons:

“The transparency of such systems is a likely deterrent, potentially providing law enforcement with a financial trail to follow. The market is also volatile with currency prices fluctuating significantly and often. Furthermore a number of exchange services were hacked in 2014 with many users losing their online e-wallets with no recourse for compensation.”

Money laundering concerns

Although they may not be the perfect currency for some criminals, Europol warns that digital currencies could “become an ideal instrument” for money laundering.

Criminals can use unregistered dark net exchanges, or try to exploit legitimate exchanges with poor know-your-customer (KYC) controls. Another problem is the rise of ‘tumblers’ and ‘mixers’ – services which allow users to launder their cryptocurrency, while charging a relatively small commission. The report looks into the possibility of using online gambling sites to launder ‘dirty’ cryptocurrency.

Europol concludes that law enforcement needs to pursue the possibility of obtaining evidence from virtual scheme operators – as they would from any other institution – and to be able to freeze and seize funds.

It says:

“Virtual currencies represent an example of technology overtaking legislation. Few jurisdictions recognise virtual currencies as a currency or have managed to adopt adequate regulatory controls.”

The report issues a number of recommendations calling for new EU legislation that would apply anti-money laundering regulations to digital currencies and strengthen relationships with money transfer businesses, banks, law enforcement and digital currency operators.

Image via Europol

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Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re-Interprets The Brand’s Unique Transforming Dial

by David Bredan

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re-Interprets The Brand’s Unique Transforming Dial

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

746 components inside a 52 millimeter wide, perfectly round case in red gold: this is the Montblanc Metamorphosis II in one sentence. As the name and those whopping figures suggest, there is a lot more going on, however – especially since we are talking about not one, but two watches here – so let us give this new-for-2014 piece the attention it deserves. The Montblanc Metamorphosis II watch follows its first transforming predecessor, the Montblanc Metamorphosis from 2010 (which we debuted here).

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

In consideration of those who may not be familiar with the original Montblanc Metamorphosis, and hence, the concept behind this wild model, allow us to add a brief introduction. The Metamorphosis, as its name suggests, is all about a transforming watch that undergoes massive changes upon the request of its owner. More specifically, Montblanc – and their high-end watchmaking workshop called Minerva, in Villeret, Switzerland – created a watch that is capable of changing its two subdials based on the desired functionality of the piece, which varies between “normal” timekeeping and a chronograph.

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

What you see above is the lower subdial (well, subdials, I should say) set into motion, after the actuating lever on the left side of the case has been pulled. The way this system works should be rather similar to how a minute repeater functions: as you may well be aware, a minute repeater begins its chime once a small lever on the side of the case has been pulled. The reason the lever is necessary, in the cases of both the minute repeater and the Montblanc Metamorphosis, is that both of these highly complicated mechanical movements require a lot of energy to work – in fact, the transforming complication comprises a mind-boggling 494 components alone! Therefore, as the lever is moved, it winds an auxiliary mainspring, which in turn, supplies power exclusively to the main complication of the watch.

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

Once the lever had been actuated, the pirouette of the subdials commences. The Montblanc Metamorphosis II offers the same functions as its predecessor: in normal state (which is what you can see pictured above), the watch indicates the hours on a dedicated subdial at the 12 o’clock position, minutes are displayed on a retrograde scale by a centrally mounted hand (along with a seconds hand that runs full-circle, as one would expect), while the date is displayed on a subdial at the 6 o’clock position. Over the latter subdial, is a sapphire bridge, which keeps the date’s hand firmly in place, without obscuring the view on the gold subdials.

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

Seen above, is the other state of the dial, all set to serve the secondary function of the watch: the monopusher chronograph. Once the swift, 5-seconds process of transformation is over, the Montblanc Metamorphosis II shows a greatly different face: a sportier, more modern design that is meant to go with the perceived sporty nature of the chronograph. Roman numerals on the hours sub-dial are swapped for Arabic ones, while the one at six o’clock is new as well: the date dial has been replaced with a 30-minute counter for the elapsed minutes of the chronograph. Furthermore, the areas surrounding the two sub-dials are now in dark grey, making for a more easily recognizable aesthetic.

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

The chronograph can be started, stopped, and reset via the single pusher set into the crown of the watch. It relies on a more sophisticated column-wheel setup – in line with what one would expect from such a highly acclaimed chronograph-manufacturer as Minerva – and it uses a more traditional horizontal clutch for the starting and stopping of the mechanism. Classic watchmaking treats don’t just stop there, however: the movement runs at the rather ancient rate of 2.5 Hz (18,000 vibrations per hour), and the balance wheel features tiny screws individually set and adjusted in its periphery, for perfect balance and isochronism. This unique hand-wound movement unquestionably is a hybrid of traditional and modern watchmaking.

Montblanc Metamorphosis II Re Interprets The Brands Unique Transforming Dial watch releases

A more subtle, albeit important, improvement seen in the second generation Montblanc Metamorphosis, is that the case is now perfectly round, as opposed to the teardrop shape of the first version, where the lower half of the case extended considerably at the 6 o’clock position. That, today, is gone, and the Montblanc Metamorphosis II comes in a 52 millimeter wide and 15.8 mm thick watch – a very large watch indeed, despite the rather slim bezels and the relatively short, flared lugs.

Despite its substantial size, what the Montblanc Metamorphosis achieves is truly amazing: it brought the fascinating (and seemingly impossible) idea of transforming mechanics to the level of wristwatches, where space, and hence, the supply of much required power, is extremely limited. To say that the Montblanc Metamorphosis II is a niche product, would be a massive understatement – but Montblanc knows that, and they are making only 18 pieces in 18k red gold, with the price being €270,000, or about $ 342,000. montblanc.com

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as…

BIGCHRONO 5pts5 hours ago

I need to borrow a Montblanc pen to write off this overdone timepiece, along with it’s absurdly debilitating price point.

LapYoda 5ptsFeatured
5 hours ago

Wow!  Quite an impressive piece of engineering and craftsmanship, with a jaw-dropping size and price to match.  The video of it being made and the mechanism in action is quite impressive.  Though at 52 mm, it probably should have been a pocket watch and not a wristwatch.

Montblanc is really upping its game at the high end.

Like

thornwood36 5pts5 hours ago

For the price, i want a free fountain pen !

1Borys Bozzor Pawliw

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Jay Leno’s Mercedes 600 is dictator chic

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  • Jay Leno’s Mercedes 600 is dictator chic

Here’s a fun fact: certain classical songs double as excellent driving songs. Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries is one such example. So, as soon as you here those iconic notes, be certain you’re in for some seriously cool sheet metal. Any Mercedes-Benz 600 would qualify for such a musical treatment, but Jay Leno’s example is doubly worth a look.

Fortunately, the car collector/comedian is all too willing to show off his brown beauty as part of the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. Leno is just one of the, sometimes disturbing, list of owners of the big sedan, which includes a wide range of dictators and Jeremy Clarkson.

His example is truly pristine, restored by 600 expert Karl Middelhauve. The complex hydraulic system receives plenty of attention from Leno, as does the expansive and impressive craftsmanship in the cabin. Finally, Leno takes the boat of a car out for a ride.

Take a look at the full video on the legendary Mercedes 600.

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Reddit Raises $50 Million, Plans New Cryptocurrency to Reward Users

Last updated on Oct 1, 2014 at 02:31 BST. Based on the following values:

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Stan Higgins | Published on September 30, 2014 at 23:20 BST

reddit man

Reddit has announced a new $ 50m funding round that could lead to a unique way for the social network to give back to its community – its own cryptocurrency.

In a post on the company’s official blog, CEO Yishan Wong revealed Reddit had secured funding from a number of well-known venture capitalists and VC funds.

Notable names included Sam Altman, president of the Y Combinator startup incubator, Andreessen Horowitz partner Marc Andreessen, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, actor Jared Leto, hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg and Wong himself.

Perhaps most notably for the digital currency community, however, was that all of these investors agreed to set aside 10% of the round’s proceeds to give back to the community.

Wong wrote that the move was a recognition of the central role the digital currency community has played in Reddit’s ongoing success, but provided few details on the company’s potential plans.

When asked by CoinDesk to elaborate on the concept, Wong said only:

“We’ll have more to announce in the future.”

The use of digital currency as an ownership token, has long been held as a future use case for block chain technology in general, and the concept is a focal point for many crypto 2.0 projects and frameworks.

Still, Reddit isn’t the only major company to announce it intends to experiment with the emerging technology, following similar statements from Overstock in July.

Asset-backed approach

In comments posted on the r/blog subreddit, Wong was more detailed, saying that the company may seek to create a special-purpose cryptocurrency that would be backed by the value of the shares created during the $ 50m funding round.

Wong explained:

“We are thinking about creating a cryptocurrency and making it exchangeable (backed) by those shares of reddit, and then distributing the currency to the community. The investors have explicitly agreed to this in their investment terms.”

Wong added that he feels the idea is worth the attempt given its potential benefits for site users, but that the company hasn’t moved beyond the initial exploration phase with the idea.

Bitcoin-friendly backers

Among those who took part in Reddit’s $ 50m round are some investors who would no doubt be receptive to the company’s use of block chain technology.

Altman’s Y Combinator is no stranger to bitcoin startups, having played patron to bitcoin services provider Coinbase and bitcoin ATM developer BitAccess, among a host of other digital currency startups.

Further, Andreessen Horowitz, has a long history of investing in digital currency startups, and PayPal co-founder Thiel has called bitcoin something that “could become a new phenomenon”.

According to Wong, the caliber of investors Reddit has attracted reflect its long-standing commitment to free speech and open internet activity.

Wong wrote:

“We have been entrusted with capital by patient, long-term investors who support our views on difficult issues. We believe in free speech, self-governing communities and the power of voting. We find that this freedom yields more good than bad, and we have chosen investors based on this belief.”

Image via Reddit

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