Food rationing to begin in Venezuelan state

In a sign Venezuela’s food shortages could be worsening, restrictions on the sale of 20 basic items subject to price controls, including toilet paper and chicken, are set to begin next week in its most populous state, officials said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government said it is incorrect to call the plan rationing because it is meant to fight smuggling of price-controlled food across the border into Colombia. He said there are no plans to extend the program nationally. Continue reading

Russia’s Putin eyeing military dominance in Central Asia amid water quarrels

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are landlocked and mountainous countries—75% and 90%, respectively—in Central Asia. The countries’ mountains provide abundance of potable water, which feed the two major rivers of Central Asia.  The scarcity of other natural resources understandably results in Bishkek’s and Dushanbe’s attempts to use the water more wisely—building hydropower plants (HPP) for generating electricity.  Dushanbe is aiming at erecting the tallest dam in the world—a 335-meter (about 1,000 feet) tall concrete wall on the Vakhsh River (turns into Amu-Darya River).  Kyrgyzstan, meanwhile, is securing Russia’s backing in building a 275-meter dam on the Naryn River (turns into Syr-Darya River). Continue reading

Gazprom Hopes to Build Second Baltic Sea Pipeline

With the planned Nabucco natural gas pipeline in southern Europe hitting snag after snag, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom is considering the construction of a second Baltic Sea pipeline to go with the just-finished Nord Stream. With unconventional natural gas from the US flooding the market, however, the strategy is not without risk.

Seven years later, it is now clear who won the duel. When the government of Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder came to an end in 2005, both he and his foreign minister, Green Party éminence grise Joschka Fischer, embarked on second careers as energy lobbyists.

Schröder is in the service of Russian energy giant Gazprom — as chairman of the board of the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea floor. The pipeline went into operation six months ago and now natural gas from Siberia flows through the 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) of pipe to the German city of Greifswald.

The construction of the second Baltic pipeline would be a triumph for Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, though, the strategy being pursued is nothing short of audacious. Indeed, Gazprom is seeking to expand its infrastructure at a time when the natural gas business is undergoing radical change worldwide. The market for the fuel is losing what has long been its most salient feature: scarcity.

Full article: Gazprom Hopes to Build Second Baltic Sea Pipeline (Spiegel Online)