Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fathers And Children: The Internet Reacts To Putin's Alleged Billionaire Daughter

According to Reuters, Katerina Tikhonova (left) is Putin's youngest daughter and she is married to Kirill Shamalov (right), the son of a shareholder in Bank Rossia.

Anna Shamanska

Kremlin supporters and opponents are bickering online following Reuters' publication of an extensive investigation into the lives and fortunes of Russian President Vladimir Putin's two daughters. 

The news agency confirmed longstanding rumors that his youngest daughter goes by the name of Katerina Tikhonova, and detailed her involvement with Moscow State University (MGU) after an extensive search of public records. According to the documents, she signed contracts worth about $2.8 million with state-owned organizations so that the institutions she manages could carry out work at the university. The projects are aimed at enlarging and improving the Moscow State University campus. 

According to Reuters, Tikhonova has also identified herself as a "spouse" of Kirill Shamalov, the son of Nikolai Shamalov, who is a shareholder in Bank Rossia. The company is often described as the "personal bank of the Russian elite." 

The young couple is believed to have corporate holdings worth about $2 billion, Reuters reported. 

In addition to two anonymous sources, Reuters cited Andrey Akimov, deputy chairman of Russian lender Gazprombank, as confirming to the news organization that Tikhonova was, in fact, Putin's daughter. 

Akimov is one of the investors in the projects headed by Tikhonova at the university. "I knew it was Putin's daughter. But of course we took the decision to support [MGU's] projects irrespective of any family connections," he told Reuters. 

The day the investigation was published, Gazprombank denied that Akimov made any statements regarding Tikhonova's relationship to Putin.

"Akimov … was surprised and bewildered when he read the report by the Reuters news agency in which he is credited with the statement that … Ms. Tikhonova, is supposedly the daughter of the President of the Russian Federation," the November 10 statement read. "It is not so." 

Katerina Tikhonova's connections
Katerina Tikhonova's connections

Many pro-Russia social media users expressed doubt about the report. 

"The Reuters agency planted the information that Tikhonova is Putin's daughter. They probably have few visitors, causing them to spread such a lie," a Twitter user wrote:

"Even Peskov and the chairman of Gazprom [sic] denied that Tikhonova is Putin's daughter, does anybody really believe this rumor?" tweeted another man:

Citing Gazprombank Deputy Chairman Akimov's denials, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refuted Reuters' findings. 

Some, however, joked that Akimov's denial wasn't voluntary.

"I didn't say that she was Putin's daughter, said Akimov, as he rubbed a mark from an iron on his chest," wrote one Twitter user sarcastically:

The anti-Kremlin Twittersphere, however, was angry to learn about Tikhonova's assets.

"Even Putin's daughter is a billionaire! The man is successful at everything!" read one tweet:

Some connected the scandal to presidential spokesman Peskov, who just months ago himself got into hot water over a $620,000 watch that his wife, former Olympic ice skating champion Tatiana Navka, claimed to have given him as a wedding gift. The Twitterati suggested that Peskov's wife had something to do with Tikhonova's wealth as well.

"Actually, it was Navka who gave Putin's daughter $2 billion after getting drunk at the wedding," this blog tweeted:

Some anti-Kremlin bloggers joked that the investigation wouldn't influence any aspect of life in Russia, where the government is highly skilled at spinning news and allegations against it in a good light. 

"Vladimir Vladimirovich, is it true that's your daughter... I see you deliberately avoid talking about the size of the U.S. national debt," says this tweet:

On that score, there is a Twitter account with the handle, "U.S. national debt." Every day it publishes what the debt amounts to in Russian rubles. However, on the day the Reuters' investigation was released, the account calculated that the U.S. national debt amounted to "9,305 Putin daughters.":

The Russian Twittersphere didn't let Maria, Putin's oldest daughter, fade away either. She is married to a Dutch national and uses his last name, Faasen, according to Reuters. The news agency's investigative report says she is a PhD candidate at the Endocrinology Research Center in Moscow, where she has co-authored five studies published in the last two years. 

The revelation prompted jokes about Putin's height -- rumored to be anywhere from 157 to 170 centimeters -- one user alluded to a study on idiopathic stunted growth co-authored by Faasen. 

"Putin's elder daughter Maria Faasen wrote a book about her dad," wrote a Twitter user:

Little has been publicly reported about the president's children until recently. The older daughter, Maria, was born in the Soviet Union in 1985. Katerina was born in 1986 in Dresden, East Germany, where Putin worked for the KGB from 1985 to 1990.

Rumors about the adult lives of Maria and Katerina began surfacing in January 2015. Well-known Russian blogger Oleg Kashin wrote that Maria was making a career for herself at Moscow State University under the name Tikhonova, presumably derived from her grandmother's patronymic Tikhonovna.

Following Kashin's allegation, Tikhonova was often referred to as "Putin's daughter" in quotation marks, as doubts lingered. Reuters appeared to confirm Kashin's findings in its investigation released on November 10, adding more information about her personal life and wealth.

Reuters has stood by its story despite Akimov's denials.

Video Records Linking Russian Defense Minister's Daughter To Lavish Mansion ‘Disappear’

The mansion is estimated to be worth around $18 million, far beyond Shoigu's spending power.

Carl Schreck

The saga of a multimillion-dollar, pagoda-style mansion allegedly tied to Russia Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has taken a new twist, with activists accusing the federal government’s main real estate registry of altering documents linking the property to his immediate family.

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny’s anticorruption organization last month published copies of documents from the registry showing that Shoigu’s daughter, Ksenia, became the owner of the property in a prestigious village on Moscow's western outskirts in 2009, when she was 18. 

But a funny thing happened to those documents retrieved from the database of Rosreestr, the federal agency tasked with maintaining Russian real estate records. According to the same activists who posted the records, they’ve now disappeared.

Navalny’s chief investigator, Georgy Alburov, wrote in a November 10 blog post that documents showing Ksenia Shoigu’s links to the property have been excised from the Rosreestr database. 

“All of the owners have disappeared from the records other than the current one -- the sister of Shoigu’s wife,” Alburov wrote.​

Russian Defense Minister Sergei ShoiguRussian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu

The current Rosreestr records on the property show that its owner is a woman named Yelena Antipina, whom Alburov claims is Shoigu’s sister-in-law. (Her last name is the same as the maiden name of Shoigu’s wife, Irina, and both women have the same patronymic -- Aleksandrovna.)

Alburov published before-and-after scans of the Rosreester documents showing that references to Ksenia Shoigu had been deleted.

He said he plans to sue Rosreestr over the purportedly doctored documents and that Navalny’s anticorruption group has asked the federal Investigative Committee -- Russia's analog of the FBI -- to look into possible criminal manipulation of government documents. 

“We will strive to bring criminal liability for everyone who decided to alter government databases in order to defend fraudsters,” Alburov wrote.​

The expensive tastes of Russian government officials and their families have proven to be populist kindling for Kremlin opponents’ fiery exposes of their lavish lifestyles, both inside Russia and abroad.

Recent reports published by Navalny’s organization, called the Fund To Fight Corruption, alleged that the Kremlin’s chief spokesman owns an astronomically expensive watch and honeymooned on a yacht that costs 350,000 euros per week to rent. 

Alburov estimated the mansion purportedly owned by Shoigu to be worth “at least” $18 million, far beyond the minister’s spending power, judging by federally mandated disclosures of his and his family’s income and assets.

The allegedly amended records now show no ownership of the property’s main plot of land until its acquisition by Antipina in 2012, though Google Earth images published by Alburov show that construction of the home began as early as 2010.

Alburov’s blog post came after the Rosreestr website’s function allowing users to search property records went back online after being down for several days due to “technical reasons.”

WATCH: Russians Weigh In On Reports Of Shoigu's Mansion

Russians Weigh In On Reports Of Minister's Mansioni
November 03, 2015
Russian opposition activists have published an exposé claiming that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu owns an $18 million mansion in the Moscow suburbs. The report, released by the organization of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, says the property was previously concealed from the public because it was registered in the name of Shoigu's family members. RFE/RL's Current Time TV asked Moscow residents what they thought of the claims.

The Russian news agency RBC also previously published scans of Rosreestr documents mentioning Ksenia Shoigu’s links to the property.

Reached by RBC on November 10, Rosreestr did not immediately comment on the purported removal of documents showing that Ksenia Shoigu became the owner of the real estate in question in 2009. 

Shoigu has not publicly commented on the claims. RBC quoted his daughter’s spokesman as saying on November 3 that information that she owned the property “does not correspond with reality.”

A week later, that indeed seems to be the case. At least on paper.

Russian Portal Supports Syrian Air Strikes With Paper Planes, Computer Games

Flash-mob participants are instructed to craft paper planes and write inspirational messages for the Russian military pilots. They should then upload photos of their handiwork to social media using the hashtag.

Anna Shamanska

Most Russians -- 54 percent, according to independent pollster Levada Center -- support the Russian air strikes in Syria that began over a month ago. 

But in an effort to amplify that support, an online portal called Kill Igil -- "IGIL" is the Russian abbreviation for the militant group Islamic State (IS) -- has started a flash mob under the hashtag #killigil.

Flash-mob participants are instructed to craft paper planes and write inspirational messages for the Russian military pilots. They should then upload photos of their handiwork to social media using the hashtag.

The flash mob's page on Instagram so far has 90 photos. The first, uploaded by organizers, shows an elaborate paper plane in Russian colors with red stars on its wings "flying" above a map of Syria and neighboring countries. A giant black stain that covers much of Syria and spills into Iraq is labeled "IGIL." 

The map differs significantly from those created by the BBCThe Atlantic, the Institute for the Study of War, and RFE/RL's own, ascribing "IGIL" control to far more territory than all those media do. Russia's definition of "terrorists" has been at the heart of its dispute with Turkey, the United States, and their anti-IS allies over its month-old intervention in Syria, since Moscow appears to be targeting any armed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's regime with its bombardment.

Other posts wish the pilots luck with proclamations like "It's time to save the world from terrorism." 

"Terrorism is a sickness! Meet the doctor!" reads another plane.

Maria Katasonova, an aide to Russian presidential advisory-board member Yevgeny Fyodorov, also took part in the flash mob. 

Schoolchildren from the Kaduysky district in Russia's Vologda Oblast participated in a more organized fashion. According to local online news portal, elementary, middle-, and high-school students and their teachers flew more than 200 paper planes in the schoolyard. 

"After the first class the entire school went to the square in front of the school porch. Guys laid out the paper planes in the shape of a big fighter jet, and then everybody flew their planes into an improvised enemy," the portal writes, quoting a 10th-grader. 

The website behind the flash mob appears to be relatively new. Although it doesn't have any contact information or even bylines on its published articles, its page on Russian social-media network VK describes it as "the real story about Russian superheroes' fight against IS terrorists."

The Kill Igil VK group posted its first message on October 14, the day IS urged Muslims to launch a "holy war" against Russians and Americans. By November 3, the group had almost 1,500 followers. The portal also features a link to an online game under the same name created by the website's "friends." It claims it was made for those who want to help Russian pilots fight IS militants "without leaving home."

Entering the game, you get control over a Russian fighter jet flying over a desert. The player has to shoot "terrorists" dressed in different uniforms as they rush toward the plane. Every so often, a caricature of a smiling U.S. President Barack Obama holding a U.S. flag flies onto the screen -- the player is encouraged to shoot this caricature, too.

Accurate hits earn different types of ammunition, as well as stars and medals.

Not So Khorosho: Russian #Itisgoodhere Campaign Goes Awry

Russia is a country where people "know how to relax in civilized manner in eco-cities," opposition activist Lev Dmitriyev tweeted -- with a generous dose of sarcasm.

Anna Shamanska

Ahead of Russia's National Unity Day, a major state news agency launched a social-media campaign that was apparently aimed at creating a map of happy Russian regions in time for the holiday.

It didn't quite go as planned.

Preparing for the November 4 holiday, which commemorates the defeat of Polish invaders in 1612, Rossia Segodnya asked users across the country to post geo-located photos with the hashtag #itisgoodhere (#здесьхорошо).

"To take part in the flash mob it is sufficient to post a photo from any corner of Russia with the hashtag #itisgoodhere, the geo-location, and an explanation of why the location in the photo is remarkable," Rossia Segodnya's statement said.

Plenty of people took the call at face value.

"It is good to fish here," wrote a journalist from Magadan, a remote northeastern area known for prison camps in the Soviet era. 

But others focused on the darker side of Russian life.

For instance, these images depict the police crackdown on protesters at a major antigovernment rally on Moscow's Bolotnaya Square in May 2012, on the eve of Vladimir Putin's inauguration to a third presidential term. 

Others tweeted that Russia is a country where corruption blossoms. The homes of the Rotenberg brothers, construction magnates with ties to Putin, are on the left, and the house of Vladimir Yakunin, former head of Russian Railways, appears on the right. 

To some, Russia is a country where health care is in decline. At least, judging by the peeling paint and scuffed, stained floorboards at the Mayna district hospital in Ulyanovsk Oblast. 

It is also a country where people "know how to relax in civilized manner in eco-cities," opposition activist Lev Dmitriyev tweeted -- with a generous dose of sarcasm. The photo he posted shows women smoking, with cups of beer close at hand, while a boy plays against a backdrop of smoke-belching factories. 

It is a country where mud chokes a street in the capital of the Mari-El Republic, Yoshkar-Ola, prominent Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov says. 

Another tweet made its point about Russia by placing photos of two slain Kremlin critics -- investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and opposition politician Boris Nemtsov -- under the #itisgoodhere hashtag. 

Kadyrov And The Snake: Chechen Boss Defeats 'Devil' In Serpent Form

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (right) grapples with a snake in a screen grab from a video he posted on Instagram.

Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW -- When it comes to posing with beasts, Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has just outdone his boss.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has stalked tigers, swum with dolphins, and flown with cranes.
But unlike Kadyrov, Putin cannot claim to have defeated "the forces of evil" in the form of a python -- all without messing up his hair or interrupting his prayer.
An October 21 Instagram post from the Kremlin-backed regional leader, known for both his quirky online activity and the rights abuses critics say he employs to rule Chechnya, includes a video montage that shows him kneeling on a prayer mat on a sandy beach, his head bowed.
In the skillfully produced clip, a hefty, hissing python slithers right up to Kadyrov. He talks calmly to the snake, grabs it, looks it in the eye and then tosses it aside like a harmless piece of junk. At one point he turns his head, part of the standard Muslim prayer ritual.
In case anything was lost on viewers of the post, Kadyrov wrote that it has "huge philosophical, ideological and religious meaning."
"The snake symbolizes the forces of evil that have taken over huge territories of the globe where millions of people suffer," Kadyrov explained. "This is Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, African countries. They are trying to draw the people of Ukraine into this abyss."
"The forces of the devil play peoples, religions, countries off against each other. They want managed chaos to rule, so that half the world starves, gets poorer, and settles for pitiful handouts," he wrote. "It should not be like this!"

So who is the devil? 
Kadyrov did not single out any person or country. But his words echoed familiar claims by Russian officials that the United States is to blame for violence in Arab nations, was behind the ouster of a Russian-backed president in Ukraine, and -- more generally -- is out to subjugate the world.
Kadyrov called on all those who care about "the future of the planet" to "unite and reach your hands out to one another." He urged politicians to "understand that it is not acceptable to eternally keep whole countries and people in poverty, fear, and oppression."
Telling his 1.3 million Instragram followers that "we can defeat evil," he signed off his post with the hashtag: #StopTheDevil.

The post comes amid warnings from analysts and politicians that the Kremlin campaign of air strikes launched in Syria on September 30 makes Russia a more attractive target for Islamist militants, including the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
On October 20, Kadyrov warned Chechen Interior Ministry officials that the threat of an IS attack in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim region in southern Russia that has been the site of two devastating separatist wars and the center of an Islamist insurgency, is rising.

Activists accuse Kadyrov of condoning rights abuses, ignoring Russia's constitution, and creating a climate of fear in Chechnya, and say that Putin gives him free rein in hopes of keeping order there.

Back To The Future: Echoes Of Soviet Past In Modern Russia

Soviet leader Josef Stalin has reappeared in many places -- and not only in the pro-Russian, rebel-held Donbas region in Ukraine -- while many of the dictator's murderous deeds are also being sanitized in Russian media.

Pete Baumgartner

To mark Back to the Future day on October 21, the precise date in the second installment of Hollywood's comic science-fiction trilogy when the main characters travel in time to 2015, RFE/RL takes a look at seven aspects of the Soviet era that have reappeared since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

The Red Star, Soviet National Anthem, Soviet Honors

Josef Stalin established the Hero of Socialist Labor award in 1927 to honor the achievements of Soviet citizens. The award was discontinued in 1991, but Putin brought back the Hero of Labor awards and accompanying lapel pins in March 2013. He honored a theater director, a veteran farm-machinery operator, a neurosurgeon, a coal miner, and a woodworker with Hero of Labor awards at a May 1 ceremony that year. That was after Putin had already revived the Soviet national anthem -- albeit with new lyrics -- in 2000 and the bombastic Soviet military parades. In 2002, Putin also brought back the renowned Soviet-era red star as the emblem of the Russian military. Russia's defense minister at the time, Sergei Ivanov, said that the red star was "sacred for all servicemen."

Foreign Military Intervention

Russia's dash into Georgian territory in 2008 was the first time the Kremlin had sent forces into combat in a foreign country since mild incursions into separatist regions in Georgia and Moldova and fighting in the Tajik civil war shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. The "little green men" in Ukraine in 2014 and the widely reported Russian military involvement in Ukraine's Donbas region (Russia denies such reports) are the latest examples of foreign military intervention by Moscow, a phenomenon that took place on various continents throughout the Soviet era and ended with the decade-long war in Afghanistan in 1989.

The ongoing military intervention in Syria, which includes heavy weaponry, advanced fighter jets, helicopters, naval squadrons, and naval infantry, is Russia's largest outside the former Soviet Union since Afghanistan.

International Isolation, Close Ties To Cuba

Due mainly to the Kremlin's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, Russia and its people are far closer to the level of Soviet-era isolation from the Western world than at any time since the Soviet Union's demise. Russia has been sidelined from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries and been slapped with sanctions by more than 30 European countries, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Canada. Moscow reciprocated with sanctions of its own, and the subsequent squeeze on the Russian economy has contributed to the ruble's plummet and left dozens of Russian officials and entrepreneurs unable to travel to Western countries.

Even within the Moscow-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) -- a club of former Soviet republics -- relations are bad and getting worse. Georgia left the organization in 2009, and at a CIS summit in Kazakhstan last week, Ukraine didn't show up while Turkmenistan and Moldova sent stand-in officials. Moscow's best friends currently include a range of authoritarian regimes and outright dictatorships: North Korea, China, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Zimbabwe.

Echoing Soviet times, Russia has stepped up ties with Cuba. After a complete downfall of relations during perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has worked hard in recent years to upgrade relations to a level not seen since pre-Gorbachev times. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with Cuban officials several times in recent years, and the latest move by Moscow is a $1.32 billion loan to Havana on October 17 to refurbish the communist island's power plants.

Closed Cities

After the 1991 Soviet collapse, dozens of formerly closed cities -- usually places where sensitive military installations were based -- were opened or their strict regimes relaxed. But from the industrial Arctic city of Norilsk, which rejoined the ranks of Russia's closed cities in 2001 when all non-Russians (except for Belarusians) were banned from entering, to Siberia's Novy Urengoi, which was closed to both foreigners (including Belarusians) and "unsanctioned" Russians in 2012, several Russian cities that were "opened" in the 1990s are now closed.

Cheese And Food Smuggling

Perhaps no aspect of the Western sanctions against Russia stirred more grassroots outrage than the food ban on such cheese specialties as French Camembert and Roquefort, Dutch Gouda, or Italian mozzarella. This satirical image on Twitter reflects many Russians' frustrations with their homemade cheeses (Warning label says: Russian cheese produces the desire to eat Parmesan). As does this one, this one, and this one: 

"We've got accustomed to rely on imports and have made no good cheeses of our own for 100 years or so. So it would be naive to think that good cheese will suddenly emerge out of nowhere. It never happens," Sergei Ivanov, Russia's former defense minister and Putin's current chief of staff, said on October 19.

Of course, food shortages and lines formed by people patiently waiting for meat, vodka, or other goods were commonplace during Soviet times, and these notorious queues have long since disappeared in contemporary Russia. But the food ban by nearly 40 countries over Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis has left Russians missing many of their favorite foods and even led to people smuggling items into the country, a practice reminiscent of a bygone era when Western foods and goods were largely inaccessible and prized.

The Gulag's Alright! So Are Lenin, Stalin, And Dzerzhinsky

During Boris Yeltin's presidency, there was serious talk at various times about having the ghoulish, wax-like figure of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin removed from his Red Square Mausoleum and mercifully buried. That notion, however, seems to have been forgotten in recent years. Lenin statues are being protected and even reerected -- perhaps in response to the disappearance of the Soviet founder's busts across non-separatist-held Ukraine.

Far more noticeable, however, has been the homage paid to Stalin -- and not only in the pro-Russian, rebel-held Donbas region in Ukraine. Stalin has reappeared in many places, including last month in the Mari-El Republic, while many of the dictator's murderous deeds are also being sanitized in Russian media.

No whitewashing of the communist era would be complete without trying to rehabilitate Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police force known as the Cheka, the forerunner of the KGB. Not only might his infamous statue return to the front of Moscow's Lubyanka building -- the former headquarters of the KGB -- but a statue reappeared in the central Tyumen region in 2012. 

The vast network of brutal labor camps known as the gulag is not being left out either, as the complete overhaul of this gulag museum in the Ural mountain city of Perm shows. To be sure, the gulag system was largely shuttered in the early 1960s, though some individual labor camps existed into the 1980s.

Hatred Of The United States -- The Feeling Is Becoming Mutual

Whipped up by fierce anti-U.S. stories and a "blame-Washington-for-all-of-the-world's-ills" message on Russian media, dislike of Americans has reached levels unseen since Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe on the table at the United Nations. Racist representations of and jokes about U.S. President Barack Obama are commonplace on the Russian-language Internet, and polls in recent years have repeatedly shown an escalating antipathy for the United States. This mural at a bar in the Tyumen region called Oblacko encapsulates the hostility felt by many Russians toward both the U.S. president and the United States.

Meanwhile, a U.S. poll released on October 20 by The Wall Street Journal/NBC showed that 74 percent of Americans polled believe that Russia is either an "immediate" or a "long-term" military threat. Those numbers have skyrocketed compared to surveys taken just two years ago and point to a U.S.-Russian distrust and political rivalry not seen since the Cold War.

One satirical Twitter personality, known as Darth Putin, pointed out on October 21: 

With contributions by Robert Coalson, Jeremy Bransten, Anna Shamanska, Kathleen Moore, and Coilin O'Connor

Back To The Future II -- The Future Is Now!

Most notably among the increasingly sophisticated prototypes being developed are the hoverboard skateboard (pictured), flying cars, and dog-walking drone robots.

Ron Synovitz

Today is being celebrated by Hollywood film fans in the United States as Back To The Future Day.

That's because in the second part of the Back To The Future film trilogy, released in 1989, a time-traveling teenaged character named Marty jumps from the 1980s to October 21, 2015.

Some of the most iconic devices imagined in the film by director Robert Zemeckis that had not been invented in the 1980s are now in the design or prototype stage.

Most notably among the increasingly sophisticated prototypes being developed are the hoverboard skateboard, flying cars, and dog-walking drone robots.

Remarkably, many of what were futuristic devices when Back To The Future II was released now actually exist in 2015. Here are some of them:

flat-screen TVs

facial-recognition software

video conference-calling (via Skype, Google Chat, and Video Chat for Facebook) 

thumbprint security-access identification

biometric scanning

mobile credit-card readers

hands-free computer gaming

wearable computer-display-screen glasses (Google Glass and others)

voice-activated computer commands

drone-mounted TV news cameras

thin-line, advanced digital cameras

multiple split-screen TV viewing

online bank transfers

personal online data that include individual preferences (via Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace) 

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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