Snowed under

Several countries with competing ambitions are involved in the CIA whistleblower’s escapade

Since arriving in Moscow yesterday, Edward Snowden has set yet another diplomatic ball rolling. The cobweb of international espionage winks and nudges seems to be growing daily. The US would like to see Mr Snowden back on home turf as soon as possible to answer charges of spying and communicating classified information, but he has, so far, managed to stay one step ahead of Washington.

He first fled to Hong Kong after leaking details of the questionable intelligence-gathering methods employed by the US secret services, for whom he used to work as an IT engineer. That brought China into the mix, and although Hong Kong has a separate legal set-up to the rest of the country, it did give Beijing the indirect chance to rub the US up the wrong way.

Mr Snowden has flown from China to Russia and he has submitted an asylum request to Ecuador. He was rumoured to have been leaving Moscow today on a flight to Cuba; a journey that was possibly only going via Havana on route to its final destination in Venezuela. Lots of countries are involved and all of them are defending Mr Snowden’s right to speak out. But why? It does appear that one of the major reasons for these nations defending the name of Edward Snowden is to employ this ruse a means to irritate the US. Certainly, the Latin American states involved are all members of the late Hugo Chavez’s leftist ALBA bloc, and love nothing more than having a go at what they see as an overbearing, bullying neighbour to the north.

There has been a lot of talk on this issue so far regarding human rights, freedom of expression and the right (or lack thereof) of governments to snoop on citizens. But it is interesting to look at the list in the paragraph above of the countries now involved in this escapade. Mr Snowden claims to be fighting for freedom of expression but China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador have not been shy to suppress parts of the media that report on issues that they see as a bit too close to the ruling inner circles. The US may be wrong to think that all countries should deign to whatever arrest warrant it has issued for the latest Wikileaks-related secret data releaser. But, on the other hand, Mr Snowden may be wrong to think that a fair trial is a matter of regular, democratic order in places where restrictions on expression – the very issue at the heart of this case – have been all too common in recent years.

A modern Moscow mule

A Russian proposal to try to create artificial life receives Hollywood backing

The actor Steven Seagal once said “I have made a lot of mistakes. But I’ve worked hard. I have no fear of death. More important, I don’t fear life.” Lately he has become an enthusiastic supporter of a futuristic aim to secure exceptional advancements in human immortality. If it succeeds, he may not even have to face death, let alone fear it. Seagal is so taken with the plans that he recently wrote an open letter to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

‘Russia 2045’ is a movement established by a combination of fantasists and scientists with huge ambitions. They want to address what they see as an inexorable degradation of the concept of human life that we have at the moment. Amongst their proposals is the challenge of creating a ‘hologram body’.

Many scriptwriters and novelists have hypothesised over the possible ingredients of the ‘elixir of life’ and the notion of ‘living forever’ has simply been a romantic but unattainable projection of human achivement. Until now. Those believers gathering in Moscow are determined to produce an ‘immortal brain’, arguing that it is a natural course of research for progressive scientists of this day and age. They have set a deadline by which to create the make-up that a regular passer-by would need in order never to die. Some eager fans of the project are even predicting a competition similar to the ‘Space Race’ – but this time with Russia the undisputed champion.

Of course, the mission has its detractors and the scheme has come under fire from many in the Church. Alexey Osipov, a professor at the Moscow Spritual Schools announced that “[the human being is] a unity of body and soul, and separating one from the other is unthinkable from the point of view of Christianity and is vicious.” In response, the founder of the Russia 2045 movement, Dmitry Itskov, said that the ‘cyborg’ idea “[is not] running against anyone’s religious ideals or values.”

In his 2002 film, Half Past Dead, Seagal plays an undercover cop who gets shot and is declared ‘medically deceased’. If this scheme turns out to be a success, the idea that a person could ever have truly died might eventually become the stuff of legend.