December 10, 2010


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PARIS — For many Europeans, Washington’s fierce reaction to the flood of secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks displays imperial arrogance and hypocrisy, indicating a post-9/11 obsession with secrecy that contradicts American principles.
While the Obama administration has done nothing in the courts to block the publication of any of the leaked documents, or even, as of yet, tried to indict the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, for any crime, American officials and politicians have been widely condemned in the European news media for calling the leaks everything from “terrorism” (Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York) to “an attack against the international community” (Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton). Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates called the arrest of Mr. Assange on separate rape charges “good news.” Sarah Palin called for him to be hunted as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands,” and Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate, said that whoever leaked the cables should be executed.
For Seumas Milne of The Guardian in London, which like The New York Times has published the latest WikiLeaks trove, the official American reaction “is tipping over toward derangement.” Most of the leaks are of low-level diplomatic cables, he noted, while concluding: “Not much truck with freedom of information, then, in the land of the free.”
John Naughton, writing in the same British paper, deplored the attack on the openness of the Internet and the pressure on companies like Amazon and eBay to evict the WikiLeaks site. “The response has been vicious, coordinated and potentially comprehensive,” he said, and presents a “delicious irony” that “it is now the so-called liberal democracies that are clamoring to shut WikiLeaks down.”
A year ago, he noted, Mrs. Clinton made a major speech about Internet freedom, interpreted as a rebuke to China’s cyberattack on Google. “Even in authoritarian countries,” she said, “information networks are helping people to discover new facts and making governments more accountable.” To Mr. Naughton now, “that Clinton speech reads like a satirical masterpiece.”
The Russians seemed to take a special delight in tweaking Washington over its reaction to the leaks, suggesting that the Americans were being hypocritical. “If it is a full-fledged democracy, then why have they put Mr. Assange away in jail? You call that democracy?” Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin said during a news briefing with the French prime minister, François Fillon. Mr. Assange is in jail in Britain while Sweden seeks his extradition to face rape charges.
Mr. Putin then referred to a Russian proverb that roughly translates as “the pot calling the kettle black.”
“You know, out in the countryside, we have a saying, ‘Someone else’s cow may moo, but yours should keep quiet,’ ” Mr. Putin said. “So I would like to shoot that puck right back at our American colleagues.”
German newspapers were similarly harsh. Even The Financial Times Deutschland (independent of the English-language Financial Times), said that “the already damaged reputation of the United States will only be further tattered with Assange’s new martyr status.” It added that “the openly embraced hope of the U.S. government that along with Assange, WikiLeaks will disappear from the scene, is questionable.”
Mr. Assange is being hounded, the paper said, “even though no one can explain what crimes Assange allegedly committed with the publication of the secret documents, or why publication by WikiLeaks was an offense, and in The New York Times, it was not.”
The left-wing Berliner Zeitung wrote that Washington’s reputation had been damaged by the leaks. But the reputation of United States leaders “is being damaged much more right now as they attempt — with all their means — to muzzle WikiLeaks” and Mr. Assange. They are the first, the paper claimed, to have “used the power of the Internet against the United States. That is why they are being mercilessly pursued. That is why the government is betraying one of the principles of democracy.”
The Berliner Zeitung continued: “The U.S. is betraying one of its founding myths: freedom of information. And they are doing so now, because for the first time since the end of the cold war, they are threatened with losing worldwide control of information.”
Nicole Bacharan, a scholar of the United States at the Institut d’Études Politiques, said that in France, “There is a fracture between those who consider that American diplomacy is efficient and understands the world and has a positive influence and those who are distrustful of the objectives of that diplomacy.” What struck her most, she said, was that “pro-Americans have been harsher than the anti-Americans here.”
But Renaud Girard, a respected reporter for the center-right Le Figaro, said that he was impressed by the generally high quality of the American diplomatic corps. “What is most fascinating is that we see no cynicism in U.S. diplomacy,” he said. “They really believe in human rights in Africa and China and Russia and Asia. They really believe in democracy and human rights. People accuse the Americans of double standards all the time. But it’s not true here. If anything, the diplomats are almost naïve, and I don’t think these leaks will jeopardize the United States. Most will see the diplomats as honest, sincere and not so cynical.”
Even Laurent Joffrin, the editor of the leftist daily Libération, defended the right to diplomatic secrecy and said one must reflect on a “demand for transparency at any price.” States must have secrets, he said, so long as they have oversight from elected representatives. “It is a paradox to see WikiLeaks concentrate its attacks essentially on democracies,” Mr. Joffrin said. “And it is rather comforting to see that the secret exchanges of the great diplomatic powers are very little different in content from what they say in public.”
The strongest attack on WikiLeaks came from Figaro’s editor, Étienne Mougeotte, who called the publication of cables like the one listing sites considered strategic by Washington “a precious gift” to terrorists. The leaks, he said, serve “those who decided to harm American power, to destabilize the world’s large industrial nations, to put in place a maximum of disorder in international relations.”
Mr. Assange, he wrote, “is not the kind, righter of wrongs of the Web that some have wished to present to us — he is at best a dangerous, irresponsible man, or at worst a perverse delinquent.”
Russian officials seemed to be having the most fun with the Americans’ embarrassment, with some suggesting that Mr. Assange get the Nobel Peace Prize. Dmitri O. Rogozin, Russia’s cheeky and quotable ambassador to NATO, suggested that Mr. Assange’s arrest demonstrated that there was “no media freedom” in the West. His “fate,” Mr. Rogozin opined, amounted to “political persecution” and a disregard for human rights.
Maïa de la Baume and Scott Sayare contributed reporting from Paris, and Clifford J. Levy from Moscow.
Correction: December 9, 2010
An earlier version of this article incorrectly described comments by Mike Huckabee in which the former Arkansas governor called for an execution in punishing those responsible for the WikiLeaks disclosures. Mr. Huckabee was referring to Bradley Manning, the person suspected of originally disclosing the cables, not Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, who disseminated them.


[As in China, India — or Indian developers, to be precise — has fallen in love with glass-and-steel structures. Malls sprout out of nowhere; skyscraping apartment complexes boast of their swimming pools and helipads; the billionaire Mukesh Ambani has stunned the world with a 27-story, ultramodern palace in downtown Mumbai.]
MUMBAI — Arthur Bunder Road is the kind of place where, within three blocks, you can score an $18 Angus beef burger, an escapade with prostitutes, a $10,000 painting, a cheap room, a glass of sugar-cane juice or a Fritzberg Club Night T-shirt (slogan: “truly urban, truly you.”)
It is a street near the southern tip of the former Bombay, in the Colaba quarter. But it is also, now and in its earlier incarnations, a street in the world. Its tentacles stretch out, and the world reaches in. As the world turns, so does it, mirroring changing tastes and ways.
Situated just steps from the sea, it gave the East India Co. warehouse space in the 19th century. There the British stashed commodities likecoal and cotton bound for the metropole. The buildings they made were vast, with doors wide enough for horse carriages and ceilings many times the height of an average man.
Then the British left, and the Indians took over. Before long, though, Arthur Bunder Road secured a new role in the world. It became, with a peak during the Arab oil boom of the 1970s, Mumbai’s Little Arabia. Arabs seeking to escape biting summer heat came during the monsoon, parking themselves in hotels catering specially to them. The street signs acquired Arabic; shops selling traditional Arab perfumes multiplied. And dance bars and brothels thrived, because many tourists were escaping not just heat but also stringent laws and vigilant wives back home.
And now it would seem that Arthur Bunder Road is at another of its turning points.
Over the last few years, a street that had come to be seen in many quarters as seedy and depraved has acquired some unusual new neighbors. One by one, they came: a trendy restaurant; a Mediterranean cafe; a number of contemporary art galleries with names like Volt and the Guild; an espresso bar affiliated with Lavazza; a trendy women’s shoe store; a modish home-décor store called Bungalow 8; the street’s first spa; an interior decorator; a fashion boutique.
Gentrification is universal. But this is gentrification of a strange kind, for it is as much a resistance of India’s breakneck modernization as it is a part of it.
As in China, India — or Indian developers, to be precise — has fallen in love with glass-and-steel structures. Malls sprout out of nowhere; skyscraping apartment complexes boast of their swimming pools and helipads; the billionaire Mukesh Ambani has stunned the world with a 27-story, ultramodern palace in downtown Mumbai.
But the new arrivals on Arthur Bunder Road bespeak a countervailing trend visible across the city and elsewhere, too: a growing interest in inhabiting spaces with a history, in reclaiming historic buildings and bungalows before they are razed forever.
“It’s gentrification, but a sensitive gentrification,” said Maithili Ahluwalia, the proprietor of the Bungalow 8 store. “It’s not about replacing. It’s about remixing, editing and bringing our personal histories into these spaces — something that retains the past, but also takes it forward.”
“We go to London and Paris and gaze and salivate and say, ‘I wish we could have this,”’ she added. “But we do have it. And now we’re knocking it down.”
Bungalow 8’s wares illustrate this fine balance between forward movement and preservation. There are black glass Champagne goblets and other such nontraditional things; and there are rusting old cupboards that were utilities in the socialist era and now are cool for a nostalgic young crowd; and there are vests cut in the style of India’s Marwari clan but conceived by a French designer, Mathieu Gugumus Leguillon.
Ms. Ahluwalia is on Arthur Bunder because of a like-minded husband-and-wife pair, Mort Chatterjee and Tara Lal, who are considered the pioneers of the street’s artsy reinvention. He is half British and half Indian and grew up in London; she is a migrant to Mumbai from New Delhi. Together they own a modern art gallery named after themselves on the street.
After two years of fruitless space-hunting, it was Mr. Chatterjee’s father who found the loftlike space through a newspaper advertisement and a follow-up call to a broker. The couple were rattled at first by the neighborhood’s reputation, and perhaps the history of the space on offer: it had supposedly been a pool hall most recently and a brothel before that.
But the space was capacious and bright, with huge windows overlooking the bustle below and brick archways waited to be exposed. Mr. Chatterjee and Ms. Lal went for it. Then they lured in others — fellow gallery owners, an architect, Ms. Ahluwalia. They figured that, in this case, more competition would be good for them.
Now, Mr. Chatterjee says, the trend has gathered so well that their rents have multiplied and there is talk of a Planet Hollywood in the works further down the road.
Just across from where that Planet Hollywood might land, Ajmal has been selling perfumes since 1951. The salesmen there have watched as the street’s character and economics have changed. They used to focus on perfume. Then, a decade or so ago, they added clothes to make up for flagging interest in perfumes alone. In the mid-2000s, they added leather bags and such to diversify even further.
A strong shock of perfume fills one’s nostrils in the store, and before long your head feels like it may be expanding. One senses the beginning of an unpleasant high.
Khalid Hassan Meer, a 42-year-old salesman, has seen the new arrivals and knows that trends are pressing against Ajmal. “There are too many competitors nowadays,” he said.
“In one way, it’s good, because people’s tastes are changing,” he said in his halting English. “In one way, we lose customers as well, because they purchase from other shops.”
He thought, then added: “Change is always good. That’s how life is.”
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