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THE INDEX — January 20, 2010

Recovery efforts remain underway in Haiti, despite a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck the island eight days after the initial disaster. On Tuesday, American military helicopters landed on the grounds of the destroyed National Palace to oversee order in Haiti, highlighting the near-total disappearance of central government and uncomfortably recalling Haiti’s long history of international intervention—first as a colony of Spain, then France, and more recently, the 1994 deployment of U.S. troops to restore ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In a meeting Saturday, religious and business leaders accepted the U.S. military presence “as long as it’s temporary.” Yet complaints have come from all corners of the globe that aid efforts are being turned away. Doctors Without Borders reported that flights bearing 85 tons of medical supplies were refused permission to land in Port-au-Prince on multiple occasions. Other agencies have had more success—UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported that the UN Food Program had distributed rations to 200,000 people and hopes to provide for 4.2 million more. Amidst great despair, a heartwarming story broke yesterday: 53 Haitian orphans, long-awaiting legal adoption by American parents, were brought to Pittsburgh on an anonymously chartered plane and united with their new families, following a loosening of U.S. visa policy. An additional 900 orphans who had been matched with U.S. parents before the earthquake are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

A tenuous calm has been reached in the city of Jos, Nigeria, after three days of clashes between Christians and Muslims that left an unknown number dead. The Nigerian army moved in and enforced a 24-hour curfew that limited all movement, preventing riots and demonstrations. However, during the clashes at least 265 people died, and it is likely that this number will reach 400—“the majority” of whom are believed to be Christians. Over the past decade, Jos has been a magnet for religious violence. Despite the containment of the riots within Jos, new conflict has reportedly spread to Pankshin, a town 60 miles from the city. Plateau State spokesman Dan Manjang dismissed this report as “rumors.”

The controversial Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders appeared before the Court of Amsterdam this Wednesday for a pretrial hearing on charges of inciting discrimination and hatred towards Islam. The charges levied against Wilders were brought by a coalition of Netherlands-based Islamic groups in the aftermath of a series of inflammatory statements issued by Wilders. In 2006, for example, Wilders complained about the “tsunami of Islamisation” that had befallen the country, writing in a prominent Dutch newspaper: “I have had enough of Islam in the Netherlands, let not one more Muslim immigrate. I have had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands: forbid that fascist book.” Two years later, Wilders released a short film called “Fitna,” which means “strife” in Arabic. The film, among other things, features acts of violent terrorism committed by Muslims, interspersed with scripture from the Koran. “Fitna,” which can be seen online, has aroused strong protests throughout the Muslim world, and incited debates within a number of Western countries about the degree to which liberal governments should protect and encourage free speech. In February 2009, Wilders attempted to show his film in Britain, but was denied entry; later, he received an invitation from Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona to travel to the United States for a showing in the Capitol building’s prestigious Lyndon B. Johnson room. Amid the controversy surrounding Wilders, the political party that he started—the Dutch Party of Freedom—is positioned to become one of the largest parties within the Dutch parliament in national elections next May. If Wilders is convicted, he faces a maximum of 15 months in prison.


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