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In-N-Out Burger

Romney was pushed out by Jeb Bush

Mitt Romney is out for 2016

By Jonathan Easley

2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney will not run for president in 2016. 

In a call with supporters early on Friday, the former Massachusetts governor said it’s time to “give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.” 

“I’ve been asked, and will certainly be asked again if there are any circumstances whatsoever that might develop that could change my mind,” Romney said. “That seems unlikely. Accordingly, I’m not organizing a PAC or taking donations and I’m not hiring a campaign team.”

In an apparent swipe at former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — who along with Romney is one of the most recognized names among GOP contenders potentially seeking the party’s nomination — Romney said he was confident that someone in the huge field of GOP contenders, likely “one who is just getting started,” would emerge to defeat the Democratic nominee.

“I believe that one of our next generation of Republican leaders, one who may not be as well known as I am today, one who has not yet taken their message across the country, one who is just getting started, may well emerge as being better able to defeat the Democrat nominee,” Romney said.

The Romney team sent an email out to supporters late on Thursday night informing them of the conference call, and kicking off speculation that Romney was set to either announce a presidential exploratory committee or formally announce his candidacy. The Hugh Hewitt radio show first reported that Romney would not run. 

Romney surprised many Republicans, and even some of his former staffers, by reaching out to donors and political operatives earlier this month about a third consecutive presidential run. 

The presence of a GOP heavyweight with the financial resources and political network to challenge Jeb Bush shook up the 2016 Republican field.

But Romney’s candidacy was received coolly by many Republicans who believed he’d had his day. As a result, on Friday he ended his brief flirtation with a third consecutive run before it even began it earnest. 

"I feel that it is critical that America elect a conservative leader to become our next president. You know that I have wanted to be that president," Romney said. "But I do not want to make it more difficult for someone else to emerge who may have a better chance of becoming that president. You can’t imagine how hard it is for Ann and me to step aside, especially knowing of your support and the support of so many people across the country. But we believe it is for the best of the party and the nation."

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Publisher's Note: Romney was told no-go by the "money" ....... clearing the way for Jeb Bush

 
Metadata Can Expose Identity Even Without a Name

Metadata Can Expose Identity Even Without a Name

Shopping habits can expose a person’s identity even when he or she is a nameless customer in a database of anonymous credit-card records, according to a study that shows the power of so-called metadata to circumvent privacy protections. Robert Lee Hotz joins MoneyBeat.

 
What "Je Suis Charlie" Has Become

What Je Suis Charlie Has Become

"A newspaper can't insult a segment of the population and be the symbol of France," one Muslim leader says.

Scott Sayare

In March of 2012, three off-duty French soldiers were assassinated in southern France, the first in Toulouse, the others, four days later, as they withdrew money from an ATM outside their base in Montauban. All were Arabs; a black soldier was paralyzed in the second attack. A weekend passed, and on the following Monday, a man armed with two automatic handguns parked his motor scooter outside a Jewish primary school and began to fire. He killed a young rabbi and the man's two sons, aged 3 and 6. In the courtyard of the school, he held an eight-year-old girl by her hair while he changed his Uzi pistol, which had jammed, for a Colt .45. Her name was Myriam Monsonégo, and he shot her in the head.

These killings, carried out by a young Franco-Algerian who claimed to be an al-Qaeda operative, outraged and terrorized France, as they were meant to. And yet the scale of the response they provoked was quite distinct from the national lamentation and horror that have followed the killings in Paris in January—the civic "arousing" applauded and urged on by the press and political class. No millions marched, and no one at the time thought to declare, for instance, "Je Suis Myriam."

The context was different, of course. These seven dead were the victims of the first such attack by a young, alienated Muslim Frenchman, not the third in as many years; the killings were far from Paris, the seat of French political and cultural power; they surprised the country, rather than confirming the fears of local violence, committed by French citizens on French soil, that have since taken root. And the country's sense of vulnerability—the worry of a once-great, still-proud nation as it finds its new place in a changed world—was perhaps less acute.

Pierre Nora, the esteemed historian of French "national sentiment," has suggested an additional explanation for the emotion around these latest killings, one linked to the identity of some of the 17 victims. "This attack was targeted" he said of the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, speaking to the newspaper Libération. In prior killings in France, as with the medieval butchery of the Islamic State, "terrorism seemed blind," Nora said. "Here," by contrast, "there has been a sort of individual rallying, as if suddenly the collective was awakened in the individual. One has been able to identify: 'Je Suis Charlie.'"

Of course, the killings in Toulouse and Montauban, as well as the killings this month in the kosher supermarket in Paris, were targeted as well. But, as Nora implies, the populace in its majority did not "identify" with minority soldiers or practicing Jews. It has identified, instead, with the staff of Charlie Hebdo, mostly white men and women devoted to an unstinting indictment of religion, made martyrs more specifically for their mockery of Islam and their strident promotion of laïcité, France's rigid and illiberal official secularism. President François Hollande has called their murder an attack on the "very identity" of France and has pledged an even firmer application of laïcité. It was, Nora's analysis suggests, to vindicate these particular men and women, and these particular ideas—to defend this identity—that nearly 4 million French were in the street on January 11, declaring, "Je Suis Charlie."

..............................

Officials and well-meaning citizens intone, "We Are All Charlie." These words may be understood as an aspiration, or perhaps a moral injunction, but they are not true. France in its entirety is not Charlie, just as France in its entirety was not represented at the march on January 11. Missing were the Arabs, the blacks, the young people from the poor banlieues, and the Muslims, many of whom see in Charlie not themselves but the majority's self-righteous bully, and who see in laïcité not a principle of equal treatment but a device of discrimination and hypocrisy. From the perspective of many Muslims, who constitute less than 10 percent of the population, to declare oneself "Charlie" is to affirm a national identity of exclusion.

"They're making Charlie Hebdo into the symbol of France and of freedom of speech," M'hammed Henniche, the secretary general of the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis, the poor district that borders Paris to the north, told me. "A newspaper can't insult a segment of the population and be the symbol of France."

Three Muslim children of the Republic—Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, and Amedy Coulibaly—have committed terrible crimes against their countrymen in the name of their faith, but there seems to be little interest, at least among the political and media elite, in attempting to understand the sources of their fanatical hate or the grievances of their coreligionists. The current moment in France is one not of mournful reflection but of intransigence—of the drawing of lines, of questions of allegiance.

..................................

From the perspective of many Muslims, to declare oneself "Charlie" is to affirm a national identity of exclusion.

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As gay rights gain acceptance, conservatives say they face discrimination

As gay rights gain acceptance, conservatives say they face discrimination

By Harry Bruinius

Several recent events point to how some religious conservatives are now feeling embattled for their opposition to gay marriage. They say their views need to be protected.The astonishing speed with which same-sex marriage has swept across the United States – now legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia – has begun to flip the tables on many religious conservatives. More and more, as they seek to maintain the values of their religious commitments, opponents of same-sex marriage are claiming that they are facing discrimination, if not outright persecution.

In a number of recent incidents, public business owners, especially wedding photographers, bakers, and florists, lost their cases after refusing to offer their services for same-sex weddings.

The cases point to a growing unease among some religious groups as public polls and policy show a clear shift toward acceptance of homosexuality. Increasingly finding themselves in the position of the minority fighting against new cultural norms, some opponents have begun to lash out.

This week, in separate events, Catholic, Evangelical, and Mormon leaders – each with theological views that see legal gay marriage as a threat to the foundations of society – highlighted the need to protect religious freedoms to oppose same-sex marriage. They warned of a developing hostile political climate in which their views were being pushed out of the public sphere.

“It is increasingly difficult to affirm that marriage is the union of a man and a woman without being ruled outside the boundaries of reasonable public conversation”

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Russell Wilson Treats 'Every Day As If It Was His Game Day'

When it comes to practice habits, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson knows the importance of escaping one's comfort zone. Here are his trainer's observations.

Ilan Mochari

Wilson's Seahawks were on the verge of defeat two Sundays ago. Wilson's terrible performance was one reason why: He had thrown four interceptions. The Seahawks trailed the visiting Green Bay Packers 19-7 with roughly four minutes remaining. It looked to all the world like the Seahawks would not return to the Super Bowl.

But owing largely to Wilson's physical stamina and mental toughness, the Seahawks mounted a furious comeback. Behind Wilson's passing and running, they rallied to win the game, 28-22, advancing to their second straight Super Bowl.

Watching Wilson's late-game heroics with no small degree of pride was the team at EXOS, the company formerly known as Athletes' Performance. The Phoenix-based business, now in its 15th year, had helped prepare several Seahawks for their previous Super Bowl success.

Well known for readying players for the NFL Draft Combine, EXOS also conducts programs for current pros like Wilson. This past offseason, Wilson trained with several other NFL vets, including stars such as Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate and Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward. Recently Inc spoke to the group's trainer, Jonathan Brooks. According to Brooks, here are three traits that have helped make Wilson a poised, resilient performer under duress:

1. He practices the art of getting out of his comfort zone.

 "I was amazed by how quickly he adapts to the different environments that he's put into," says Brooks.

Though Wilson's powers of acclimation impressed Brooks, the trainer points out that adapting to new environments is a skill Wilson works on actively.

For example, anyone who has watched Wilson play knows he is quite comfortable using his speed to create operational space and improve throwing angles. Therefore, heading into last offseason, Wilson wanted to train for in-game moments where he could not use his foot speed to create angles and openings. In other words, he aimed to improve in situations where his mobility was limited or unavailable as a bailout mechanism. 

So with Brooks and the EXOS team, Wilson conducted vision drills emphasizing hand-eye coordination and quick decision-making. The idea was for Wilson to use his mind, rather than his legs, to make the correct decision under pressure.

For instance, Brooks would run a drill in which he had multiple balls of multiple colors thrown toward Wilson. While the balls were in the air, Brooks would shout out a particular color. It was the balls of this shouted-out color that Wilson had to catch. At varying intervals, Brooks shouted out different colors, forcing Wilson to hear-see-move at a moment's notice.

"The goal is to work on that vision that you need to have on the field," explains Brooks. "It's about his continuing to open his vision and identify patterns and schemes, and progressing with his anticipation and reaction skills."

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Why the Patriots will edge the Seahawks

Tom Brady and Russell Wilson

Why the Patriots will edge the Seahawks

For the second consecutive season we have a title game featuring the top seeds from either conference. It is a curious quirk of history that such match-ups have tended not to produce close games. The average margin of victory in Super Bowls contested by two No1 seeds stands at 21.5 points. Only once in 10 such encounters has the game been decided by one touchdown or less.

Should we brace ourselves, then, for another blowout in Glendale? Perhaps, but if so it is hard to imagine which team would be on the receiving end. The Patriots have suffered one humiliating rout already this season, beaten 41-14 by the Chiefs at the end of September, but since then they have lost just twice – by five points to the Packers at Lambeau Field and then while resting a great number of starters against the Bills in week 17.

................................

Seattle’s defenders will have an advantage denied to Baltimore and Indianapolis, Pete Carroll relaying the news on Thursday that the NFL had introduced a new hand gesture for its officials to use in pointing out the players with eligible numbers who had been designated as ineligible to catch a pass on any given play. But it is one thing to identify a threat and another to neutralise it. And Belichick’s great talent is varying his game plan to exploit the weaknesses of each opponent.

This will be a fascinating coaching duel, but the good news for Carroll and Seahawks defensive co-ordinator Dan Quinn is that, on this side of the ball, their personnel is superior. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are fine pass rushing ends who should have success against a mediocre Patriots offensive line. A secondary packing in Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner and Jeremy Lane ought to be more than a match for receivers Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola.

Their greatest challenge will be containing Rob Gronkowski, the one truly elite weapon available to Brady. Lane caused a stir last week by asserting that the tight end was overrated, saying that he could be thrown off his game by defenders who put their hands on him early and denied him a clean release. That is the Seahawks’ specialty, so if nothing else he and his team-mates should have plenty of opportunities to put the theory into action.

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Sarah Palin’s Untimely Public Demise

Thus Spake Sarah-thustra? Sarah Palin’s Untimely Public Demise

Thus Spake Sarah-thustra? Sarah Palin’s Untimely Public Demise

What happened to Sarah Palin should not be allowed to happen to other conservative women leader

By Stella Morabito

What on earth has happened to Sarah Palin over the years? I felt tremendous sadness watching Palin’s speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit. It was not just her staccato delivery or the jarring pitch of her voice. And it wasn’t even her over-the-top and gratuitous mention of things like daughter Bristol’s nude pictures that got to me most. (Although that did made me cringe.) What really bothers me is that it didn’t have to come to this.

Within Palin are truly humane messages that would resonate with any person of good will. She implores us to live responsibly, appreciate hard work, love our families, and love our neighbors as ourselves. She honors those who serve us and protect our freedom. And as the mother of a son with Down Syndrome, she’s a living testament to defending vulnerable human life.

...............................

Media Pack Attacks Take their Toll

There can be little doubt that the smug and relentless Katie Couric treatment by the entire media was an intentional psychological attack on Palin. The vendetta was personal and clearly intent on stripping her of any shred of human dignity. It seemed to trigger something in her that drew out a caricature. There was enormous fallout from those attacks, not just for Palin herself, but for all conservative women.

It stands to reason that as our society spirals ever downward into group-think and ignorance, the medium will become ever more the message. And there will be ever-more well-regulated tarring-and-feathering of the sort Palin endured, in order to block conservative messaging.

Since the Left doesn’t really have a message that resonates with non-elites who are able to connect the dots, its operators have resorted to manipulating social psychology. Their policies require marketing and hype—with a good dose of punishment for dissent—to promote an innately unpopular agenda of central planning and control.

Of course, first they had to soften the ground by cultivating ignorance. Think back to the 1960s campus campaign slogan: “Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go!” Getting rid of Western Civilization not only wiped out the study of Western history and civics, but also the Socratic method and the rules of civil discourse, which after all are a large part of what Western Civ is all about.

Then, once the slates of students’ minds were blank enough, the Left could nudge and condition the academy and the masses more effectively. Cass Sunstein’s prescription to “Nudge” us all into government-regulated lives is a good example of how this is working.

 
Obama veers left

President Barack Obama is pictured. | Getty

Obama veers left

His budget rollout has already hit some turbulence.

By Ben White

As he prepares to deliver his budget on Monday, President Barack Obama is lurching to the left.

The president has already proposed — and had to drop — a plan to tax college savings accounts. He’s writing for The Huffington Post. He declared war on “mindless austerity” while pledging fresh tax hikes on banks and the rich to pay for free community college and other goodies. Remember those budget caps put in place in 2011? Obama wants to blast right through them.

t’s a progressive’s dream version of Obama, untethered from earlier centrist leanings and flirtations with “grand bargains” with Republicans on entitlement reform. But the approach also carries significant risks, analysts and some Democrats say.

Obama could wind up alienating moderate swing voters who still tend to worry about debt and deficits, generally oppose higher taxes and fear the economy the president is now celebrating is not really all that great. And the president could wind up bequeathing to nominee-in-waiting Hillary Clinton a Democratic Party that is oriented well to the left of her traditional comfort zone, making an eventual general election campaign more challenging.

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Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’

Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.

By MICHAEL KRUSE

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.

The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”

“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami's Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”

For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.

“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”

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The Republican Congress Meets Reality

The Republican Congress Meets Reality

All those campaign promises about making Congress work are turning out to be difficult for the GOP to keep.

By Molly Ball

Republicans promised to do a couple of things right away if given control of Congress. One was to pass a bill to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Another was to open up the Senate processes that they charged the Democrats had bottlenecked during their time in the majority.

This week, the GOP fulfilled both promises, passing the Keystone bill by a 62-36 vote after a lengthy debate. (The measure still must go back through the House before going to meet its doom on the desk of President Obama, who has promised a veto.) Even some Democrats lauded the orderly process and free-for-all amendments: "What I've seen on the floor the last several weeks is the Senate I remember, the Senate I was elected to," Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said. But it wasn't without snags, and if there's anything to be learned from the first month of Republican control, it may be that changing the ways of Washington will be harder than the GOP made it sound.

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Suge Knight charged with murder after fatally running over friend

Suge Knight charged with murder after fatally running over friend

Suge Knight charged with murder after fatally running over friend

Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight was arrested early Friday on a murder charge in a fatal hit-and-run.

Knight was arrested at about 3 a.m. and was being held on $2 million bail, said Sgt. Diane Hecht of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s information office. She said he is being held at the West Hollywood sheriff’s station.

Knight had turned himself into authorities early Friday. His attorney said the rap mogul accidentally ran over and killed a friend and injured another man as he fled attackers.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said the incident was being investigated as a homicide and that Knight was a person of interest.

Earlier Friday, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, in a brief statement, said Knight was at the West Hollywood station with his attorney and was being interviewed by homicide detectives.

Video provided by ONSCENE.TV showed Knight getting out of a private car at the sheriff’s station and then leisurely walking into the building with companions and others who appeared to be law officers.

Officials say that a red pickup truck struck the men in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. A 55-year-old man died at a hospital and a 51-year-old man was injured but Corina did not immediately know his condition.

“We are confident that once the investigation is completed, he will be totally exonerated,” attorney James Blatt said earlier by telephone.

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Conservative Scold Ken Starr Got a Billionaire Pedophile Off

Conservative Scold Ken Starr Got a Billionaire Pedophile Off

M.L. Nestel

Many believe Jeffrey Epstein could have been jailed for life for violating scores of underage girls, but Ken Starr and the rest of his legal team got him a deal.

It was supposed to be a probe into the first family’s finances. But when independent counsel Judge Ken Starr mounted an investigation into the Clintons’ real-estate deals, the “Whitewater” probe took a peep-show turn. Starr and his team began to obsess over every lurid detail of Bill Clinton’s philandering, issuing a 473-page report that was a catalog of misuse of funds but mostly torrid sexcapades in the White House and the president accused of committing perjury to cover it up.

The Starr Report came out in 1998. And all of this would be history, if it weren’t for the fact that Starr, the legendary moral ninny now serving as the chancellor at Baylor University, was handpicked nearly a decade later to negotiate a sweetheart plea deal with state and federal prosecutors for billionaire pederast and Clinton crony Jeffrey Epstein.

On Wednesday, some of Epstein’s lawyers were back in court, arguing that the negotiations over that deal must remain secret.

“I had given [Epstein] a list of lawyers I worked with in the past that had been exceptionally able and Jeffrey picked from the list,” Alan Dershowitz, the world-famous criminal attorney and Harvard professor, told The Daily Beast. He also worked on Epstein’s behalf. “Starr had experience in investigating sex investigations,” Dershowitz said. “He had experience as the solicitor general and as a judge. He had all the bases covered.”

The acquisition proved to be a panacea. In 2006, Jeffrey Epstein was hauled in by Palm Beach police for violating scores of underage girls for years and was facing federal charges for trafficking them across state lines. He was formally sentenced to 18 months prison, but only served 13 of them and was allowed to travel between his various mansions frequently. He was also forced to register as a sex offender.

Many believe Epstein dodged certain doom—he could have remained behind bars for the rest of his life given the number of alleged victims (some say it’s as many as hundreds, while his attorneys suggest it’s barely double-digits). But ask the client and he believes the plea agreement was lousy.

“Jeffrey didn’t think it was a good deal,” Dershowitz said. And that may have been because Epstein’s all-star legal team—which included Starr, Dershowitz, Miami lawyer Roy Black, New York power esquires Jay Lefkowitz and Gerald Lefcourt, and Martin Weinberg in Boston—apparently couldn’t seal an even sweeter deal.

“It was with the [Florida] state attorney,” Dershowitz said. “It was only after the federal government came in that this deal was struck. But we originally had a better deal.”

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Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu backfires on them both

Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu backfires on them both

The political ramifications are clear: House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a colossal mistake by conspiring behind President Obama’s back, and the move has ricocheted on both of them.

The big, scary issue underlying the contretemps — how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program — is a more complicated story. I believe strongly that Obama’s approach, which requires the patience to give negotiations a chance, is the right one. To the extent that a case can be made for a more bellicose approach, Boehner and Netanyahu have undermined it.

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Greece’s leftist government sparks fears of a Russian beachhead in Europe

Greece’s leftist government sparks fears of a Russian beachhead in Europe

Just days after shaking European economic policy to its core with a sweeping win in Greek elections, the radical leftist party Syriza is challenging a fundamental tenet of the continent’s foreign policy by seeking a softer stance on Russia.

Both before and after coming to power this week, party leaders have made no secret of their affinity for the Kremlin. They visited Moscow to show solidarity after Western condemnation of the Russian annexation of Crimea last spring. New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made the Russian ambassador his first foreign visitor within hours of taking office Monday.

Now Syriza is complicating Western efforts to take a tough line against Moscow amid an escalating Russian-backed insurgency in southeastern Ukraine.

The new dynamic was on display Thursday, with European foreign ministers gathered for an emergency meeting in Brussels to consider fresh sanctions against Moscow just days after shelling killed 30 civilians in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. But amid Greece’s doubts, the ministers could agree only to extend existing sanctions while deferring any decision on new ones after hours of emotional debate.

“The discussion was open, frank and heated,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said in an interview.

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Born in a Park, Shake Shack Goes Public

A Shake Shack in London. The company has grown from a food stand to 63 outlets, including in Dubai, Istanbul and Las Vegas.

A Shake Shack in London. The company has grown from a food stand to 63 outlets, including in Dubai, Istanbul and Las Vegas.

Credit Simon Dawson/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

Born in a Park, Shake Shack Goes Public

By MICHAEL J. DE LA MERCED and KIM SEVERSON

What began as a hot dog cart in Manhattan 14 years ago has become a burger empire that will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of about $745 million.

Nearly 14 years ago, on something of a lark, the restaurateur Danny Meyer opened a Chicago-style hot dog cart in Manhattan’s Madison Square Park, hoping to draw crowds to the park and give summer jobs to the staff at one of his nearby high-end restaurants.

That stand has morphed into Shake Shack, a burger-and-crinkle-fries empire with outposts in London, Dubai, Istanbul and Las Vegas. On Friday, it will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation of about $745 million, and will increase Mr. Meyer’s net worth by about $155 million.

Conceived as a homage to the friendly Midwestern fast-food joints of Mr. Meyer’s childhood, Shake Shack has become one of the most prominent purveyors of fast-casual food. That sector, dominated by the likes of Chipotle, has fundamentally reshaped the fast-food industry with its emphasis on using fresh ingredients. In short, Americans seem willing to pay more for fast food made better, so long as they are still served quickly.

The success of Mr. Meyer’s chain stands in stark contrast to McDonald’s, the global behemoth suffering from its worst slump in more than a decade. The golden-arched restaurant chain announced a change in leadership this week facing sagging sales and a flat stock price, as it struggles to adjust its well-worn menu for modern tastes.

Mr. Meyer, 56, and his team have had no such trouble. Shake Shack has resonated with consumers who grew up on fast food but are both wary and weary of it. Burgers have been enjoying a makeover that began in the late 1990s, as younger eaters have flocked to a new generation of burger chains like Shake Shack, Five Guys and Smashburger.

 A Shake Shack cheeseburger.

Mr. Meyer’s chain is part of a new crop of fast-casual restaurants that promote the authenticity of ingredients. Many have since gone public, stirring up investors’ appetites: Shares in Zoës Kitchen have doubled from the chain’s public debut, while those in El Pollo Loco are up 76 percent. The shares of another chain, Habit Restaurants, have risen more than 80 percent since their November debut.

Yet the fast-casual dining sector has become crowded, with a host of new entrants in an already competitive restaurant business. Shake Shack has tripled its store count in just two years, with 63 branches, and now Mr. Meyer and his team must prove they can manage their chain’s explosive growth and weather the public’s fickle tastes.

Shake Shack is rooted in Mr. Meyer’s own culinary experiences. Its origins lie in St. Louis, where he grew up on straightforward food served with Midwestern friendliness at restaurants like the German restaurant Schneithorst’s and Steak ’n Shake, itself now a 500-restaurant chain.

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Obama mocks Mitt Romney's poverty pitch

Obama mocks Mitt Romney's poverty pitch

Obama mocks Mitt Romney's poverty pitch

By Brian Hughes

President Obama poked fun at former rival Mitt Romney and leading Republicans on Thursday, saying the GOP’s rhetoric on the economy was “starting to sound pretty Democratic.”

At the House Democratic Caucus retreat in Philadelphia, Obama noted that a "former Republican presidential candidate" was “suddenly, deeply concerned about poverty.”

“That's great! Let's go do something about it!” Obama added in a not-so-veiled jab at Romney, who is now testing the presidential waters and vowing to focus more on the issue of poverty this time around.

The Obama campaign repeatedly painted the former Massachusetts governor as an out-of-touch corporate raider in the 2012 race, successfully riding that message to an easy electoral victory.

Obama, who is set to unveil his budget Monday, attempted to claim credit for recent economic growth and said Republicans should support his plan to raise taxes on wealthier Americans and corporations.

“That’s pretty rare where you have two visions, a vigorous debate, and then you test who’s right,” Obama told the roomful of Democrats of the last six years. “The record shows that we were right.”

However, voters did not agree with that verdict in November, when Democrats lost control of the Senate — an embarrassing defeat for which many progressives blamed Obama.

"Obviously, we were all disappointed with the outcome of the last election," Obama said Thursday night, attributing the loss to Democrats not better articulating their values.

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GOP weighs next move on Iran

GOP weighs next move on Iran

By Martin Matishak

Senate Republicans are debating their next move on Iran now that a sanctions bill opposed by President Obama has passed out of committee.

Some in the GOP conference are pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to bring the sanctions bill up for a vote immediately, arguing Democrats should be forced to go on record as supporting Obama’s nuclear diplomacy.

“I think it has been heartbreaking to see how few Democrats, even to this day, are willing to stand up to the Obama administration when it comes to the threat of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is pushing a sanctions vote, said earlier this week.

But other Republicans are urging a more cautious approach, with some suggesting they should prioritize legislation that would give Congress veto power over any deal.

“My priority … is congressional approval, but that’s an ongoing discussion within the conference,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee.

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U.S. ups the ante against Russia

U.S. ups ante against Russia

U.S. ups the ante against Russia

By Tara Copp

In a show of force against further Russian incursion in Europe, President Obama's budget request will include an extra $800 million in funding to bolster its European presence and the Pentagon will begin moving hundreds of pieces of heavy artillery there.

It’s been almost a year since Russian forces entered Crimea, annexed it, and then began the subterfuge of sympathizing with rebels it claimed it was providing no military support to.

That created a complex scenario for the rest of Europe: Ukraine is not a NATO member country, but the acts of aggression were taken as a larger threat against Europe.

The aggression is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to “fracture the alliance,” U.S. Army Europe Commander Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told reporters Thursday

“The ambiguity of what going on, who’s doing it, puts a lot of pressure on the alliance on what they should do,” Hodges said. To reassure European allies, Obama requested last year, and Congress approved in December, almost $1 billion in overseas contingency operations funding. The funding increased U.S. training exercises and unit rotations throughout Eastern Europe. For fiscal 2016, the Pentagon is requesting an additional $800 million in those funds to keep up the show of force and help the Ukrainians even the fight.

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Sexual Exploitation of Minors or Adolescents

Sexual Exploitation of Minors or Adolescents

By Ana Nogales

One in three young people who live on the streets are subjected to sex slavery upon only their first day of being homeless alone.

 
Saul From ‘Breaking Bad’ Is Back

Bob Odenkirk

Saul From ‘Breaking Bad’ Is Back on AMC

Bob Odenkirk returns as the lawyer from AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’ in a new series, ‘Better Call Saul’

By John Jurgensen

When Bob Odenkirk was first hired on “Breaking Bad,” the actor was only supposed to appear in a few episodes of season 2. But his character, a motor-mouthed strip-mall lawyer named Saul Goodman, endured for three more seasons. In one of the show’s final episodes, Saul parts ways with the megalomaniac lead character, Walter White, with the words, “It’s over.”

The show’s creators weren’t done with Saul, however. They enlisted Mr. Odenkirk to star in a spinoff series, “Better Call Saul,” premiering Feb. 8 on AMC . Not only must Mr. Odenkirk shoulder the continuing legacy of “Breaking Bad,” one of the most celebrated dramas in TV history, he also has to carry the new show with a serious amount of screen time.

“Saul has more dialogue in one episode than Walt probably had in any four episodes of ‘Breaking Bad,’” says Peter Gould, who created “Better Call Saul” with executive producer Vince Gilligan.

The story is set in Albuquerque, N.M., years before the protagonists of “Breaking Bad” come on the scene, and before the lawyer has changed his name to Saul Goodman or starred in any cheesy TV ads. The character’s real name is Jimmy McGill. His office (and living quarters) is in the rear of a nail salon. He’s suffocating as a public defender while attempting to resist his own con-man urges. As he deals with a reclusive brother ( Michael McKean ), spars with a high-caliber law firm and entangles himself with scary criminals, Jimmy’s situation grows increasingly desperate and dangerous—just as Mr. Odenkirk requested of the writers.

................................

More surprising than the 52-year-old actor’s graduation from guest star to leading man is his path to dramatic roles--he did virtually none before “Breaking Bad.” But in the world of sketch comedy, Mr. Odenkirk has godfather status.

He grew up in Naperville, Ill., writing Monty Python-inspired skits for classmates and college radio, and then started his career on Chicago’s live circuit, including at Second City, where he created one of his late friend Chris Farley ’s most famous characters, a motivational speaker who lives in a van by the river. He went on to write for “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien, ” and popped up in such comic roles as a repugnant talent agent on “The Larry Sanders Show.” But he earned the enduring goodwill of comedy geeks and fellow comedians with a TV series that he wrote, produced and starred in with David Cross called “Mr. Show with Bob and David.” Starting in 1995, it ran for four seasons on HBO and broke ground with bits that swerved unpredictably through pop culture and the human psyche, such as a sketch about a lie detector that reveals the bizarre secret lives of shoe salesmen.

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McCain to anti-Kissinger rabble: ‘Get out of here you low-life scum’

McCain to anti-Kissinger rabble: ‘Get out of here you low-life scum’

The niceties of Washington went out the window Thursday when protesters disrupted a hearing with Henry Kissinger — and Sen. John McCain went ballistic.

“Get out of here you low-life scum,” proclaimed the Arizona Republican.

The demonstrators were at the Senate Armed Services Committee to go after Kissinger.

“Arrest Henry Kissinger for war crimes!” they screamed, some carrying signs spelling out their hatred of the former secretary of state.

McCain quickly called over Capitol police officers to “instill order.”

“You’re going to have to shut up or I’m going to have you arrested,” McCain told the demonstrators after they disrupted his press conference.

When McCain uttered the “scum” line, people in the room clapped.

Another man in the audience tried to shoo the group out of the room, saying, “We don’t want to hear from you anymore.”

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In Response to Student Misconduct, Dartmouth to Ban Hard Liquor

In Response to Student Misconduct, Dartmouth to Ban Hard Liquor

After a spate of student misbehavior that has tarnished the reputation of Dartmouth College, its president on Thursday announced a ban on hard liquor on campus, and threatened to do away with fraternities or other groups that fail “to elevate and not denigrate the Dartmouth experience.”

In a speech on the Dartmouth campus in Hanover, N.H., to students, staff and alumni, Philip J. Hanlon, the president, said the college would create new spaces for social activity as alternatives to Greek houses, give faculty members more of a role in residential life and provide students more extensive training on preventing sexual assault. But much of his address was devoted to alcohol and the Greek system.

“In the majority of alcohol-induced medical transports, it is hard alcohol — rather than just beer or wine — that lands students on a hospital gurney,” Dr. Hanlon said, and so “hard alcohol will not be served at events open to the public, whether the event is sponsored by the college or by student organizations.”

Officials said the ban will apply to any liquor that is 15 percent alcohol — barely more than most wine — or more, and will take effect when the spring term begins March 30. Dr. Hanlon said the college will also increase penalties for people who provide alcohol to minors and to any student in possession of hard liquor, but did not offer any details.

Dr. Hanlon arrived at Dartmouth in mid-2013, after the campus was shaken by numerous reports of alcohol-fueled misconduct, including sexual assault, fraternity hazing and racial slurs. The year before, a Dartmouth student drew national attention with an article in the student newspaper about his fraternity’s practices, including requiring pledges to “swim in a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products.”

After looking into the problems, Dartmouth administrators cited the prevalence of “pre-gaming,” getting intoxicated before a party, often with shots of high-alcohol liquor. They conceded that cracking down on such drinking in private gatherings will be much harder than policing parties.

Dartmouth will draft codes of conduct, not only for individual students, but also for fraternities and other groups.

“Organizations that choose not to fulfill these higher standards will not be a part of our community,” Dr. Hanlon said. And while he is not inclined to ban fraternities and sororities, he said, “if the Greek system as a whole does not engage in meaningful, lasting reform, we will revisit its continuation on our campus.”

The Greek houses tend to dominate Dartmouth social life; more than half of the students join a fraternity or sorority, and other spaces for social events are severely limited — a condition the college says it will remedy.

In an interview, Dr. Hanlon said, “It will ultimately require construction of additional facilities.”

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Super Bowl Week - 3 days to go

 
Hillary Clinton may delay campaign

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers a speech during a conference at the National Auditorium in Mexico city, on September 5, 2014 in the framework of Telmex foundation's

Hillary Clinton may delay campaign

Top Democrats give a new date for the campaign’s likely start.

By Mike Allen

Hillary Clinton, expecting no major challenge for the Democratic nomination, is strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her presidential campaign until July, three months later than originally planned, top Democrats tell POLITICO.

The delay from the original April target would give her more time to develop her message, policy and organization, without the chaos and spotlight of a public campaign.

A Democrat familiar with Clinton’s thinking said: “She doesn’t feel under any pressure, and they see no primary challenge on the horizon. If you have the luxury of time, you take it.”

Advisers said the biggest reason for the delay is simple: She feels no rush.

“She doesn’t want to feel pressured by the press to do something before she’s ready,” one adviser said. “She’s better off as a noncandidate. Why not wait?”

A huge advantage to waiting would be that Clinton postpones the time when she goes before the public as a politician rather than as a former secretary of state. Polling by both Democrats and Republicans shows that one of her biggest vulnerabilities is looking political.

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Q&A With Photographer Steven Meisel

A <i>paparazzi</i>-inspired shoot from <i>Vogue Italia,</i> 2005.

Q&A With Photographer Steven Meisel

The prolific fashion lensman discusses his iconic images of supermodels Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Amber Valetta, timed to the opening of his exhibition ‘Role Play’ at Phillips in New York City

....and like many great auteurs, Meisel has made stars of the women who’ve performed for his lens. The supermodels who in the late ’80s began to dislodge Hollywood celebrities from their pop-cultural dominance were directed by Meisel: Linda, Christy, Naomi and all those who came after, among them the woman who has played perhaps the most perfect Trilby to his Svengali, Amber Valletta. “Working with him is like working with a director,” Valletta says. “He’s so clear about what he wants. Each time he describes a character, you know exactly what he’s looking for. There’s no guessing. And I think that kind of communication is a part of his genius.”

TB: Do you ever feel you missed out on anything, and you’re re-creating an earlier time out of that urge?

SM: No, I don’t think so. You mean, were there better periods? I think that things certainly had more taste. But then we get into the world we’re living in now, and I’m a realist. So, no.

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Mikhail Gorbachev: the West was 'dragging' Russia into confrontation.

Gorbachev: Ukraine could explode into 'hot war' between Russia and the West

Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, said the West was 'dragging' Russia into confrontation.

By Robert Marquand

Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader and widely credited for helping end the cold war, today blamed the West and the US in particular for “dragging” Russia into what he says could be a larger, “hot war” over Ukraine.

"Unfortunately I cannot say for sure that a cold war won't lead to a 'hot' one,” Mr. Gorbachev was quoted.  “I fear they could take the risk.”

In comments to Interfax news service, Mr. Gorbachev weighed in on the Ukraine crisis, which has taken more than 5,000 lives since the spring, saying an American thirst for “dominance” is behind the crisis.

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Megyn Kelly to Huckabee: Women Curse, Have Premarital Sex, and Boss Around Men

Megyn Kelly to Huckabee: Women Curse, Have Premarital Sex, and Boss Around Men

By

Megyn Kelly was not particularly happy with her former colleague Mike Huckabee for reportedly calling female Fox News reporters "trashy" for cursing, so she decided to let him know what ladies are really up to in 2015.

“Well, I do have some news for you before I let you go," Kelly told Huckabee on The Kelly File Wednesday night. "We're not only swearing. We’re drinking, we’re smoking, we’re having premarital sex with birth control before we go to work, and sometimes boss around a bunch of men."

"Oh, I just don't want to hear that," Huckabee lamented.

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Browns say Manziel lived up to all the red flags

Johnny Manziel

Inside Manziel's rocky rookie season

Browns sources reveal that celebrity quarterback was a turbulent presence in '14

By Jeremy Fowler and Pat McManamon

he name on the card that night in May seemed to draw as much anxiety as it did excitement.

Johnny Manziel, Quarterback, Texas A&M.

The former Heisman Trophy winner had been passed over 21 times, prompting a text from Manziel to then-Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains that he wanted to "wreck this league" in Cleveland. The words were actually more R-rated, but the implication was clear.

Twitter erupted at the selection. A Cleveland radio host cheered and screamed openly on air. Manziel gave his "money" sign as he walked onstage to greet Roger Goodell.

By season's end, cheering had turned to frustration and anger as Manziel struggled mightily in almost six quarters as a starter, then was fined for being AWOL the final Saturday of the season. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan resigned with two years left on his contract. Loggains was fired. The Browns openly discussed Manziel's viability as the franchise's quarterback at a wide-ranging postseason staff meeting about the roster. And at least a couple of Manziel's teammates were joking his text should have read "wreck this team."

Now the Browns point to 2015 with a talented but misguided quarterback who must repair the wreckage done in his own locker room.

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BigTimeFootball.com

 
Kam Chancellor - Beware the Visor

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos

Beware the Visor

No one hits harder — or leaves a bigger impression — than the Seahawks’ thunderous strong safety, Kam Chancellor. Just ask a few of the men left in his wake.

by Robert Mays

Demaryius Thomas saw him coming. They usually do. No one goes very long without looking for Kam Chancellor. And as Thomas sprinted across the field, there he was — the bad man in the dark visor who lurks in the depths of football’s best defense. Thomas had one thought as Peyton Manning let go and Chancellor let loose: Hold on to the ball.

He did, somehow, even as Chancellor lowered a shoulder and sent him sprawling.

Not that it mattered. It was the Broncos’ first completion, down just 5-0 with nearly 55 minutes left, but for Seattle, Super Bowl XLVIII was already over.

“To me,” says Chris Clemons, “that hit solidified the game for us. They didn’t run routes the same.”

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BigTimeFootball.com

 
What ‘American Sniper’ Tells You About Its Critics

What ‘American Sniper’ Tells You About Its Critics

What ‘American Sniper’ Tells You About Its Critics

A veteran reviews ‘American Sniper.’

By Matthew Braun

I am not at all surprised that Michael Moore and Seth Rogen don’t like American Sniper. For them, the idea of military sacrifice is absurd. We get an idea of how badly they understand the motivation of the modern American fighting man and woman when they can’t tell the difference between someone like me, with 15 years of experience in law enforcement, military intelligence, and counterterrorism, and a Nazi. No. Seriously.

..............................

The Left continues to think of the American military and foreign illegal fighters as basically being two sides of the same coin. Worse, they can’t seem to tell the difference between American service members and al Qaeda. Unlike the war films of generations past, “American Sniper” actually has to explain onscreen that al Qaeda insurgents were (and still are) bad. In explaining, and in depicting, Kyle’s firm and unflinching lack of remorse or understanding for the plight of the torturing, ambushing, child-murdering insurgent, we see a fun word on Twitter: Jingoistic.

The American Left has never been able to find the line between patriotism and jingoism. They were so proud of the campaign to humiliate and vilify U.S. soldiers and Marines during the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were proud it scared American politicians out of significant military action until the Gulf War. They wanted Iraq and Afghanistan to be just like Vietnam. They are unwilling to consider anything that might portray the American military in a positive light. The Left did their long march through all of America’s beloved institutions, and Hollywood was no exception. Where John Ford and Frank Capra once did propaganda films during World War II, Hollywood today is irredeemably corrupted by a worldview that blames America for all the ills of the world.

‘American Sniper’ Is About a Man the Left Cannot Understand

Why is this? Because the military is a cartoon to the elite Left. They believe veterans are people who had few options and were forced by circumstance to hide in a uniform. They assume that because we stopped worshiping at the altar of individualism for a while that we have no ability for original thought. Since we gave up complete slavery to whims and fads, we must have no ambition or personality. We are chattel to them, and they feel no loyalty to us since we volunteered.

They are further separated from us because they don’t know anyone like us, and we don’t know anyone like them. When we interact, we speak past each other because we don’t share a common language or understanding of the world. They believe everything is a construct of our own personal experience, and that ideas like “morality” and “nation” and “loyalty” are just abstract silly vestiges of a bygone era… and all bygone eras are probably racist and misogynist. They’re pretty sure they’ve outsmarted thousands of years of Western thinking.

“American Sniper” is about a plain man, raised to be physically and mentally tough. He tested himself with rigorous training, to find the edges of what he could accomplish. He fought and killed. He saw the enemy as evil, and he killed them with little compunction. I’ll warn you now: He’s white… that is, his ancestors came from the northern half of Europe. He’s a man, both in his gender identity and his biology, which are never at odds. He’s heterosexual, as evidenced by his super gender-normative marriage to a woman, and their subsequent children created by what we are led to believe is normal sexual congress. I’m sorry if this is very different from what you see on the Internet, but it’s actually fairly common.

I suspect that critics of “American Sniper,” of Chris Kyle, and of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, have a much in common with each other, but little in common with most straight white men.

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French prisons, long hotbeds of radical Islam, get new scrutiny

French prisons, long hotbeds of radical Islam, get new scrutiny after Paris attacks

The man was sent to France’s largest prison for armed robbery. He emerged a toughened radical who would go on to take part in the bloodiest terrorist attacks on French soil in decades.

France’s prisons have a reputation as factories for radical Islamists, taking in ordinary criminals and turning them out as far more dangerous people. Here at the Fleury-Merogis prison — where Amedy Coulibaly did time alongside another of the attackers in the deadly assaults this month in and around Paris — authorities are struggling to quell a problem that they say was long threatening to explode.

Former inmates, imams and guards all describe a chaotic scene inside these concrete walls, 15 miles from the elegant boulevards surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Militancy lurks in the shadows, and the best-behaved men are sometimes the most dangerous. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls promised last week to flood his nation’s prisons with 60 more Muslim chaplains, doubling their budget to try to combat radicalization. Authorities this week raided 80 prison cells of suspected radicals, saying they found cellphones, USB drives and other contraband. Hundreds of inmates in French prisons are a potential threat, authorities say.

But critics say that these efforts are minuscule compared with the scope of the problem, with prisons so poorly controlled that a leaked French government report once described Osama bin Laden posters hanging on inmates’ walls. The challenge may be compounded by the dozens of people sent to jail after the recent attacks, some for more than a year, under fast-track proceedings in which they were charged with verbal support for terrorism.

“Prison destroys men,” said Mohamed Boina M’Koubou, an imam who works in the Fleury-Merogis prison. “There are people who are easy targets to spot and make into killers.”

The poorly staffed prisons were an ideal place to spread violent ideology — in many ways, even better than outside the prison gates. Most prisoners spend up to nine hours a day mingling relatively unsupervised, guards say, first at work and then in the prison yard. French intelligence services pride themselves for their penetration of militant networks in their country — but prisons fall under a different umbrella, experts say, in which many radicals go unchecked, and even unnoticed, by guards.

Other nations, including the United States and Britain, have also struggled with radicalization in prisons. But the issue has proved especially volatile in France, where experts estimate that Muslims make up more than half of the country’s 68,000 inmates even though they are only 5 to 10 percent of the general population. But there are only about 170 imams currently ministering inside prisons.

“The number of people who work on intelligence within prisons is peanuts,” said Farhad Khosrokhavar, a sociologist at Paris’s School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences who has studied prison radicalization. And the most dangerous inmates are the ones who know how to blend in, he said.

“Most of the people who get radicalized in prison know very well they should not let their beards grow, should not go to collective Friday prayer when it exists,” Khosrokhavar said. The ones who do, potentially drawing guards’ attention, are usually the ones who are harmless, he said.

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