Don't Blame Batman for the Aurora Shooting
( TIME )

The tragic shooting in a Colorado movie theater, in which 12 people
died and approximately 50 were wounded, has understandably caused
both fear and confusion. Given that this shooting happened to take
place at a showing of the new Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises,
I’m already fielding questions about whether Batman somehow caused,
in whole or in part, this shooter to commit his crimes. The simple
answer is clearly “no.”

At present we know very little about the shooter James Holmes, and
so we’re obsessively focusing on some of the more superficial
details of this case. It’s worth noting that The Dark Knight Rises
is playing in 4,404 out of 5,331 total theaters in the U.S. this
weekend (and many of those theaters are showing the movie on multiple
screens). Had the massacre occurred a couple of weekends ago, we
might have been parsing The Amazing Spider-Man or The Avengers or
even The Hunger Games for “clues” as to the shooter’s motivation.
Summer blockbusters tend to be violent, which brings us to the next
misconception, which is that violent entertainment leads to actual

At this point the argument that mass homicides can be explained, even
in part, by violent entertainment is scientifically unproven, as
I’ve noted with colleagues Mark Coulson and Jane Barnett in the
Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations. A 2002 report by the U.S.
Secret Service found little evidence that mass homicide perpetrators
consume unusual amounts of violent media. Few people doubt that
violent entertainment is more available now than at any point in
history. Yet as Stephen Pinker documents in his latest book The
Better Angels of Our Nature, we are living at the most peaceful epoch
in human history. It would probably be difficult to find very many
young men in the U.S. who haven’t seen at least one of the Batman
movies, yet despite this and all of the violent entertainment options
available, youth violence has been steadily plummeting, and is at its
lowest levels since the 1960s.

But we tend to focus on the shootings with cultural overtones, and we
read too much into those overtones. This is a common reaction of a
frightened populace looking to fix random, usually uncontrollable
events. The wishful thinking underlying this impulse is that if we
could get rid of those “cultural” influences, mass homocides would
go away. In some cases, knee-jerk speculation tends to be plain
wrong. Much of the blame for the Jared Lee Loughner shooting in
Arizona was initially placed on right-wing political speech, which
proved to be a red-herring. And violent video games were blamed in
the Virginia Tech Shooting, although official investigation revealed
that the shooter did not play violent video games.

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Why the CIA Won’t Relish Its Syria Mission
( TIME )

According to the New York Times, the CIA now has people deployed in
Turkey trying to sort out which Syrian rebels should be armed, and
which shouldn’t. That comes as no real surprise, in light of Syria
spinning into worse chaos and violence, and the Obama Administration
running out of good options. Isn’t the CIA always called in when
nothing else works?

It should also be remembered that the CIA has had a long, unhappy
history playing Syrian politics. In the 1960s, one of its operatives
was accused of trying to foment a coup, and was hanged in Damascus’s
central square. After Syria put down the Hama rebellion in February
1982, it found U.S.-made radio equipment in the rubble, and wrongly
accused the CIA of having supported the uprising. Both State Department
and the CIA came to an informal understanding that the CIA would keep
away from the Syrian opposition -- and it, in fact, did just that for
the following three decades. So right now, the CIA is playing catch-up.

Turning the CIA on Syria is a sign that the Administration has been put
in a corner not of its own making. That’s because there are no easy or
obvious solutions to the Syrian conflict. When the Arab Spring first
reached Syria in March 2011, the Washington’s hope was that Syrian
President Bashar Assad would open up Syria to some sort of democracy
and defuse dissent. Then, when the power struggle turned violent, the
Administration latched on to the hope that a Syrian general would
overthrow Bashar.

As the military confrontation escalated, the regime decided to hand out
weapons to the so-called shabihah -- irregular militas made up of
Alawites and Christians, set loose on Sunni communities supporting the
uprising. The regime never had any illusions it could control such
groups, or restrain them from waging pogroms against civilians. But the
arithmetic was compelling: There simply weren’t enough loyal units in
the army to hold all the territory being contested by the rebels.

In the dark of the night, there’s little doubt Obama Administration
officials whisper to each other that they wish Syria would go back to
the status quo ante, that somehow the conflict will die down and go
away. As anyone who knows Syria could have told us, democracy is never
the way to transition out of a totalitarian minority regime.

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Why a Texas Dad Who Killed His Daughter’s Alleged Rapist Won’t Face
( TIME )

TIME.com readers were right: the Texas dad who beat to death a man who
was allegedly raping his 5-year-old daughter doesn’t deserve to stand

On Tuesday, a grand jury refused to indict the father, whose name is
being kept under wraps to protect the identity of his little girl (her
age was being reported as 4 last week). He killed Jesus Mora Flores, a
family acquaintance, at a barbecue held at the family’s ranch earlier
this month after finding him molesting his daughter behind a barn. The
father pulled Flores, 47, off his screaming daughter, then beat him.
When he realized the extent of the man’s injuries, he phoned 911 in a
panic. “He’s going to die!” the father yelled at the dispatcher.
“He’s going to f--ing die!”

Indeed, in such a horrific and unimaginable moment, it’s easy to
believe that many parents would have reacted similarly. I couldn’t see
myself having any semblance of self-control. But I wonder about the
conclusion that the father was “authorized to use deadly force to
protect his daughter.” One blow probably would have been sufficient to
separate the alleged predator from the girl. But the dad pummeled
Flores to death. That degree of force was likely unnecessary -- but
neither investigators, the grand jury nor the general public could
muster up much sympathy for Flores. Perhaps it’s because serving as
our children’s protector is hardwired.

Most readers confirmed Finkelhor’s assessment. Among the most popular
comments: “This is an extension of the right to self-defense. The
child cannot defend herself. Most fathers would rather go to jail
rather than not act to defend their child. Charges should be dropped.”

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Are We Too Comfortable with Cannibalism?
( TIME )

In the past week, there were three separate reports of incidents of
cannibalism, prompting the CDC to officially deny -- tongue in cheek --
that there’s a virus behind it. Last week in Miami, a young man named
Rudy Eugene feasted on the face of a homeless man in broad daylight
until he was shot by cops; in Baltimore, a college student killed an
older family friend and roommate and cooked and ate his organs. And in
San Antonio, a mother apparently ate her three week old child.

The eating of human flesh is a primeval horror that makes a rare
appearance in the Greek tragedies and in the Bible, specifically in
relation to the siege of Jerusalem. There is something about this level
of savagery that we find riveting. As technology advances beyond our
ability to keep track of it, moving humanity into sophisticated realms
of communication, travel, and medical care, our imaginations are ever
more attuned to the possibility of a world reduced to such a state of
prehistoric extremis that we would all bare our fangs.

The ladies and gentleman of Victorian England refused to accept this
report. They simply could not imagine a situation in which their fellow
English could so thoroughly abandon the rules of civilized society.
Franklin’s widow disregarded the story, as did Charles Dickens, no
shrinking violet when it came to witnessing man’s bestiality. He wrote
a newspaper article insisting that no British citizen would resort to
such “horrible means” to stay alive.

While there has been much interest in the recent string of incidents,
there has also been surprisingly little skepticism. Unlike the British
ladies and gentleman of Victoria’s England, we 21st Century moderns,
blessed with health and longevity and technology that people could only
dream about a generation ago, can easily imagine total lawlessness and
the primeval horror that goes with it, in inverse proportion to our
distance from it. Not only can we imagine it, but we have turned it
into a form of entertainment, as “zombie apocalypse” trends on Google
with each new report and the CDC gets in on the joke. The cannibals
among us remind us that we are more savage than we think.

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Blessed Are the Sleek? Why God Wants You to Be Thin
( TIME )

Let’s say you believe in God (most Americans do). Let’s say you’re
deeply religious (most Americans say they are). So what does God want
for you? You can be pretty sure God wants you to be happy, to be
charitable, to be honest, to be kind. You can be pretty sure God
doesn’t care if you’re rich, beautiful, famous or thin, right? Well,
that thin part may take a little explaining.

With the U.S. tottering under an obesity epidemic that has left
two-thirds of all adults and one-third of all kids overweight or obese,
public health experts are despairing of finding new ways to get
Americans off their duffs, away from the fridge and back into at least
nominally healthy habits. Fad diets are useless; gym memberships do
nothing -- at least if they go unused; public service ads get ignored.
But, as we explore in this week’s issue of TIME, where all of those
efforts have failed, faith could succeed -- at least according to
Pastor Rick Warren.

Two years ago, Warren, the author of the uber-bestseller The Purpose
Driven Life and the leader of the Saddleback mega-church in Lake
Forest, Calif., was struck by how out of shape his 20,000-strong
congregation had gotten and, he readily admitted, he was no better,
tipping the scales at 295 lbs. -- or a full 90 lbs. too much for his
6-ft.-3-in. frame. He suspected he had a way to fix all that -- one
that might work in the wider world as well -- and the secret, he
believed, lay in Scripture, specifically in the Book of Daniel.

There’s a lot that happens in the Book of Daniel, but the critical
passage occurs when Daniel and three other Jewish boys are brought to
the court of the conquering King Nebuchadnezzar, where they are to be
fed and trained so that they may serve in the royal circle. But as the
Biblical passage recounts, the boys resist at least in part, refusing
the rich foods of the king’s table and choosing a more spartan fare

What the chief official saw, of course, was that Daniel and his friends
had grown fitter and stronger than the other servants. It wasn’t
vegetarianism or vigorous exercise that had worked that magic -- though
those were part of it. Instead, it was a belief that it was impossible
to serve God fully if you were out of shape or unwell. For Daniel,
getting fit was a triumph of faith -- and Warren was convinced his
church members could find motivation the same way.

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