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Troops Pose with Suicide Bombers; Interview with Senator Bill Nelson of Florida; Buffett To Undergo Radiation Treatments; Photos Published of U.S. Soldiers Posing with Corpses of Suicide Bombers in Afghanistan; Video Shows Therapeutic Effect of Music on Dementia Patients; John Cusack's Suspenseful New Role

Aired April 18, 2012 - 08:00   ET



SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.

Our STARTING POINT this morning is breaking news. Photos are out. It shows U.S. soldiers posing with a mangled remains of suicide bombers in Afghanistan. The military this morning had a preemptive strike trying to do damage control this morning.

We'll take you live to the Pentagon in just a moment.

Also, Ted Nugent, anti-Obama rant. Listen to what he said.


TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.


O'BRIEN: What exactly did that mean? That, though, is getting the Secret Service's attention. Nugent, of course, known for his mouth, maybe more than for his guitar-playing. But the question today is: did he go too far?

And health scare for the world's third richest person. Warren Buffett tells shareholders he's battling prostate cancer. We're going to talk about that and what his prognosis is, straight ahead.

And we'll reveal "TIME's" most influential person of the year. It is not me this year, sadly.

But it is Wednesday, April 18th. And STARTING POINT begins right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody.

This could be a huge problem -- another huge problem for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. "The L.A. Times" this morning is releasing some new pictures which appear to show soldiers posing with remains of suicide bombers. The military responding even before those pictures were made public.

Nick Paton Walsh is live for us in Afghanistan. Barbara Starr is live for us at the Pentagon this morning.

Barbara Starr, we'll start with you. You know when you start getting a preemptive notice out of the Pentagon that this is going to be a problem, that clearly these photos are very dramatic and very problematic.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely, Soledad. That is exactly what started happening a couple of hours ago. We started getting e-mails with statements from General Allen, the top NATO commander, Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, all saying that they were condemning this action being reported by "The L.A. Times" showing soldiers posing with bodies of dead insurgents back in 2010 in eastern Afghanistan.

Now, "The L.A. Times" said they got these from a soldier who wanted to draw attention to what he said was the potential breakdown of discipline in Afghanistan by U.S. troops.

We've seen these incidents before. They do happen. But this one, of course, now would come at a sensitive time and we're seeing these statements responding to something that is alleged to have happened two years ago.

We also got a statement from Leon Panetta, the defense secretary's top spokesman, who told us, quote, "Secretary Panetta strongly rejects the conduct depicted in these two-year old photographs. These images by no means represent the values of professionalism of the vast majority of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan today. An investigation that could lead to discipline measures is underway. Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system."

In fact, Soledad, the Army has begun an investigation into all of this, trying to validate the circumstances of what happened and whether discipline is warranted and whether these soldiers are even still serving in the Army -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks, Barbara Starr.

Let's get to Nick Paton Walsh, who is in Afghanistan for us this morning.

Is the preemptive move out of the Pentagon because pictures are bad or is the preemptive move because the tenor and relationship between the United States and NATO forces and Afghanistan is so tenuous and challenging at this moment? Which do you think, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you could argue after the last four months, ISAF, NATO here have become much better at crisis management and essentially wanted to break this story themselves, get their apology out first so the hope, first people would hear about it would be them condemning these particular images and what they actually show.

General John Allen has had to apologize for three other incidents so far this year, January, a video urinating -- showing U.S. marines urinating on Afghan corpses. The mistaken burning of Korans in February. And the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by U.S. staff sergeant in Panjwai, Kandahar, only last month.

So, increasing bad news here that mounts up daily for ISAF. These particular images are very gruesome, two of 18, "The L.A. Times" say, they were leaked by a soldier here showing the disembodied legs of a suicide bomber and also the hand placed on the shoulder of a U.S. soldier, that hand belonging to the hand of a dead insurgent. Both instances were supposed to have happened in early 2010. not from where I'm standing here in Paktika, or the neighboring Sabol province remains to be seen exactly how the Afghan population are going to react when these images begin to get more wide circulation, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Nick Paton Walsh updating us as well. Thank you, Nick. We appreciate it. We'll check back in as we get access to these photos.

I want to introduce everyone to our panel. I nearly fell off my stool here.


O'BRIEN: I know. Thank you for caring, Will.

Our panel this morning is joining us.

Will Cain is a columnist for and he's back with us.

Amy Kramer?


O'BRIEN: I always mispronounced. It was spelled Kramer (ph), but it's Kremer -- is a chairman of the Tea Party Express,

And Naftali Bendavid is a political reporter for "The Wall Street Journal," joining me on the panel this morning.

We're talking this morning with Senator Bill Nelson, who will join us in just a moment. He had a meeting with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman because, of course, gas prices because in part it's an election issue that people feel very strongly about is really percolating to the top of the conversation.

How much of this is political, Will Cain? And how much is a genuine move to try to deal with this issue?

CAIN: One hundred percent political.

O'BRIEN: Zero percent --

CAIN: And I would say, in the interest of bipartisanship, that both sides are making hay out of an issue that has very little truth to it you spoke about this in our last hour.

O'BRIEN: We talked to the Senator Inhofe, yes.

CAIN: We talked with Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma. And I happen agree with the point of view you put forward that politician have very little control over short-term gas prices. So, when President Obama says, I'm going to crackdown on speculators, he's making a political issue out of one that's not political. And when Republicans say, hey, check out gas prices, look at your side of the highway, let's hold it against President Obama, it's also an unfair criticism.

KREMER: I agree with Will. I think that when you are talking about gas prices specifically, we need to look at the bigger picture of being energy independent and tapping into our natural resources of natural gas, coal, shell, here in this country. That's the bigger issue.

I mean, the Department of Energy was created to get us off foreign oil back in the '70s and look where we are now. So, we need to look at being more energy independent and tapping into our natural resources.

O'BRIEN: I think, often, people don't have that bigger conversation, right, because the gas prices are something that people physically react to at the gas pumps.

Let's bring in -- excuse me. I'm losing my voice, too.

I want to bring in the Democratic Senator Bill Nelson from Florida, who's joining us now.

Nice to see you, sir. Forgive me. I'm struggling being able to speak this morning.

SEN. BILL NELSON (D), FLORIDA: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: You heard what Will Cain said, who said, listen, this is 100 percent a political issue at the end of the day and on both sides of the aisle, people are trying to make hay out of this political issue. You had a meeting with Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler.

What did he have to say?

NELSON: Well, let me comment on Will's comment. Of course, everything in an election year can be labeled political. But three years ago, it wasn't political when oil went from 60 bucks a barrel all of the way up to $147.

And there's widespread agreement that speculators running the price of bidding on futures contracts for oil, most of whom do not use the oil like an airline and therefore they have reason to buy it to hedge, that when you have that excessive bidding and you're flipping like that flipping and running up the prices of condos in the real estate bubble, that is part of the price. It's been reported by Wall Street firm -- in "the Wall Street Journal," 63 cents of every gallon that we pump in our gas tank is due to speculation.

So you can say because it's being brought up, it's political because we're in an election year. But I've been bringing this up as well as a number of our colleagues for the last several years.

NAFTALI BENDAVID, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Senator, this is Naftali Bendavid of "Wall Street Journal."

So, you know, obviously, you are allowed to invest in oil. So, how do you make a distinction between investment that's legitimate and legal, and speculation or manipulation of the market that's improper?

NELSON: You don't allow any one speculator to have a huge share of the market. It's called position limits. So you put a regulation that any one speculator cannot hold a particular percentage of the total market.

Now, what the administration proposed yesterday was for Congress to enact margin limits and that is the amount that you pay down. Approximately, it's 6 percent now that you pay on an oil contract that's going to provide oil in the future. Between the two, you would have a lessening effect on the ones that want to get into these futures contracts and just keep running the price up.

O'BRIEN: Let me just lay out for people the gas prices this morning on average, $3.90 per gallon. And what the president has sent to Congress yesterday in this plan to rein in market speculators as the senator is talking about would be higher penalties, more enforcement, and more data collection.

At the end of the day, sir, does this also sort of grow government? That sounds like a plan that brings a lot of -- people around it would have to then enforce it and watch penalties, et cetera, et cetera. Isn't that a downside of what the president is proposing? And isn't it sort of the opposite of what he claim all along that really, ultimately, it's what's happening in Iran that is really correlated to these higher prices.

NELSON: Well, you've asked a couple of questions there. Certainly, is Iran threatening to mine the Strait of Hormuz, is that a fear actor that causes prices to rise? I think it does. The world market, Iran now being boycotted, less oil out on the world market, that's true also.

At the same time, you've got less domestic consumption and more domestic production, so that affects the world oil price. So, why are we seeing suddenly the run-up? There are other factors at play and this was the case several years ago as well.

Now, with regard to your question about regulation, remember this regulation of energy's future contracts was eliminated in the dead of night in December of 2000 and you saw the Enron scandal that came from that and you've seen markets that have excessive speculation.

I'm saying let's do some common sense. Let's do some bipartisanship on which we can agree. I think the administration is moving there.

And you ask about my meeting yesterday with the chairman. I don't think he's moving fast enough. I think he has the emergency powers under the Wall Street reform bill and I think they need to move faster. They are moving in that direction but not fast enough for me.

O'BRIEN: Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida joining us this morning, thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

NELSON: Thanks. Thanks, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You bet.

Got to get to Christine. She's got some other headlines for us this morning.

Hey. Good morning.


The controversy over Ted Nugent's remarks about President Obama heating up this morning. Late yesterday, the rocker said he was standing by his explosive comments made over the weekend. This is what he originally told a crowd while stomping for Mitt Romney at the NRA convention in St. Louis this past Saturday.


TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.


O'BRIEN: And then last night, conservative talk show host Dana Loesch's show Nugent followed up with this.


NUGENT: I spoke at the NRA and I will stand by my speech. It was 100 percent positive. It's about "we the people" taking back our American dream from the corrupt monsters in the federal government under this administration and the communist czars he's appointed.


ROMANS: Nugent's rant got the Secret Service's attention, according to several news outlets, including the "National Journal," it is investigating.

All right. A man gets naked at the Portland International Airport last night. He says he was protesting the TSA screening process, accusing agents of harassing him. Fifty-year-old John Brennan was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, and indecent exposure.

Minding your business now.

U.S. stock futures down this morning. Futures down about 27 points on Dow after a really big rally yesterday. Everyone is waiting for news from Europe. Concerns mounting that Spain may also need a bailout now. Investors here are also waiting this morning on more corporate earnings news, which have been unexpectedly good so far.

Researchers established that threshold by asking people to rate the level of satisfaction in key areas of their lives, including family, friends, finances, and work life.

And I'll tell you, my own research, Soledad, shows the most important thing is not how much money you make, but how much debt you have. Too much debt, no matter how much money you make, makes people unhappy.

O'BRIEN: Yes. You know what, that was interesting in that poll. They polled people, as well, asking them about whether or not they had financial hardship, whatever, you know, the number that they were picking.

Sixty-four percent of Americans say that they have experienced financial hardship which, of course, leads us right back to the CNN polling that talks about the lead issue in the political year is going to be the economy, and that all circles back around. That's a high number. I think 50,000 is that tipping point. Under $50,000, you're just going to struggle.

ROMANS: Struggling. Right.

O'BRIEN: All right. Christine, thank you for that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Got to take a short break, but still ahead, a health scare for the world's third richest person. Warren Buffett tells shareholders that he's battling prostate cancer. We're going to talk about his prognosis this morning. And then, I talked to John Cusack. He's playing Edgar Allan Poe in a new movie. Listen.


JOHN CUSACK, ACTOR: He's sort of the godfather of Goth, right? He was such a literary giant.


O'BRIEN: Literary giant who is sort of a pseudo sleuth in this new film. A little bit of a challenge for that veteran actor. We'll share our conversation straight ahead.

And, is it Tim Tebow, is it Adele, is it Pippa? We will reveal "Time's" list of the 100 most influential people, including the number one slot. Here's Christine's playlist, The Clash, "Should I Stay or Should I Go." You're watching STARTING POINT.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

Billionaire, Warren Buffett, is banking on radiation treatments to try to beat his prostate cancer. The Berkshire Hathaway's CEO says it's stage 1 prostate cancer, and that means that his disease has been detected early. Buffett and his doctors electing to begin daily radiation in mid July.

Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, has more from Atlanta this morning. Good morning to you.


O'BRIEN: So, it sounds like his prognosis is pretty good because stage 1 is, obviously, most people would say that that is survivable. Why wait until July?

COHEN: You know what, it's not really clear why he's waiting until July to get treatment, but you know, doctors we talk to said that really won't affect him. His prognosis right now is excellent. Ninety-nine percent of men who have stage 1 prostate cancer are alive five years later. That's because the cancer is well-contained within the prostate, and most prostate cancers grow very, very slowly.

Now, Soledad, you mentioned that he's going to get treatment in July, and that will be about two months of radiation that's going in every day about five days a week to get radiation. People often work right through this treatment often has very little effect on their life.

Other options for prostate cancer include surgery or something called watchful waiting, which believe it or not, is doing nothing, and that's because again, those cancers grow so slowly that, sometimes, the cancer is less of a threat than the treatmen, because treatments like radiation can result in impotence and incontinence.

Now, it's difficult decision to decide what to do when you have prostate cancer because there are so many options like the ones I mentioned, plus, there's hormone treatment. If you go to, we lay all those options out there so that men and their doctors can make a good decision.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I hope that the fact that he's sort of putting this in a letter to shareholders, which obviously, is for the shareholders but actually could be for everybody else's benefit as well by bringing attention to it and showing people how survivable it is if you catch it early. Elizabeth Cohen for us this morning. Thanks, Elizabeth. Appreciate it.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, "The Bachelor," the show, hit with a lawsuit asking why there are no Black bachelors. Why is it always White people, they say, giving out roses? That's what they're asking.

Also, this guy had a good year. We invented a million words for him, including Lin-sanity. How influential is Jeremy Lin? Is it because my seven-year-old like to wear his number? We're going to reveal "Time's" most influential people straight ahead.

And if you're about to head to work, don't miss the rest of the show. Check out our live blog at our website, You're watching STARTING POINT. We're back in a moment.


O'BRIEN: That's off of Naftali's playlist. Paul Simon, "Graceland." You can see our entire playlist every morning on our website, which is POINT.

Time for our reveal this morning as "Time" magazine announces its "Time 100," the most influential people in the world from royalty to comedians to the inventor of Spanx, women's undergarments. Everybody, really.

OK. They start with kind of obvious ones. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. No big shocker there, of course. In business, we were just talking a moment ago about Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway who also has prostate cancer. He made the list. Virginia Rometty, the CEO of IBM, big scandal what that what was happening in the golf tournament, so she made the list.

Tim Tebow, my personal favorite pick, New York Jets quarterback. So happy he's coming to New York. I cannot tell you.

CAIN: New York Jets backup quarterback.

O'BRIEN: Whatever.


O'BRIEN: Jeremy Lin. -- yes. Hey, you feel free to hit him if you want to -- popular point guard for the New York Knicks. He's injured, so he's out, but we root for him anyway. In pop culture, Adele, the Grammy award winning singer. My children will be thrilled with that. Viola Davis, a Golden Globe award winning actress.

And then, these folks like Sara Blakely. She is the founder of Spanx, the women's undergarment, and now, they make Spanx for men, I believe.

Pippa Middleton, she's been in the press lately for bad things. She is the sister, of course, of the duchess of Cambridge. And Kristen Wiig, the actor and comedian from SNL who had tremendous success in the movie, "Bridesmaids" also made the list.

BENDAVID: One of the interesting things is how people really campaign for their favorites to get on this. I mean, from Justin Bieber to Ron Paul, there's all kinds of online petitions to try to get your person onto this list. And people really care about it. O'BRIEN: Well, I had no idea that you could campaign. I would have pushed much harder for other people.


CAIN: Ron Paul didn't make it? That's kind of an oversight.

O'BRIEN: And it's interesting, isn't it? And Justin Bieber, too. I want a recount.

CAIN: Get Rick Stengel in here.


KREMER: Marco Rubio is in there. No, Ron Paul is on the list.

CAIN: Oh, there we are.

O'BRIEN: No need to hear from him this morning about leaving him out. And Ron Paul is on that list.

Still ahead on STARTING POINT, we're following some breaking news. The outrage over pictures showing U.S. troops grinning next to remains of suicide bombers in Afghanistan. We're going to bring you an update from the Pentagon when we come back in just a moment. stay with us.


O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We start with breaking news this morning. The photos now out. "The L.A. Times" releasing photos which appear to show soldiers posing with the remains of suicide bombers in Afghanistan. I have to warn you, the pictures are very graphic. Parts of the photos we have censored and blurred. We want to get to Barbara Starr who is at the Pentagon for us this morning, and she has more details for us. Barbara, tell me a little bit of context around these photos.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. You know, sadly, we have seen these before from the war zone, always categorized as inappropriate behavior by the troops when it is proven to be the case.

"The L.A. Times" published these photos in an article, but even before the paper came out this morning, top officials were issuing statements condemning it in advance of publication, clearly trying to get out ahead of the next sensitive crisis in the warzone.

This is apparently an incident according to "The Times" that took place in 2010 in eastern Afghanistan. Let's put up one of those approximate pictures you were just talking about. You will see we have blurred some gruesome details. But you will also see U.S. troops in the middle, Afghan dead insurgent and what is by all accounts Afghan forces also in the same photo.

Now, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta through his spokesperson George little issuing a statement saying, quote, "Secretary Panetta strongly rejects the conduct depicted in these two-year-old photographs. These images by no means represent the values or professionalism of the vast majority of U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan today. An investigation that could lead to disciplinary measures is underway. Anyone found responsible for this inhuman conduct will be held accountable in accordance with our military justice system."

The army does have an investigation underway, but they are not even certain -- they don't believe at this point the soldiers potentially involved in this are still serving in Afghanistan of course, so they will have to be located.

O'BRIEN: Can I ask you a question for one second? I want to throw that picture back up, because it's a little bit hard for us to see and partly because we blurred some of it out. It appears to me that it shows soldiers who are holding the legs maybe off a mangled body. And describe who else is in that photo? It's hard for me to tell because we blurred out faces of the soldiers. Are you saying there are Afghan soldiers in there as well as U.S. soldiers?

STARR: Look on both sides particularly the man standing to the right in a darker jacket and perhaps a lighter blue-gray uniform. These are not U.S. military uniforms. This would be potentially the more traditional dress you might see by local Afghan security officials. So the question is if people think violence will break out because of this, it is fair to say there are Afghans in the photo as well.

Now, why did these photos come to light might be the most immediate question. They were given by a U.S. soldier who wanted to draw attention to the breakdown of discipline in some U.S. military units. That is his view of course, and that's what's being investigated. "The L.A. Times" went on to say as well that they were publishing these photographs because they wanted to fulfill their obligation to their readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in the war zone. You see the statement by "The L.A. Times" publisher there.

So everybody is sort of laying their motivations on the table for something that happened two years ago. Under investigation people will be held accountable but this is something sadly that has happened before. I think, Soledad, one of the issues at hand here is in today's viral media when these pictures appear this he go around the world very quickly.

O'BRIEN: No question about that. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Thank you for that explanation, appreciate it.

Let's get to headlines. Christine has those for us.

ROMANS: Hi there, good morning, Soledad. Hit dating shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" are being sued for racial discrimination. Two African-American men in Nashville are filing a class action suit claiming producers have denied people of color equal opportunity to be selected for those shows. So far no one associated with either show has commented on the suit, but last year executive producer Michael Fleiss told "Entertainment Weekly," quote, "We always want a cast for ethnic diversity. It's just that for whatever reason they don't come forward. I wish they would."

When gas prices rise, it doesn't take long for criticism of speculators in the world oil market to come up, and now it's from the president. The president tapping into voter anger over high gas prices with a new plan to crackdown on speculators. He wants to boost spending on technology and surveillance to provide oversight of energy markets and raise penalties against firms that manipulate the markets, and he wants to require traders to put up more money to back their positions.

The problem is the president's actions probably wouldn't move the needle much on oil prices. According to the St. Louis Fed, about 15 percent of the cost of oil is due to speculation, the rise in oil due to speculation. A lot of question whether it's good policy or good politics in an election year. The president has to look like he's doing something in an election year of course and so looking at cracking down on speculator is something that polls well.

Americans are already adjusting their consumption of oil. They are taking public transportation more. Americans took 10.4 billion rides on public transit last year. They are driving less, by the way. They are also buying more fuel efficient cars. Fuel efficiency standards are rising. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, the impact of music. Listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Immediately he lights up.


O'BRIEN: It's digital music therapy, and really energizing patients in this nursing home. This documentary clip has gone viral across the Internet. This morning we'll talk to the director of this short film and the larger film about exactly what is the healing power of music.

You're watching STARTING POINT. We have to take a short break. We'll see you on the other side.



O'BRIEN: That's the Beach Boys, "God Only Knows." That's off Dan Cohen's playlist. Dan Cohen is involved in this video on YouTube making waves. Not one you would necessarily expect, though, because it features an elderly man in a nursing home who really almost doesn't recognize his own daughter, barely mumbles any questions to any answers -- answers to any questions, until someone gives him an iPod with music on it and he listens to it. Watch.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Henry? I found your music. Do you want your music now? OK. Let's try your music, OK. Then you tell me if it's too loud or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then he is given an iPod containing his favorite music. Immediately he lights up. His face assumes expression. His eyes open wide. He starts to sing and to move his arms, and he's being animated by the music.


O'BRIEN: More than 5 million viewers have seen this video. It's part of a documentary called "Alive Inside" and it really brings to life the power of music and impact on patients with dementia.

Joining me this morning, the director and social worker in the film. It's nice to have you both with us. We really appreciate it. Talk a little bit about Henry, who is that gentleman there. We see him very unresponsive. His own daughter sort of, like, do you know who this is? He can't really quite answer. And then you see this change. Was it as simple as that? They gave him an iPod and he sort of woke up?

DAN COHEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MUSIC AND MEMORY: With Alzheimer's disease, people may not be able to recognize their own loved ones, maybe not able to speak. But if they hear music from their youth, that part of the brain is not affected so much by Alzheimer's. So they do come alive so to speak, and they can speak and sing to the music to almost perfect rhythm. It's quite amazing.

O'BRIEN: Were you surprised at that clip which is off the work you've been doing in nursing homes that you would like to bring to a wider audience went viral? Millions have seen it.

MICHAEL ROSSATO-BENNETT, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER, "ALIVE INSIDE": I'm completely surprised. I put this -- I gave this clip to Dan because we're trying to tell people about the work that Dan is doing. We're trying to say there's this enormous population that doesn't have their own music, the music that they love. And we put it on his website and 300 people saw it for six months. And then some kid wrote "This is us in 70 years." And people just watched it and saw a human being come alive. And when any of us come alive, it touches us deeply and makes us really happy.

O'BRIEN: I want to show people a little bit of video as we're talking of Henry, who is very unresponsive. He doesn't pick his head up. I thought maybe he couldn't pick his head up having spent a few years working with elderly people in nursing homes, that he physically couldn't do it. so let's roll videotape of Henry very unresponsive, kind of almost out of it.

COHEN: This is how he spends most of his time.

O'BRIEN: He's sitting in a wheelchair. Not really active. And then I want to show a little bit of sort of -- they come over and they engage him with the headphones. Let's roll that as well.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm crazy about music. You played beautiful music, beautiful sound.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you play music when -- did you like music when you were young?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. I went to big dances and things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was your favorite music when you were young?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess Cab Calloway was my number one band guy I like.


O'BRIEN: How typical is what Henry is talking about here and what you see with nursing home residents?

COHEN: So right now we are using this approach in 50 nursing homes in 15 states in U.S. and in Canada. And in nursing homes about half of the people have dementia and in all of those 15 nursing homes they are using it successfully. So they all have stories.

In fact when they talk to me they say, Dan, I have more stories to tell you of unexpected coming alive and improvements in people's behavior and their mood as a result of the movie and then they can tell me.

And it's just that kind of turning on the faucet. We're making a connection there. If you look that there was a student from Tulane University went into a local nursing home. And the administrator said we have 15 residents with dementia. I'm going to help you find their playlist and work with their families and everyone of them looked kind of like there was no cognition.

But every one of them came alive and started talking and interacting. So the benefit is not only just the music but it increases social interaction.


O'BRIEN: Even what say (inaudible) the headphone is up.


CAIN: Is this the influence of music in general or particular personal attachment to one kind of music? Do you need to know what that particular patient likes?

COHEN: The most difficult part of this is identifying the exact music that they like. Many people -- half the people in nursing homes have no visitors.

CAIN: Right.

COHEN: So sometimes we have to work harder to figure that out.

COHEN: And that's why we want to involve the community both in getting iPods donated and having the students come into the nursing homes to work with the residents and find their playlist and enjoy that time and how to maximize function. Yes.

O'BRIEN: The film is called "Alive Inside". I know it's already been sold out. But there are some screenings so people can have a chance to go see. Michael Rossato-Bennett is the director and the producer and Dan Cohen is the executive director of the nonprofit "Music and Memory" which is working to get those iPods into nursing homes.

Thanks for coming to talk to us about it.

ROSSATO-BENNETT: Send Dan your iPods, everybody.

O'BRIEN: I've got a couple I could give you. Absolutely. We appreciate you joining us. We've got to take a short break.

Actor John Cusack talks about his role as Edgar Allan Poe in his new movie called, "The Raven". It's dark, it's creepy, it's scary. We're obviously talking about Poe, not Cusack. I sat down to talk about his fascination with the man he calls the "Godfather of Goth".

You're watching STARTING POINT. We've got to take a short break.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dear God. Get the inspector.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This crime is familiar to me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To what may I attribute the honor of your call?


O'BRIEN: Actor John Cusack is known for his many character roles. Now he's taking on a new suspenseful one in a movie that's called "The Raven". Cusack plays the dark and mysterious poet Edgar Allan Poe who is trying to track down a serial killer who is using Poe's own stories to plot his murders. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The night before last, a young girl and a mother were found murdered. The daughter's body was lodged in a chimney and the mother's head was nearly severed with a straight razor. Does any of this sound familiar to you, Mr. Poe?

JOHN CUSACK, ACTOR: You're talking about my story. A work of fiction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm afraid I am not.


O'BRIEN: In the movie it's not a work of fiction. It comes to life. I had a chance to sit down with John Cusack and talk about it. Listen.


O'BRIEN: You play Edgar Allan Poe.



O'BRIEN: Who is both in real life and also in the screen life a bit of a mess, a drinker, womanizer, financial train wreck. What did you like about that character that made you read that and say I want to do that?

CUSACK: Well, I think he -- he's sort of the godfather of Goth, right? I mean he -- he was such a literary giant and I will take, I will say I don't think he was a womanizer as much as --

O'BRIEN: Passionate with women.

CUSACK: I think he -- I think he was a one-woman guy. I just think he preferred the company of women. And I don't think he liked men at all. Like he was -- he thought he was sort of at war with the world with all the other intellectuals and writers.

But he was -- yes, he was a hot mess. There's no doubt about it.

O'BRIEN: He also in this film is a sleuth which is obviously a fictionalized version or he's helping those who are really trying to track down this serial killer. It's very dark and scary I thought film. But he never was -- I mean, in history Edgar Allan Poe was never sort of helping the police solve a murder. The story line of "The Raven" is fictional.

CUSACK: Yes, the -- the story line is fictionalized. But it's -- it's basically as if Poe got involved in one of his own stories or was kind of engrossed or enrolled (ph) in one of his own stories. And one of the things Poe also wrote about, one of his themes was that sort of twilight between waking and dreaming, and fantasy and reality, and sanity and insanity; so the fact that he would get enmeshed in one of his own stories feels Poe-like.

O'BRIEN: I thought it was a different character for you when you think about all the characters that you played. "Being John Malkovich" and the list of characters "Grosse Point Blank".


O'BRIEN: You know that often you play sort of this happy, go- lucky, good guy. And this is a real turn. Is this just because you want to mix things up and that's sort of as an actor that's what you want to do?

CUSACK: Yes, and also I think whatever opportunities you get. I mean, if -- if someone said if you're an actor, if someone said you can go play Edgar Allan Poe. And you think, Edgar Allan Poe I mean, that's -- he's one of the great kind of lunatics and geniuses and you know such a complicated mixture of things. So I just sort of jumped at the chance.

O'BRIEN: When you play a character who is dark and creepy and comes sort of with a whole host of problems, is that something that sort of affects you personally as an actor. Is it like 5:00, we're out. Wrap. We move on.

CUSACK: Well I think it depends on the project. You know, if -- but with Poe I think you just sort of immerse yourself in his stories and in his sort of divide there and -- and he had such a tragic life. You know he -- he lost his -- his mother to tuberculosis and then he lost his stepmother and he lost his wife. And so I think he was really a haunted man.

And -- so I think you just have to immerse yourself in that. It was sort of hard to let go overnight so --

O'BRIEN: Really?

CUSACK: Yes, so we shoot -- it was just -- I just sort of stayed in it for the entire shoot so I felt a little bit like a vampire when I was done.

O'BRIEN: And then when you're done, you are ready?

CUSACK: And then I went home for Christmas and scared my family. What happened to you?

O'BRIEN: When you look back at your career, do you think -- I mean, you were a child actor, right? So it's -- most of the stories I have done on child actors have --

CUSACK: Guilty as charged.

O'BRIEN: -- terrible, totally -- they had bad endings. CUSACK: But I wasn't a child. I wasn't a child --

O'BRIEN: Teenage actor.

CUSACK: I was like, yes I was like, I guess yes.

O'BRIEN: Usually it doesn't end all so well.

CUSACK: 16, 17. Well, the night is young. I mean, I could -- I could be dead by tonight.

O'BRIEN: I would think at like 40-something you sort of you know figured out the direction you're going to head. What do you think has allowed you to have longevity that a lot of your -- your colleagues hasn't had. Is it the interesting roles? Is it just --

CUSACK: I think a lot of it is luck and you know probably being a -- having really good parents probably who really didn't take a lot of that seriously and didn't sort of judge me and didn't think that fame really had any value you know that -- that character is more important than that.

So they -- I don't know. I always had a mistrust for it. I was grateful for all the opportunities but I mistrusted the glitzy part of the business so maybe that has helped.


O'BRIEN: John Cusack. "End Point" is up next with our panel. Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: That sounds good, everything he's listing. That's the Zac Brown Band out of Amy's playlist, "Chicken Fried". It's time for "End Point". Who wants to begin.

Naftali, I'm going to give you the honors. Wrap up the day for me. What do you think is the takeaway?

BENDAVID: I guess what I would say is politicians are going to keep talking about gas prices over and over and over again but they're not going to come together and do anything that will make a difference until there is some kind of real crisis.

O'BRIEN: No incentive. No impetus to do that. I would agree with you on that. Amy?

KREMER: I think that, you know, we were saying off air that no one is happy with anybody in Washington right now. It is a political year and they're going to do what they have to win these elections.

But at the end of the day they can talk taxes all they want, they have to cut the spending. We're not hearing anything about that coming out of Washington. O'BRIEN: Do you think that lack of interest is going to just keep some people from going to the polls? On the Republican side and the Democratic side, if people don't feel the energy that they'll just stay home or they won't sign up their friends to go to the polls?

KREMER: It's concerning to me. But I hope that people realize what's at stake in this election and they go through their grieving and healing process and get engaged and turn out to vote.

O'BRIEN: That's a sad thing to call our election year a grieving and healing process. Oh, Lordy. Ok.

Will Cain, you get final word. I'm almost afraid.

CAIN: I was going to talk about gas prices. But Naftali took it to the serious note and I'm going to let him have that.

I'm going to point out this wonderful gentleman today we talked about in our first hour. We all give lip service to not liking the TSA and whatever they do.

O'BRIEN: Oh, naked man. Do we have the video? Show the video of the naked man.

CAIN: This man took matters into his own hands. And decided he would submit himself fully to a TSA examination and today we know this might be the appropriate thing. If you have problem with TSA, show them.

O'BRIEN: Back to my theory, nobody who gets naked you want to see naked.

All right. That's it for our show. Nice to have you guys. Certainly appreciate it.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Zoraida Sambolin begins right now. See you back here tomorrow morning. Hey, Z.