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Bloggers Petition Kraft to Remove Artificial Dyes; "Veronica Mars," Kickstarted into New Life; Interview with Rob Thomas; Kakenya Ntaiya Challenges Female Genital Mutilation

Aired March 15, 2013 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up, on STARTING POINT, the mothers behind a movement to get rid of the yellow dye from Kraft macaroni and cheese. They will join us, telling us why they are taking on the food-maker.

First, we want to get to Christine Romans and today's top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: All right, thanks guys. After 18 days, on the witness stand, the defendant rests. Jodi Arias is on trial for murdering her ex-boyfriend, Travis Alexander. He was shot, stabbed, had his throat cut. Arias claimed it was self-defense. Just a little bit earlier on STARTING POINT we asked Casey Anthony's attorney, Jose Baez, what he thought of her testimony.


JOSE BAEZ, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There was one question I really didn't like as it related to the death penalty. And that's when they - one juror asked 'you mentioned you thought about committing suicide multiple times. What stopped you?' If I'm a defense lawyer sitting at that table, I'm cringing at that question. It does not look good if the rest of the jury feels that way too.


ROMANS: If she's convicted, Jodi Arias could face the death penalty.

A social media editor for the news service "Reuters" indicted by the justice department. Matthew Keys, accused of conspiring with hackers group Anonymous, to alter the homepage of the Tribune's company's "Los Angeles Times." Keys used to work as a web producer, for a Tribune Company TV station, and was fired just over two years ago this happened before he worked at "Reuters."

Pro football being asked to tackle discrimination when it comes to sexual orientation. New York's attorney general sent a letter to the NFL to restate its policy regarding discrimination against potential players. The letter comes after several college players said they were asked about their dating habits by teams during the scouting events last month. The league says all teams are required to follow federal and state employment laws. In Philadelphia, girls can play youth football. Eleven-year-old Caroline (ph) Pla (ph) is the first beneficiary of the new rule. She was told last year she couldn't play, but the Archdiocese of Phildelphia just reversed a decision that kept girls off the gridiron. Caroline's mom credits an online petition which received, get this, 110,000 signatures. You go, girl.

BERMAN: Tough enough and loving enough. Awesome right there.

We're at 33 minutes after the hour. So this is all something we've all had and could very well be on your shelves right now. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I had a million boxes myself. Two women are taking on Kraft, asking them to change the food that so many people love.

BALDWIN: In an online petition, they say, quote, "we recently discovered that several American products are using harmful additives that are not used and in some cases banned in other countries. Kraft macaroni and cheese in the U.S. contains artificial food dyes Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. These unnecessary - yet potentially harmful - dyes are not in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in other countries, including the U.K., because they were removed due to consumer outcry."

BERMAN: The petition was started by a mom and an aunt. Both are food bloggers. We're joined now by Vani Hari and Lisa Leake. Thank you so much guys for joining us. So let me just ask you right off the bat here, why did you get into this? What made you do this?

LISA LEAKE, BLOGGER, 100DAYSOFREALFOOD: Vani and I are both food bloggers. I blog at And she blogs at (ph) and she does investigations. Recently she did a guest post on my site investigating a lot of different companies, looking into these ingredients not used in other countries but used here.

We were alarmed by what we uncovered. Basically these companies, American companies using ingredients in our food that are not used, and in some cases banned elsewhere. We decided we needed to do something about it. We strategically picked Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, an iconic American food product, hoping to get our message across. These artificial dyes, they're not necessary, they are for cosmetic reasons only and they do pose risks and we'd like to get them out of our food.

BALWDIN: Let me read what the FDA has said, quote, "based on the data reviewed in the body of scientific literature, FDA last year concluded that a casual relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established. However, for certain susceptible children with ADHD and other problem behaviors, the data suggests their condition may be exacerbated by exposure to a number of substances in food, including, but not limited to artificial food colors."

As you ladies said, the dyes are for looks only. No nutritional value. What you are looking for, you want this taken out of all foods? I know are you focusing on Kraft. VANI HARI, BLOGGER FOODBABE.COM: Absolutely. We didn't just pick Kraft for no reason. They are the largest food company headquartered in the United States. They have the largest footprint to actually be the leader here. We have over 235,000 signatures right now on our petition right now and hundreds and thousands of letters calling for them to remove artificial dyes and they still have not responded to this mass amount of people to us. And we're wondering why they continue to exploit the FDA laws to their advantage and basically, you know, not eliminate these artificial dyes that do pose risk.

The funny thing is when you read these letters from moms and from aunts and uncles and from all of the American public that have sent those to us, and you read the dramatic results that have happened when they have eliminated artificial dyes from their children's diet or their diet, whether they stopped having explosive outbursts or exzema or asthma because of this, this is a real issue, and this is something the FDA should address but honestly hasn't. The FDA has been petitioned. It hasn't moved at all.

BERMAN: Let me read a statement from Kraft. They say t"he safety and quality of our products is the highest priority and we take consumer concerns very seriously. We carefully follow the laws and regulations in the countries where our products are sold. In the U.S., we only use colors approved and deemed safe for food use by the Food and Drug Administration."

ROMANS: Are there other products on the market that don't have this. They have a version of the mac & cheese or there are other products on the shelf that don't have this. So is it really up to the parents to make sure that if they have a child who they think has a behavioral delay, to really be aware and let the free market work here go out and find products that doesn't have an additive that are you concerned about?

LEAKE: Well, certainly in an ideal world, but the average consumer is not versed on reading and understanding ingredient labels and might also not realize that the problems they see in their child is a result of these artificial dyes. We feel there are alternatives that are safer and better, already being used in other countries, but to be on the safe side, we're asking Kraft to proactively remove those dyes because it's better for our citizens.

ROMANS: At my grocery store, there are 45 different kinds of mac & cheese on the shelf. Have you noticed? When I was growing up, there was one. Now there are 40 different. Organic, white cheese only, wheat noodles. The whole bit. So there seems to be - you guys are the food bloggers, there seem to be more choices now than there was even a few years ago, so maybe awareness from people like you is working.

HARI: They have about 14 products without these artificial dyes, but over 30 with them, and all the ones with cartoon characters, directly targeted toward children have yellow number 5 and yellow number 6 in them, specifically to the demographic that are being harmed by these ingredients. In Europe, they require a warning label. Here we do not. So we really think that Kraft needs to be a leader and own up to the change. BERMAN: We have to leave it there. Vani Hari and Lisa Leake, thank you so much for joining us.

HARI: Thank you.

LEAKE: Sign our petition at

BALDWIN: Thank you, ladies.

40 minutes past the hour on a Friday. Still ahead, this:

BERMAN: "Veronica Mars" fans rejoicing this morning after their Kickstarter campaign raised record funds to green light a movie. Next, the show's creator, Rob Thomas, will join us live with the status of that beloved project. Stay with us. STARTING POINT back in a flash.


BALDWIN: New life for "Veronica Mars" is short lived, but the much loved cult TV series, after fans kicked in millions of dollars to green light the movie. "Veronica Mars" aired three seasons, in 2004 - 2007 before it was canceled. After years of being pestered about a return, the series creator Rob Thomas took to Kickstarter this week to raise a little money for the film.

BERMAN: He figured it would take a month to raise $2 million he wanted, but fans did it in 12 hours. Twelve hours. Rob Thomas joins us now from Austin right now, sitting on a pile of cash, no doubt. Rob, great to see you today. Let me play a clip of how you launched this campaign. A Kickstarter promo you put out. Let's play that.


KRISTEN BELL, ACTOR: Okay boys. We all want to make the movie, the question is, how?

RYAN HANSEN, ACTOR: We should ask rob.

BELL: I don't know. He's been pretty useless on this front.

JASON DOHRING, ACTOR: Think I Ryan is right. Rob will know what to do.

BELL: Fine. Any suggestions, Rob?

ROB THOMAS, CREATOR, "VERONICA MARS": Well, actually I do have a few ideas. I say we have the fans fund the movie.


BERMAN: And fund it they are. Tell us about this, Rob. How -- 2 million bucks.

BALDWIN: And that number is rising. THOMAS: When I left the house this morning, we were at 3$3.2 million. It's been mind blowing, beyond my wildest dreams. I was hoping that we would pass the $2 million mark, but this -- I never could have imagined that we would do it in half a day.

BALDWIN: So how exactly did this work? Did you guys go to Warner Brothers and say hey, we want to make the film. And they said well, you need to prove you have the fans support with a little bit of dough to come along with it? How did this work?

THOMAS: No, no, we -- we had the Kickstarter idea when we went to them. I went to Warner Brothers many years ago to try to do a "Veronica Mars" movie the standard way. But Warner Brothers is generally in the business of making $30 million movies. And they weren't sure that "Veronica Mars" warranted that kind of investment.

So when I heard about Kickstarter when I started seeing bands raise money for albums and that sort of thing -- raising $10,000 or whatever, I thought well maybe we could do this on Kickstarter, but it will take millions of dollars, and no one had sought that kind of money at the time, and -- but I took it to Warner Brothers and said what do you think? And you know it took them a while to get their heads around it, but eventually they gave us permission to -- to give it a shot.

RON MEYERS, YOUNG AMERICAN FOUNDATION: Well Rob you think you've changed the way movies are going to be made. It seems like almost new type of venture capitalism. I mean, you have, your fans buy into the film. And guess what? They're all going to inevitably come to the film too so you're going to get a double whammy of support there. Do you think that other filmmakers are going to look at doing the same thing?

THOMAS: Well, I'm already hearing from other filmmakers, specifically hearing from other TV show runners of shows that were canceled before their time -- shows that had cult audiences --


BERMAN: "Cop Rock" (ph).

THOMAS: -- and that had really devoted fan bases. Not "Cop Rock" -- I have not heard from "Cop Rock" yet. But - but and so I know that -- I know that others are watching us very closely and seeing how we do with this.

RICHARD SOCARIDES, NEWYORKER.COM: You know what, what I wonder is, what is the most that's ever been raised on Kickstarter -- number one? And number two, you know usually investors in motion pictures own rights to the motion pictures, right? But if you give money on Kickstarter, do people who give money going to own a little piece of this movie?

THOMAS: No, they don't own a piece of the movie, but they are buying rewards. They are essentially getting good value for the dollar. For example, like the most popular reward or price point that we have for a $35 donation, our backers get a download of the movie, "Veronica Mars" movie T-shirt and a copy of the script. So it's really -- it's a good investment.

You know I study though a lot of the Kickstarter successful fund- raising drives and the ones that are -- that do the best, you know, including like the project that went over $10 million, offers the product. They are selling what they are making and what we're really asking fans to do is pre-buy the movie, nothing more. We're not -- you know, we're not offering a $4 tote bag for a $100 investment. We think that we're good value for the dollar. You're just buying it before it's made.

BERMAN: I've got to tell you a $3.2 million and counting and what's more really sending shock waves throughout the industry. Rob Thomas congratulations and thanks you for joining us today.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

THOMAS: Oh and thank so much.

BERMAN: All right.

BALDWIN: Maybe a little donating can get you a bit role on "Cop Rock".

BERMAN: "Cop Rock", you've never seen "Cop Rock" Steven Bocco (ph) tough (inaudible) apparently in this. It was one of the best shows ever. Let's start raising money.

BALDWIN: I'll take your word for it. Let's move on.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT this is the story you're waiting for Berman.

BERMAN: This is.

BALDWIN: The Duchess of Cambridge apparently has something a lot of women want. And no, no it's not her hubby, it's not the duke. That's coming up on STARTING POINT.

I kid. I kid.


BERMAN: Welcome back everyone.

A look at what is trending this morning. So Bill Clinton, you've been photo-bombed. The former President paid a visit to the Louisville locker room after the Cardinals 74-55 victory over Villanova last night at Madison Square Garden. Louisville player Shane Bohannon posted these candid locker room photos and they very quickly went viral as you can imagine. Bohannon say that Bill Clinton's quote, "got swag."

BALDWIN: And the "New York Daily News" reports there is something the Duchess of Cambridge has that American women really want. Take a good long look at her. What could it be? Her nose. There has been a surge in women asking plastic surgeons for the Kate Middleton nose apparently. One New York doctor says he has 20 women scheduled to get the, quote/unquote, "royal treatment" over the next month, and about $7,000 a pop.

She is lovely. She's cute, adorable --


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN HOST: But you don't get the rest of her face, you just get that little part.

BERMAN: The nose. (inaudible) Gentlemen.

MEYERS: You know, I think -- maybe I should invest. It comes to a point where -- I think the worst thing for the royal family here in America. We escaped from them for a reason. Hey, if you want their nose, take their nose. That's fine.

BALDWIN: Our executive producer says you have a very nice nose.

MEYERS: Well, thank you.

BERMAN: I just don't know what it is with the Middleton family and their anatomy.

BALDWIN: Oh, Berman. Berman.

BERMAN: 33 minutes past the hour right now.

BALDWIN: Berman.

BERMAN: The "End Point" is next.


BALDWIN: The act of female genital mutilation is something more than 140 million girls and women have endured.

BERMAN: And being cut often means the end of school but this week's CNN hero refused to accept that fate. The practice now illegal in her homeland of Kenya, it still persists in some rural areas but Kakenya Ntaiya is challenging that tradition.


KAKENYA NTAIYA, COMMUNITY CRUSADER: I avoided the ceremony. As far as I could -- most of the Maasai girls undergo this mutilation when they are 12.

I really liked going to school. I knew that once I go through the cutting, I am going to be married off and my dream of becoming a teacher was going to end. My mind said "run away" but I had to face my dad and say I will only go through the cutting if you let me go back to school. It was then the morning, using a very old rusty knife, with no anesthesia. I can never forget that day. Eventually, I was the first girl in my community to go to college in the U.S.

I am Kakenya Ntaiya and I returned to my village to start a school for girls so they too can achieve their full potential.

When girls start at our school, they are very shy. Over time, we see them very confident.

They are doing very well. It's the most exciting thing our work is about empowering the girls. These girls can say no to being cut. They're dreaming of becoming lawyers, teachers, doctors. (inaudible) and I see my daughter could do better than my son.

I came back so girls in my community don't have to negotiate like I did to achieve their dreams. That's why I wake up every morning.


BERMAN: What a great smile. How inspiring.

On Monday on STARTING POINT, Soledad will have a sit-down interview with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about that controversial new book, "Lean In".

BALDWIN: Thanks so much for being with us. Have a wonderful weekend and to you as well, my friend.

BERMAN: You too.

"CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello starts now.