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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Reducing Sodium Intake Could Save Lives; Schools Closing in Chicago; Will Fallon Replace Leno?; Remembering Selma; Interview with Harry Belafonte and Tony Bennett; Quenching their Thirst: Doc Hendley

Aired March 22, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: From toddlers in the U.S. to adults around the world, many of us are eating too much salt and it's killing us. A just-released study found more than two million people died worldwide in 2010 from heart disease caused by eating too much sodium. Chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a breakdown of where you're likely to find these high-salt foods in the grocery store.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When it comes to sodium, we simply eat too much -- on average about four grams per day as an adult. We really need about half that, about two grams per day.

There is a study that came out that said if you get down to that two grams per day, we could potentially save about 150,000 lives a year, simply from that one thing.

Frozen foods, they're going to have a lot of sodium in there for lots of different reasons, but mainly because sodium is a good preservative. That's why it's in there. But also, canned foods, you know, a lot of parents, again , like me, will go to canned foods.

The problem is you get about 950 milligrams, almost a gram of sodium just from something like this, far too much for an adult and far too much for most kids, as well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: OK, Sanjay joins us now.

Even more alarming, the canned foods you just mentioned, Sanjay, are prepackaged meals for toddlers. What are we learning about those?

GUPTA: Well, you know, you expect those to be ideal, right? And I'm a parent of three small children, so you go there, you say, it's prepackaged for toddlers, so it must meet some specific dietary guideline. And you find that's not necessarily the case.

In this study, they basically just went and tested them. They're so ideal, because you don't -- sometimes they're microwaveable; you don't have to freeze them.

But what they found in testing over 1,000 products was that three- quarters of them, 75 percent had too much sodium in it, more than 210 milligrams per serving. Again, remember that's for kids.

And even more concerning was that several of them had more than three times as much sodium as necessary, again, in one serving. And I'll point out, because the concern, as you might guess, guys, is that could this impact the heart later on?

But also what you find is that toddlers develop a taste for this. So not only do they eat a lot of sodium now, they crave it more so later on in life.

BERMAN: That sticks with you forever.

Sanjay, the numbers here are staggering, 2 million people a year die from heart disease, largely caused by high salt intake. Why isn't there more of an effort to reduce how much we're eating?

GUPTA: Well, some of this is about money, John, as you might guess. It's a preservative, especially in resource-poor countries. That's a -- it's a cheap preservative to just give food longer shelf life.

Here in the United States, it's a lot more about processed foods. We eat a lot of processed foods. I will tell you that people say, OK, I'm going to cut down on the sprinkling of salt onto my food. That certainly helps.

But that's not the big concern. You do have to read these labels. I mean, it's amazing. Some of these soups, some of these sauces, things like that, can have more than a day's worth of sodium in one single serving. So it's a little bit of the consumer being aware of this.

ROMANS: And there's that great advice to walk -- in the grocery store walk around the edges, don't go in the middle. Go around to the fresh produce, walk around the edges, stay out of the middle aisles if you can.

GUPTA: Eat real food.

ROMANS: Eat real food. Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: You got it.

ROMANS: All right. Parents in Chicago, hoping to learn how closing dozens of schools will help better educate their children. Sixty-one public school buildings are being shut down in order to close a $1 billion deficit and redirect funds to Chicago's Welcoming Schools Initiative.

Officials say the buildings were underutilized. But teachers and parent groups say the closures are disproportionately affecting minority students.

BERMAN: Congress' watchdog saying not so fast to the plan to drop Saturday mail. The Government Accountability Office says the Postal Service legally must deliver the mail six days a week. That opinion could mean lawsuits to keep Saturday mail around for a while. If full services plan does go through this summer, you would still get package and Express Mail six days a week, just not letters.

ROMANS: Reports say NBC will return the venerable "Tonight" show to its New York routes and replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon as the host next year.

BERMAN: So CNN's Jake Tapper sat down with one of their late-night rivals, Jimmy Kimmel, and got his take on the latest NBC drama.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Hey, Christine and John, if there's one place where success and job security do not always go hand in hand, I think it's fair to say it's late night television.

Take the reported decision to kick Jay Leno to the curb and make Jimmy Fallon the new host of "The Tonight Show" in 2014. The negative press for Leno could not be better for Jimmy Kimmel, whose show just made the switch to the 11:30 time slot on ABC, competing directly with Leno and David letterman's "Late Show."

And while the TV host and comedian does his best to rise above the late-night drama, don't think for a second that Kimmel is not primed for battle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER (voice-over): Late-night ratings roulette is upon us, with more than 10 million viewers at stake and tens of millions of dollars in network advertising on the line.

JAY LENO, NBC HOST: Things once thought to be extinct could now be brought back from the dead. So there is hope for NBC. It could turn around.

TAPPER (voice-over): But as the peacock network apparently makes moves to replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon, ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, fresh from his New Year's move to 11:35 on ABC, remains unfazed.

JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC HOST: Well, obviously, NBC is looking to move on, because they did it once already. This would be the second time that this has happened. So I mean, it makes perfect sense and Jimmy Fallon is doing a great job.

TAPPER (voice-over): And Jay Leno? Well, let's just say Kimmel's respect for Jay Leno knows bounds.

TAPPER: You have had some tough things to say about Jay Leno.

KIMMEL: Yes, yes. My mother told me to stop.

TAPPER: Is that right?

KIMMEL: Yes. You know, it's one of those things; I have diarrhea of the mouth, and I'm asked about it, I tend to go on and on and on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID LETTERMAN, CBS HOST: Good heavens and hello. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KIMMEL: My favorite host of all time is David letterman. That's who I would choose to watch if I'm choosing to watch somebody. I mean, that, for me, would be my choice.

I think I would choose watching him -- I know I would -- over watching myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And while Kimmel says all three shows can be successful, he's not taking it easy on his competitors. Kimmel's show recently expanded, launching its very own music channel on YouTube.

Christine and John?

ROMANS: All right. Let's talk more now about NBC's late-night shake up with Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES" and Washington bureau chief for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast"; Lauren Ashburn, "Daily Beast" contributor and editor in chief of the "Daily Download."

So, drama, the drama, the late-night drama continues.

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN HOST: NBC announcing a couple of years in advance that it's getting rid of Jay Leno for a younger comedian, because that worked out so well last time.

You know, the critics don't like Jay Leno, so everybody's saying get him off the stage. Bring in Jimmy Fallon. But the fact is, he's still number one. He still brings in viewers.

LAUREN ASHBURN, CONTRIBUTOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Right. But he was funny once a couple of years ago, I mean --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mean a couple of decades ago?

Well, no, but I mean I think that the people have spoken yes in the ratings, but I think that there is this feeling among younger folks that he is not that funny and Twitter proves it.

Remember that time when Jay Leno was funny? Oh, wait. That never happened. Carry on. You know, there weren't angry tweets on Twitter, but there was just sort of this feeling like he's done.

KURTZ: But wait a second, wait a second. Younger people also liked Conan. SO they chose sides. And that didn't work out when Conan took over "The Tonight Show."

So you can't, you know, the secret to a late-night comedy show is a broad audience, not just people who are 22.

ASHBURN: Look, it used to be Leno, Letterman; Leno, Letterman. Those were the two people, same ages, those are the ones who were competing against each other. Now it's Fallon, Kimmel; Fallon Kimmel. It's their -- KURTZ: So you're in favor of this?

ASHBURN: -- it's their turn.

KURTZ: You think Jay should just get off the stage?

ASHBURN: I like Jay, but this is a guy who, on his vacation goes and does standup. OK? I mean, enough. Enough. Time to cede to the next generation.

BERMAN: The start date allegedly, if you believe the press reports, on the new show, will be 2014. You know, we have a -- September of 2014; it's a long time to go before that happens, months and months. How much longer can we have this kind of drama before it really starts to have a huge impact?

KURTZ: Personally, I wallowed in the drama last time, because you had Letterman, Leno and Conan taking shots at each other every night. But the problem here is NBC would probably like to get rid of Jay like tomorrow, because he's making -- taking shots at the network in his monologue, which Johnny Carson did also.

ASHBURN: And it's really funny, you know, the snakes of St. Patrick, you know, that they should come as NBC executives and as they're driving people away.

BERMAN: We have a clip of Jay Leno making fun of NBC. We'd be remiss if we did not play it right now. Let's hear it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIMMY FALLON, NBC HOST: Before we get started, I have to talk about --

LENO: Well, you know, the whole legend of St. Patrick, right? St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland and then they came into the United States and became NBC executives. It's a fascinating story.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KURTZ: It's a lot funnier when he did it.

ASHBURN: (Inaudible). A lot better than I did.

KURTZ: But the point is that if NBC did dump Leno early, it has to pay him a truckload of money, so that's why they --

ASHBURN: But here's the thing. He's like that clown doll, you know, that clown doll that you hit and it keeps coming back up, and you hit it down and it keeps coming back up. I mean, he just can't --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: In 21 years has been doing this. I mean, where is the gratitude from NBC for what -- have they not made a lot of money? As one comment said in the paper this morning, he made them a gazillion dollars.

KURTZ: Maybe NBC could put him on at 10 o'clock. You think that would work in prime time (ph)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ASHBURN: I think that was tried already. I don't think we can do that.

KURTZ: (Inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) bring this discussion down. But can I ask a question? When is it -- what is it going to take for a non- white male to ever break into late-night TV?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arsenio had a successful run.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible). He's planning a return.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He had a successful run when? How long ago was that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like during '92. It was during the Clinton years.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: You really did bring this down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know, I know.

ROMANS: We were talking about (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tina Fey? How about Tina Fey on late night?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the important thing isn't just in front of the cameras for these late-night shows; it's also behind the cameras, what you don't see, the writing staffs, the producing teams. They're all, for the most part, white males, and with a few women sprinkled in.

KURTZ: Well, that's one of the reasons "The Daily Show" is so successful; now Jon Stewart taking a three-month leave. That's going to leave an opening for somebody, maybe Kimmel can get more popular during this period.

ASHBURN: Well, it could be. But I think you do raise an interesting point, and I think that there is that problem, all across television, not just late night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It's glaring when you put those four images up on there --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of white men in those (inaudible), that is for sure. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like late-night Tina fey. She should --

BERMAN: Well, look, if you read the papers today, NBC was considering her for the late night show after the new Jimmy Fallon show, but she's not available because she's a super megafilm star right now. (Inaudible). So the name they are kicking around in the papers now is Seth Meyers, who does the news on "Saturday Night Live," and he's extremely funny.

KURTZ: This is more fun than speculating who's going to run in 2016.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: I agree. I agree. All right.

BERMAN: We could talk about the sequester, but, during later on STARTING POINT, during the Selma march of 1965, Tony Bennett and Harry Belafonte teamed up to fight hatred. Now they are looking back on a really historic event and are looking at where society is now. Chris Cuomo has this story. You're watching STARTING POINT.

(MUSIC PLAYING)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So today marks the anniversary of the third and decisive civil rights march in Selma, from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Harry Belafonte recruited Tony Bennett to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. They shared the really amazing memories with CNN's Chris Cuomo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER, ACTOR AND ACTIVIST: Selma was different. They were willing to kill, burn, bomb, destroy. So to ask artists and people to go in to Selma was a whole different game.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Harry Belafonte remembers the backdrop for a major flashpoint in the civil rights movement, the Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965. Fifty miles had to be covered. But the real obstacle was hate. Not long after 600 marchers began on Sunday, March 7th, police brutally beat them, driving them back to Selma.

CUOMO: When Bloody Sunday happened and then Dr. King decided to march again after it, what was the mood?

BELAFONTE: The mood was anger, the mood was rebellious. The question is what do we do in the face of this kind of rage and this kind of mayhem? And the bottom line was that we will go back as often as necessary.

CUOMO (voice-over): Belafonte, enlisted by Dr. King to bring artists into the movement, convinced the likes of Joan Baez, Paul Newman and Marlon Brando. But one of the first calls was to old friend and supporter, Tony Bennett. TONY BENNETT, SINGER: Well, I didn't want to do it but then he told me what went down, what was going down, as some blacks were burned, with -- had gasoline thrown on them and they were burned. When I heard that, I said, I'll go with you.

CUOMO (on camera): And that black/white divide, white faces would see your face. What do you think they thought about you?

HARRY BELAFONTE, SINGER: That you are a God damned traitor.

BENNETT: There was a spirit that we decided we're just going to march right through it, no matter what.

CUOMO: After a federal court affirmed the right to march against the government and National Guard troops were ordered to protect marchers, protesters grew from 600 to 25,000. To rally the crowd, the artists came forth but one problem.

BENNETT: We found out we didn't have a stage and somebody came up with a -- a funeral parlor. And how many -- how many caskets were there?

BELAFONTE: I think the number was about 50 to 80 caskets.

CUOMO: 50 to 80 coffins?

BELAFONTE: Yes.

CUOMO: How did you feel about that that the stage was built on coffins?

BENNETT: Well, it was different.

CUOMO (voice-over): To say the least. Yet, singing on top of coffins may be apt metaphor for the marches and they succeeded. Later that August, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This purpose is not to divide but to win divisions.

CUOMO: Change that Bennett could feel even in the place that scared him the most.

BENNETT: Many years later, I went back to Selma, just as an engagement and I was pretty concerned about it, how I would be treated. It changed -- it changed that area. There were much more human, much more civilized about just accepting good shows. It made me feel like it worked, it really worked, that march worked.

CUOMO: But that work is unfinished says Belafonte and he wonders if today's black celebrities will take up the cause.

(on camera): You've talk about the next generation and the current generation and where is the new Harry Belafonte?

BELAFONTE: Never before in the history of this country, have there ever been a pool of celebrities more numerous than we have today and never have black people in this country been less spoken for by a community of celebrities that in a snap of a finger could say and do so much who have opted to do nothing.

CUOMO: Why?

BELAFONTE: They are so busy becoming feudalistic about the harvests and the material successes that they receive the result on the success of that mission that they have forgotten that there was ever a mission.

CUOMO (voice over): His mission is clear. The march is in the past, but the movement for fairness under law for all, for justice, must continue.

BELAFONTE: Civil rights is a constant. It's never of the past, it's with you all the time. Every society, every millennium, every decade is going to need this vigilant watchers of the democratic process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: These such talented men has clearly shared so much incredible history. But also such a direct commendation from Harry Belafonte Jr. about the current crop of celebrities. What was he saying there?

CUOMO: Well you know one of the reasons I wanted to do this is because it reminds us how great these men are beyond their artistry right? Harry Belafonte who organizes civil rights, Tony Bennett crossing lines that many wanted to cross.

Harry's point is not to condemn so much African-American celebrities today, but to make them realize their power and to make them realize how important it is to always be looking for opportunities to forward the cause of justice and he believes that celebrities today have more sway than ever. And he's just hoping that they take up the mantle.

CHRIS JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, DIGITAL FEATURES, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I want to say that the presence of Tony Bennett at that march shows it's not just on black celebrity today to step forward but celebrities of all stripes to say I have something to say about this. Here is what my stance on this on social justice if you have something to say.

CUOMO: Well certainly had it just stayed monochromatic in the '60s, they probably wouldn't have made process. Dr. King, Harry Belafonte credits with having the foresight of saying Harry, go out, make us more diverse bring people in so it's not just about us, it's about everybody.

RYAN LIZZA: Yes that's what struck me when Bennett says he was the first call. Dr. King knew to call him first, he wanted the white -- the white performer to be on the march.

CUOMO: It's also interesting that for so many of these guys, it was borne out of their own personal experience. Harry obviously a person of color, dealt with lots of different types of bias. Tony Bennett, while in the war, 1942 infantryman, brought a black friend to a cafeteria and got demoted and someone literally ripped the stripes off his arms and said we don't like the company you keep.

And it was so painful to him. And it made him recognize in their relationship and you know artists are a little different than ordinary people. We see through lines that people ordinarily draw for themselves and that winded up fostering a commitment from the artistic community to help the civil rights movement.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's a really great piece, Chris. I mean, really well done beautiful and two great spokesmen for -- for some 65 years ago to have them talk about it today.

CUOMO: Looking good too, right.

ROMANS: Looking great and sounding great. Thanks, Chris.

Ahead on STARTING POINT up next, a former bartender, does his part to save lives in Syria. His story when we come back. This is STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: So believe it or not, clean water is a luxury for one out of every six people. Every 20 seconds a child dies from a water borne disease.

ROMANS: Today is world water day. And efforts to combat this global crisis is the fight that a 2009 Top Ten CNN Hero Doc Henley wages every day. And recently it's taken him to the front lines of another humanitarian emergency in Syria look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOC HENLDEY, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, WINE TO WATER: Here in the U.S., it's hard for us to understand the water crisis, because we have it right at our fingertips. There are some countries where it takes many women and children four and five hours every single day just to get water and then it's absolutely filthy, and it's their children sick.

When you see that first hand, you can't help but be changed from that. My name is Doc Henley, I used to be a bartender and now I bring clean water to the world.

The water is not going to make you feel sick to your stomach anymore.

CNN HEROES changed everything. Before we were able to reach four different countries, now we're in 15 different countries. Syria is the latest one.

In Syria, every single day, people are leaving their homes. Fleeing to the border areas. In these camps -- the living conditions, they're terrible. They don't have access to even the basic essentials. Right now, we're actively working in two camps in the northwestern region of Syria. I was able to bring about 350 water filters just a couple months ago. Syria is the first location that we're actually using these filters, and they filter up to 250 gallons of water every single day. We have a partnership with an organization called Stop Hunger Now. We'll be sending a container with about 250,000 meals and another thousand water filters. This will be just the first of many shipments hopefully.

There's really no way to describe the feeling when you see a family have crystal clear clean water the first time. A lot of people think what can we do? You can make a difference in one family's lives, I could choose things.

BERMAN: Our "End Point" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: And it's time for the "End Point" this Friday. Chris to you.

FARLEY: Well, it's a sad moment right now. The writer Chinua Achebe, a great Nigerian writer, a man who really helped put African literature on the world stage has passed away. He was 82 years old. He's the author of a great book "Things Fall Apart". And he's someone who I think elevated African literature, African arts and letters. He's someone who acted almost as a talent scout for other African writers in his later years.

And so his passing, I'm sure will be noted around the world as a loss for -- for arts and literature.

BERMAN: A great man. Thank you so much for that. Tomorrow, don't miss Soledad O'Brien's interview -- special with Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, author of the new book "Lean In". "WHAT WOMEN WANT" airs tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, right here on CNN.

ROMAN: All right. CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello begins right now.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the "NEWSROOM", breaking overnight, murder on a Marine base.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shooter appear to have barricaded himself inside of the room.