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Neighborhood Watch Killing of African-American Teenager Continues to Garner National Attention; Whitney Houston's Toxicology Results Released; School Requires Students to Wear African-American Attire; Five More Bodies Found, In Wreck Of The Costa Concordia; Dharun Ravi Says He Didn't Cause Clementi Death; Gun Pulled On Reporter; Study: Blood Test Can Predict Heart Attacks; Clue To Male Baldness Discovered; Facebook Users Pan Privacy Changes; Solar Power And Solar Powers; China's Internal Political Drama; "The Hunger Games" Big Box Office

Aired March 23, 2012 - 07:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: This is the Black Keys, "Lonely Boy." I'm Christine Romans in for Soledad, who is off today. The panel today, Marc Lamont Hill, professor at Columbia University, Abby Livingston, political commentator and daughter of Jon Huntsman, and Ryan Lizza, Washington correspondent for "The New Yorker." Nice to see you all this morning. It's Friday.


ROMANS: Lots of things to talk about, our starting point is the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. And it's sparking a national movement now. Just look at the number of rallies that have taken place or scheduled to take place across the country. This is not a Florida story, this is an American story. Already crowds gathered in Los Angeles as well as Charlotte, North Carolina. The biggest rally though so far taking place last night in Sanford, Florida.

Let's look at these images, a mass of people gathering not far from where Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman February 26, that gathering taking place hours after Sanford's police chief temporarily stepped aside but did not step down. The governor of Florida has assigned a new special prosecutor to this case as Trayvon's parents again call for Zimmerman's arrest.


SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: I stand before you today not knowing how I'm walking right now, because my heart hurt for my son. Trayvon is my son. Trayvon is your son.

TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: I'd just like to thank every one of you all for just showing us the love, the support, signing the petitions, and making sure that George Zimmerman pay for what he did to your son.


(END VIDEO CLIP) ROMANS: Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics and religious liberties commission. Thank you for joining us this morning.


ROMANS: Let me ask you your reaction to what is now really a movement surrounding Trayvon Martin.

LAND: First of all, you can't help as a parent to have your heart go out to those parents who lost their son under such tragic circumstances. I think that we need to be very careful, however, that we don't have a rush to judgment. I am shocked, frankly, to find out that Mr. Zimmerman still has his firearm and has not been in any way, shape, or form not put under probationary status.

If a policeman has uses his firearm in the course of duty as a matter of course is released of his duties and put on desk duty and an investigation as to whether he used it under legitimate purposes. None of that has been done. I find that really shocking.

But at the same time, racism is -- to call someone a racist is about the worst thing you can call somebody in our society, and rightly so. And so we don't want to throw that term around flippantly. I think it's good the Justice Department is involved, the state government is involved, and we need to encourage the authorities to do a thorough investigation, and make certain that justice is done, because, of course, we sadly in this country have a history where in the past, oftentimes when the victims were black, there was not justice.

ROMANS: Right, and that's what you're seeing from the streets, quite frankly. You're seeing people who say yes, we should not rush to judgment. We should have investigations. But we've waited before, and we've been disappointed.

LAND: Yes.

ROMANS: I want to quote Mark Pinsky from CNN's belief blog. He said "Few if any white clergy have spoken up to demand that the killing be fully investigated. None can be seen standing by the African-American preachers calling for justice or marching with Martin's family members." Why hasn't this crossed racial lines do you think in terms of white clergy?

LAND: I'm not sure it hasn't crossed racial lines in terms of outrage, that there hasn't been a more swift investigation and the fact that Mr. Zimmerman still is at large with his weapon and with no restrictions. But at the same time, we do have people in our society who scream racism at the drop of a hat. And I know that --

ROMANS: Can you give me an example? Do you see that happening here?

LAND: No. There are people in our society -- I'll leave you and the audience to decide for themselves who they are -- who claim racism whenever there's a problem. For instance, let's take the O.J. Simpson case. There's a divide in this country about whether racism is involved. I think when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down, people were shocked. White people were shocked that black people were celebrating, because they didn't see racism in the O.J. Simpson case at all, whereas African-Americans, because of often a very different experience with police authorities than whites have, they were ready to believe that there was racism involved.

So I think that you're going to find that the white clergy are going to want to make certain that justice is done, but they don't want to rush to judgment and use that racist term without real justification, because there is racism in our society, and when we scream racism at the drop of a hat, it cheapens the term and makes it more difficult to deal with racism when there really is racism.

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Dr. Land, question though, can you at least see the racial dimension of this? This say young, black boy --

LAND: Oh, of course, of course. Of course, there's no question. But look, whenever something like this happens, the ghosts of the past rise up and they haunt us, because our past in this country is tragic and it's sad, and there's no question. I've talked to many audiences about this, white and black, and I try to get white people to understand, when I see a policeman, or I see someone in uniformed authority, I'm comforted, because I've never had a bad experience with a police officer. I don't know any African-American personally who has not either had a bad experience with a police officer, or has a close friend or relative who has had a bad experience with a police officer. And so because of the past historical experience, there's a fundamentally different immediate reaction.

RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Dr. Land, Ryan with "The New Yorker." Do you think this case has reached a level now that some of the leaders, perhaps president Obama or even some of the Republicans running for president should step in and address it, or would that just sort of muddy the issue?

LAND: Well, I think you have to be careful. The president had a bad experience with stepping in too quickly to speak out about an issue in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a few years ago.

LIZZA: Yes, that's what I was thinking of.

LAND: We have the governor of Florida involved now. We have the attorney general of Florida involved now. We have the Justice Department of the United States involved now. I think we need to just be very clear that we trust the system to work, and the system is going to bring justice for all involved.

ROMANS: I think we're going to be talking about this for days and weeks to come. Dr. Richard land, thank you for joining us this morning, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the ethics and religious liberty committee. Thank you, sir. Coming up live next hour, south Florida congressman Frederica Wilson will join the same discussion. She is slamming authorities for their what she says is their inaction on this.

Now let's head to Deb Feyerick for other headlines making news this morning. Morning, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine, good morning, everyone. The army staff sergeant accused in the massacre of Afghan civilians will be formally be charged today, Robert Bales faces 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and assault. If convicted Bales could face the death penalty. The major hurdle is that the African victims were buried quickly in keeping with Islamic tradition. As a result the prosecution does not have forensic evidence from occupancies in the case.

Meantime, we're learning before joining the military Bales engaged in securities fraud while working as a financial adviser. According to financial records, Bales failed to pay a $1.5 million judgment for defrauding an elderly client in a stock scheme.

And an overnight explosion rocks a silicon plant in Portland, Oregon. Two workers were to the hospital with minor injuries. They were inside a chemical reactor doing maintenance when the explosion happened. The fire department says a stream of oxygen hit the reactor and caused the blast.

New this morning, the writing was on the wall. U.S. officials confirmed the alleged gunman in the shooting that killed a rabbi and three Jewish children in France was on the no fly list here in the U.S. Senior U.S. officials say 23-year-old Mohammed Merah was listed as a potential terrorist. He's accused in two other deadly attacks.

And new government rules will now allow U.S. intelligence agencies to keep tabs on Americans who have no ties to terrorism. The new guidelines say agencies can store information on Americans for up to five years. Old rules said agencies had to throw out the information on Americans who had no ties to terrorism. Privacy advocates called the change, quote, "disturbing" but the Obama administration says privacy and civil liberty safeguards are in place.

And in case you're wondering, this is why they call it March Madness. Number one seed Michigan state goes down to number four seed Louisville. The Cardinals knocked off the Spartans last night, 57-44 in the west regional. That sends Louisville to the elite eight. Syracuse, Ohio state, and Florida also moved on to the elite eight last night. Four more games tonight.

And for fans of "The Hunger Games" the wait is over. Huge groups of fans turned out for midnight shows at theaters across the country and have been tweeting their reviews ever since. "The Hunger Games" is the first adaptation of the wildly popular book trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It's expected to break box office records by the end of the weekend. A lot of people talking about it, Christine. It's a great series.

ROMANS: Are your girls talking about it?

FEYERICK: They are. They're crazy. They are so eager to go see it.

ROMANS: My sister has a 12-year-old that has been talking about it for weeks. She speaks for so many. It's got some dark undertones and violence, too, so we'll talk later in the program about what age is appropriate and should your mom and dad to go with you or see it first.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, a shocker for Rick Santorum. Does he really think a second Obama term would be better than Mitt Romney?

Plus Whitney Houston's cause of death revealed, how cocaine played a role in her drowning.

And our "Get Real," a school writes a letter asking students to wear African-American attire. I'm not kidding, you got to hear this one. We'll leave with you a track from Abby and mark's playlist, Beyonce. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: The beautiful voice of Whitney Houston, "Queen of the Night." We know more about the last minutes of her life. She used cocaine until the very end. New details on Whitney Houston's death this morning. The Los Angeles county coroner's office says she drowned accidentally and that drugs and heart disease played a role.


CRAIG HARVEY, L.A. COUNTY CORONER'S OFFICE: We believe that something happened that caused her to go down, and we know that when she slipped under the water, she was still alive. We have evidence of drowning, so there was water in the lungs, so that substantiates that finding.


ROMANS: Houston's sister-in-law, Patricia Houston says, "We are saddened to learn of the toxicology results, although we are glad to now have closure." Joining us is Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, a forensic scientist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Welcome to the program this morning.


ROMANS: Would you walk us through what happened? She had cocaine in her system, but she drowned. What do you think were the last moments and what happened?

KOBILINSKY: Sure, I think cocaine as a recreational drug is dangerous. It's a central nervous system stimulant, and in fact it has a direct effect on the heart. It can cause tachycardia, which is a race of the heart. It can cause arrhythmia, where the rhythm of the heartbeat is off. And it is can cause a vasoconstriction, the coronary blood vessels and oxygen is not allowed to come to the heart. If you've got hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis --

ROMANS: Which she did.

KOBILINSKY: -- which she did, that means the lumen, the opening of the blood vessels is narrow. Take that and vasospasm, you have got a myocardial infarction, a heart attack.

ROMANS: Do you think she passed out from a cardiac event and slipped under the water?

KOBILINSKY: I think the most likely scenario is she became unconscious, unable to pick herself up out of the water. My hunch is if somebody were there, they probably could have lifted her up and resuscitated her, but I think that's exactly what happened.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Dr. Kobilinsky, I want to ask about they ruled she had drowned but then you read she had so much in her system, cocaine, Xanax.

ROMANS: Benadryl, Flexeril.

LIVINGSTON: How can they not rule this a drug overdose?

KOBILINSKY: Actually I think it was a cocaine drug overdose. These are the drugs can be toxic, of course, but it's the levels, quantities significant here. Drugs get metabolized by the liver and the body converts them to breakdown products. The levels of these drugs were apparently so low as to not be able to explain the death. They weren't even considered to be contributory. Now, what killed her is the cocaine. Both chronic abuse and an acute dose of cocaine, and she presumably took this cocaine fairly soon, in other words, early --

ROMANS: Close to when she died.

KOBILINSKY: Close to when she died, exactly.

HILL: The idea she was completely sober at that point in life, people saying she's been clean for months?

KOBILINSKY: Well, she was a chronic abuser, there's no question in my mind. She may have appeared sober but you know --

ROMANS: There's the baseline of sober. When she died people said she was sober and in a good place. Maybe she had a little champagne every now and then. There's Hollywood sober and there's sober. This is a woman who struggled her adult life with substance abuse.

KOBILINSKY: Exactly. You don't always detect when somebody is abusing drugs.

ROMANS: Atherosclerosis, so years of cocaine abuse, how could that hurt your arteries? KOBILINSKY: There's no question. There's been experimental evidence with animals, and it's been the evidence that cocaine chronic abusers that they develop atherosclerosis. There are lots of other factors -- age, genetics, diet, exercise. There are things people can do to prevent the buildup of plaque.

ROMANS: Could without using cocaine could that arteriosclerosis have caused her death?

KOBILINSKY: By and in and of itself not. There was adequate per perfusion.

ROMANS: Listen to what the coroner said about that.


HARVEY: The autopsy results indicated approximately 60 percent narrowing of the artery, so the finding of atherosclerotic heart disease suggests a cardiac event complicated by the cocaine use.


ROMANS: The research of the cardiac event and it's interesting because the arteriosclerosis white people are more likely to be diagnosed from it but African-Americans more likely to die from it, brought on by risk factors, high blood pressure and obesity, which weren't in her case, but it can also have a genetic component.

KOBILINSKY: It's familial. Cholesterol and other fatty substances get deposited in the inner linings of blood vessels and these things get hard. Some of these blood vessels literally are hard. They don't expand. And so if you do anything that will contradict these blood vessels further, it's a good possibility you're going to develop a heart attack.

LIZZA: What about this long list of drugs that was in her system? Is there anything we know about the interaction of Xanax and Flexeril, Benadryl? Is there anything that rings --

KOBILINSKY: Flexeril is a muscle relaxant, a prescribed medication, as Xanax is. Xanax is used for panic and anti-anxiety.

LIZZA: Would that have contributed to the effects of the cocaine or is that simply separate?

KOBILINSKY: I think not. I think not. They're separate, they're prescribed medications.

ROMANS: A lot of times people who are abusers there's no line between this is a prescription and this is illegal. It's one big global world of different substances.

LIZZA: That's true.

ROMANS: And some of those are prescriptions. It doesn't mean they're any less dangerous taken all together. KOBILINSKY: Absolutely. Physicians will prescribe these drugs. If you have access to marijuana and cocaine, that's a whole added story on top of everything else.

ROMANS: Lawrence Kobilinsky thank you so much.

KOBILINSKY: Thank you.

ROMANS: Nice to see you today.


ROMANS: Up next a teacher asking students to wear African- American attire for black history month. But what exactly is that? Our "Get Real" after the break.

We leave you with Ryan Lizza's playlist, "I Might." It's a good one. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Full disclosure, about 92 percent of my playlist is U2. Soledad has a diverse, awesome playlist, that was mine, U2 in 1985. You can see our entire playlist on our website

Time to get real. An elementary school under fire, a letter said "We are encouraging students to dress in African-American attire. If you do not have this, students could wear animal print clothing or shirts with animals native to Africa -- zebras, giraffes, lion, elephants, et cetera." The Western Union elementary school in North Carolina saying while it was well intended it was poorly worded. Yes and yes.

HILL: What is African-American attire? I get the alternative, zebras and lions.

ROMANS: What do zebras and lions have to do with African- American people?

HILL: The Africa part.

ROMANS: It's the zoo history month.

HILL: It's bizarre. What are people thinking?

LIVINGSTON: How do you take back a comment like that? How are you supposed to explain it?

LIZZA: I'm going to get in trouble for saying this but I have some sympathy for whoever the poor bureaucrat at the school wrote this letter and trying probably -- the intention was good. They wanted to celebrate black history day and just did it in the most insensitive way possible. But I have trouble jumping on people, you know, who are trying to do the right thing but just didn't get it right.

ROMANS: You're so nice. HILL: I don't mind jumping.

LIVINGSTON: I had the same reaction. I know she probably didn't mean this at all.

ROMANS: You mean the poor principal or teacher. I don't know.

LIZZA: You just cringe reading it and you think oh, god, this person is going to be instantly famous --

LIVINGSTON: Especially now I brought this up earlier with the Trayvon Martin case, does this make it more helpful to bring up cases like this. And so right after she wrote that she's probably thinking oh no, this is the worst time this could happen. It's all over the news, this issue.

HILL: Exactly. Maybe it could be a teachable moment. We now have a conversation about it, right?

LIZZA: What I want to know is the racial makeup of the school. What is the race of this person?

LIVINGSTON: In this county.

ROMANS: We don't know.

HILL: It's North Carolina, I'll go out on a limb saying it's predominately a white school, just knowing the area.

ROMANS: A well-intended but poorly executed, that's what the agreement is.

LIZZA: That's fair.

ROMANS: Ahead on STARTING POINT, a former Rutgers student convicted of a hate crime speaking out. He says he does not hate gay people. We'll hear firsthand from Dharun Ravi.

Plus President Obama slamming China on his energy tour. He says the country is not playing fair. But he's found a solution. He's found a solution to give American businesses the edge. But will China end up with the last laugh?

ROMANS: And a cure for baldness, the promising new findings out this morning that none of the guests here need to be concerned about. From my playlist, The Killers, "Mr. Brightside." We'll be back in a moment.


ROMANS: Yes, if that doesn't wake you up you shouldn't go to work today, just stay home. Christopher Farley's playlist the White Stripes' "Fell In Love With A Girl."

Chris is coming up in about 20 minutes to talk about the new "The Hunger Games" movie and whether it's a good call to take your kids like Abby's little sister to see it. Deb Feyerick too. Hi, Deb.

FEYERICK: Good morning, everybody. I'm loving this playlist this morning. Everybody has great choices. Let's get to some news.

A Syrian military chopper apparently caught firing on people. Look closely at your screen, the black object in the sky, well, that is a Syrian military helicopter and see those bright light flickers coming from it?

It's a little bit difficult to see, it's firing allegedly at anti-government protesters on the ground. Some of the protesters are reportedly defectors from the Syrian army. If you look closely you can see return fire. The U.N. Security Council has called for an end to the bloodshed.

In Italy two months after it slammed Iraq and fell on its side divers have discovered the bodies of five more people in the recognize of the "Costa Concordia." The cruise ship sank off the Italian Coast in January. Thirty bodies have been recovered so far. Two people are still missing.

Speaking on camera for the first time since his conviction for spying on and intimidating his gay roommate, former Rutgers University student, Dharun Ravi says he didn't bully Tyler Clementi and doesn't hate gay people.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hate gay people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't hate gay people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you fear gay people?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to not be around gay people?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't matter to me at all.


FEYERICK: Ravi says what he learned during the trial convinces him he didn't cause Clementi to take his life. Ravi will be sentenced in May. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

A reporter in Arkansas has a gun pulled on her while covering a story about a local man's death.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were just trying to find out what was going on, that's all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody's lying, my best friend -- get your camera away from me, dog. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't touch the cameraman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. We're leaving. We're leaving.


FEYERICK: After the man pulled the gun, take a look at that, WREG's April Thompson and her cameraman sought cover in their news truck. No one was hurt and the man fled from the scene. CNN affiliate WREG reports this morning the man has since turned himself in.

And in your "A.M. House Call," a new study suggests a blood test could help predict heart attacks. U.S. researchers found the blood cells from heart attack patients are abnormally large and oddly shaped, sometimes appearing with multiple nuclei.

They say that could make them reliable indicators that a heart attack is coming. The ability to diagnose an oncoming heart attack is considered to be the holy grail of cardiovascular medicine.

And speaking of the holy grail new information this morning that could lead to a cure for male baldness. Scientists say they've pinpointed a protein that triggers hair loss. That research could to lead to a cream to treat baldness.

The guys without hair right now will have to grow patience first. The cream will likely not be on the market for several years.

A lot of Facebook users angry over the sight's latest revision to privacy policies. Facebook has taken out the word "privacy" all together and now calls them data use policies. Thousands are users are complaining about the changes especially a passage that reads, quote, "When you or others who can see your content and information use an application, your content and information is shared with the application."

Many users say they're disturbed by the idea that apps installed by your friends can actually access your information. So, again, the plot thickens. You have to be careful what you're putting on there and who you're letting access to.

ROMANS: I'm surprised that anyone is ever surprised when your privacy is at risk on any kind of app or any kind of place where it can be seen around the world.

FEYERICK: The second you go on the computer you just have to have the understanding that it's accessible by somebody.

ROMANS: You're right. All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks, Deb.

FEYERICK: Of course.

ROMANS: News of an economic slowdown in China dragging the markets down. We're keeping an eye on that today and what it means for your money and 401(k).

But the bigger fight might be brewing over energy, solar power specifically. President Obama on his energy tour talking about taking on China.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: China wasn't playing fair when it came to solar power. So we took the first step towards levelling the playing field because my attitude is when the playing field is level then American workers and American businesses are always going to win.


ROMANS: The administration slaps tariffs on Chinese made solar panels trying to keep U.S. products more competitive. Gordan Chang has joined our panel. He is a columnist for and author of the book "The Coming Collapse of China."

We've been talking about levelling the playing field with China for as long as I've been a reporter. So why suddenly -- is this election year stuff that we're starting to get a little bit tougher on China?

Tariffs on solar panels and also the U.S. going to the WTO to complain about rare earth minerals that China has a monopoly on, I mean, is there a real change in the U.S. about how we're treating China?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: Yes, I think there is a real change. Of course, there is the election year rhetoric, but you know, China's been in the World Trade Organization for 10 years now and there's a perception the China's trade practices aren't getting better.

As a matter of fact, in the last couple of years it's become more predatory. So, you know, it's not just in the United States where we have elections, but it's also Europe and the developing world. I think there's a new consensus that something has to be done because China is moving in the wrong directions.

ROMANS: Bloomberg says "China! Stop stealing our stuff!" It lays out all of this technology that has been stolen over and over again from very big American corporations.

I think it's the NSA that has said this is the largest transfer of wealth in history what's happening in terms of information from the U.S. and corporate espionage from the U.S. being stolen by China.

And then you look at things like subsidies and 50-year and 100- year plans in China to try to, you know, dominate.

CHANG: Right.

ROMANS: Is it a foregone conclusion that the 19th Century belonged to the U.K., the 20th Century belonged to the U.S., 21st Century belongs to China?

CHANG: I actually don't think so. You know, you look at the Chinese economy right now. It grew at 9.2 percent last year. Now it's in low single digits. The March --

ROMANS: We're at 2 percent by the way, 2 percent in this country. They're slowing down in China, but still doing much better than we are.

CHANG: We have a stable economy though and they are sudden deceleration. The March numbers that are just coming out just show deterioration even from the January and February period, which wasn't too good.

So you know, right now, you've got an economy that's faltering. The Communist Party is splintering. The authority in the central government is eroding. You know, nothing is going in the right direction.

ROMANS: I think most Americans aren't watching this. You lived actually in China. Your dad was the ambassador of China. But there are amazing changes happening within the politburo, within the Communist Party structure happening right now. Does it favor democracy in China or does it favor, you know, the status quo in China?

CHANG: No, what is happening I think is that the Communist Party leaders, they're starting this intensified fight amongst themselves. Whenever that happens, China always falls back. This is the cultural revolution that premier Wen Jaibao warned about last week.

And we see the leader of the country issuing these calls to the military to remind them that they're subordinate to the Communist Party. This is not a good sign about what's going on.

ABBY LIVINGSTON, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE JON HUNTSMAN: Well, I spent the last year in Beijing and we can't forget we are well ahead of China when it comes to income per capita in our country.

We outspend them 5:1 on defense, but do they have some real challenges ahead. I wanted to ask you what you think the biggest challenge is, is it the lack of freedom, the lack of free speech they have, is it the environment?

What do you think will be the biggest challenge to them when it comes to their economy moving forward?

CHANG: Well, the biggest challenge to the economy is that all of those factors that created growth over 35 years either no longer exists or are disappearing fast and you have this at the same time that the Chinese people really want to have rights.

There is this rights consciousness, and the Communist Party has been intransigent in preventing -- you know the Chinese people from sort of expressing themselves. LIVINGSTON: It's huge right now, but they're having a hard time getting their voice out. I mean, they get blocked.

ROMANS: They're trying hard to identify who the bloggers are and make sure they can shut them down.

RYAN LIZZA, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORKER": And they can do it. Can I ask you a question? You talked to the administration. You talk to foreign policy advisers in the Obama White House and they will point to their China policy as one of their great successes. Do you see that? How would you judge it, compared to other presidents?

CHANG: Well, President Obama's pivot to Asia I think is really a move in the right direction. He started out with an initially very conciliatory policy and then had to adjust because countries in the region along China's periphery demanded that the United States show a little bit of leadership because they're concerned about China's new foreign policy arc, which really is quite hostile in some cases, more than just assertive.

LIVINGSTON: Is this more talk? The Chinese love to act assertive and love to play that role, but is this a lot more talk than them actually acting on it in?

CHANG: Well, they have acted on it. You know, they have moved to restrict American vessels in the South China Sea and international waters. They've intruded on the waters of South Korea, Japan.

You know, just last night there was this report about helicopter intrusions into Indian air space. So, you know, this is not a good story, and this is happening throughout the region, and it's not just those countries. It's others as well.

ROMANS: There's on so many levels. I mean, it's on so many levels. I think Hillary Clinton said that we're all in the same row boat and have to row in the same direction.

China is the largest foreign holder of American debt, too, so there's a financial tie that really cannot be broken. Gordon Chang will talk about more about it later again when we have you back "The Coming Collapse of China" is the book.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, Rick Santorum with the ultimate glow for Republicans implying America would be better off with President Obama than Mitt Romney.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the etch-a- sketch candidate for the future.


ROMANS: There's that etch-a-sketch again. We'll tell what you Mitt Romney is saying about that.

And "The Hunger Games" in theatres today with a lot of dooms day themes. Is this a kids' movie? You're watching STARTING POINT.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rick Santorum has an Etch-A-Sketch. Ron Paul showed an Etch-A-Sketch at a campaign event, although when Ron Paul brought his out. He said, look at my new iPad 3.


ROMANS: Jimmy Kimmel, just one of many late night comedians who jumped all over Mitt Romney for his Etch-A-Sketch remark and now Rick Santorum is taking it further with a very surprising statement telling voters in Louisiana to vote for Barack Obama.


SANTORUM: You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who is just going to be a little different than the person in there.

If they're going to be a little different we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking the risk of what may be the etch-a-sketch candidate for the future.


ROMANS: Let's leave the etch-a-sketch thing aside.

LIVINGSTON: I wonder if sales have gone up for Etch-A-Sketch.

ROMANS: They have plenty of free PR. Vote for the Democrat --

LIZZA: He's really --

ROMANS: If you don't vote for me. Is that what he's saying?

LIZZA: Absolutely, he's saying Obama is better than Romney. He's saying what we have is better than someone who has no core, which is his argument against Romney. I think this for Republican voters, this may cross a line.

LIVINGSTON: This has got to be Romney's worst nightmare too.

MARC LAMONT HILL, HOST, "OUR WORLD WITH BLACK ENTERPRISE": He crossed a line a few weeks ago in Michigan with the robocalls?

LIZZA: Well, that's right. That's right. But I just think for Republican voters do not see Mitt Romney as a worst alternative than Obama and frankly, if you look at Romney and Santorum on the issues, there's not that much that divides them.

I think a lot of conservatives say look, we don't love everything about Romney, we don't like his health care and a few other things, but this may go a little too far in saying Obama, the person that is frankly deeply, deeply disliked on the right is better than Romney.

ROMANS: You look at the exit polling from all of these primaries and we have that on this program. It's electability. In the end, over and over people want electability so Santorum is going against what a lot of people have been telling pollsters. In the end, they want somebody who they can elect.

LIZZA: Romney voters want electability. The Santorum voters want strong moral character and someone who sticks to his principles.

HILL: Someone ideologically pure. The idea Romney will say anything to be elected. I suspect that's true.

ROMANS: Let's listen to what Newt Gingrich had to say about this issue.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There is no doubt in my mind that if the choice is Governor Romney or Barack Obama, we would have no choice. I mean, Barack Obama's re-election will be a disaster for the United States and we have an obligation.


ROMANS: OK, so Stephen Colbert on his show has this countdown clock to loving Mitt Romney. When is your party going to love Mitt Romney? That's what I want to know, Abby.

LIVINGSTON: What is so sad about this is that it just shows how divided the party is. It's going to be so harmful if Romney is the eventual nominee. It's going to make it very difficult for him to form that narrative to bring the party together and the longer this goes on the harder it will be.

ROMANS: Or does it do the opposite and it brings people closer to Mitt Romney because they look at Rick Santorum and say look we want to beat the president. That's what we want to do.

LIVINGSTON: He has that base that loves what he says, just because he's like that. They're not going anywhere.

HILL: There is a whole sector of ideological purists, not just the Tea Party folk who really just aren't comfortable with Mitt Romney for many reasons.

And you have someone like Rick Santorum essentially going kamikaze style here. Again, a few weeks ago, making robocalls telling to vote -- actually Democrats to vote in the election to kind of mess things up.

And now you have him basically saying vote Obama. I mean, that's disastrous stuff. What's it is going to do is make people stay home. It's not going to make them vote for Obama, but it will make a whole bunch of the party stay home.

LIZZA: I disagree with you guys. I think this Republican Party is, just because it's divided does not mean it's deeply divided, right? Just because it's closely divided doesn't mean that the issues they're divided about are very deep.

And I think once the general election comes around and Romney secures that nomination, the right will rally around him because of the intense dislike of President Obama. Abby may be the exception.

LIVINGSTON: No one is going to love Romney. It's going to be an arranged marriage is what I like to call it. They have to make it work, but to answer your question I don't think anyone's going to end up loving him at the end of the day.

ROMANS: So the Stephen Colbert countdown to loving Mitt Romney clock continues.

Ahead on STARTING POINT, surveillance video catches gas thieves in the act. You won't believe how they went about that.

And feel the hunger, "The Hunger Games" expected to break Box Office records this weekend. Young people lining up to see this film. Is this really a movie for adults? Should it be a movie for adults? You're watching STARTING POINT.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome. Welcome. The time has come to select one courageous young man and woman for the honor of representing District 12 in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.


ROMANS: Could it be bigger than "Twilight" or "Harry Potter"? It's about teens fighting to the death to get food so they can survive. Thousands of fans lined up late last night for the midnight release of the movie called "The Hunger Games" after the book based on a 2008 bestseller.

Christopher John Farley is the editorial director of the "Wall Street Journal" blog. You also saw the movie with your son, a 9 year old and 10 year old. Is it going to break records do you think?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, "WALL STREET JOURNAL" BLOGS: I think it will break some records. I think it will challenge some of the "Twilight" franchise films at the Box Office this weekend in terms of total it racks up. Last night at the screenings, it was very successful. It sold out about 2,500 screenings around the country and analysts think it will be big. This is the film that draws not only women to watch it because of a love story, but because of action it drew in men and you have to drag men kicking and screaming to see the "Twilight" films.

ROMANS: Speaking of dragging, kicking and screaming, there are kids killing kids in this movie.

FARLEY: There are kids killing kids in this movie.

ROMANS: How graphically is it depicted?

FARLEY: It is sort of graphic. Not as graphic as it might be. Executives can say tastefully done as tastefully as killing other kids can be.

ROMANS: I know. Well, so many people are excited to see it. They read the book and they feel like there's a bigger message here and not just a movie about kids killing kids.

I want to take a clip from the trailer because it's based on this bestselling twin trilogy. These kids are from different districts that are selected to fight each other to the death. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're not going to pick you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prim! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute.


ROMANS: She steps in to save her sister. Later in the film, she's got to kill other kids to survive.

FARLEY: I think when you say it like that -- it is a movie that's a statement against violence. It's entertainment about violence used as a means of social control. So there are some messages to talk about in this movie.

ROMANS: To me there's income and equality. There is a very rich district and poor district. It's about survival. It's about post- Armageddon and what helped people devolve into the worst kind of things when you don't have --

LIVINGSTON: My sister mentioned those things. I think at 12 years old she's talking about these types of situations. I think there's more positive out of this book than maybe the graphic stuff that you're going to see in the movie.

HILL: I walked away with the love story. I read the book for research, of course. But I thought the love story was really compelling. I was going to ask you when you saw it, is that what you got?

ROMANS: Did he notice the love story?

FARLEY: I like the love story and futuristic aspect of the book. I like the theme about violence as a means of social control. My son saw all of those things in it. He presented me with the book. He said if I read this, can I see the movie? Deal. That's the way it works.

ROMANS: I think you should see it with your sister.

LIVINGSTON: I think I'll take her.

LIZZA: There were some kids in the audience when I saw it.

FARLEY: This was an advance screening when I saw it. But last night, a reporter from "The Journal" was there and did report seeing kids in the audience.

A lot of kids will say some parents will be shocked out of their shoes. What did I bring my kid to? You do need to exercise your kid can understand these kind of themes. If they can read the book, that's a good tip that they can understand the movie.

ROMANS: The parallel with gladiator is interesting to me because throughout history, you've had the sort of fight to the death to move -- you talked about violence as a means of social control. All of these things have played out throughout history really.

FARLEY: Yes, when I saw this movie, I thought of the classic story of "The Lottery" where it's a violent tale. We all probably read it as kids. This is really "The Lottery," but much bigger and brighter and really orientated toward the 21st Century.

ROMANS: They hit the lottery. They're going to make a lot of money this weekend. The people who are the actors, amazing acting in it I'm told. They are going to be famous if you haven't heard of them yet. Christopher John Farley, thanks so much. Nice to see you.

FARLEY: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, ahead on STARTING POINT, why is Japan suddenly ordering it's military to prepare a missile defense system and fast? Details top of the hour.

And American from coast to coast demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. We're going to talk to a Florida lawmaker who says she's tired of burying young black boys. You're watching STARTING POINT.


ROMANS: Our STARTING POINT this morning, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Thousands marching across the country. Hear from a Florida lawmaker who says she's tired of burying young black boys. Plus to abuse cocaine until the very end. Whitney Houston's autopsy reveals her final moments. And a ban on --