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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Outrage over Young Victim; Rogue Trip; Rape as a Weapon of War?; Is Your Cell Phone Safety; 826 Valencia

Aired May 31, 2011 - 23:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Anderson is off tonight.

Here in Gettysburg, "Keeping Them Honest". Pictures that make you want to hug your children a little tighter. Images this Memorial Day that drive home just how grateful we can all be for what America's fighting men and women fought to secure.

The knowledge no American government will ever do this to its children. To our children, what the Syrian government allegedly did to this child.

You'll see him right here. His name was Hamza Ali Al Khateeb. Just 13 years old.

He disappeared from an anti-government rally on the 29th of April. Now look away if you need to. These next photos get very, very hard to take. This is what he looked like when his body came home. His kneecaps had been smashed. His head was swollen. His body covered in cigarette burns. He had been emasculated.

According to family accounts on Arabic news channels, Syrian government officials came to their home last Wednesday asking them to sign a waiver accepting Hamza's body but only if they wouldn't show the body or say anything about the circumstances of his death. They signed but were so horrified by the condition of his body they could not keep quiet.

So they consented to a video of their son's body. It later turned up on Al Jazeera. Almost all of it is so grisly we could only show you those two frames.

That set off a weekend of outrage as activist Razan Zaytouni put it to the "Washington Post," torture is usual in Syria it's not something or strange. What was special about Hamza is he was only 13 years old.

A pro-regime television station disputes the allegations, with the doctor who did the autopsy phoning in, saying there's no evidence of torture. He says what you saw came from decomposition.

Now, right here we need to point out that we have yet to independently confirm these allegations, but bodies don't get covered in cigarette burns when they decompose. They don't lose organs. They don't show every sign the deceased in this case, a 13-year-old boy, was brutally tortured. And again, the Assad regime, father and son, has a long, long record of brutality. According to human rights groups, more than 1,000 people have been killed and 10,000 arrested since the anti-regime protests began. Nor has the regime shown the slightest compunction about gunning down teenagers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assad, Assad. Assad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allahu Akbar.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The video shows a wounded teenager. Later frames, which are too graphic to air, show another younger boy mortally wounded being carried away. More evidence, recent video of wounded children.

Like so much of what comes from the region, again, we cannot independently confirm it, but a human rights activist in Homs tells us these kids were wounded when security forces began shooting at their school bus, wounding five and killing a 12-year-old girl.

And this is how the regime handles unarmed protesters of any age.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(VIDEO FROM HOMS SYRIA)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And this. This is how the regime deals with clearly marked ambulances.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(VIDEO FROM DARAA, SYRIA)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: From the beginning Syria's dictator has blamed outsiders and terrorists for the uprising. More recently he admitted that security forces have made mistakes in dealing with it.

Well, ask yourself this. Have the people you've seen looked like terrorists? Is 13-year-old Hamza Ali Al Khateeb a terrorist? As for mistakes, snipers targeting an ambulance? Was that a mistake? Shooting teenagers? A mistake? Security forces opening fire on a school bus? A mistake, too or cold-blooded murder?

It gets worse.

There's word from Al Jazeera that the body of another teenager, this one an 18-year-old who had learning disabilities, was returned to a family in Daraa last week, also bearing the marks of torture. So as you look at children marching in memory of Hamza Al Khateeb, ask yourself how many of these kids will be marching again for the next child, and how many won't be around to march at all?

Joining us now to discuss this: Arwa Damon, she's in Beirut for us tonight; and in New York, Professor Fouad Ajami of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the Hoover Institution.

Arwa, I want to start with this question. The regime could have kept the body from the family. Why give the boy's body back to his parents instead of just disposing of it?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They could have, John. And we posed that question to Razan Zaytouni, who's a prominent opposition activist. She's in hiding in Damascus. And she pointed out a number of things.

First of all, the fact that she said that while the image of Hamza might be chilling, horrifying for many people around the world, this has in fact been the status quo in Syria not just under current President Al Assad but also under his father before him for decades. The difference, she said, is that now people are actually talking about it.

She also said that she firmly believes, first of all, that the footage that we saw, that what happened to Hamza was in fact true, it was not faked, and that the regime deliberately releases these bodies to the families as a message. The message that they're sending out being that there are absolutely no red lines for the regime. It will go to any length necessary to silence the voices of dissent, no matter what the age of the demonstrator.

And this also to give a message to anyone who would consider joining the protests, that a similar fate could await them or could await their loved ones -- John.

KING: And do we know anything, Arwa? The family had to sign -- sign a commitment to be quiet; any retaliation now for going public?

DAMON: Well John, we tried to get through to the family through intermediaries, and by the time we were trying to get in touch with them, we were told that they were quite simply too terrified to speak out.

We did hear reports over the weekend that perhaps Hamza's father and his brother had been detained. The family most certainly would appear to have gone into hiding, with numerous reports that, yes, they had in fact been threatened. And this, again, has been the status quo in Syria. This is what activists have been telling us.

Most people who dare speak out, if the regime is able to track them down, they are threatened in the best cases, detained and oftentimes tortured in the worst and oftentimes, again, killed, as we have been seeing repeatedly.

KING: Fouad, this is horrible in any case, but especially so because it is a child, it is a teenager.

In Tunisia, it was the fruit vendor who set himself on fire and became the symbol of the beginning of the Arab Spring. Could this young man now be that symbol to take the Syria demonstrations to the next level?

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, John, that's really the fundamental question.

Hamza al Khateeb will go down in the history of Syrian torment and in the history of Syrian grief and in the history of Syrian sorrow. The masks have fallen in Damascus. This ruler, Bashar al-Assad, has always pretended to be a civilized man. He had studied in England. He had been reaching to the outside world. He had been pretending to be a reformer.

Even some of our own statesmen, our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, once called him the reformer. Even our own President Obama, as late as May 19, just a couple of weeks ago, in a speech said that Bashar al-Assad has a choice. He can either lead the progress toward reform or he could step out of the way.

We have seen everything now. We have seen this poor child. And I think Arwa is right. You send the boy home in order to scare the Syrian people into submission, because the rulers are surprised that the Syrian people are no longer afraid.

KING: And Arwa, it's very difficult, because we can't get independent access to Syria. But we do see some increase in the protests since this incident. Can we have a sense, do you have any sense and your sources are reporting that perhaps we're getting to a critical mass?

DAMON: Well John, if the intent of the regime was to terrorize people off of the streets, this most certainly appears to have had the opposite effect.

There were a number of demonstrations over the weekend following the parents receiving Hamza's body, people out on the streets chanting that Hamza's blood will not have been spilt in vain, chanting their support.

We have seen a Facebook page emerging that now has close to 60,000 members, people seemingly even more galvanized by the fact that this atrocious act did take place, or at least is alleged to have taken place.

And again, as activists point out to us repeatedly, the harsher, the more brutal this regime gets, the more toughened the opposition becomes. This most certainly is a movement. And those who are involved realize within this movement that they have no choice at this point but to carry this out until the end.

And so, while it might be a bit premature to say that the demonstrations have reached critical mass, in the sense that they would be able to topple the regime, they most certainly do have a lot of momentum. And activists will tell you that the act of killing this child in such a brutal manner is only serving to fuel that momentum -- John.

KING: And Fouad, if they have momentum, are they getting the help from the outside that they need? Are these brave souls getting from the West, from the United States, in particular -- there's been tough talk. There's been more sanctions. But is it anywhere near enough?

AJAMI: No.

I think, John, the Syrian people are fated to fight this fight alone. And if you compare them with the Libyans, you see the differences. There was a mandate internationally to intervene in Libya. There is no mandate to intervene in Syria. The Arab League stood against Moammar Gadhafi. The Arab League is afraid of Bashar al-Assad.

Russia came down hard eventually on Moammar Gadhafi, but Russia supports the Assad regime. Alas, unfortunately, we have to say that the Syrian regime still has assets. And the opposition, driven by the sense of outrage, has its own power behind it.

So I think you are going to see the standoff, and it will continue for a while, the regime on the one side, and the people on the other. And the people are not afraid.

KING: Professor Ajami, Arwa, thanks. We'll stay on top of this story. We promise you that. We will watch these heroes in the streets. Thanks for helping us tonight.

Tell us what you think. We're on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @AC360. We'll be tweeting tonight.

Up next: Where is Sarah Palin and what's up with her bus tour? She says she's contemplating a presidential run. So is this part of it?

And later, new health information that could change the way you use your cell phone. Is there a cancer connection? Anderson talks with 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm here in Gettysburg tonight in part because Sarah Palin was expected to make a stop here on her bus tour, which started out today in the nation's capital. Now, she is here in town, but she's yet to turn up here at the battlefield.

Then there's the question of what kind of stop. She said today she's still contemplating a presidential run. So is it a campaign stop? Who knows? Ms. Palin's not even saying that's a campaign bus she's driving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, it certainly looks like a campaign bus. If you're not running for president, why the tour?

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: This is not a campaign bus. This is a bus to be able to express to America how much we appreciate our foundation and to invite more people to be interested in all that is good about America, and to remind ourselves we don't need to fundamentally transform America. We need to restore what's good about America. You can start by doing that right in here.

Now, I'm glad you guys are here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the non-campaign bus tour has a non-published itinerary, meaning we don't get a schedule in advance.

Expected here tonight -- there are actually a lot of families waiting for her, but she's apparently in for the night at a local hotel. We'll see what happens in the morning.

Reputed eventually to be heading to New Hampshire -- that's the first presidential primary state, but no confirmation from the campaign. If the non-campaign turns real, our new polling suggests a warm welcome from Republican voters.

If Rudy Giuliani gets in the race also, Palin's pulls 13 percent support to Mitt Romney's 15 and Mayor Giuliani's 16.

Well, here to talk raw politics, Shushannah Walshe, "Daily Beast" contributor and co-author of "Sarah from Alaska," also Erick Erickson, a CNN contributor and the editor in chief of RedState.com, and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, who advised Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign.

All right.

You're here in Gettysburg. You have been chasing the bus around the whole time. Is this Civics 101 -- Sarah Palin takes us on a tour of American history -- or is this Campaign 101?

SHUSHANNAH WALSHE, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think it's both. And it's definitely the latter.

It seems like she is traveling around the country and meeting supporters and seeing really if there is enough support out there for a run. It's also, insiders tell me, a way for her to test it out on her family, see if they're ok with the rigors of a campaign, see if they're going to come together.

And a source close to the campaign told me really it was Todd's idea that -- with Sarah, but mostly Todd's idea to push them to join this -- this bus tour around the country and see, you know, if there is support out there for this.

KING: Well, that's -- that's a legitimate question, Erick Erickson, to see if the family wants to do it. We heard from Governor Daniels recently in Indiana saying no.

When you watch the Palin family make it around, a lot of Republicans would like this decision because of the shadow she casts on the official candidates. How much latitude, how much patience, I guess, does Governor Palin have with Republican voters?

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: She's Sarah Palin. She's got a lot of patience and latitude with voters. It's the other candidates who I think she has some frustration with. And that's natural.

But between state parties and local parties and others, I suspect there will be some sniping along the way. I mean, right now, I kind of feel like we're all getting played. And you know, if we don't cover it, we get beat up for not covering it. And if we do cover it, we get beat up for not treating her like some people want us to treat her. And there -- it is really a no-win situation, except for Sarah Palin and I think that's the key.

KING: I think that's a good way to put it, because I got beat up a little bit in the Twitter-verse and on e-mail today for, why are you covering this? She's not even a candidate.

I can tell you there were more than 100 people waiting here, some of them for eight hours, some of them for eight-plus hours in nearly 100- degree temperatures, for a glimpse of her.

And I'm sorry. No disrespect to the other candidates, Maria. That would not happen for them. She does have a star quality to her.

As the Democrat in the conversation, try to be a neutral strategist, to the best you can, Maria. Do you see this as a Palin-for-president campaign, or is this brand management; she's essentially trying to just rehabilitate her image some?

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I do think that it is absolutely brand management, John.

But I'll comment about whether it's a real presidential campaign and whether she has those intentions. But on the brand management, I mean, let's just be real. Sarah Palin is all about Sarah Palin. And she's brilliant at that. She's about pushing her brand.

And the fact that we're talking about her, the fact that you're waiting for her in Gettysburg, the fact that hundreds of people are waiting for her in Gettysburg, she knows that, and she is using us to the fullest.

But I also think that when Mike Huckabee decided not to run and Mitch Daniels decided not to run, she probably had and is having an a-ha moment, because she also knows that she, probably better than anybody else, can speak to the very critically important social conservatives in the GOP who are going to be essential in whoever gets nominated for the GOP. And she is saying this could be my moment.

Now, whether she takes that to the next step, she's going to keep us guessing until that actually happens or not.

KING: Now, most Republicans have thought for months, Shushannah, that, no, she's not going to run, that she wants to be active, she wants to be influential, she wants her voice to be heard and frankly, this, she wants to tease us a little bit to keep us interested in her. But you've always thought that she probably will, right?

WALSHE: I really have. Throughout this time, even since after 2008, when she lost, when she went to Alaska, she's been telling us that that door -- if that door's open, she will go through it.

And this continues now. And I think that this is just the next stage of it. But as you said -- you just said, are there any other GOP primary candidates that could get the press running after them without a schedule? She's the only one. With crowds, hundreds of people waiting for her, when no one knows the schedule?

She doesn't play by the rules. And I think that's how -- that's what a Sarah Palin campaign will look like.

KING: Last time I remember anything like this was Ross Perot in 1992, who didn't give us his schedule. We had to run around the country chasing him. You know what? Some people find it frustrating. Some of us actually find it kind of fun. It's part of the process. It's up to the candidates. It's a free country.

Erick, when you look at the Republican field, obviously, there's no one who has her name ID, there's no one who has her star power. Is there anyone -- or if -- if Palin gets in the race -- let me ask it this way -- Palin gets in the race, who falls or gets hurt, and what contrasts get drawn immediately?

ERICKSON: You know, I think there's a short game and a long game there.

First, I would say if Sarah Palin gets in the race, she's probably one of the only people who could shake up the race and draw significant support away from most of the candidates. She would hurt initially people like Herman Cain and people like Tim Pawlenty, who are trying to get traction, particularly Michele Bachmann as well. There's really no definable reason for her to be in the race if Sarah Palin is there. They seem so similar.

She wouldn't hurt Mitt Romney so much. But -- and I don't want this to sound really negative towards Mitt Romney. I know it comes off that way, but there's a level of Mitt Romney's campaign even with some of his supporters that -- that he -- kind of an elitist. And I use the term loosely.

And I think, long term, depending on how they couch themselves against Sarah Palin, it could hurt Mitt Romney even with some of his supporters for being too negative on Sarah Palin.

KING: Maria, one gets the impression that many Democrats want Sarah Palin to run more than many, shall we say, top Republican strategists.

Do you worry at all, though? Do you worry at all that that could just be wishful thinking?

CARDONA: I actually am one of those Democrats who does hope that she runs. But here's, I think, the point, John. I absolutely think that she could win the GOP nomination if she were to jump in, given that, you know, she would be one of the only ones who can really speak effectively and credibly to that important social conservative constituency that I was talking about earlier. And I know that that has a lot of Republicans really worried.

But here's the problem. When -- when and if she does run, she's going to have to answer substantive questions from the lame stream media -- that's you, John. And -- and she's also going to have to offer credible solutions to the problems that she talks about, you know, to the fact that she thinks President Obama's leading -- leading us down a socialist path. Well, what's her solution to that?

She's going to have to talk to you all and she's going to have to be credible doing it. She's going to have to offer proposals. And I really don't think she has the ability to do that, John. And maybe she doesn't even have the -- the want to do it in her -- in her belly at the end of the day, the fire in the belly, as they say, and she's just going to keep us guessing.

KING: Well, even through the partisan filter of Maria, Shushannah, she makes a very important point, that we're at -- this part of the state is rural. This is where Sarah Palin has a lot of support, small-town, rural America.

If you go to the eastern part of the state, very important, Philadelphia and the suburbs, that's where she has problems from the last campaign sort of with independent voters and moderate Republicans. As someone who's covered her for years, we haven't seen much yet on this bus tour.

WALSHE: Right.

KING: We're not getting a lot of speeches. We don't know a lot about the message, but do you see any little hints that she's a little different because she understands she has some work to do?

WALSHE: Well today, as you said, is just really the first full day, but she seems so relaxed, at ease with the press, not combative and tense, as we have seen in the past.

And people that are with her tell me that she's really getting into the swing of things and enjoying herself. And that's how it seemed today. If that continues, I think that it will show that she really will get into the race.

KING: It's a little different. We'll keep an eye on it, even though it keeps some people at home mad at us. We have to do it. She's an important factor.

Shushannah Walshe, Erick Erickson, Maria Cardona, thank you.

Up next here: the latest from Libya, big defections from Moammar Gadhafi's military. Loud explosions were heard tonight in Tripoli hours after he met with the president of South Africa. And there are allegations that Gadhafi's troops are using rape as a weapon of war. We'll hear from some of his former soldiers.

Also ahead: hackers broke into the Web site of PBS and posted a phony story about rapper Tupac Shakur. We'll tell you just what they claimed about him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I want to bring you up to date now on the situation in Libya.

The Italian government says that eight Libyan generals and more than 100 soldiers have defected to Italy. And the head of NATO said today that Moammar Gadhafi's four-decade rule is coming to an end. And to punctuate that statement, two large explosions heard in Tripoli tonight as jets flew overhead.

Today, the embattled Libyan leader met in Tripoli with the South African president, Jacob Zuma, who said Gadhafi is ready to accept a cease-fire. But neither man said anything about Gadhafi stepping down, which, of course, is the main demand of the opposition. And Zuma has not called on him to quit.

The fact remains that more than three months after rebels rose up against him, Gadhafi is still holding on to power and, it appears, by any means necessary. Soldiers who have deserted to the opposition allege that Gadhafi's forces are using rape as a weapon of war.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson spoke to some of those men.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): In this makeshift rebel jail, this Gadhafi army deserter tells us what he saw before he fled his post.

"I saw cell phone video of several soldiers raping two school girls, 15 and 17 years old, over six days in Tripoli," he says. "As I was told, they were acting on military orders."

He tells me he ran away from the army when he realized officers were giving soldiers sexual stimulants and uppers to keep them awake.

"I found Viagra and uppers," he says. "Before a raid, they would hand them out to keep us awake for 72 hours. We were told, when you go into a house, it's all yours. You can take what you want -- rape the women."

Impossible for us to verify his claims -- however, they were echoed by more prisoners at a different jail.

"Rape by soldiers was common," this prisoner tells me. "We all knew it was going on."

They all have similar accounts. All talk about cell phone videos, mobile phone video of rape. "There were lots of them," he says.

In an odd twist of fate, the rebel in charge of the prisoners, a former pilot, knows some of his captives, vouches for them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is a flight engineer. This one, he is a flight engineer, too. And they will return back to his family because I know his father, I know his mother, I know his brothers.

ROBERTSON: He agrees, tells me he was an aircraft engineer, given only a few hours' weapons training and sent direct to the front line. They all say their commanders lied to them. "They told us we'd be fighting al Qaeda and Algerians," he says. Another adds, "But when we saw they were Libyans like us, we surrendered."

(on camera): Well, the rebel commanders tell us that keeping the prisoners here is a huge drain on their resources, that they have to feed them, get them water, get them everything that they need. It takes up men to guard them. And what they'd really like to happen is for the international community to take care of these prisoners for them, take them off their hands, in fact.

(voice-over): Perhaps then the allegations of rape these men are making can begin to be investigated as the International Criminal Court wants to do.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Zintan, Libya.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Lots we're following tonight. Isha Sesay joins us with a 360 bulletin. Isha?

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, on this Memorial Day, President Obama has nominated General Martin Dempsey to take over as his top military adviser. Dempsey became head of the U.S. Army just last month. If he's confirmed by the Senate, he'll take over as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the fall.

A 360 follow. The man charged with threatening the creators of South Park for depicting the prophet Mohammed in a bear suit has been arrested in Morocco. A Web site co-founded by Younis Muhammad says he awaits extradition to the U.S. Muhammad, who's from New York and converted to Islam, says he has done nothing wrong.

The PBS network confirms that hackers broke into its Web site and posted a false story, claiming that rapper Tupac Shakur is alive and in New Zealand. The hackers said they were responding to a PBS documentary on WikiLeaks. In case you hadn't heard, Tupac has been dead for almost 15 years.

And John, Snooki has gotten herself into some trouble in Italy while filming Season 4 of "Jersey Shore". Italian police tell "People" magazine that they took Snooki to a police station for some paperwork after a car she was driving crashed into the back of a cop car. But John, worry not. No alcohol was involved, and no one was arrested or seriously hurt.

KING: Up next, an important story. Cell phones and the ongoing debate about the dangers they may or may not pose to our physical well-being. A key report comes out tomorrow about the possible effects of cell phones.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta caught up with one of the top neurologists in the United States, who says one thing is clear -- there's no guarantee that cell phones are safe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. KEITH BLACK, CEDARS-SINAI MEDICAL CENTER: I don't think any mother, you know, if they knew that there was a 2 1/2-fold increase in their kid developing brain cancer when they were 40 or 50, would allow their kids to use cell phones.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Plus, a new warning about what children reach for when they're thirsty -- energy drinks. Experts now say those drinks may put those kids at serious risk. Details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If you've got a cell phone, no doubt you've worried at some point whether using it could pose a risk to your health. Tomorrow we're expecting an announcement from the World Health Organization regarding cell phones. A cancer research team made up of 31 scientists from 14 countries has been meeting in France to determine if radiation emitted from cell phones should be classified as a cancer risk.

Now, the team has been evaluating all peer-reviewed studies on this big issue to make its determination. And government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, well, they'll be watching for those results closely.

This comes as one of this country's top neurologists is raising serious questions about cell phones and how they may -- and we stress the word may -- be negatively impacting the human brain.

In just a few moments, Anderson and 360 MD Sanjay Gupta will discuss some of the new research. But first here's Dr. Gupta's report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you've ever put a cell phone to your ear, you should listen to what neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black has to say.

BLACK: There's no way to say that cell phone use is safe. I think that the public has a right to know that there could be a potential risk. The public generally assumes that if one is selling something on the market, that we have had assurances that that device is safe.

GUPTA: To be clear, Dr. Black's message is at odds with headlines from the largest international study on cell phones and cancer. Their conclusion: little or no evidence cell phones are associated with brain tumors. But if you look just one layer deeper into the appendix of that same study and you'll see something unsettling. It turns out participants in the study who used a cell phone for ten years or more had double the rate of brain glioma, a type of tumor.

And keep in mind: cell phone use in the United States has only been popular for around 15 years. Back in 1996, there were 34 million cell phone users; today, nearly 300 million in use, according to industry figures.

BLACK: Environmental factors take decades to see their effect, not a few years.

GUPTA: So if it may take decades to get a clearer answer, what can we say about cell phone safety now? Scientists here in San Jose, California, are trying to answer that very question.

(on camera): So one of the things we have to do first is literally put the brain inside the head.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly. It's very light now.

GUPTA (voice-over): The FCC requires all cell phones emit below 1.6 watts per kilogram of radiation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's put some brains in.

GUPTA: In order to test for that, scientists here try and mimic the human brain with salt, sugar, and water.

(on camera): Let me show you precisely how they do this test. This is a model. This is supposed to approximate the human skull, an adult male. This is my phone we've actually attached there. It's connected at the angle that most people would speak with. And inside over here, very important, this bubbly liquid inside, that's what represents liquid brain.

It's going to happen as the phone is making a call. After a period of time, this device is going to come over here and start to measure radiation at all sorts of different points in the brain. After that, they're going to take all of those numbers, basically put it on a computer screen, and tell us where the hot spots are and just how high the levels got.

(voice-over): My cell phone measured within FCC limits. But the whole process was, well, surprisingly low tech.

And what about different size skulls or children?

BLACK: In children, their skull is thinner, their scalp is thinner so the microwave radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. And their cells are dividing at a much faster rate, so the impact of the microwave radiation can be much larger.

GUPTA: But there have been no studies on children and cell phone safety.

(on camera): And here's something else that might surprise you. The cell manufacturers themselves actually advise against putting the cell phone right next to your head or really anywhere on your body.

Take a look, for example, with the iPhone 4. The safety instructions specifically say, "When using the iPhone near your body for voice calls, keep it at least 15 millimeters or five-eighths of an inch away from your body."

What if you're a BlackBerry user specifically? They also have safety guidelines. In this case, they say keep it 0.9 inches or 25 millimeters from your body meaning your head or really even in your pocket.

(voice-over): Dr. Keith Black has been talking about this longer than many. But the voices joining him are becoming louder and more prominent.

The city of San Francisco pushed for radiation warning labels on cell phones. The head of a prominent cancer research institute sent a memo to all employees, urging them to limit cell phone use because of possible risk of cancer.

And the European Environmental Agency has pushed for more studies, saying cell phones could be as big a public health risk as smoking, asbestos and leaded gasoline.

(on camera): The Federal Communications Commission, the FCC, they set the guidelines for how much radiation a cell phone can emit, and they say cell phones are safe. But how can they be so sure?

"Keeping Them Honest", we decided to come here to try and find out for ourselves, but they declined an on-camera interview.

(voice-over): The type of radiation coming out of your cell phone is called non-ionizing. It's not like an X-ray but more like a very low- powered microwave oven.

BLACK: What microwave radiation does, in the most simplistic term, is very similar to what happens to your food when you put your food in a microwave oven. It's essentially cooking the brain.

GUPTA: But based on their past statements, the FCC isn't convinced there's a real risk and maintain they, quote, "do not endorse the need for consumers to take any precautions to reduce exposure."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sanjay, I mean your report is -- I've already started using an earpiece. I've completely changed the way I've used my cell phone. I try not to carry it in my pocket.

But I think the thing that surprised me most and really kind of caught my attention the most, which I hadn't realized is that the manufacturers actually tell people in the instruction manual, which I never read, to put -- not to put the cell phone against your ear.

GUPTA: Yes. You know, that was pretty surprising to us, as well. We came upon that particular fact a little bit into the investigation. We'd been talking to the safety experts, talking to people who are dealing with, you know, cell phone safety quite a bit.

And then when you read the actual insert that people never read, frankly, that comes with the phone, it does say exactly that. The Blackberry, for example, warns to keep your phone at least 0.98 inches away from your body when transmitting and the iPhone 4 gives a similar warning, as well. It's tough to do, obviously.

What is interesting here, Anderson, if you dig a little bit deeper into this, what you'll find is that there's a certain amount of radiation that is considered the FCC limit. But that is -- that limit is sort of dictated by having the phone about an inch away from your head. If you move it closer to your head, they say they can no longer guarantee that your phone isn't emitting more radiation than the FCC limit, which is just stunning to me. So all those limits are only based on literally having your phone a certain distance away from your head.

COOPER: And I mean, I've been walking down the street watching people using their cell phones now. I have not seen one single person have it away, I mean, like everybody else. I mean, they're using it like I used it, which is like pressed as hard as you possibly can against your ear.

GUPTA: And here's the particularly bad thing about that. People pushing it really hard against their ear, in part because you may not have a good signal, you can't hear as well. That's in fact, what we learned, the worst time to be doing that, and here's why.

Your phone is not always giving off the same amount of radiation. If you have a poor signal, if you're having a hard time hearing the person, in fact your phone is trying to compensate for that. Your phone is doing -- you know, trying to give you a better signal, and in the process of doing that it is emitting even perhaps more radiation. This is a constant process.

It's constantly communicating with cell towers. Further away from a cell tower, the sort of remote region that you're in, it could actually be exceeding, again, those FCC limits as far as radiation goes, trying to give you a better signal.

COOPER: And you've always used a wired earpiece when talking on the phone. Is that radiation-free?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's interesting. It's not radiation-free. And again, this has been a learning experience, I think, for a lot of people. But even the wired earpiece, which I carry, as you know, everywhere, it does have some, for example, wiring that may transmit some radiation up to the ear, as well. So it's greatly reduced versus a cell phone, certainly much reduced versus holding it to your ear, but there is some, as well.

Some people have actually recommended, even since we first reported this on your show, Anderson, I got a lot of e-mails about this. They say there is, for example, there is something known as a ferrite bead which you can actually put on the wire, and it can sort of really diminish the amount of radiation transmitted up to your ear.

And there's even something known as a hollow tube, a hollow air tube, which the last little bit of your earpiece is actually just air. So the signal is transmitted to a certain point and then air just is allowed to transmit it to your ear for the hearing and the talking. So it's -- there are some various strategies. But it's limited compared to, you know, holding the phone to your ear.

COOPER: What about, like, Bluetooth headsets?

GUPTA: Bluetooth is also going to be much less radiation than holding your phone to your ear, but it's not nothing. It's still a certain amount of non-ionizing radiation.

The concern here -- and again, this is from talking to lots of safety experts, is that, as you're walking down the street, Anderson, you see people with this in their ear. They often leave it in their ear all day long.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: Cab drivers, people who are on the move all day long. So they're essentially leaving that source next to their head the whole time. It's tough to say at a low dose what that's going to do. But it's the duration. And in this case, you know, years of doing that, that is potentially the problem.

COOPER: It's incredibly eye-opening for me at least. Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thanks, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Coming up, an update to the number of people missing and dead in the aftermath of the devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri. We have the very latest next.

Also ahead, people flock to Florida's beaches for the Memorial Day weekend and find they have some unwelcome company. We'll tell you about the great stinging jellyfish invasion of 2011, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A lot happening tonight. Let's get a check of some of the other stories we're following. Isha Sesay joins us again with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

SESAY: John, the number of people still missing in Joplin, Missouri, is down to 29. Officials say the death toll is up to 142 following last weekend's massive tornado. That makes it the deadliest tornado ever recorded in the U.S.

At least six people are dead and hundreds more have been sickened by an e Coli outbreak linked to some raw vegetables in Germany. Authorities are advising consumers to stay away from raw tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce, especially in northern Germany, while an investigation takes place.

A new report says children and teens should stay away from energy drinks. The American Academy of Pediatrics says energy drinks often contain large amounts of caffeine, which can be dangerous for kids, causing a spike in heart rate and blood pressure. The report says what's best for children and teens is just plain water.

And hundreds of people hoping to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend on the Atlantic coast beaches in central Florida had those hopes dashed by jellyfish. Oh, yes. Authorities say more than 800 people have been stung by swarms of jellyfish. This particular breed is purple in color. It travels in very large groups.

To borrow Dr. Gupta's "360" MD hat, you might want to just pat some vinegar, as well, John, because apparently, that helps with the sting. Did you know that?

KING: I will remember that if I'm ever on a beach that looks like that. Not a fan of jellyfish, I have to say.

SESAY: No. Neither am I.

KING: Still ahead, an inside look at a literacy program that gives kids free creative writing classes with a twist. We'll show you the unique ways that volunteers get kids interested in writing coming up in "Perry's Principles".

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Parents and teachers are forever trying to get children interested in reading, writing, and storytelling. One literacy and tutoring project for children and teens uses a variety of techniques to spark interest. It's called 826 Valencia and was co-founded by best-selling author Dave Eggers.

In this week's edition of "Perry's Principles", CNN education contributor Steve Perry shows us how unorthodox ways of teaching can be effective.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A decrepit old mansion. It was cocooned in cobwebs and infested with spiders and other critters. Do you like that?

STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: 826 National is a literacy organization with eight chapters across the country.

Today, we're at the original location in San Francisco called 826 Valencia. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now, we're going to focus on writing the book.

PERRY: Here, kids get tutoring, attend creative writing workshops and watch their own books get published.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ahoy mate. What are you doing there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go.

PERRY: And did I also mention it is housed in a power supply store. These kids are writing a story for a grumpy pirate named "Mr. Blue", a never seen but often heard voice booming from the attic above.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We promised them they could write a story. Can we please try?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. I hear you're going to write a story. It's going on a book and (INAUDIBLE) public.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We hope so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I hope so. It better be a good story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It better be exciting and suspenseful.

PERRY: 826 Valencia also offers one-on-one tutoring in any subject students need help with, host field trips, and has a special focus on working with students whose parents don't speak English at home. But today, they are all about creative writing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ok, the title is "A Scary, Exciting, Goose- Bumpish Story".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like that.

PERRY: You are helping kids in this community use writing to do what?

GERALD RICHARDS, CEO, 826 NATIONAL: It all begins with writing. And so you have to build from that sort of basis and so the students that we work with, if their writing is great, it follows that everything else that they would do from English to Math to Science is going to be fantastic and they'll be able to express their ideas in a way that they couldn't before and be clear about expressing their ideas.

PERRY: How much are they paying for this?

RICHARDS: It's all free.

PERRY: They do not pay anything?

RICHARDS: They don't have to pay anything.

PERRY: They just come when they want to come in. RICHARDS: That's right.

PERRY: And they get tutoring for free.

RICHARDS: That's right.

PERRY: Wow.

RICHARDS: Yes.

PERRY: How do you pay for that?

RICHARDS: A lot of fund raising.

PERRY: Yes.

RICHARDS: A lot of the good will of the community. We work with a lot of foundations and corporations.

PERRY: 826 Valencia has nearly 1,700 active volunteers from all different types of careers.

What motivates you to be here?

ANDREW STRICKMAN, VOLUNTEER: I love it. It's fantastic to see a student who's been struggling with a word or a sentence or an essay to have that breakthrough moment and for you to be there to witness it. You really feel like you've done something to help that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So you think that's going to be a good story so far?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's a lot of potential there. I like what I'm hearing so far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent. All right. Let's get back to work guys.

Ok. Good job, Michael.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: So how can non-educators help support kids?

PERRY: Anderson, this is a question I get all the time. People want to help children. They want to know how they can help children. And one of the best ways is to find an organization that's in fact working with them.

This organization is one that says that "We're going to help children to read." Now, you may not want to help children read. You may want to help their math or science. You may want to help them in arts or whatever it is that your interest is. You need to find organizations that are interested in children and in fact are helping children to perform better in school. There are a lot of us out there who could sure use your help.

COOPER: Steve Perry thanks very much.

PERRY: My pleasure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: And that does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.

"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.