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Discussion with Mallika Chopra; Cheating 101

Aired May 6, 2005 - 13:30   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Treacherous weather at the top of the world strands four Mount Everest climbers from the U.S. and Canada, and two Sherpa guide. The six were injured when an avalanche roared the camp, the first of four en route to the summit. They're now being treated at a makeshift hospital near base camp with injuries ranging from bruises to a possible broken back. Rescuers will try again tomorrow to evacuate those climbers.
And Although Red Sox fans know there could never be another Carl Yastrzemski, well, lawyers say that the hall-of-famer's son stole his identity and ran up thousands of dollars of credit card debt. Well, the son, who died of complications of hip surgery last year at the age of 44, had the same legal name as his famous father.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's derby time, time to put champion thoroughbreds to the test at Kentucky Derby, and drink a few mint juleps of course. This year's run for the roses has a pot of gold at the finish, the richest purse in derby history.

CNN's Ray D'Alessio live in Louisville.

Good assignment, Ray. Looking good there. They refurbished the track. I hear it looks great.

RAY D'ALESSIO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And the nice thing, too, Miles, the weather this year is absolutely gorgeous, unlike last year, when the track was mud and there was all kinds of rivers running through us behind here.

But of course all the talk on Bellamy Road, the favorite of course. That horse owned by none other than Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. Steinbrenner, of course, we all know he does not shy when it comes to spending money on building a winner. And of course over the past couple of years, the Yankees, they have had the highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

However, should Bellamy Road come through tomorrow for Steinbrenner, it would be the cheapest title he ever won; $87,000, that's all he paid for the horse. And unlike the World Series, though, which he's won six times, Steinbrenner, you see, has never won the Kentucky Derby, zero for five, in fact. But many of the so-called experts believe that this is Steinbrenner's year. In the last two races Bellamy Road blistered the field, winning by a combined 33 lengths, and Steinbrenner saying that much the credit needs to go trainer Nick Zito, who by the way has five horses in this year's Kentucky Derby. Next to Bellamy Road, there is Afleet Alex. He was the Arkansas Derby winner. He will start from the 12th post position, a 9-2 odds winner there. So much made about this, of course, its relationship to a 9-year-old little girl -- 8-year-old little girl, excuse me, named Alex who recently died of cancer. In fact, a portion of his earnings going towards the fight against cancer.

Now back to Bellamy Road, George Steinbrenner again has never won here at the Kentucky Derby.

Now should he win tomorrow, he would be only the second owner ever to win a world series, as well as a Kentucky Derby.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and the way the Yankees are doing, it will be one of the few victories he can savor this year, right? It just proves that money doesn't all buy you victories, and that's why we should watch this with a little bit of skepticism.

Let's talk -- there's another Yankee connection to the track today. Tell me about that.

D'ALESSIO: So much is made about George Steinbrenner. Of course the other Yankee connection is manager Joe Torre. He is a co-owner of the favorite of the favorite in today's Kentucky Oaks City (ph), who is a 4-5 favorite. So all eyes are going to be on that horse. Of course Torre getting into the horse-racing business through his ties with George Steinbrenner.

O'BRIEN: All right, Ray D'Alessio at the track, drawing the good assignment. Enjoy it. Don't drink too many mint juleps before going on the air. Save that for later.

D'ALESSIO: Reporter: I'll behave myself.

O'BRIEN: All right, good.

All right, well, he is the Kentucky Derby winning jockey you probably never heard of. His name was Jimmy "Wink" Wingfield (ph). He rode at a time when African-American jockeys dominated the sport of horse racing. A new book by my old friend Ed Hotelling (ph) out about his fascinating life. We'll talk to him in our 3:00 hour, Eastern Time, right here on LIVE FROM.

Stay with us.

PHILLIPS: "I promise to always remember that being your mother is my most important role." That is just one of 100 promises Mallika Chopra is making to her children. It's a commitment inspired by her mother Rita, a woman, Mallika says, who is the embodiment of love, compassion and caring. You probably recognize the Chopra name, because of Mallika's father, Deepak, but today it's Mallika's writing and relationship with her mother that inspired this new Chopra family book. It's called "100 Promises to My Baby," and Mallika joins us live from San Francisco.

Great to see you. MALLIKA CHOPRA, AUTHOR: Thank you so much, Kyra. It's great to be here.

PHILLIPS: Well, first of all, let's brag about your mom, mom Rita, for a little while here. Absolutely humble, ego-less incredible person, mother and grandmother, and you even dedicated a chapter to her in the book.

CHOPRA: Yes. When I was becoming a mother, when I was pregnant, I started thinking about what were all the qualities I wanted to be in a mother. What were all the influences that had really shaped my life, and it kept coming back to my mom and all the great qualities she has and everything that she embodies.

While my father is the figure in the public, it's really my mother is the foundation for everything in my family. She really embodies love and compassion. She does everything for all of us without ever even needing to be recognized for it.

So this book was really, in much part, inspired by her, and just her grace and just what a noble and beautiful person she is.

PHILLIPS: And of course I wanted her to come on with you, but she's so humble, she said, no, no, no, this is my daughter's chance to shine.

CHOPRA: I know. She's amazing. And while I'm here, of course, she's taking care of my children. So I don't have to worry.

PHILLIPS: You can do your book signing tour and be able to talk to us on CNN.

CHOPRA: I know.

PHILLIPS: Well, let's talk about a few of our other favorite promises in this book. Number 11: "I promise to hold you, but never hold on to you." Your parents definitely gave you the freedom to become your own person, and this is something that you value tremendously.

CHOPRA: Absolutely. And this promise is actually, it's a hard promise to keep also, because when we have our children, we just love them, we want to shape them, we want to be with them all the time. But there's a very important lesson here, that we bring these souls into the world. But ultimately, they have to go out, collect their own treasures, go on their own journeys, and we should be there to give them, you know, what we can pass on in terms of values, and love and hope, but ultimately, we have to let them go on their own journey. And my parents were amazing with my brother and I to let us follow our dreams and aspirations and support us in really what we love to do.

PHILLIPS: And number 12: "I promise to try to teach you through example, not just words." You used an interesting story about your parents and meditation in this chapter.

CHOPRA: Yes. And you know, now when I think about that, I think this is probably one of the hardest examples, or hardest promises in the book. When we were young, I was probably 10 years old, my father was a resident, extremely busy, a great doctor, but quite stressed, and we observed at that time that he started embarking on this journey of meditation. And both of my parents suddenly, once they started meditating, just generally they were happier, their relationship was better. They were having more fun. They were laughing more. The one thing they never did was to tell us to start meditating, and that was actually a big lesson for us, because we watched them and saw they were becoming happier, and it ended up being something we wanted to do. And through many phases in our life, we wouldn't meditate. I guess that was our form of rebellion of at times, but they never said anything to us. They let us follow what we wanted to do. And it was really by watching them.

And now, as a parent, what I see is my children are always watching me, everything that I do, the good and the bad, and this is a very important promise, because I have to be true to being the example that I want them to follow.

PHILLIPS: If they start meditating at this age, I would be pretty impressed.

Another one of your favorites is number 50: "I promise to remember that your passions are just as important as mine." And of course, you use the story about your brother and basketball, and the family's complete lack of interest in it. But that changed.

CHOPRA: Yes, well, this is one of my favorite stories, because it's also like a legend in my family, showing a lot of my dad's character. Basically, my brother, Gotham, is a sports fanatic and always was a sports fanatic from the youngest age, and of course me, and my mom, and my dad really didn't care about sports at all. But Gotham's passion was so strong for it that our house became the kind of sports central in Boston. And of course, in the '80s, Boston was about the Celtics, and so basketball became a real focal point actually in our household, to the extent where, again, my mother being the great mother she is, would invite all the family and friends over for games just to nurture Gotham's passion for that.

But for my dad, who's always basically obsessed with philosophy, and religion and just wanted to read books all the time, he could not get over Gotham's obsession with basketball and basketball players, and you know, he'd always kind of get irritated when Gotham would think of a basketball player as his hero, and he'd say, you know, the guy can throw a ball in a hoop. Yes, exactly. Why not think about people like Mahatma Gandhi or great teachers. But that was Gotham's passion.

And the classic incident in our family was game seven in the '80s where Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Larry King (sic) were playing and it was, you know, the ultimate competition. And of course in the last minute Kareem Abdul Jabbar shot a three-pointer, I think it was, and the Lakers won. And my dad, we were, like, all devastated because all of Boston was basically watching this game in the world.

And my dad, who wasn't even watching the game, entered from the other room and came in and he said, well, how could that happen? I had visualized Kareem Abdul Jabbar shooting a three-pointer so the Celtics should win. And we looked at him in shock, saying, you know, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is on the Lakers. What are you thinking?

And for Gotham, it was just absolutely devastating. I think my dad learned in that moment that Gotham's passions really were important as his and as important, you know, to pay attention to. So he made a real effort after that to connect with Gotham on that level.

And I think that's important now. And my husband and I watch our daughter. You know, she's a little ballerina who just wants to dance as a princess. And she -- you know, not interested right now in sports and things like that. And we have to let her play out her role right now.

PHILLIPS: That means your dad has to start, you know, ballet dancing with her, I think, is what he needs to do.


PHILLIPS: Oh, Mallika, it's a beautiful book. "100 Promises to My Baby." I want to make sure we plug your Web site, You can learn more about the book, of you and your beautiful children. But also that proceeds of this book going to UNICEF, right?

CHOPRA: Yes, yes. One of the things, when I wrote this book, is you suddenly feel a connection to other parents, but you also see how much love and nurturing your children get from you. And I really started to feel a lot of empathy towards orphans and ended up connecting to UNICEF. And so we're donating a portion of the proceeds from the book to programs for orphans affected by AIDS.

The statistics, like we all know, are horrible. There are more than 50 million children now who have lost a mother, father or both parents due to AIDS. Two million children who are living with aids. So I really encourage people to learn more about them. Their Web site is linked through my Web site but also is And you can call them at 1-800-4-UNICEF, as well.

PHILLIPS: Mallika Chopra, thanks so much for your time today. Happy Mother's Day. And of course, love to your mom, Rita, too.

CHOPRA: Thank you very much.


O'BRIEN: Is pressure to perform pushing some public schools to cheat?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kids were looking at me with blank stares. I said, what are you waiting on? And about a third of my students said, the answers.


O'BRIEN: Up next, our in-depth look at what some critics say is the fall-out from that No Child Left Behind Act.

Plus, a passenger is suddenly forced to become the pilot in the Nevada skies. They say any landing you can walk away from is a good one. This was a good one.


PHILLIPS: Well, it sounds like a '70s movie or a chapter in one of the "Worst Case Scenario" books, but it was all too real for two passengers aboard this twin engine turbo prop. When their pilot was stricken with an apparent heart attack, one of them was forced to take the controls. Well, the plane crash-landed just a few hundred yards short of a runway in northern Las Vegas. Although the pilot later died, authorities say that neither passenger appeared to be seriously hurt.

Another scary incident aloft, this time for a pilot who was taking part in a police chase over Clay Center, Kansas, Mike Spicer. He was helping police locate a man who fled a traffic stop. Well as Spicer's plane flew overhead, the armed suspect took a shot at him.


MIKE SPICER, PILOT: Well, I heard the crack. I didn't feel the wound. In an instant, there was massive blood on my head and I told Arnie, I says, Arnie (ph), I've been hit. Arnie helped grabbed the control, stabilized the aircraft while I tried to tend to myself and take care of the blood. And I threw my glasses on the floor so I could see. And I grabbed the corner of my coat and held up over my head to try to stem the blood flow. And between Arnie and myself, we were able to get the aircraft turned back around.


PHILLIPS: Well, what Mike didn't mention: his passenger, Arnie, happened to be an emergency medical technician.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Quite a story. President Bush based his No Child Left Behind education reforms on the model he used in Texas. But at least in Texas, the program is having unintended consequences. Sunday night, CNN presents "High Stakes: The Battle to Save Our Schools." The documentary is produced and narrated and by the award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson. Here is a preview.


STANLEY NELSON, NARRATOR: In 2003, another scandal hit the Houston school district. This time there were allegations of cheating.

DONNA GARNER, ELEMENTARY TEACHER: I was approached by the principal and informed that I didn't know how to give tests the Wesley way. And then I was informed on how to give the test the Wesley way. And that the expectation was that I would give the test the Wesley way, which is cheating.

All right, boys and girls we're going to go ahead and begin. Open your test booklets.

JULIE JARAMILLO, MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER: I handed out the TEX test, I read the instructions out of the administrators manual. I said OK, get busy.

The kids were looking at me with blank stares. I said, what are you waiting on? And about a third of my students said, the answers.

I know that the teachers cheating, because kids have told me that's how it was done with their particular teacher.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She would like walk around the room and you would see that she would be helping kids and telling them that the answer is wrong. You need to do it over.

GARNER: I was to stop behind them and until they placed their finger on the right answer. Then I was to continue walking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They might come behind us and like peek over our shoulder and tell us if the answer is wrong or right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard her talking to students next to me saying, well which one do you think is right? Which one do you think is wrong? And helping them eliminate.

GARNER: It's disturbing to me that we're not only taking away their education, but we're instilling in small young children -- nine, ten years old -- that whatever works for you is OK.

But it's not only the teachers fault, this isn't coming from a lower level, this is coming from way up in the district.

NELSON: The principal of Wesley Elementary declined to speak with CNN. Accusations of fraud first surfaced in 2003 when teachers began reporting incidents of cheating to the school board and to the Houston Teachers Union. While an investigation was started by the school district, it quickly stalled.

ABE SAAVEDRA, SUPERINTENDENT: I'm not sure what happened. We have -- I reviewed the file. And it seems that a year or so back it things kind of stopped as far as -- I can't -- I don't know why they didn't do any further.

NELSON: It wasn't until January of 2005 that current Houston School Superintendent Abe Saavedra launched a new investigation examining allegations of cheating at 23 Houston schools.

SAAVEDRA: I think that testing and assessment is important. The fact is that in this school district as there is in the human race, there are dishonest people. All right. And we don't throw out programs because there's a few people that may abuse the situation.

NELSON: The problem is not unique to Houston. 44 other schools in Texas are under investigation for suspicious rises in test scores. And within the past year, seven states have launched investigations, suspended staff or thrown out tainted scores.


O'BRIEN: The internal investigation on cheating by the Houston independent school district just wrapped up. It found cheating on state tests in four schools. Plans are under way to fire six teachers and demote two principals and an assistant principal. At another seven schools, the investigation concluded insufficient evidence of cheating, even though students in each school said their teachers helped them on tests. It should also be noted the Houston probe found no conclusive proof of cheating at Wesley Elementary, which just you saw there.

"CNN PRESENTS: HIGH STAKES, THE BATTLE TO SAVE OUR SCHOOLS." You are invited to watch it Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

PHILLIPS: A check of the financial markets is up next, and also coming up at the top of the hour, they're cute, cuddly and can fit in the palm of your hands. But are these pocket pets packing a wallop of health hazards? We're going to tell you about a new warning from health officials. Don't go away.



O'BRIEN: Coming up in our second hour of LIVE FROM, North Carolina parishioners say their preacher punished them for refusing to support President Bush at the ballot box. We'll have reaction from those churchgoers who now need to find a new place of worship. LIVE FROM's hour of power begins after this.



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